Super Speedway

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Details At A Glance

Category Documentary Theatrical Trailer(s) None
Rating Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1997 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time 47:39 Other Extras Featurette-The Making Of Super Speedway (47:09)
Menu Audio
Scene Selection Animation & Audio
Production Notes
RSDL/Flipper Dual Layer
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 2,4 Director Stephen Low

Warner Vision
Starring Mario Andretti
Michael Andretti
Paul Newman
Case ?
RPI $39.95 Music Gilles Ouellet

Pan & Scan/Full Frame None MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Dolby Digital 5.1
16x9 Enhancement
Soundtrack Languages German (Dolby Digital 5.1, 448Kb/s)
English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 448Kb/s)
French (Dolby Digital 5.1, 448Kb/s)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.44:1
Macrovision ? Smoking No
Subtitles Danish
Annoying Product Placement Not really - product placement comes with the territory, really.
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    Super Speedway is an amazing documentary on a year in the life of an Indy Car team, in this case the highly successful Newman-Haas team. It takes us through the entire year, from the creation of a new race car through to testing through to actual racing. Along the way, it profiles the highly successful Andretti racing family, featuring both Mario and Michael Andretti. What makes this documentary stand out from the rest is the well-crafted way it has been put together, skilfully combining back story with racing, striking an excellent balance between the two - full marks to director Stephen Low for getting this balance exactly right.

    The racing footage is nothing short of spectacular, having a real "you are there" feel about it. Later, when you watch the Making-Of featurette, you gain an appreciation of why the footage appears so real - because it is! Mario Andretti was generally driving the camera car, and he wasn't choking it, he was "pedal to the metal" all the way, as befits a racing legend of his stature. This is despite having an 80 pound IMAX camera strapped onto a specially-equipped Indy car for all of the scenes involving this footage.

    There is a second, interwoven story going on at the same time in this documentary, involving the restoration of Mario Andretti's original Roadster which leads to a very satisfying closing sequence.

Transfer Quality


    This is an excellent video transfer, and looks remarkably good considering the nature of the footage.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. It is 16x9 enhanced. This is a very interesting aspect ratio for this material. The original footage was shot with IMAX equipment. Based on what I have been able to find out about IMAX cameras and projectors, IMAX is shot in 1.33:1 but projected at 1.44:1, with the top and bottom of the camera negative slightly masked. For our version of this DVD, the top and bottom of the image have been further masked, yielding an aspect ratio of 1.78:1.

    I queried this compositional change with Warner Vision Australia, and was advised that the producers had struck a new high-definition transfer of Super Speedway especially for its PAL release, and made a decision to re-frame it at 1.78:1, thus enhancing the "sweet spot" of the resultant image. I was also advised that this high definition transfer was to be the basis of a new release of this DVD in Region 1, replacing the original release in Region 1 which was framed at 1.33:1. I'll have more to say about this in the R4 vs R1 section later in the review.

    At times, the composition of the reframed images looked a little cramped and unnatural, particularly at the bottom of the frame, but having said that, the nature of this image material really does lend itself to a widescreen presentation.

    The transfer is very sharp indeed and very well defined. The image has a spectacular vibrancy about it which is really stunning to look at, and really gives you a feeling that "you are there", particularly during the high speed racing sequences, which are truly hold-on-to-your-seat quality material. There is little in the way of shadow detail present simply because the great majority of this documentary is shot brightly-lit, however, the few dark scenes that are present are perfectly well detailed. There is no low level noise.

    The colours were vibrant and spectacular, crisp and well-defined, and truly beautiful to behold. Vibrant reds, greens, blues and purples leap out of this transfer and hit you in the face, with never even the slightest hint of chroma noise or colour bleeding.

    There were no MPEG artefacts seen in this transfer, however, moderate aliasing is somewhat common. Having said that, a reasonable compromise between image sharpness and aliasing has been struck in this transfer. Film artefacts are absent.

    This disc is Dual Layered, but no layer change was detected during either the main feature or the Making Of featurette, so they appear to have been placed on separate layers of the DVD.


    There are three audio tracks on this DVD; German Dolby Digital 5.1, English Dolby Digital 5.1, and French Dolby Digital 5.1. My DVD player selected the English soundtrack as the default soundtrack, even though it was not the first soundtrack on the DVD.

    The vocals are clear and easy to understand, except for the odd occasion when engine noise overpowered non-ADRed dialogue. Almost the entire documentary's audio has been created in post-production, and whilst this dramatically increases the intelligibility of the dialogue, it also dramatically decreases the realism of the dialogue. Audio sync is not a problem within the confines of more-or-less totally post-produced audio.

    The surround channels were variably used. During the quieter moments of the documentary, they had little to no use. During the racing sequences, they were extremely aggressively used, with full force and full frequency audio blasting out of all areas of the sound field. However, the soundfield is so hyper-realistic and so over-the-top that it simply ceases to be a believable representation of the on-screen image, spectacular as it may sound. You know you are listening to something created in a mixing studio and not captured live on the day, and this is a genuine pity, as it significantly takes away from the spectacular "you are there" visuals. Undoubtedly, this soundtrack will give your surround system a seriously dynamic workout. Undoubtedly, this soundtrack is extremely immersive and extremely aggressive in its surround use. But, also undoubtedly, it fails to suspend disbelief, and thus ultimately fails in its goal of transporting you, the listener, into that Indy car driver's seat despite the best efforts of the visuals to do so.

    A more subtly immersive, and far more convincing soundfield, is created in the wind tunnel sequence, where you very much get the feel that you are where the camera is, in the middle of a wind tunnel, with wind whistling past you on all sides.

    The .1 channel was used extremely aggressively by this soundtrack, sometimes for music and sometimes for special effects. Once again, some of its use is so over-the-top that it detracts from the illusion of actually being there.


    There are not many extras on this DVD, but what is there is superb.


Main Menu Audio

    The main menu features some excellent audio which nicely sets the mood for the upcoming video presentation.

Scene Selection Audio & Animation

Featurette - The Making Of Super Speedway

    Running almost as long as the main feature, and starting immediately thereafter, this is a magnificent extra that answers most of the burning questions you have about the spectacular production that is Super Speedway. This is presented in an aspect ratio of 4:3 with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Biographies - Crew

Production Notes

R4 vs R1

    The Region 1 version of this DVD is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. Otherwise, the two DVDs are identically-featured. Direct comparison of the two DVDs shows that the image quality of the R4 version is significantly in advance of the R1 version, particularly in the area of aliasing, however, neither version is presented in the correct theatrical aspect ratio of 1.44:1. The R1 version does not crop any image, instead presenting more image than it should. The R4 version crops active image.

    The purist in me says that the R1 version is the superior version by virtue of being closer to the original theatrical aspect ratio, however, the image quality of the R4 version is way better than the R1 version, and the image cropping isn't all that bad, and only very occasionally becomes mildly noticeable.

    Which one to go for? It's a line-ball decision. I'll call them even, but must emphasize that the R4 version looks a lot better than the R1 version.


    Super Speedway is a fascinating DVD that is well worth checking out.

    The video quality is very good, but the image is over-cropped.

    The audio quality is good, albeit overly hyper-realistic.

    The extras are limited in quantity but superb in quality.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Michael Demtschyna (read my bio)
30th July 2000

Review Equipment
DVD Lenoxx DVD-725B, using S-Video output
Display Loewe Art-95 95cm direct view CRT in 16:9 mode, via the S-Video input. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Denon AVD-2000 Dolby Digital AddOn Decoder, used as a standalone processor. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Amplification 2 x EA Playmaster 100W per channel stereo amplifiers for Left, Right, Left Rear and Right Rear; Philips 360 50W per channel stereo amplifier for Centre and Subwoofer
Speakers Philips S2000 speakers for Left, Right; Polk Audio CS-100 Centre Speaker; Apex AS-123 speakers for Left Rear and Right Rear; Hsu Research TN-1220HO subwoofer