Roger Waters The Wall Blu-ray Review

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A technological tour de force

by Steve Withers Nov 26, 2015 at 9:19 AM

  • Movies review


    Highly Recommended
    Roger Waters The Wall Blu-ray Review
    SRP: £19.99

    Film Review

    Roger Waters The Wall is a visual record of his recent live performances of the album, a show that has become the highest grossing solo tour in history.

    It was filmed in an indoor arena in Athens and a stadium in Buenos Aires, which allows Waters to reveal both the intimate aspects of the show and its vast scale. The production is a technological tour de force that vividly brings Waters' vision to life and includes dramatic flourishes that just wouldn't have been possible when The Wall was originally conceived. The film represents the concert in its entirety and along with all the usual aspects of the show - giant puppets, flying pigs and crashing planes - there are more recent political concerns woven into the narrative. Waters has always worn his left wing heart on his sleeve and the giant screen that the wall creates allows him to project his thoughts on the 'War on Terror' and modern conflicts in letters 100 feet high.
    If Roger Waters The Wall was just a record of the live show it would already be a triumph but Waters is too much of an artist to be satisfied with something so prosaic. So he weaves additional footage of himself on a very personal road trip in amongst the songs. This juxtaposes the intimacy of his own personal journey amongst the vast scale of the stage show and provides an emotional counterpoint that proves very effective. Waters is clearly a different man from the one that wrote The Wall back in the late seventies. He's older and wiser and clearly more at peace with his audience. As spectacular as the live show is, it's the sight of Waters playing his trumpet at his father's grave in Anzio that will probably stay with you longest. If you're a fan of Pink Floyd or Roger Waters, it's a must see.

    Picture Quality

    Roger Waters The Wall Picture Quality
    Roger Waters The Wall is presented on Blu-ray in high definition 1080/24p using the AVC codec and in its correct theatrical aspect ratio of 2.39:1. The wider aspect ratio is key to delivering the sheer scale of the show itself and the widescreen nature of the wall obviously lends itself to a more cinematic presentation. The production was shot using RED One digital cameras and the results are simply breathtaking, with the filmmakers managing to capture both the intimate moments and the epic scale. The film is comprised of footage shot in an indoor arena in Athens, with and without a crowd in order to get better close-ups, as well as at a stadium show in Buenos Aires; along with scenes of Roger Waters driving around Europe in his Bentley Continental.

    Part road trip, part epic concert, the visuals deliver both with a sweeping beauty.

    The transfer is superb, with a lovely clean digital source that is delivered almost free of any artefacts or banding and what you do see are doubtless the result of filming under difficult conditions rather than limitations in the transfer itself. The colour scheme of the film is quite deliberate, with the bright primary colours of the stage show juxtaposed with the desaturated images of Roger Waters at various war graves. The filming style also reflects this approach, with the live show delivering a widescreen epic presentation, whilst the road trip is tightly filmed and intimate. The level of detail is staggering, both in terms of the actual show with its huge wall and vast audiences, as well as close-ups of Water's weathered features and greying beard. The black levels are also well handled, especially during the live sequences where certain projected scenes on the wall take on an almost three-dimensional appearance. Overall this is super representation of the filmmakers intent and a wonderful visual feast.

    Sound Quality

    Roger Waters The Wall Sound Quality
    The Blu-ray of Roger Waters The Wall sports a Dolby Atmos soundtrack, although for those that aren't Atmos-enabled there's also a 7.1-channel Dolby TrueHD core. We actually reviewed the film with a full Dolby Atmos setup using a 7.2.4 configuration and the results were simply stunning, easily the best sounding concert movie we've ever heard. Pink Floyd and Roger Waters have a long history of superior sound quality at their concerts and they've been using quadrophonic sound since the seventies, so it's no surprise that Waters has embraced Dolby Atmos for this film. However he also understands how to use it to its full advantage, creating a highly immersive audio experience.

    Quite simply the best sounding concert movie that we've ever heard.

    The show itself has been brilliantly recorded, so every instrument is clearly heard within the mix, as are the vocals and crowd noises. The show features loads of effects, which are also expertly reproduced in the Atmos mix, whether that's explosions around you, fireworks going off above you or planes flying overhead. The bass is thunderous and perfectly integrated into the overall sound design, to deliver an experience that is as close as possible to actually being at the show. The road trip sequences are deliberately more subtly and dominated predominately by dialogue. However there are plenty of atmospheric effects from the gentle sounds of the now peaceful battlefields and graveyards to some nice thunder when a friend of Waters recounts a story of being hit by a possibly imagined lightning bolt.

    However it's the dynamic range of the mix that really impresses, especially near the beginning as Waters plays his trumpet at the Somme war memorial and the opening chords of 'In the Flesh' come crashing in. Later in the show a tube train pulls up along the entire length of the wall and then gunshots go off in one of the carriages. It's a reference to the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes by armed police back in 2005, we see the inside of the darkened carriage light up and, when the gunshots ring out, you'll be jumping out of your seat. Roger Waters knows how to make a point and deliver a spectacular live show at the same time but as this disc also proves, he knows how to replicate the experience at home - simply awesome.


    Roger Waters The Wall Extras
    The Blu-ray release of Roger Waters The Wall comes in two varieties, there's a basic single disc release and a more elaborate two-disc version with some extra features. The single disc version includes the film, the time lapse featurettes and the 'A Visit to Frank Thompson' outtake. The two-disc version comes in a nicely designed digibook with an attractive slipcase, a 32-page booklet, four art cards and a poster. The first disc is the same as the single disc version, whilst the second disc includes various driving outtakes, the Facebook films, David Gilmour performing 'Comfortably Numb' and all three surviving Floyd members on 'Outside the Wall'; all the extras are presented in high definition.

    Whilst the extras aren't quite as extensive as we'd like, there are some 'must haves' for Floyd fans.

    A Visit to Frank Thompson (04:48) - This moving visit to the grave of a British soldier executed by the Nazis in the Second World War works as a separate feature but you can see why it wasn't included in the film itself. The story of Frank Thompson is interesting but it detracts from the otherwise highly personal nature of Roger Waters' road trip.

    Time Lapses:
    Athens (06:26) - This time lapse sequence shows exactly what was involved in setting up the live show itself and then filming it, both with and without an audience in order to get camera angles that would have blocked their view during the actual show.
    Buenos Aires (04:14) - Whilst the Athens show was filmed in an indoor arena, this time lapse sequence shows the setup involved for an outdoor show at a football stadium in Buenos Aires. There isn't really a culture of large indoor arenas in South America, so Waters had no choice but to stage the show in massive stadiums and this sequence gives you an idea of the sheer scale involved.

    Driving (06:38) - This is essentially a series of outtakes from the sequences of the film that show Roger Waters driving around in his Bentley Continental reminiscing with friends and family.

    Facebook Films (57:54) - This is a series of short films that were created to promote The Wall Live shows on Waters' Facebook page. Although many of these short films are promotional in nature, they cover much of the show itself and many other things besides, making them quite interesting. They were certainly successful in promoting The Wall Live because it became the highest-grossing solo tour in history.

    Comfortably Numb Live at the O2 (08:19) - A record of the night that David Gilmour kept his promise to Waters and performed the classic Pink Floyd number 'Comfortably Numb' from on top of the wall, just as he had done thirty years before. It was known that Gilmour would perform the song at one of the London shows but not which one, so needless to say when the audience realise who is on top of the wall they go berserk. A genuinely historic moment captured for posterity and a 'must have' for any fan of the Floyd.

    Outside the Wall Live at the O2 (08:50) - By a lucky coincidence, the same night that Gilmour played 'Comfortably Numb', Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason was also in attendance. So all three remaining members of Pink Floyd appear together to perform the encore of 'Outside the Wall', along with the rest of Waters’ band. Watching the three old band members together is actually quite moving and it’s obvious that Waters has come to terms with his past and is perhaps rather remorseful over some of his earlier behaviour. This might well be the last time that the three members of Pink Floyd appear on stage together and is thus another wonderful moment for Pink Floyd fans.

    Blu-ray Verdict

    Roger Waters The Wall Blu-ray Verdict
    Roger Waters The Wall is a film presentation of his record-breaking solo tour and the widescreen visuals perfectly capture the epic nature of the production. Waters uses the basic narrative structure of The Wall to combine the established story of a rock star's breakdown with his views on the 'War on Terror' and the nature of modern conflicts where the majority of the casualties are civilian. He also juxtaposes the show itself with a very personal journey of remembrance that creates an emotional counterpoint. It's obviously a 'must see' for fans of Pink Floyd but even those less convinced by the musical merits of Roger Waters' magnum opus will be impressed and it makes a nice change to see something done with conviction and integrity.

    A perfect record of the record-breaking tour combined with a very personal journey of remembrance.

    The Blu-ray release of the film is superb, with a near perfect digital transfer and a superb Dolby Atmos soundtrack. The show itself is beautifully filmed, capturing the epic scale and delivering all the colours, deep blacks and details of the production. The road trip sequences are deliberately more intimate and desaturated but work well within the structure of the film itself. The soundtrack is simply stunning, taking full advantage of the immersive nature of Dolby Atmos to create an experience that is as close as possible to being at the actual show. The Blu-ray is released in two versions, a single disc and a two-disc special edition that includes a booklet, poster, art cards and additional extras. It's the latter that Pink Floyd fans will want as it includes David Gilmour's performance of 'Comfortably Numb' and a moving reunion of all three surviving Pink Floyd members on 'Outside the Wall'. Highly recommended.

    You can buy Roger Waters The Wall on Blu-ray here

    Suggested retail price when reviewed: £19.99

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