A music DVD, filmed at the concert of South African musician Lucas Maree at his “Kiekieskonsert” in Pretoria last month (July), has been billed as the first filming on a Blu-Ray music DVD locally.

The DVD, made in celebration of Afrikaans music, is being produced by Blixem Productions, a company that has made more than 50 DVDs over the past five years.

André Calitz and his production team at Blixem did not hesitate when they were offered the perfect opportunity to test the new Blu-Ray technology at the concert.

Commenting before the filming he said: “We can barely wait to start the filming and editing of the Lucas Maree project after the big investment to procure the Blu-Ray technology.”

Due to a lack of local commercial software programmes to support this new technology and the production of such a Blu-Ray DVD, all the equipment and software had to be imported from the USA and Europe.

Calitz sees the advent of Blu-Ray technology as the start of a new generation of quality DVD players. “If one analyses the dramatic development of DVD technology, it is amazing to see the huge advancement in quality that goes with it. I can hardly believe the quality of the images myself! It is almost like viewing a live show!”

Blu-Ray technology
To put the impact of Blu-Ray technology in perspective, one could compare it with the introduction of CD players in the 1990s. After listening to a CD nobody wanted music cassettes any more – the quality was so superior that CDs took over the market completely.

Expect the same to happen with Blu-Ray DVD technology. The dramatic step-up in quality from a standard DVD (such as those used presently in DVD players) and a Blu-Ray DVD will bring this about. It is not only the visual quality, but also the sound which is far superior, and it is made possible by the capacity of the Blu-Ray discs.

A standard, single layer DVD has a 4.7 Gigabyte capacity, but this increases to 25 Gigabyte on a single layer Blu-Ray disc – which means that 5 times more data can be stored on such a DVD.

This also translates to a five-fold increase in image and sound quality. If one had to use a double-layer Blu-Ray disc, the capacity increases to 50 GB, which is 10 times that of a normal DVD.

Image quality
The new technology now enables producers such as Blixem Productions to release a performance of about a 100 minutes in full-size High Definition (HD) of 1 920 x 1 080 on a single DVD.

To ensure the highest quality, Bliksem used Digital Film, a top supplier of HD film in South Africa.

“The expertise of Frank Meyburgh of Digital Film with regards to HD technology was invaluable for us to ensure that we conclude this project with the best possible HD quality,” says Calitz. The project is being filmed with Sony's 900 series HDCAM cameras.

It is significant that exactly the same cameras were used for the filming of the well-known U2 in 3D project.

The editing of such a large quantity of video data posed a challenge. To prepare for this task, Blixem Productions approached Timbre Broadcast Services to help them set up an Apple Mac network with AJA Kona 2K video editing cards. The combination of this technology, which created one of the biggest networks of its kind under single ownership in the local film industry, created the capacity to finish the project without any foreseeable hitches.

Sound quality
Standard DVDs presently come with Dolby 5.1 sound. It consists of 5 + 1 channels, which is where the name is derived from – it simply describes 5 speakers with 1 subwoofer.

These sound channels have a highest bit rate (the coding of the sound) of 448 kbps (kilobyte per second) at 48 kiloHertz / 16 bit.  With the introduction of Blu-Ray technology there will be a marked difference between the sound quality of the present, standard DVDs and the sound of the new-generation Blu-Ray DVDs.

Blixem Productions has liaised with Dolby in the USA and with Inala Technologies to follow the right procedure for the procurement of the correct commercial rights in South Africa. This enables Blixem to codify the following Dolby sound formats for commercial DVD usage locally:

  • Dolby Digital;
  • Dolby MLP lossless;
  • Dolby Digital Plus; and
  • Dolby True HD.

To grasp the dramatic difference in sound quality between a Blu-Ray disc and a normal DVD, one should consider the difference between the sound delivery: a Standard CD is played at 448 kbps / 16 bit / 48 kHz, while a Blu-Ray DVD gets played at up to 18 MB per second (18 000 kbps) / 24 bit / 96 kHz.

The sound of the latter is uncompressed, which means the sound on the Blu-Ray disc is identical to the quality of the sound in the studio where it was mixed. No compression is used. It is a comparison of 448 kbps for normal DVDs versus 18 000 kbps for Blu-Ray, and the winner is not hard to spot.

Aficionados liken the comparison of a Blu-Ray disc and a normal DVD with that of the older music cassette and the CD. Standard DVDs reproduce sound in Dolby 5.1, whereas Blu-Ray discs have as many as 13.1 Dolby channels.

More information and technical data on Bu-Ray technology are available at www.blu-ray.com

When will the project be concluded?
Blixem Productions has set itself the aim to sign off the project in the last quarter of this year. It will be available in Blu-Ray format and also on standard DVD for those who have not chosen to upgrade to Blu-Ray technology yet.  Distribution of the DVD will be done by Select Music Distribution (SMD).

And now you run the risk of being corrupted by Blu-Ray, and never being quite satisfied with the sound or visuals of a normal DVD again...

Source: Blixem Productions, Suré van Zyl, sure@blixem.co.za or +27 83 276 1304