November 22, 2004



MARIN COUNTY, CA - Blackbird Digital Studios ( recently authored "Neil Young: Greatest Hits," a special edition high-resolution stereo DVD. Unlike most DVDs on the market today where the majority of the space on the disc is reserved for the video content, the focus on this title was delivering the highest quality audio available in the DVD-Video format.

"This is the first disc that I'm aware of in the DVD-Video format that delivers fully uncompressed 24-bit, 96kHz audio with full motion video," says Richard Winter, principal of Blackbird Digital. "To put this in perspective, this is over 10 times the bandwidth of the typical AC-3 5.1 surround track found on a Hollywood movie, and 20 times that of an AC-3 stereo track."

According to Neil Young, "There is just no comparison between DVD-stereo and a regular compact disc or even 5.1 sound. It's the difference between a true reflection of the music and a mere replica."

The video content accompanying the high-resolution audio, are simple overhead shots - shot on 1920x1080 59.94fps HDCAM - of the songs original pressing, accompanied by photos and memorabilia associated with the song.

Winter worked with the Total Media Group of South San Francisco, which handled the production and video post production on this project. Most of the work on the menu design and authoring of the "Greatest Hits" DVD was split between two systems: The first, an Apple dual-1.8 GHz G5 with an AJA Io and Medea G-RAID storage, which connects via Gigabit Ethernet, SDI, and AES/EBU, to a Boxx dual-2.2 GHz Xeon, with DVS video hardware. While one system was encoding, rendering, or writing DLTs, productivity was not hindered as the other system was online and available for any of the tasks necessary.

For the PAL version of the disc, Blackbird used software to perform the NTSC to PAL conversion. Digitizing the edited Digital Betacam masters into the AJA Io, they used software to convert the uncompressed NTSC master into PAL.

"I've found that oftentimes, the format converted PAL can look too soft," says Winter, "so it was nice to use the horsepower of the CPUs and software to do the job. It also let us be more flexible with changes in the video late in the game. This is the third project in which I've worked with Total Media and Shakey Pictures, Neil's film production company of 30 years, and it's always something new," Winter notes.

The first project, "Greendale" has been described as low-fi masterpiece. The feature film shot on 8mm and tells the story - through 10 songs performed by Neil Young and Crazy Horse - of the effects the media has on a family in a small town, when a policeman is shot by one of the family members. While seemingly low-fi and sometimes out of focus, the disc boasts a 24/96 DTS stream, as well as 5.1 AC-3 surround, and 2.0 AC-3 stereo tracks. "Inside Greendale" with similar audio specs, combines sections of the "Greendale" film, interwoven with footage of the original Neil Young and Crazy Horse recording sessions.