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Video CD Reviews

Last updated: 25-May-2002


About Video CDs, Digital Video, MPEG, RealVideo, Quicktime, etc.

My DVD player also plays Video CDs, so I've been on the hunt for Who-related Video CDs. What follows are some reviews of Video CDs that I own or have seen. If you are interested in trading Video CDs, please let me know by email.

So far, the only source for Who-related video CDs I have found is www.whovcd.co.uk. Be very skeptical with their "live" video CDs as they vary tremendously in quality and they are not completely up-front about the quality issue until after you purchase the VCDs. (This is no different from most bootleggers.) The reviews here are based on product I purchased from them. I have posted the price I was quoted for these products, even thought they are not shown anywhere on their web site. This is another thing that made me dubious of doing business with them -- a storefront web site with no prices quoted?

I am still investigating software for burning Video CDs, but I have found much useful information at www.vcdhelp.com, including a great database of DVD players that are VCD capable, along with lots of information about how to burn your own VCDs. I haven't had any success duplicating VCDs with Adaptec's CD Copier, but I was able to extract individual tracks, so I think its only a matter of having the correct software. As a VideoCD is in the same format as an Audio CD, I think it was confusing the CD copier into thinking it was copying an Audio CD and not a Video CD.

In regards to watching video on my PC, I prefer Windows Media Player and dislike Quicktime and Real Player. Real Player has become so invasive a software installation (hijacking all my media types to play in Real Player), that I refuse to install it anymore. There are gobs of Real Video clips out there, but I can't watch them on my PC anymore. I'd be interested in hearing from anyone who is willing to transcode them to MPEG or burn a Video CD from Real Video. I refuse to be a pawn in this "war" between Real, Inc. and its competitors. If they want to write software that abuses my system preferences, then I'm not going to use their software, its that simple.

My dislike of Quicktime is similar in nature, although they are not quite as aggressive in stealing my media types and redirecting them to the Quicktime player. The quicktime player is slow to start, has a clunky interface and I find its interface annoyingly confusing in its attempt to be "innovative" or "cool". Apple seems to want to make QT perform poorly on the PC in an attempt to make it look great on a Mac, thus inducing you to buy a Mac for QT use. In reality, it just makes me want to stay the hell away from QT for any purpose. Mac folks, please understand that just because QT works great on your Mac says nothing about how well it will work on a PC.

For these reasons, MPEG is my preferred format for video files. It works equally well on any machine on which I've used it, including non-PC machines. Of course there is the issue of which MPEG codec is used; many people like DiVx encoders, but they don't work out of the box with any players, you have to download and install the codec separately. I've had problems with some of the codec versions.

Video CD uses MPEG-I with no fancy codecs and should work on any MPEG capable player. The quality is comparable to VHS and you are supposed to be able to get 80 minutes of video on an 80 min. CD-R. So any video files that are destined for Video CD will have to be transcoded from RealVideo/QT/DiVx into MPEG-I for playing on a DVD player anyway. Every time video is transcoded from one format to another, it loses a little bit of quality, so if you're planning on making your own VCDs from your video, try to capture the video directly into the format used to burn onto the Video CD.

I haven't gotten into capture and burning yet, but I do have some video I could capture in this way:

  • Cable broadcast of Vegas 10/29/1999
  • House video feed of Bridge School, 10/30/1999 and 10/31/1999

The Who: Rockpalast, 28 March 1981

Green Onions Productions, WHO - 05a/05b
Discs: 2
Format: Video CD, PAL
Video: professionally shot
Audio: stereo, soundboard
Price: 14 british pounds from www.whovcd.co.uk
Overall Rating: B (due to PAL issues)

I have a high-generation copy (i.e. low quality) of this on VHS; the Video CD is -much- improved in video and sound quality, but still has some problems for US audiences. Those problems stem from the fact that the video signal itself is in PAL format. Unless you have a PAL capable TV and DVD player, the picture is going to have issues. On my combination of equipment, I believe the DVD player is sending a PAL signal to the TV; about 45 minutes into the first disc the picture starts to tear and hiccup more and more to the point where it is very visually distracting. I'm not 100% certain of the exact cause of this, but its not the source material on the disc as pause and frame advance do not reveal any of these issues. It does play properly on a computer, but damnit, I didn't buy it to watch on my dinky computer, I bought it to watch on my TV!

When I originally queried the seller about these issues before purchase they brushed them off as if it didn't matter, but obviously it does. So be aware that if you are the US and you purchase this Video CD, it will have problems playing on NTSC equipment. If you are content to watch them on your computer only, you will not notice this problem.

The video does get some periodic banding throughout the show, indicating some wear on the VHS master, but overall the quality is good. If someone were to obtain access to the original broadcast on a very low-generation master this would make for a good DVD release.

The content is the full show, including the jam session where Pete plays with the Grateful Dead.

VCD1: Substitute / I Can't Explain / Baba O'Riley / The Quiet One / Don't Let Go The Coat / Sister Disco / You Better You Bet / Drowned / Behind Blue Eyes / Another Tricky Day / Pinball Wizard / Who Are You / 5:15

VCD2: My Generation, Won't Get Fooled Again / Summertime Blues / Twist And Shout / See Me, Feel Me / PT and Grateful Dead jam

Sample thumbnails: Disc 1, Disc 2

The Who: Live at Shepherd's Bush Empire, 22 December 1999

Green Onions Productions, WHO - 1a/1b
Discs: 2
Format: CD-ROM (NOT Video CD)
Video: amateur, shot from audience
Audio: mono, audience, but clear
Price: 12 british pounds from www.whovcd.co.uk
Overall Rating: C (quality and format issues)

This is the same recording that "Master8 UK" was selling on the alt.music.who newsgroup. It is just a big MPEG file on a CD-ROM, it is -not- a Video CD. A friend of mine has this on VHS, and the quality is OK, but the camera work is amateur and, of course, they completely miss Pete smashing his guitar at the end of the show.

Given that this material is readily available on VHS for trade at comparable quality I don't recommend purchasing this CD, particularly since it is not in Video CD format, so it won't work on your DVD player. Since it only plays on my computer, I can't determine if the signal is in PAL or NTSC. It is probably in PAL, as Master8 provided both NTSC and PAL versions.

US fans should ask around for someone who has the NTSC VHS for trade instead of buying this VCD.

Sample thumbnails: Disc 1, Disc 2

The Who: Sheffield Arena, 10 November 2000

Green Onions Productions, WHO - 04
Discs: 1
Format: Video CD
Video: extremely poor amateur, shot from audience
Audio: mono, distorted
Price: 12 british pounds from www.whovcd.co.uk
Overall Rating: F (extremely poor quality, borders on total rip-off)

This VCD starts out with a disclaimer about the poor video and audio quality! Gee, why isn't that disclaimer on the web site? This is like watching someone's (poorly done) home movie of them attending a Who concert. The camera work is utterly shoddy, jerks all over the place and never stays on anything long enough to hear a complete song.

I'm a die-hard fan and I consider this VCD utter crap. They sure have some balls even attempting to sell it!

The web site claims they are "collector's items", well only if you insist on collecting every single piece of Who information no matter what the quality or content.

Avoid at all costs!

Sample thumbnails: Disc 1