The Masters  
The Powell & Pressburger Pages

Dedicated to the work of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger and all the other people, both actors and technicians who helped them make those wonderful films.

A lot of the documents have been sent to me or have come from other web sites. The name of the web site is given where known. If I have unintentionally included an image or document that is copyrighted or that I shouldn't have done then please email me and I'll remove it.

I make no money from this site, it's purely for the love of the films.

[Any comments are by me (Steve Crook) and other members of the email list]

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DVD - Digital Versatile Disks
A description by our resident DVD expert (self appointed!)
Alan Head

As the resident DVD expert (self appointed!) on the list I would have to say that, if you're into film (something I think we can all claim to be on this list) then yes, they are worthwhile. To answer the specific questions:

Picture quality is (generally) the best there is. However, it is very much dependent on the quality of the mastering. This is pretty much a two-fold process :- Firstly the source material has to be of good quality. In the case of the recent Carlton DVDs it would seem that the source material was of poor quality, as they used the original VHS masters rather than a brand new digital transfer (unlike Criterion's TRS - that was a brand new transfer supervised by Jack Cardiff). Secondly, the DVD itself must be mastered correctly. Because DVD uses compression, recording only changes in the image rather than each individual frame, it is important a good job is done here. Grainy black and white stock plays havoc with compression because so much of the image is changing every frame. A decent DVD author will get around this by increasing the sampling rate of the master (something they also do for busy frames from, for example, action sequences) and decreasing it for other sections of the movie due to space limitations (a single sided DVD can hold about 4 hours of averagely compressed video, running at the maximum bit rate would yield just half that). All this naturally costs money and because movie companies try to make a profit it means that often quality is compromised. The exception here is Criterion which adopts the business model whereby they do a couple of less than worthy blockbuster special editions (e.g. Armageddon, The Rock) which in turn subsidise the interesting stuff like TRS, Thirty Nine Steps, and The Third Man. Other companies are also known for taking care with their back catalogue, Warner Brothers in particular. Similarly, Buena Vista are notorious for shabby, overpriced product

Examples of good DVD authoring:

Examples of bad DVD authoring:

To move onto your other questions, yes there are non-film DVDs. There is a lot of music content coming out now (concert footage, classic albums with their music videos, that sort of thing). There have even been DVD singles (by Carl Cox and Bjork). Expect to see a lot of classical stuff come out with full surround sound (anyone remember quadrphonia from the 70's). Sport titles are starting to come out, and the BBC are about to dive in with interesting documentary stuff like "The Planets" and "Walking with Dinosaurs". There is also a fair bit of "special interest" material coming out like "The Lover's Guide" :-)

In terms of cost you are looking at about £250 for a good quality region-free machine which will enable you to play DVDs from both the US/Canada and Europe/Japan. Providing that your TV is fairly modern you should have no problems dealing with the different video standards, and some players actually convert from one to the other anyway. The next step up from this is to add a Dolby Digital sound system for the full surround sound experience. Entry level here is about £250 as well. This is obviously not very important for good old mono but is well worth the money if you watch modern films (and not just "Things Exploding" type films - the audio mix on Dolby Digital is much clearer, which benefits even Woody Allen films) From here on in it starts getting very expensive and very nerdy - you could quite easily spend the price of a new family car on a home cinema setup - I know someone who did! Its debatable whether all this expense actually delivers a better experience, but try and force a Ferrari driver to drive a Skoda and see what happens (they both get you where you want to go, but you don't get your mates asking if they can drive the Skoda)

Personally I have the following set-up:
Pioneer 525 DVD player 300 region-free

Wharfedale 750 DVD player 180 region-free (only available from Tescos)

Creative Labs DxR2 computer CD-ROM drive and decoder card region-free (no longer available)

Mitsubishi CT21AV 21-inch Dolby ProLogic 4:3 TV (no longer available but cost £400 approximately 2 years ago). This is a true multi standard TV which accepts NTSC, SECAM, and PAL and converts between the three, has an RGB input via one of the SCART sockets and also has a 16:9 widescreen mode which is of some benefit when watching 16:9 encoded anamorphic DVDs (for an explanation of all these terms and more see the Home Cinema and Entertainment section of the FAQ)

Videologic Digitheatre Dolby Digital speaker and amp combo - £200 from computer retailers. This is a full Dolby Digital speaker, decoding, and amplification solution which is ideal for small rooms. It consists of five speakers (centre, front left, front right, rear left, rear right), a subwoofer (for bass output), an amplifier, and a decoder which accepts the digital bitstream from a DVD player. It will decode all types of DVD soundtrack except the audiophile (and poorly supported) DTS format, although a product revision available in Spring 2000 will add this capability. You also have the ability to route stereo signals from your TV or VCR to it, enabling you to enjoy Dolby ProLogic encoded stereo broadcasts and VHS tapes. This is an unbeatable introduction to the joys of home cinema sound and is the one component of my home cinema solution that I do not foresee upgrading in the near future - in order to better it I would need to spend in the region of £1000 on an amplifier and speaker setup.

As to DVDs themselves you are looking at 15-20 quid for most titles, whether you buy them retail or from the States. Like most other things, DVDs are more expensive in the UK, but this is balanced by having to pay postage and possibly customs charges from the States

If you have any further questions feel free to ask me off-list, as this is more than a little off-topic. I'll be pleased to help - the whole DVD thing is a little complex and as you've probably noticed I spent far too much time trawling the net for info when I made my purchasing decision this time last year!

Remainder of FAQ Section 2