Archive for the ‘DVD’ Category

DVD Round-Up: April 29, 2008

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

It’s been a long time since I’ve done a round-up. Below you’ll find micro-reviews of these recent releases if I’ve seen them, otherwise I’m giving you the blurbs or awards that have piqued my interest in each.

Manda Bala
Winner of Cinema Eye awards for Outstanding Achievement in Nonfiction Feature Filmmaking, Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography, Outstanding Achievement in Editing. Winner of the Sundance Grand Jury Prize and Documentary Cinematography Prize.

Ganja & Hess
I saw a tattered print of this landmark of African-American cinema in Philadelphia in the mid-90s. As a vampire film, I’m not sure it’s the “lost masterpiece” it’s sometimes claimed to be. But it’s definitely a strange and mysterious film worthy of a second viewing, and possibly more. The film stars Duane Jones (the original Night of the Living Dead).

The Guatemalan Handshake
A goofy take on Americana and the eccentrics that inhabit it, Todd Rohal’s Slamdance hit gets “the Benten treatment” in this deluxe 2-disc set. The road-trip plot sputters in parts, but the constantly-inventive cinematography kept me involved, suggesting a post-post-modern update of David Byrne’s True Stories.

Lake of Fire
J. Hoberman (Village Voice): 17 years in the self-financed making, Lake of Fire may be as daringly aestheticized as any social documentary since Errol Morris’s The Thin Blue Line.

The Delirious Fictions of William Klein: Eclipse Box Set
From the Criterion/Eclipse website: An American expatriate in Paris Klein [has been] making challenging cinema for over forty years yet with the exception of his acclaimed 1969 documentary Muhammed Ali The Greatest his film work is barely known in the United States. In his three fiction features…Klein’s politically galvanizing and insanely entertaining social critiques seem even more ahead of their time than works of the more famous New Wavers that overshadowed them: colorful surreal antidotes to all.

Dance Party USA and Quiet City on DVD

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

Aaron Katz’s second feature, the Independent Spirit Award nominee Quiet City is being released on DVD today. While well worth seeing, the real treasure here, in my opinion, is the second disc, which features Katz’s debut, Dance Party USA. A portrait of teenage misogyny (and its redemption) Dance Party USA is one of my favorite DIY movies from the last few years.

This two-fer is the second release from upstart distributor Benten Films and, like their first release, this package does not disappoint with extras.

Five Best 10 Bests (and then some)

Friday, January 4th, 2008

My favorite part of the year-end (or year-beginning) “Best Of” lists is how these lists serve as a kind of aggregator for the movies that I should give my time to in the coming year. Let’s face it, if you live in the USA and you don’t live in New York or L.A. (I don’t), and/or you didn’t make it to the Toronto Film Festival or Cannes last year (nope), and/or you’re not a member of the press with access to advance screenings (ditto), you might have had the chance to see only three of, say, J. Hoberman’s picks for the ten best.

That’s what region-free DVD players and video projectors are for. So, without further ado, here are my five favorite Top 10 (or more) lists of 2007.

indieWire Critics Poll
Village Voice/LA Weekly Film Poll
Two polls that are virtually identical in their results… because they poll virtually the same group of people. Don’t ask me why there are two polls.

IndieWire 2007 Critics Poll: Best Undistributed Film
Village Voice/LA Weekly Film Poll: Best Undistributed Film
Same as above.

Michael Atkinson’s Straight Outta Digi: The Best Non-Theatrical Debuts of ’07

DVD Beaver’s Best DVD Releases of the Year

Jonathan Rosenbaum’s Top Movies of the Year


Oh, and the best film I saw last for the first time last year? The restoration of The Whole Shootin’ Match at SXSW. Over twenty-five years since it was produced, it’s still not available on DVD.

HD-DVD Burning with an “SD” Mac

Friday, December 14th, 2007

This may be old news to some of you, but it was news to me: You can burn HD-DVDs (not Blu-Ray) on a Mac using a standard DVD burner, Final Cut Pro, Compressor, and DVD Studio Pro. I tried it last night. It works.

The limitations?

– Standard single-layer DVD media storage limits mean that you’re limited to burning shorter projects (under 60 min).
– The article states you can’t play these on an HD-DVD player. I don’t have an HD-DVD player, so I haven’t verified this. You can, however, play them on a Mac.

Hooking up my MacBook Pro to a television and screening the DVD played flawlessly. And it looked a lot better than a standard definition DVD.

The trade-off? As anyone who’s done it before can tell you, encoding a project to H.264 takes a long, long time.

Review: Primera Bravo SE Disc Publisher

Saturday, November 3rd, 2007

Note: Though it’s clumsy phrasing throughout this review I refer to the Primera Bravo SE Disc Publisher by its full name because Primera makes a similarly named unit, the Bravo SE AutoPrinter. The AutoPrinter model prints, but does not burn, DVDs. It’s a critical distinction, and one that you want to make sure you’re aware of if you decide to purchase either unit!


Though the days of online distribution are upon us, DVDs still remain a (if not the) most effective way of sharing work seriously with an audience.

Obviously, one way of producing DVDs of one’s work is to burn discs individually on your computer. After burning, you can label them by hand or, if you have a printer that accepts DVDs, use a printer. This method works fine if you’ve just got a handful to burn. Sometimes these printers can be fussy, though. Don’t get me started on my experiences with my Epson R200 printer.

Another way of producing DVDs is to have them produced by a professional duplication house (e.g., DiscMakers). This is the way to go if you need hundreds for festival submissions, online or in-person sales.

But what about if you need somewhere between a dozen and a thousand? What if you find yourself needing to burn and print a moderate number discs, particularly projects that need to be updated intermittently (like, say, a demo reel)?

The Primera Bravo SE Disc Publisher aims for this market. A combination laser jet printer, DVD burner, and robotic arm, it automates the burning and printing up to 20 DVDs at a time. I have been testing one for the past couple of months, and here are my findings:


Once set up, it does the job without hassle. Setting up the Primera Bravo SE Disc Publisher with a Windows-based computer was fairly hassle free. And once it was set up the unit performed like a charm. Readers of this site may be doing a double-take — Did Paul just say Windows machine? Yup. I first tried setting up the Bravo SE Disc Publisher using an older “sunflower” iMac. That unit simply didn’t have enough RAM and processor speed to do the job. Worse, though, was the fact that, regardless of the Mac computer I used, the included software was buggy and the features were limited. On a Windows-based machine the Bravo SE Disc Publisher has worked flawlessly and the included burning and label design software is easy to use.

Automation is a beautiful thing. The Bravo SE Disc Publisher will do runs of 20 discs. In my tests, the unit only stopped mid-run because of an error once, and that error was an operator error. (The “finished disc” tray should be extended when printing one disc, but pushed in when printing two or morel I left it out once when I should have pushed it in.) After a number of runs I grew confident that the unit didn’t need “nursing.” I felt confident leaving it alone and concentrating on other work.

It’s pretty speedy. The time it takes to burn and print a run of 20 is dependent on a lot of factors — the length of the program, the design of the label, your computer’s processor speed and RAM. With my set-up the Bravo SE Disc Publisher was able to burn 20 DVDs of a short program (30 minutes or so) with a basic text label in about an hour. I was satisfied with those results.

Results have been reliable. The DVDs I’ve burned work, and they look consistently good. ‘Nuff said.


Not so hot on Macintosh. Though, admittedly, I tried using an iMac that didn’t have enough oomph to get the job done, the design/burning software included for Mac was not as feature rich.

Ultimately, whether this unit is for you depends on your DVD burning needs. The results are more immediate than sending the DVDs off for replication, and the thing is far speedier than burning and printing with your computer and a printer that requires you loading discs one-by-one. However, for the cost of a Bravo SE Disc Publisher (about $1500 online) you could do two 300 disc runs (including cases and full-color sleeves) at DiscMakers. And remember, you’ll need to purchase blank DVDs, blank cases, print inserts, etc. if using a Primera.

You’ll have to do your own cost-benefit analysis to determine what’s most cost effective for the work you do, but for what it sets out to do, the Bravo SE Disc Publisher is a success.