CH All in the Family - the first disc

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Brian W., Dec 12, 2001.

  1. Brian W.

    Brian W. Screenwriter

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    Since someone asked about the Columbia House "All in the Family" DVDs in an I Love Lucy thread, I wanted to start a new thread to make sure they see it.

    I finally got the first DVD in the mail today. After throwing a fit, thinking the pilot episode wasn't included (I'd been sure the series opened with the episode where Mike comes to dinner and meets Archie for the first time, but after searching on the Internet for info I believe this was a later flashback), I was able to evaluate the disc.

    The good news: The DVD series is in chronological order, starting with the pilot episode, "Meet the Bunkers," and continuing with episodes 1-3 ("Writing the President," "Oh, My Aching Back" and "Archie Gives Blood").

    Now the not-so-good news: Extras are at a bare minimum, and several of the extras are screwed up. For example in the cast bio section, ONLY Caroll O'Connor's bio is included! It just goes straight to his -- doesn't even list the other actors. (Unless this is a glitch with my player.)

    The other error is that if you try to access "Scene Selections" from the Bonus Materials menu, it only gives you episodes 2-4 to choose from! Fortunately, all episodes are accessible from the main menu.

    There's a chapter stop at the beginning of each section coming in from a blackout. Also in the Bonus Material are the complete lyrics to "Those Were The Days" (including verses never sung by Archie and Edith), a relatively brief synopsis called "Origin" of how the series came into being, plus the botched Scene Selections and Cast Info.

    Now, on to the picture quality...

    First, comparing this with I Love Lucy is comparing apples and oranges, because Lucy was shot on film while All in the Family was shot on videotape that was probably of comparable quality to VHS tape today.

    The pilot appears to be taken from more than one videotape source. The opening song looks quite good, but part one of the show does not hold this promise -- it's somewhat grainy and faded looking. I hate to say it, but it looks about like good VHS.

    Then, after the first commercial break, the picture quality improves dramatically. It's suddenly sharp, with brighter color and hardly a hint of grain. Was the first reel of the original tape master damaged, I wonder?

    Unfortunately, the next episode goes back to looking about like the first half of the pilot, maybe a little better. The third episode on the disc, "Oh, My Aching Back," seems slightly better still, and the last episode, "Archie Gives Blood," shows still more improvement in color and sharpness, though it's not quite as free of grain as the last half of the pilot.

    I really don't know how to judge the picture. This is videotape, it's not film, so I don't have anything else from the period on DVD to compare it to. The latter half of the pilot makes me think that CH may be using the best available source material -- it sure looks great -- but I don't know.

    Was I disappointed? Yes, a bit. Like I was disappointed in my first I Love Lucy volume. But those improved, so I'm hoping All in the Family will, too. And it was sure interesting to see the earliest episodes, mainly in how much Edith's character changed (she actually gets sarcastic with Archie in the pilot -- she got dumber and sweeter as the series progressed) and in how much more antagonistic Michael and Archie's relationship became over time. Michael corrected Archie as much as ever from the start, but he didn't seem to get as angry, and their relationsihp in general didn't seem to be quite as antagonistic as it soon became.
     
  2. Scott_J

    Scott_J Cinematographer

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    I was the one that asked about All in the Family in the previous thread. Thanks for the in-depth review. Since it'll be $4.31 shipped using a coupon, I think I'll get the first one, then decide from there whether or not to continue. Thanks again, Brian.
     
  3. Tom Brennan

    Tom Brennan Screenwriter

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    Where can you get these from? How many volumes are available?
     
  4. Brian W.

    Brian W. Screenwriter

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    Tom, they are available from www.columbiahouse.com. Go to the TV Favorites link, and then there's a link from there to shows on DVD. All in the Family should be one of the first ones listed. It's a subscription series -- one volume every 4-6 weeks. The introductory volume (which I've just described) is $4.95, plus $4.95 shipping. You might ask Scott J where he got his coupon; then it would only be $4.95 shipped.
    Subsequent volumes are $24.95 plus $4.95 shipping. It says $19.95 on their web site, I think, but that's wrong -- it said that for their I Love Lucy series, too, but I'm charged about $30 shipped for those.
     
  5. Scott_J

    Scott_J Cinematographer

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    The code I used was BERL. That gets you the disc for free, all you pay is shipping and tax (if applicable). For my I Love Lucy disc, the shipping was $3.99, and my total cost was $4.31 after NY State tax.
     
  6. Tom Brennan

    Tom Brennan Screenwriter

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    Are you obligated to purchase further discs?
     
  7. Brian W.

    Brian W. Screenwriter

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    No, Tom, you can cancel at any time.
     
  8. Scott Strang

    Scott Strang Screenwriter

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    Thanks for the review. Although I have yet to receive my first AITF DVD, I'm a bit troubled by the quality comments.

    All in the Family was indeed shot on tape but the format was 2" quadraplex (quad) which has quality far better than VHS. The tape ran at 15 ips (some modified machines and new models could run also at 7.5 ips) and due to the recording process was incapable of any kind of freeze frame or visual search. If the format were hot today then that could have been remedied by digital technology, but back then forget it. The tape handling was done by air and an air compressor that didn't use oil was required to supply the air pressure needed by the tape guides and other tpae path stuff. Editing was also crude sometimes making use of razor blade editing necessary. A chemical could be put on the tape to make the "tracks" or "pulses" visible. Electronic editing was also used but it still was less precise than later formats.

    Also some may not know this but MTV went on the air with an Ampex 2" quadraplex cart system running at 15 ips and the single mono track split for stereo and using Dolby A NR. Probably didn't sound as good as later AFM systems and certainly not as good as digital.

    What visual imperfections you're refering too sound as though they could've been caused by hi generation dubs. I've seen syndication copies of shows that came in on 3/4" U-matic that looked worse some VHS. There is a possibility that the production masters sent for DVD authoring were not even close in generation to the original masters.
     
  9. Justin Lane

    Justin Lane Cinematographer

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    Hmm, I don't know what to do with this series. I would like to own them but for 30 bucks a pop for so so transfers it is going to be a real tough sell for me. Hopefully someone else can be a the lab rat and let us know how future discs look when they become available.

    J
     
  10. Scott Strang

    Scott Strang Screenwriter

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    I'd be thrilled to be a guinea pig for this series if they'd just send me the damned first disc.

    Sick of waiting.
     
  11. Scott_J

    Scott_J Cinematographer

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    For those of you (like myself) who are contemplating getting these through Columbia House, you may want to wait before doing so. I just noticed the following quote from DVDShrine's home page:
     
  12. Scott Strang

    Scott Strang Screenwriter

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    I got my first All in the Family DVD last Friday. Despite what others have said here, the quality, IMHO, is excellent.

    We're talking a TV show shot on quad in 1971. I noticed detail that I've never seen in the show before. Of course my only exposure has been ones on TBS that ran at 3:30 am in the 80's. The ones on Nik at Night have never looked that much better. But these shows look better than you're likely to ever get. Sure some of the edits are sloppy (hard to avoid in early video tape editing) and I did notice a couple of dropouts that were not quad style dropouts but they were certainly analog. My guess is that they were Betacam or possibly 1"; perhaps someone can tell me.

    In the audio, there were some spots that sounded like tape saturation but this is to be expected on tape running at 15 ips and with a narrow track and no NR. That saturation was most likely on the quad masters unless it made it over on the transfer tape.

    If you're a fan of the show, I seriously suggest looking at least at the first DVD. It has the pilot and 3 other episodes. Great stuff.
     
  13. Craig S

    Craig S Producer

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    I've got to say, I don't know if the Columbia House model is viable in today's DVD climate. Consider that for the same $30 or so you'll pay for each disc of 4 half-hour episodes of "AitF" (after the intro offer), you'll be able to buy the entire 1st season (24 eps) of "M*A*S*H". I just can't see doing the Columbia House thing any more.
     

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