Video Essentials

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Details At A Glance

Category Test/Demo Notes - DVD Control
Gallery-Video Essentials
Notes-Sound Level Meter Setup
Web Sites
Rating Not Rated
Year Released 1997
Running Time Not Applicable
RSDL/Flipper No/No
Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region 1,2,3,4,5,6 Director Joseph J. Kane, Jr.
Joe Kane Productions
Wild Releasing
Starring Sam Dalton (Narrator)
Case Snapper
RPI $49.95 Music Mark Gasbarro

Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384Kb/s)
English (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192Kb/s)
Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384Kb/s)
Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192Kb/s)
Japanese (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384Kb/s)
Japanese (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1
Macrovision ? Smoking No
Subtitles English
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    Many of you will have noticed that the reviewers here at Michael D's have all calibrated their systems with Video Essentials. More than a few of you have asked what it is and what do we think of it as a disc. Wild Releasing recently took the plunge and picked up the distribution rights for this DVD in Australia, so you can now pick it up for $49.95 locally instead of importing it for $60 or more.

    Video Essentials is at its heart a calibration DVD for your home theatre system. It allows you to correctly set up your audio system and your video system for optimum results. Does it make a difference? By golly it does! I have personally been a fan of Joe Kane and his work ever since the days of the laserdisc-only A Video Standard, the forerunner of this DVD. Prior to this time, I could never adjust my TV so that I would be happy with the image. Now, I am perpetually delighted with the quality of the image my TV produces, and perhaps more importantly, I understand what all those picture controls do and how to correctly adjust them.

    How good is Video Essentials? Well, I insist that all reviewers for this site use this disc to calibrate their systems soon after joining the team. I also use this disc to test all the DVD players that I review. I don't think I can recommend it any more highly than that.

    Disclaimer: Video Essentials is an NTSC disc. It will correctly calibrate your system for NTSC playback. The same settings do not necessarily apply to PAL playback. Nonetheless, they are often very close, and this disc will give you the understanding you need to make informed adjustments to the front panel controls so you are no longer just fiddling with controls "until the picture looks good".


    The disc opens with a comprehensive, if perhaps over-long intro explaining what the disc is all about and what to look forward to. At 19:07 in length, this does tend to drag a little and has a tendency to get a little over-technical for the novice at times. Following this introduction, the calibration sequences proper begin.

Audio System

    The disc takes you through a series of audio tests;     The narrator explains in detail what each test is for and how to go about performing it. A sound meter is de rigeur for these tests. The one they recommend is an Analogue sound meter from Radio Shack (Tandy). The last time I looked, this was less than $50 Australian, although the only one I could find on their local web site was the considerably more expensive Digital sound meter.

Video System

    The next portion of the disc takes you through setting up your display device. In particular, it takes you through setting up your brightness, contrast, colour, tint and sharpness controls.

    The narrator describes each control individually and then walks through an on-screen simulation of what that control actually does - more than likely not what you think! Brightness, for example, controls the BLACK LEVEL of your image. Contrast controls the range between the BLACK LEVEL and the PEAK WHITE LEVEL of your image. Once the function of each control has been explained and demonstrated, you then get to set the control for yourself.

Test Patterns

    Next, the test patterns used for the video system calibration are shown again, as one final check of your system.

Image Montage

    Finally, sit back and enjoy this fine montage of images which have been specifically chosen to highlight all aspects of your video setup. I can pretty much guarantee that you will not believe how crisp, clear, and film-like these images will appear with your system correctly calibrated.

Monitor Evaluation Test Signals

    If the disc is allowed to continue on after the Image Montage, it goes to a series of many, many test patterns, mainly aimed at testing specific aspects of your display device. These test patterns are more for the technically-savvy and highly-equipped professional users of this DVD, so you won't be missing anything if you stop this DVD at the end of the Image Montage.


    Everyone who had anything to do with this DVD is mentioned here, although the blurb accompanying the Video Magazine mock-up is most definitely worth a read.

Transfer Quality


    Other than one problematic sequence, this DVD is of reference quality, as is only to be expected for a calibration DVD.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. It is not 16x9 enhanced except for one specific test pattern towards the end of the disc.

    The transfer was superbly detailed. For the purposes of this review, I watched this DVD on my reference DVD player, something which I haven't done for some time, normally viewing this DVD on whichever DVD player I have on the bench for testing at the time. I'd almost forgotten just how good this source material looks because of this - some of the images in the Image Montage in particular are just magnificent. Crisp, sharp and clear, the images on this DVD are a pleasure to watch and a benchmark for other DVDs. Shadow detail is excellent except when the source material is lacking in this regard. There is no low level noise at all, which is only to be expected for a program mastered in the digital domain as this one was.

    The colours were beautifully rendered, once again, as is to be expected from a reference DVD. Vibrant, clear, crisp colours were the order of the day, with not the slightest bit of colour bleeding apparent at any time.

    The only problematic sequence on this DVD is the textured floor and walls of the simulated home theatre. This takes on a very blocky appearance whenever it is panned, despite the bitrate of this sequence being set very high. In view of the high quality of the rest of this presentation, I hesitate to call this transfer-related macro-blocking, and will give the disc authors the benefit of the doubt and suggest that it is inherent in the source material, but it really does look very ugly in motion indeed. Coming as it does very early on the disc, it is quite a jarring visual image which has lead me to mark down the quality of the video on this DVD slightly. Aliasing is a slight problem with this sequence also. Film artefacts were restricted to some of the film-based elements within the Image Montage.


    There are six audio tracks on this DVD; English Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 surround-encoded, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 surround-encoded and Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 surround-encoded. I listened to the default English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack.

    There is little to complain about with regards to what is fundamentally a utilitarian audio track. It is clear at all times with never the slightest difficulty in understanding what the narrator is saying. There are no audio sync problems because there is never a time when the on-screen action directly matches the soundtrack.

    The pleasant but unremarkable music is by Mark Gasbarro. I guess it must be doing something right, as I have heard the Image Montage music many dozens of times and am not sick of it yet.

    The surround channels carried some music and test signals when appropriate without being overly remarkable. Ditto for the subwoofer channel.


    There are a few minor extras on this DVD under the "Additional Info" menu entry.


    The menu for this DVD is very plain indeed, and is essentially text-based. For a menu system created in 1997, it is functional enough, although the layout of this DVD is rather odd in the way it uses multiple Titles for sections instead of Chapter stops. This makes rapid navigation of this DVD a tad tricky at times, but playing the DVD back sequentially is never a problem.

Notes-DVD Control

    Text screens explaining the various controls on a typical DVD remote control.

Gallery-Video Essentials

    A series of highly technical but very interesting stills expanding on the main programme material.

Notes-Sound Level Meter Setup

    More in-depth discussion of why the sound meter should be set up the way the main programme tells you to.

Web Sites

    Text links to a few sites of interest.

R4 vs R1

    This DVD is the same the world over.


    Video Essentials is a superb DVD that performs its stated function superlatively. It will make your system look and sound better. For a disc authored in 1997, it remains my calibration DVD of choice, and with the world's pre-eminent NTSC expert, Joe Kane, at the helm, you can be assured of its quality.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Michael Demtschyna (read my bio)
18th December 2000

Review Equipment
DVD Loewe Xemix 5006DD, using RGB output
Display Loewe Art-95 95cm direct view CRT in 4:3 mode, via the RGB 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