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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 10/5/99

Pearl Jam: Single Video Theory
1997 (1998) - Sony Music

review by Frank Ortiz, special to The Digital Bits

Pearl Jam: Single Video Theory Program Ratings: B+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/A/F

Specs and Features

45 mins, NR, cropped full frame (1.66:1), single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, no menu screens, no scene access (1 single chapter), languages: English (DD 5.1) and (DD 2.0), subtitles: none

Every time I see the Pearl Jam DVD Single Video Theory, I know I just have to experience it. The plain brown paper packaging, and lack of any menu screens, leaves just about everything to your imagination. There are absolutely no details about what's on the disc listed anywhere on the front or back cover, and there are no inserts. The content on the disc is left to do all the talking, just as Pearl Jam leaves their music and performances to speak for their art.

Single Video Theory has five complete songs and bits of four others from the Yield album. The five complete songs are Do the Evolution, Given to Fly, Wishlist, MFC and In Hiding. The other incomplete ditties are All Those Yesterday, Faithful, Low Light and Hiding. Littered throughout the disc are brief interviews with the band members, along with a ton of footage shot in Pearl Jam's studio in Seattle.

Watching this DVD, I felt like I was given a chance to learn a little more about the individuals in this band, their talents and their work. I honestly enjoyed the brief interviews and the performances -- especially the last 15-20 minutes on the disc. There's a moment before that though, concerning singer/songwriter Eddie Vedder, that really sticks in my mind. At 19:01 in the program, he says: "Ya know, people say it's like a marriage, but it's not. I don't think we are married, I think we... we come back cause we want to, and um... we go to other places we want." Based on my own experiences in bands (the good AND the bad), I get a chance to compare (not with talent or popularity), but rather with the way I perceive band politics and artistic growth. In my mind, that statement says a lot about a band's growth in their relationships, and artistic dependency within each player for the music they create. Once again, Vedder hits the nail right on the head.

Besides the truthful insights into band politics, Single Video Theory features some excellent directing by Mark Pellington, who directed Pearl Jam's Jeremy video and the film Arlington Road. Pellington's direction, along with some multiple screen tricks and some truly expert editing, combine to make the images in the studio, interviews, brief jam sessions, and performances, all gel incredibly well.

The video quality on the DVD is pretty good -- not quite movie quality, but much better than what you'd get on videocassette. All in all, it's actually pretty good. The forced widescreen isn't all that impressive, but it does slightly change my perception of what's going on here. There were quite a few dark and grainy views, but that works well with the different cuts with low lighting. The background of the studio, with varied colors, adds much to the viewing pleasure. I didn't notice any artifacts or flickering, but the color is a little bit soft in my opinion. Still, I would not even consider watching this on VHS -- DVD is the only way to go.

I think where this disc comes obviously alive is in the sound field. Because of the lack of the menu screens, you have to switch between sound fields with the audio button on your remote, and it's well worth going between the two Dolby Digital tracks (2.0 and 5.1) to hear the differences. The performances ring out strong, and prove to be a blast for any Pearl Jam fan. The 5.1 sound really worked my system, including the subwoofer, making you wanna really get up and groove to the fun, energetic tunes. I particularly enjoyed the fact that there was not a lot of funky sounds placed into the rear channels - instead this mix adds ambiance to create depth and realism. The sound made me feel right at home, inside the Pearl Jam studio.

This is as plain and basic a DVD as they come when it, comes to presentation. There are no menu screens, no chapters, no discography, no inserts or anything to remind you that it is a DVD. It's a bit disappointing on the outside, as chapter tracks are very appreciated with music DVD's. But again, having to rely on the disc itself adds a certain power to the work. I found it is easy to respect the talents and passion for the art created by Pearl Jam. It is still a must have for any fan of Pearl Jam, or just good music on DVD. Even bare-boned, the DVD has more to offer in audio and video than the other mediums by themselves. I'm looking forward to the next DVD from Pearl Jam. Until it comes out, you'll find me grooving to this one in my living room.

Frank Ortiz
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