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Square But Sound,
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This review is from: Dire Straits: Alchemy Live [Blu-ray]  [Region Free] (Blu-ray)
Well I must admit this was one hell of a Blu Ray I was looking forward to, especially with non other than Dick Carruthers being behind the restoration of the picture, and Chuck Ainlay being in charge of the sound. For those of you who are not aware of these 2 guys I would like to briefly fill you in. Dick Carruthers was the very same chap who worked on the restoration of the film footage for Led Zeppelins double DVD which contained concert film footage from 1970, 1973, 1975 and 1979. All of which are a lot older than Dire Straits Alchemy Live concert from London's Hammersmith Odeon in 1983. The work done by Carruthers on Zeppelin's restoration for there DVD was top notch first class quality, he baked the actual reels of the film footage in an oven for 3 months to restore the colour in the film. The DVD ended up looking very much like it was made today, rather than all those years back in the 70's. It was a complete marvel to say the least, which gave me a tremendous amount of respect for Carruther's work.
Carruthers work on Dire Straits Alchemy Live is very disappointing I must say, the 4:3 aspect ratio is hardly fitting for today's technology of Blu Ray, and the grain in the film is perhaps the major factor as to why Carruthers could not of done a lot to the actual film footage. If anything at all it's hardly any better than VHS quality, which is rather a shame. But then again one can only work with what they have in the first place, and one must remember that the Hammersmith Odeon can be a very dark and dismal place to be quite honest, I've been there myself on a number of occasions. So it's far from the best place to film an actual concert especially with what equipment they had back then. If there are area's Carruthers as touched up, they are certainly in the lighting department, which does come out very good at times during the show. However over all its all rather disappointing.
Chuck Ainlay is the very same sound engineer who was behind the 5.1 SACD mix of Dire Straits Brothers in Arms album, the work he done on that album was tremendous, and for that I have a lot of respect for this guy. Ainlay's work on the sound for Alchemy Live here presented on Blu Ray in a DTS HD 5.1 Master soundtrack is once again shear top notch, it's pure class and by far way better than the vinyl album or any CD release of this album. It plays back at 96khz with shear perfection of great detail to every instrument upon the stage. I have never heard Alchemy Live sound so good, you would have to have been at the actual concert itself to better it. The sound is pure and direct and panned very well with great warmth in putting you directly with the audience, and gives one the sense of actually being there. This alone makes up for the rather poor picture quality, and adds great value to the Blu Ray disc itself. I take my hat off to Chuck for doing yet another marvelous job.
Dire Straits Alchemy Live may have it's downfalls regarding to it's 4:3 picture quality, and in all fairness I would have give this Blu Ray a 1 star here for this. But the sound is totally marvelous and quite breathtaking and worth every one of its 5.1 stars. The concert itself is worthy of its 5 stars no doubt, and the bonus features are once again superb especially with the Arena Documentary giving one some good insight into the bands early career.
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Showing 1-10 of 13 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 28 May 2010 08:44:19 BDT
J. Milner says:
Superb review. I guess the 4:3 aspect was done with the intention of keeping the picture true to the original.
In reply to an earlier post on 31 May 2010 10:53:51 BDT
Yes no doubt about it, thanks for the kind words and I hope your very much like myself enjoying the Blu Ray. It's a shame other people just cannot see it for it's superb sound quality, rather than moan about the picture quality and give it such poor ratings. They must be listening to it on there TV's is all I can say, shame on them.
Posted on 9 Jun 2010 11:05:24 BDT
Revd R. B. Miller says:
I eagerly awaited the arrival of Alchemy Live and ordered the copy as soon as it was advertised. This is the only pop rock concert I have ever purchased as I am mainly into classical music. I bought Alchemy Live years ago on Laserdisc, but a blu ray tempted me to buy this one as well. The sound quality is staggering. The picture quality is a bit grainy at times. We should be aware that the original footage was shot with TV cameras and not film cameras, therefore no matter how well the technical guys work at upgrading the film material it will never be quite up to the standard we take for granted from blu ray. I would still want to give this disc a five star rating for all of its shortcomings.
In reply to an earlier post on 9 Jun 2010 13:51:09 BDT
The big difference between this and the Zeppelin footage is that Carruthers had film to work with...this was shot on video so unfortunately there isn't any additional resolution to be had and going with 16:9 would have lost an additional 25% of vertical resolution, resulting in essentially about 400 lines of resolution being upscaled to 1080.
Even Lowry Digital probably won't ever be able to do much with this footage. At least we can turn off the telly and sit back with our eyes closed and marvel at the amazing sonic soundstage.
Posted on 21 Jun 2010 06:08:45 BDT
Last edited by the author on 21 Jun 2010 06:10:24 BDT
Andreas Neubert says:
I definetely know that audio tapes are baked. Peter Gabrielīs Real World Studios offer tape baking services for example.
So video tapes might be baked too - what I donīt belive is that baking is in any way helpful with film rolls - and the concert seems to be a video production anyway.
Sadly, because in the 80īs video was pure crap compared to the resolution and tonal range of 35mm film.
Even 16mm or Super16 should be better than video if itīs properly scanned...
In reply to an earlier post on 21 Jun 2010 07:43:12 BDT
Well one thing in my review is that I stated that the Led Zeppelin film footage had been baked for 3 months, which is a mistake as it should read 3 weeks. The actual film footage Carruthers had to work with that made up the Zeppelin DVD consisted of mainly 16mm film and old 2 inch video tape which you can find here: http://www.led-zeppelin.org/reference/dis
But yes Andreas you are completly right regarding baking audio tapes, and to be honest after reading through again what took place with Zeppelin's DVD I would gather that the actual baking process that took place was to the actual audio rather than the film footage. The very chap behind the sound was Kevin Shirley and this review from the Sound On Sound Magazine makes interesting reading and can be found here: http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/nov03/art
I do not know if you have seen the Led Zeppelin DVD but it is totally amazing in both picture and sound quality and is certainly refrence material, and I just wish a lot of other artists took more time with the restoration of old concert footage. I have loads of music DVD's but only a few of them match up to anything of the quality of DVD never mind Blu Ray. I would say the biggest majority of old concert footage released on DVD are very much VHS standard. How some of them even got to have a DTS track amazes me, Neil Young's Live Rust DVD is a classic example of such poor quality.
In reply to an earlier post on 21 Jun 2010 13:39:29 BDT
16mm would be over 4 times better than video.
Lee - I would like to see better care taken over older video transfers too particularly where the source is film, but as long as they get the audio right I have to say I'm a happy camper. I often shut off the video circuits on my receiver anyway when listening to live footage. It would be terrible for it to be the other way around.
As for dts, what's the audio codec got to do with the video quality, or are you saying the Neil Young DVD is terrible audio quality also. dts has no say in whether or not their tools are used on DVD, they only create the encoders.
In reply to an earlier post on 21 Jun 2010 14:32:45 BDT
Yes Steven I also am a big fan of the audio side of things, but I do like to have a good picture as well, otherwise you may just as well purchase the CD in some cases. What I mean about the Neal Young is both the picture and the audio is dire, as a rule DTS is very good for instance Queen's Night At The Opera, Kraftwerk's Minimum Maximum, Jean Michel Jarre's Aero or China concert, The Eagles Hell Freezes Over to name a few. All of which have stunning quality DTS sound, and are way better than any CD on the market or vinyl album for that matter.
What we get here with Neal Young's Rust Never Sleeps concert is advertised with stunning DTS sound. As a rule I do find DTS a lot better than Dolby Digital 5.1, but this of coarse is very much dependant of the sound engineer behind the whole process of it all in the first place. I have both CD and Vinyl album of this concert, and both formats blow it away by miles. The Vinyl is by far the best of the lot. The DTS sound quality on Young's DVD is not even worthy putting on a Cassette. It's totally appauling.
I myself prefer natural sound rather than using DSP's but I have found that using DSP's with the DVD's I have mentioned above brings out DTS sound far more greater. They are still great listened to in Dolby Digital 5.1 without DSP's, but in DTS they are staggering. I love the HD Sound Formats and they are very much like SACD with its pure directional sound, and are far better played back without DSP's and switching off the video circuitry as you have stated.
When one goes out and buys a concert either on DVD or Blu Ray the most important thing to me is the sound quality and not the picture, and if you can get both then it's a bonus, and adds that much more to it's value and over all enjoyment. Obviously we have not both on Dire Straits Alchemy, but to me the sound very much makes up for the picture quality. To be honest I enjoy watching it as well as listening to it, people can slam it down with there reviews over the picture quality, but I have seen ten times worse than this purchase, and have purchased many that are nowhere near the quality of Alchemy. I for one love it, and it gives me a great deal of pleasure, and will do for the rest of my days here on this planet.
In reply to an earlier post on 21 Jun 2010 15:15:03 BDT
Last edited by the author on 21 Jun 2010 15:19:37 BDT
That is a shame about the Neil Young DVD, but that's more than likely an aberration with Neil isn't it? He's usually the kind of person who wants the highest fidelity possible shown by being one of only a few people to release DVD's with a 2.0 PCM 24/96 stereo track. His Archives Blu-ray release is all Analog>24/192 PCM and his vinyl releases are all analog mastered with no digital stage. Wish more musicians were like him.
I have also enjoyed dts in the past (stricly referring to DVD's) and often have found it to be better than Dolby, especially where 1.5 Mbps dts is used which is usually the case on concert DVD's, not usually the case on movie releases but I haven't often found dts to best CD simply because CD is lossless and doesn't have the high-end rolled off the way most lossy dts encodings on DVD do (usually around 16kHz). I always appreciated the additional spaciality surround mixes bring to the table, but the more I've gotten used to lossless audio tracks on Blu-ray the more I find myself choosing the PCM track on DVD concerts over the lossy surround mix, whether dts or Dolby, because it sounds better overall to my ears. In fact I'll pass on a DVD these days (the odd occasion I still buy them) if it only has lossy tracks on it, the PCM is what sells it for me. Sony have always been really good at including PCM stereo tracks on their concert DVD's. The "James" DVD from 2001, their last concert before they first disbanded, is much more natural sounding in PCM.
I didn't know Concerts in China had seen a DVD release. I loved all Jarre's releases right up to Revolutions, would definitely be interested in that one. Is there a stereo PCM option on it? When Oxygene was first announced (the re-release) the Jarre website listed SACD, instead we got stuck with dts on the 2-disc version and Dolby on the 3D release, I thought that was a shame. SACD would have been far superior to dts but a Blu-ray would have been even better given the master was 24/96 PCM.
Yes I would never use DSP's with my SACD's, because then I would be incurring a PCM conversion. With PURE ANALOG the DAC's in my Onkyo will convert DSD>Analog with no conversion. Only con is lack of bass management, but that's overcome using the sub's own LFE setting. I do usually employ THX when listening to my dts CD's, makes them sound a little less shrill.
In reply to an earlier post on 22 Jun 2010 03:56:28 BDT
Last edited by the author on 22 Jun 2010 03:57:47 BDT
The Jean Michel Jarre DVD I was refering to was the 2004 Jarre In China and not the China Concerts which was released on vinyl and CD years back. It's got THX/DTS/Dolby 5.1 and Dolby 2.0. Yeah I have the Oxygene Live in your living room and I would agree give me SACD anyday.
Talking of SACD's an OPPO DV-980H DVD Player went on ebay today in an auction for Ģ72 I was almost tempted to go for it, but I am in the process of building a new PC so I had to hold myself back. But with all the new Blu Ray Players hitting the market with SACD playback you would think they would start making more SACD's Discs again. Who knows it might not be as dead as people think it is. I know that Sony still are producing Classical SACD's, but other genres are very limited.