The Police: Every Breath You Take appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. As noted in the body of the review, Breath seemed much more focused than most career-spanning music video collections because it featured the work of only two different directors. That factor allowed the videos to present a significantly more consistent visual presence than one would normally expect from this kind of package. Unfortunately, the quality of the picture seemed uniformly flawed.
The clips directed by Derek Burbidge presented similar visuals. They seemed to have been shot on film so they displayed some flaws that often occur with that format. Sharpness varied quite a lot. Sometimes the images looked fairly concise and well defined, but much of the time the videos seemed soft and indistinct. In general they portrayed a lack of firmness and were moderately fuzzy. Jagged edges and moiré effects presented no concerns, but I did notice some edge enhancement for videos like “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da”.
Since they came from film, print flaws became a problem. Lots of defects showed up for these videos. I saw grain, speckles, scratches, blotches, marks, nicks, and other problems. The levels of these varied and never became overwhelming, but they definitely popped up pretty frequently.
Colors also varied, but they generally remained fairly bland. The hues displayed no strong concerns, but they also failed to deliver much life or vividness. Black levels seemed about the same, as they were acceptable but unspectacular, and low-light situations appeared decent in general.
The four Godley and Creme clips were apparently shot on video, which gave them a different look. They looked a little softer than the filmed pieces, as they appeared somewhat indistinct and fuzzy. The print flaws evident during the first 10 videos didn’t show up here, though video artifacting often gave them a moderately grainy appearance.
The colors of the final three clips seemed bland. The hues were never better than mediocre, and they became rather runny and messy during “Don’t Stand So Close to Me ‘86”. Black levels seemed decent and were pretty tight in the B&W “Breath”, but shadow definition was less the positive. Contrast looked iffy and loose, and low-light shots were somewhat murky and hazy. Ultimately, the videos on the DVD seemed watchable but the various flaws forced me to knock my grade down to a “D+”.
Happily, no such concerns affected the excellent audio of Every Breath You Take. The DVD offered both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtracks. I found the pair to sound identical, as I discerned no substantial differences between the two.
Most of the multi-channel remixes heard here came straight from the 2000 DTS CD of Breath. However, the DVD includes some songs that didn’t appear on that disc, so they got new remixes. “So Lonely”, “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da”, “Synchronicity II”, and “Don’t Stand So Close to Me ‘86” all fell into that category. In addition, although “Invisible Sun” was on the DTS CD, I think the video used a different mix of the song, so this DVD’s rendition may not be the same one heard on the DTS CD.
The newly remixed tunes didn’t seem quite as full and rich as the others, but they worked well nonetheless. For the most part, they stayed more firmly entrenched in the front speakers. For example, “So Lonely” barely left the realm of standard stereo, as it didn’t make much use of the surrounds. The others expanded their horizons a little better, but they remained less broad and dynamic when compared to the tracks that also made the DTS CD.
While those DTS remixes didn’t go nuts, they definitely added a sense of space that made them effective. Appropriately, the forward speakers always dominated, but the surrounds gave the music a feeling of airiness. Instrumental delineation seemed very clean and concise, and the audio still blended together well. The surrounds occasionally tossed in some unique percussion, vocals, or effects, and they created a good atmosphere. These five-channel mixes seemed tasteful and worked nicely.
For all the tracks, audio quality seemed excellent. The music presented clean and clear highs, and vocals always sounded natural and distinct. Drums popped as they should, and guitars fills rang appropriately. Bass response appeared tight and deep, and low-end never become loose or rough. A few tracks were less impressive than others, but that related to the original production; for example, Ghost in the Machine always was a little on the thin side. Overall, I really liked the audio of Every Breath You Take.
One oddity: the DVD presents four subtitle channels, all of them English. However, none of them seem to show anything.
Unlike most music DVDs, Breath tosses in some good extras. We open with two songs performed on The Old Grey Whistle Test. We get late-Seventies live renditions of “Can’t Stand Losing You” and “Next to You”; together they run six and a half minutes. Sloppy but spirited, the band generally sounds good on these rollicking takes.
An extended look at the sessions for I>Ghost in the Machine, The Police In Montserrat lasts 47 minutes and 10 seconds. Hosted by keyboardist and TV personality Jools Holland, the program starts with an introduction to the island of Montserrat and then gets to the band in the studio. Rather than focus on the recording of the album, we find separate sessions with Andy Summers, Sting, and Stewart Copeland. Summers offers a guitar demonstration that includes glimpses of “Message in a Bottle” with or with effects. He also plays a little jam with Holland.
Sting goes over the recording process and gives us insight into his songwriting. He chats about how he came up with “Message” and we also meet “Brian”, his upright electric bass. We get another jam with Holland, and Summers eventually joins in as well.
Lastly, Holland speaks with Copeland about his drum kit and style. No jam occurs between them, though. The program fills out with studio videos for “Demolition Man”, “One World (Not Three)”, “Spirits In the Material World”, and “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic”. These will look very familiar to anyone who’s already watched the main collection of videos, as they show the same form of mimed studio work. I’d have liked to really see the band record Ghost, but “Montserrat” possesses some informational and entertainment value nonetheless.
One nice touch: “Montserrat” includes subtitles, a rarity for DVD extras.
Although I hoped it’d take a look at the creation of that album, Studies In Synchronicity simply promotes that release. The three-minute and 53-second ad shows photos of the band, some artifacts connected to the songs, and a few shots of the “Every Breath You Take” video while we hear a montage of Synchronicity tunes. It’s a nice addition as a historical memento but it offers no other value.
The DVD ends with a discography. This shows the covers and tracklistings for the band’s five studio albums, two hits compilations, Live! and Message In a Box, the almost-complete package of Police recordings. No information like release dates or any sound bites appear here.
I won’t count Every Breath You Take as a great collection of music videos, mostly because a lot of the clips aren’t very imaginative or interesting. Nonetheless, the set includes a great deal of excellent music, and the videos present enough basic fun to make them worth a look. Some genuine classics of the genre help enhance the package as well. The image quality seems quite poor, but that’s mostly a reflection of the original videos. The audio sounds absolutely great, and the package presents a few useful supplements. Breath is a nice release that belongs in the collection of Police diehards as well as those with a burgeoning interest in the band.