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HTF Blu-Ray Review: Shine a Light

Blu-ray Reviews

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#1 of 3 OFFLINE   PatWahlquist

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Posted August 09 2008 - 05:11 AM


Shine a Light (Blu-Ray)

Studio: Paramount Home Video
Rated: PG-13 (brief strong language, drug references, smoking)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
HD Encoding: 1080p
HD Video Codec: MPEG4-AVC
Audio: DTS-MA English 5.1; Dolby TrueHD English 5.1; English PCM 2.0
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish; English SDH+
Time: 121 minutes
Disc Format: 1 SS/DL BD
Case Style: Keep case
Theatrical Release Date: 2008
Blu-Ray Release Date: July 29, 2008


What is it about the Rolling Stones that endures? That question comes up in director Martin Scorsese’s Shine a Light and he lets the boys show you the answer. The picture was filmed a the Beacon Theater in New York City, with special guests Bill Clinton, Jack White, Buddy Guy and Christina Aguilera. I had originally thought this would be a documentary as much as a concert film, but Scorsese outwits us by letting the aged band tear through a blistering two hour set where you’d never have any idea these men were old enough to be your grandpa. Your cooler, more famous grandpa, that is.

When the special musical guests come out, Mick Jagger is cordial to them but you can see just how uncomfortable he is when someone steals part of his spotlight. The only exception to this is Aguilera’s appearance where Mick gets up on her (leaving Aguilera a bit creeped out) and he has just that slight mischievous twinkle in his eye. There is a vocal performance by Keith Richards that shows why he’s better left as the guitarist (at least live), and Scorsese recognizes this as he breaks up the performance with a couple of interviews with Richards and Ron Wood. The concert is peppered with various vintage interviews with the band, dating back to the early 60’s when they first followed another famous quartet as part of the British Invasion. While somewhat more humble at that time, the Stones bratiness easily slips out and is in full bloom as the interviews continue. The question of the Stones longevity is asked often, with each band member unsure of the answer; Scorsese lets them do the talking via the performance.

Unfortunately, I don’t know if that’s enough to sustain this project. Anyone who has seen the Stones knows they usually put on a great show, and here is no different. The band seems equally at home in a smaller venue such as the Beacon or at a 30,000 seat arena. Again, as I said, Scorsese outwits us to an extent, letting the music and performance speak or itself, leaving me wanting to go back and watch Gimme Shelter or other archival works to get to know the boys personally. Taken as a concert film, Shine a Light holds up okay, but don’t expect too know much more.


Video:
Note: I am watching this title using a Marantz VP 11-S1 DLP projector, which has a native resolution of 1080p. I am using a Sony Playstation 3 Blu-Ray player while a Denon 3808CI does the switching and pass through of the video signal. I am utilizing the HDMI capabilities of each piece of equipment.

Shine a Light is encoded in the MPEG4-AVC codec at 1080p with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The finished film employs three different types of film stocks, super 8mm, 16mm and 35mm, and HD video via the Panasonic Genesis, shot at 1080p/24. The picture begins behind the scenes as the band and Scorsese is figuring out how they will shoot the picture leaving us in a highly contrasted 8mm and 16mm environment. The BD provides us with a good picture that deals well resolving the grain and grittiness of the filmed footage. I’m always nervous about seeing 16mm film stock transferred to HD video (I’m reminded of U2’s Rattle and Hum), but this looks better than most. Once we shift to the concert itself, we are treated to an amazing 35mm presentation, mastered with great care for this HD release. The concert goes through an ever shifting palate of colors and it conveys the ambience and mood set in the Beacon Theater. The saturation of the colors is lush and bold and never seems to influence the band too much, as they remain accurate enough. Detail is better in the 35mm shot sequences allowing us to see just how old these guys are, with every crease, line and wrinkle coming out. You can also make out the shirts of the audience and much of the fine detail in the set pieces. Sharpness is nearly perfect here, with crisp lines that remind you just how good film can look on BD. Black levels are deep showing excellent detail. Depth of field is good, but there is so much movement and jump cuts it’s hard to keep up with this aspect of the presentation. I noticed no edge enhancement or other processing to the video, and the transfer is free from dirt and noise. This is an excellent video presentation.


Audio:
The three soundtracks were attained by the HDMI connection of the PS3 to the Denon 3808CI.

I watched the feature with the DTS-MA 5.1 track engaged, and the first thing I noticed is just how loud it is. Beware the first song as it hits you like a blast leaving your poor speakers in shock. Once you get past that we are presented with a thoroughly immersive sound field which puts you right in the middle of the venue. Panning effects are perfect following around each guitarist and leaving the back-up singers and horn section where they belong on opposite sides of the stage. The frequency range is good, but there was not as much throaty-ness to the bass I usually like. Jagger and the lead singers are crystal clear, however, and blend perfectly with the rest of the band.

The 2.0 PCM has more richness in the mids and lows with much lower volume. The highs are not as prominent as the other two tracks. I did A-B comparisons during She Was Hot, among others, and the 2.0 track has good dispersion pushing out what is surround info in the 5.1 tracks, but I missed the sound field the extra channels provided.

The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track overall is tighter but lacks a sweetness that is present in DTS track. Bass is more prevalent here contributing to a more balanced sound field. Otherwise it is very similar to the DTS track, but I’d still stick with the DTS track to watch the feature.


Bonus Material:
The bonus material is presented in high definition unless otherwise noted.

Supplemental Featurette (15:09): watching this all too brief piece sought to make me crave more such documentary and behind the scenes footage. You see the camaraderie among the band in the feature, but it is more prevalent here, especially between Wood and Richards. Scorsese is also present showing us a little bit of what went into making the concert happen and there is a sweet acoustical version of Wild Horses among others.

4 bonus performances (16:44) Four songs cut from the theatrical release are shown here: Undercover of the Night, Paint it Black, Little T & A, and I’m Free. Equal in AV quality to the feature.


Conclusions:
While Shine a Light is a great document of the current state of the Rolling Stones, the picture itself leaves us wanting more of what we see in the meager supplemental featurette. Video and audio quality is excellent which more than makes up for the other detractors.
ISO "Lost" ARG prints from Kevin Tong, Olly Moss, Eric Tan and Methane Studios.  PM me if you want to sell!

All reviews done on a Marantz VP11S1 1080p DLP projector.

Displays professionally calibrated by Gregg Loewen of Lion AV.

#2 of 3 OFFLINE   Ed St. Clair

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Posted August 09 2008 - 01:27 PM

Thanks for the review.
This is the old: "bad news/good news" (IMO).
Bad news is the Stones are STILL touring!
Good news is the Stones are STILL touring!
Movies are: "The Greatest Artform".
HD should be for EVERYONE!

#3 of 3 OFFLINE   Adam Gregorich

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Posted August 14 2008 - 08:14 AM

I'm not a huge Stones fan so I only listened to the songs I do like, but I found some parts of the audio mix to be distracting. The opening of start me up has odd placement of Kieth Richards guitar. I've tried switching my side speakers from dipole to bipole and it doesn't seem to make a difference. It's possible that the design of the speakers isn't helping (angled drivers creating a null in front of them), but I put in several other concert discs: Dave Matthews, Queen, Heart, Chicago and all of them sound fine.