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|Category||Documentary||Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio and Animation
Biography - Cast
Audio-Only Tracks (2)
|Running Time||86:24 minutes|
Hattie Winston (Narrator)
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||English (Linear PCM 48/16 2.0, 1536 Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.33:1||
|Subtitles||None||Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||Yes, partly during credits|
Coming out of the ghettos of New Orleans, Louis Armstrong became one of the most recognizable names in world entertainment. He toured extensively overseas, led a very interesting life and had hits from the 1920s through to the 1960s. He lived through the Swing era (an era very much influenced by him), he survived the Be Bop era (an era that he in many ways despised) and still played on as only he could. Those golden notes from his cornet and those gravely warblings from his throat were just about the most recognizable things in music for many years. He endured the stereotypes inflicted upon black performers in film and television and did so with that instantly recognizable grin of his still firmly fixed upon his face. Yet he was also a leader in the push for equal rights and suffered the consequences of that. He lived a full life and in many ways did it all his own way. He will probably never die in one sense, as his contributions to film let alone music will be remembered for many years to come.
This documentary presents a decently encapsulated glimpse of his musical life, and does so with the aid of interviews with musicians he played with, as well as archival footage of interviews with the man himself. But the real tour de force here is the collection of footage from various sources showing Louis Armstrong in performance. This covers performances from as early as 1932 through to the 1960s and whilst there are no truly complete performances of any tunes here, there sure are plenty of extended bites from many of his works, including excerpts from films in which he appeared.
This is really good stuff and thoroughly enjoyable. Whilst the man perhaps deserved a little more than the 86 minutes we get here, it is a decent enough place to start investigating one of the true icons of American music of the Twentieth Century.
The transfer is presented in Full Frame format and is not 16x9 enhanced. This is an NTSC transfer so therefore you will need a display device capable of handling the signal, otherwise basically you will have wasted $35!
Most of the interview footage dates from the 1980s, presumably shot specifically for the documentary. This is generally pretty decent stuff - not really sharp but with a softness to it that is not too worrying, and with decent enough detail. However, the earlier footage is very divergent in its quality with some early stuff being really very diffuse and almost completely lacking in any sort of detail or definition at all. Not even sticking on my new glasses could make some of this material look any better. Generally however, the sharpness is on the diffuse side and the detail is not especially wonderful. Shadow detail is generally adequate, although some footage of the man in interview descends to pretty shocking. Clarity at times leaves a bit to be desired and the odd murkiness here and there does not help proceedings. Overall, grain is not too bad but certainly becomes noticeable at times. There is nothing in the way of low level noise in the transfer.
The more modern interview footage has decent enough colour, not spectacular and not really vibrant but reasonably watchable. Some of the film footage is stunning and on the basis of the snippet included here, High Society should be especially good looking if it ever gets a DVD release here. The colour footage does not suffer from oversaturation but rather could be classified as slightly undersaturated throughout. The black and white footage, though, is really all over the place. Some interview footage of the man is way too dark in tone so that it almost looks like black on black. Obviously there were some extreme problems with the source material at times! There are the odd pieces of footage in some fairly ropey grey on grey murky tones, with little in the way of definition, but the black and white tones are generally pretty decent without being anything close to vibrant.
There are no significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer. There did not appear to be any significant film-to-video artefacts in the transfer. There is a decently extensive collection of film artefacts in the transfer, exactly as we would expect in material dating back as far as some of this.
The overall impression here is of some at times rather
ropey quality source material given as good a transfer as you could reasonably
expect. You would certainly not be expecting to toss this into the player
to demonstrate how good DVD can look, even though this is as good as this
material is ever going to look I would suggest.
The narration from Hinnie Winston comes up very well in the soundtrack, as does all of the interview material and the archival audio material. There are no serious audio sync problems with the transfer, although some of the archival footage is a little out.
The music of course comes from Louis Armstrong with the help of a whole bunch of arrangers and writers, and naturally enough is quite wonderful.
There is absolutely nothing wrong at all with the
soundtrack itself, and this does a pretty decent job of conveying the narration
and music. It should be noted however that some of that music is getting
on in years and the sound itself can at times get a little hissy. If you
are a devotee of historic recordings on CD, then you probably would recognize
this as being quite reminiscent of the CBS Masterworks CDs. They were not
always the best in the way of transfers and when some of the original sound
material is as bad as it is, untold amount of miracles are going to be
needed to turn it into crystal clear sound - and so we did not get it.
Having been so used to some of the CD recordings, believe me when I say
that there is nothing here that I find bothersome - I have heard plenty
worse. However, if you like modern digital recordings (as bad as they generally
are), then this is going to perhaps disappoint a little. Obviously lacking
any surround and bass channel use, the soundscape is very frontal but reasonably
|Surround Channel Use|
© Ian Morris (have
a laugh, check out the bio)
4th April, 2001
|DVD||Pioneer DV-515; S-video output|
|Display||Sony Trinitron Wega 80cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in|
|Amplification||Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL|