The videos of Duran Duran: Greatest mostly appear in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on these single-sided, double-layered DVDs; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. “A View to a Kill” used a ratio of about 2.0:1, while “Hungry Like the Wolf”, “Union of the Snake”, “I Don’t Want Your Love” and “Ordinary World” all came at about 1.78:1. Given that these videos cover a span of 16 years, one might expect widely varied picture quality, and that was what I found. However, within those restrictions, I felt the videos generally looked quite good.
For the most part, sharpness seemed adequate. Some of the clips came across as mildly soft or fuzzy, but these usually problems stemmed from some less-than-stellar material used for the originals. When the source was up to snuff - more prevalent during the newest videos, but never consistent - the shots seemed more crisp and detailed. Moiré effects and jagged edges presented modest concerns, and I noticed light edge enhancement at times. Most of the clips didn’t suffer from notable source flaws, but grain could become a problem at times, particularly during “Is There Something I Should Know?” Occasional specks and marks appeared, and a few from the Rio era demonstrated some intrusive hairs.
Colors usually appeared fairly decent but erratic. The Rio videos were the worst culprits; despite their vibrant settings, they looked a bit murky and runny. Other videos came across more effectively, though, and the colors mostly seemed reasonably vivid and distinctive. Some videos showed dense and dull blacks, but these appeared solid for the most part, and shadows also were occasionally problematic but generally well rendered.
As I already alluded, the Rio clips demonstrated the biggest problems. Actually, that’s not totally true, as “Is There Something...” was probably the ugliest video in the batch. “Wild Boys” and “View to a Kill” also seemed subpar and demonstrated some murky and muddy visuals. However, the earliest videos actually looked surprisingly distinctive and clear, and the Seven and the Ragged Tiger clips improved considerably after the decline seen in the Rio bits. After the regression from “Wild Boys” and “View”, matters became more consistent; I encountered virtually no real issues from Notorious to date, except for the smattering of edge enhancement. Given my experiences with older music videos, I felt that the Duran clips generally looked solid.
Despite the mix of eras heard on these DVDs, the PCM stereo audio of Greatest seemed consistently positive. The stereo imaging always appeared well defined. The vocals remained nicely centered, while instruments popped up in logical places within the spectrum. All of these blended together well and accurately represented the original production.
The songs also sounded like the recordings. That might not sound like much of a feat, but I’ve heard enough music video collections with sound that fell below CD level to know that it isn’t a given. Greatest presents the music as original taped. The songs presented appropriately clean highs, with smooth and natural vocals. All elements sounded well reproduced, and the package enjoyed very nice bass response. Ultimately, the tunes seemed clear and accurate, and I felt pleased with their reproduction here.
Among the set’s extras, the highlights come from the mix of alternate videos. Somewhat annoyingly, like 2002’s Best of Bowie, all of these come as “hidden” clips. However, since the DVD case trumpets their existence, this makes them less “hidden”, but they often prove to be difficult to find. Because the set includes so many of these bits, I thought it’d grow tiresome for me to list directions to find each one. I got the list at www.dvdeastereggs.com, so please go there to find instructions.
Seven of the package’s 21 videos provide alternate versions, and a few of them include multiple editions. We get different videos for the following tracks: “Planet Earth”, “Girls on Film”, “Union of the Snake”, “New Moon on Monday”, “Wild Boys”, “Serious”, and “Come Undone”. “Planet Earth” is a totally different video than the one found in the main program. It shows the band at a poorly shot club performance, and it’s not a good video at all.
Two alternate “Girls On Film” videos appear. The first offers the same long, uncensored version found in the main program, but it differs in that it provides an amusing, tongue-in-cheek ending. We also get the short, censored take of “Film” that isn’t nearly as much fun as the full one.
For “Union of the Snake”, we get the “Dancing On the Valentine” version. Taken from the video EP of that name, it strongly resembles the cut found in the body of the DVD. Don’t expect any real changes here.
Four alternate versions of “New Moon On Monday” show up on the DVD. For some of these, the changes seem quite minor. Most shorten the clip seen in the main program and don’t make substantial variations. However, the final one offers the full 17-minute and 37-second “mini-movie” version of “Monday”. It’s not terribly good, but its story makes more sense than in the others, and it’s a cool addition.
We get another extended edition with the “Long Arena Version” of “Wild Boys”. It’s pretty much the same as the shorter one, but the seven-minute and 41-second take just offers more of that one’s chaos and silliness. I prefer the short version.
“Serious” presents the same video but offers additional angles. Don’t expect much from it. Much of the time, all three options display the same material. The occasional extra angles don’t make much of a difference, and this extra becomes somewhat dull.
For the final alternate video, we get a “censored” version of “Come Undone”. Don’t expect many changes here. Some tame footage of sex vanishes, but otherwise, this seems to be the same video.
More “hidden” material appears via some interview footage. To accompany Rio, we find a 145-second clip in which Simon discusses that then-upcoming album and some other forgettable factoids. We see lots of footage of the band on stage and elsewhere, though, so it becomes worth a look.
Another clip offers Simon and Nick while they chat about the recording of Seven and the Ragged Tiger. This four-and-a-half minute piece includes notes about the production, new instrumental styles, and particulars about creating “Union of the Snake”. Some odd and useless posed video of the band mars this program, but the material presented actually seems decent, as Nick dominates and gives us interesting insight.
Paul Gambaccini interviews Roger, Simon and Andy in connection to “Wild Boys”. Roger and Simon sit together, while he chats with Andy on his own. They go over working with producer Nile Rogers, their own production methods, shooting the video, and creating the song. It’s not a great clip, and much of the eight-minute and 53-second running time consists of the video, but it offers enough good information to merit a look.
We get more from the sessions with Gambaccini attached to “A View to a Kill”. In this 112-second piece, he chats with John and Andy separately. John tells how he approached Cubby Broccoli to get the gig, and Andy speculates on the song’s potential legacy. It’s a short and fun piece.
Over on DVD Two, we locate a 20-second TV ad for the 1993 Duran Duran album plus an Electronic Press Kit (EPK) for the Liberty album. This 15-minute and 24-second featurette includes some stills of the band, a video for “Violence of Summer (Love’s Taking Over)”, shots from 1988 tour rehearsals, and comments from Nick, Simon, John, guitarist Warren Cuccurullo, and drummer Sterling Campbell. They talk about creating “Violence”, how the new musicians joined the band, writing the album’s songs and recording them. They also seem confident of the album’s success, as they plan to make it a core part of their live repertoire along with its eventual successor and largely drop the older tracks; that plan didn’t quite work. It’s a decent piece highlighted by the “Violence” video.
La Galerie de Duran presents an annotated discography. It shows covers for albums and singles along with track listings for the records. You can also access the various videos here, and many of the Easter eggs pop up in this domain. It’s nothing special, but it can be interesting to see the picture sleeves for the singles.
Finally, DVD-ROM users will get access to a few extra features. We find a weblink to the band’s site plus an audio “Q&A session” with Le Bon and Rhodes. Taped in 1999, this covers 27 questions and fills about half an hour. The pair go over their career from the band’s inception through the “Electric Barbarella” video. They present lots of interesting notes and provide an informative walk through Duran-dom.
A “Photo Gallery” includes around 80 shots from all parts of Duran history. Mostly these offer publicity photos tied to the various albums. “Lyrics” gives us the words to the DVD’s 20 songs; “Burning the Ground” doesn’t count, since it just offers a montage of tracks. We can also download a screen saver and save any of six wallpaper photos.
Duran Duran helped pioneer music videos back in the Eighties, and Greatest provides a solid collection of their work. We get all the hits plus the misses in this career-spanning set. Not all of them work, but they generally seem entertaining and interesting. The DVD presents erratic but better than expected picture along with very good audio and a nice set of extras. I don’t like the “hidden video” format, but I can’t quibble with the content, as we find many intriguing alternate videos. Greatest lives up to its title with a fine selection of videos.