The video transfer of NASCAR Images’ footage comes to the home viewing market in a 1.33:1 fullframe presentation that looks pretty good, albeit a little bit more jittery and with a bit more shimmer than I expected.
The documentary uses archival footage and photos from Stewart’s own personal collection, as well as recently shot footage in the form of interviews and racing action from NASCAR races past and present. That being said, the image quality varies throughout the presentation and surprisingly, the newest footage seemed to present as many problems as the oldest footage in the documentary. The biggest problem seemed to be come in the form of some pretty harsh haloing, edge enhancement, and shimmer. Tony seems to have a consistently jittery shadow outlining his body during his speaking portions of the documentary (conducted in a studio) and while it’s very noticeable – even on smaller TV sets – it’s ultimately not an overwhelming distraction. Some of the footage was intentionally shaky and washed-out for effect, but it was easy to differentiate between what was intentional and what wasn’t.
All that being said, there were plenty of positive aspects to the transfer, as colors were as brilliant and bold on the DVD as they are at a NASCAR event, without any oversaturation or bleeding noted at any time. The shimmer carried over into the colors, but as before, it wasn’t distracting. Fleshtones were accurate and natural and black levels were appropriately deep and dark for a feature such as this. When it was all said and done, Tony Stewart: Smoke could have looked better, but what NASCAR Images has given viewers is more than acceptable. Ultimately, NASCAR Images has produced a fine looking DVD that with a few minor improvements will be up there competing with the big boys. Nice job.
Tony Stewart: Smoke definitely sounds light years ahead of what it should, as NASCAR Images has given the disc an impressive Dolby Digital 5.1 transfer to compliment a rather standard Dolby Digital 2.0 track. Given the two options, the 5.1 mix is definitely preferable of the two and sounds surprisingly impressive.
Narrated by Kid Rock, with musical support from 3 Doors Down, and dealing with a sport that’s loud enough to make your ears bleed (believe me, I know, I hit 3-4 races a year), Tony Stewart: Smoke benefits from the fine 5.1 treatment it received, as there were some impressive splits and directional cues in the front surrounds throughout the presentation. Between cars whizzing by and 3 Doors Down rocking the track, your surround setup gets a lot of action throughout the entire documentary, with only the occasional rear surround action noted. The interviewees, as well as Kid Rock’s narration, come through crystal clear and intelligible in the center channel and there was hardly any harshness or edginess discerned in the transfer at any time – although a couple of the televised broadcast reproductions sounded slightly thin. The music of 3 Doors Down gets sweet treatment from NASCAR Images, as the dynamics and fidelity of the track come across as top-notch. When it’s all said and done, fans will have little to complain about on the audio front while viewing Tony Stewart: Smoke.
NASCAR Images has done Tony Stewart: Smoke a huge favor by giving it a well-done and nicely authored Dolby Digital 5.1 transfer and with their future commitment to offer the same treatment to other DVDs in their stable, all I can say is, Bring it on!
While there’s no audio commentary for Tony Stewart: Smoke, we do get an option entitled Fast Facts and by choosing this option, we get trivial facts about Tony, his career, and his personal life popping up all throughout the feature. Cool stuff, well implemented, and well received.
Now on to the “Extra Laps” … or as most refer to them, the extras on the DVD … and we start out with Behind The Scenes: 3 Doors Down (6:52) and here, we essentially get a “making of” featurette that was shot on the set of the 3 Doors Down video for “The Road I’m On” that features guest appearances by Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. It doesn’t waste any time setting anything up and we’re plopped right down into the shoot for a behind-the-scenes look at the video shoot. It’s a pretty cool video and this was a nice look at the shoot. (As an interesting side note, to repay 3 Doors Down for asking them to be in their video, Dale Jr’s BUSCH team, Chance 2, had a special 3 Doors Down paint scheme run in the BUSCH race in Chicago and the car was driven by Tony Stewart.) This supplement is followed by the video itself in a selection entitled 3 Doors Down “The Road I’m On”.
Next up, we get 20 or so still photos chronicling Stewart’s life and career in Photo Gallery, with three pages of Personal Facts to read up on as well.
The Tony Stewart Quiz allows us to answer five easy questions about the driver and if we get them all correct, we unlock four Easter Eggs on the DVD that give us more material on Smoke. The hints to finding the eggs are given to you on the DVD, so I won’t guide you to each and every one of them. Easter Egg #1 allows us an in-car view as we run some hot laps with Stewart, Easter Egg #2 (1:04) is a video from the track as Tony Stewart drives a truck with a special Diamond Rio paint scheme, Easter Egg #3 (1:38) gives us some footage from Pit Road as Kid Rock and Pamela Lee chill out with Tony Stewart, and finally Easter Egg #4 (1:09), gives us some footage of 3 Doors Down hanging around at the track as Stewart’s special guests.
We finish off the Smoke DVD with a couple of previews for other NASCAR Images titles entitled Winston Cup 2002 Year in Review Preview and A Decade At The Brickyard Preview - only slightly interesting as previews, but since I have both of the DVDs myself, I know that the titles are well worth the investment for NASCAR fans.
Some DVD-ROM content shows up on the DVD as well, as do some production credits in the form of an entry entitled Pit Crew.
NASCAR Images is the “NFL Films” of the NASCAR circuit and they have made great strides in their catalog quality since the introduction of their first NASCAR feature, Winston Cup 2002 Year in Review and I expect nothing but great things from them in the future. This DVD was surprisingly engaging and any fan of racing – NASCAR or otherwise – would be doing themselves a disservice by not having this in their collection. The production values are top-notch and ultimately, Tony Stewart: Smoke is worthy of a spot in any sports fan’s collection.