Oldest guy on the Moon mission
Laurenc SVITOK | Bratislava Slovakia | 09/18/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Apollo 14 just recently released is closing the Apollo missions coverage set by Spacecraftfilms. There will be of course still Apollo 11 in new - different - format and Apollo 1 coming, but with Apollo 14 you have now every Apollo mission documented. I own the older 2-disc set and you simly cannot compare this new one to the previous, neither in completeness nor in quality. It is very well done, logically - as usual with Spacecraftfilms - sequenced, accompanying brochure is an excellent guide with chapters marked so that you can orient yourself very well.
You find here everything you expect from the set like this and more.
There is training and equipment tests, spacecraft assembly, roll-out and pad operations. Watching the crawler transporter with the majestic Saturn V move from VAB to the launch pad evokes both historical sentiment and hope for future in the same time - we all look forward to see the new generation Ares launchers in the same activity soon. You can see the famous helmet versus walking cane gifts exchange between Al Shepard and Pad "Fuhrer" Gunther Wendt in the white room just before entering the spacecraft. Launch itself is covered nicely despite the low clouds and of course there is a long section devoted to the CSM / LM docking problem during the Transposition and Docking maneuver with enthusiastic announcement achieving the hard dock after a very substantial delay.
Onboards are excellent, both DAC and TV. EVAs are covered in the full length by TV and 16mm DAC where available.
Actually, this mission footage contains one unique sequence not covered anywhere else - you can see an astronaut (Ed Mitchell) climbing down from LM recorded on the 16 mm film FROM THE SURFACE ( footages taken from the LM window are of course available with some other missions). This is a big rarity and quality is excellent. TV with Apollo 14 was static - as planned - the camera was directed either to the LM or ALSEP site with EVA 1, and towards the Cone crater with EVA 2.
If you watch the animated landing area fly over you are able to see how very close both lunar walkers have actually been to the edge of the Cone crater and were not able to notice it. The explanation might be much more difficult orientation in the unknown terrain and bigger surface curvature on the Moon. I'd like to know what the two guys thought when they found out later ...
Another famous event was the golf shots done by Al Shepard with his "Miles and miles ..." description of his own performance - a little bit exagerated of course :-).
And you have the selected still photography slideshow at the end of each EVA with manual forwarding which I apreciate a lot - I can watch the pictures as long as I want and move them back and forth as I please.
Lunar lift-off and lunar orbit docking are here as usually, traditional press conference and TV footage of the experiments performed on the way back home as well.
I am extremely pleased with the landing and recovery section footage ( this particular part of the mission I previously commented several times as not as complete as it could be) - well, Apollo 14 has the most complete footage ever, I enjoy it very much! Several angles of descent and splashdown taken from the aircrafts, helicopters and the carrier deck, all operations picking the astronauts up and capsule recovery are also beautiful, really great.
And when watching the ceremonies onboard the New Orleans you can only guess whether the crew did get their portion of the traditional landing cake which was presented to them through the glass of their carantene van and after serving some of the top rank brass it was removed from the astronauts' vicinity.
And there is another improvement coming with this set - it's the packaging. The box used now is much better and avoids any dislodging of the discs during the - sometimes quite rough - transportation.
What to say at the end - excellent, professionally done, complete, it has all atributes we are used to with Spacecraftfilms. Great job, thanks !
Historical treasure, production nightmare
Apollo Junkie | Houston, Texas | 09/17/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"First, the obvious. This is the most complete and cleanest (the only digitally remastered) version of the Apollo 14 mission available. It has everything any space enthusiast would want and more. I won't go into the contents, you can see that for yourself. But rest assured, if it happened, you'll see it. This and all the Spacecraft Films products contain just the imagery and the air to ground audio, not the commentary of the brilliant yet useless minds of people like Walter Conkrite and Jules Bergman, who's only job at the time was to overstate the obvious. I found the most beneficial way to enjoy these videos is to follow along with the transcript from the Apollo Lunar Surface Journal site. It's not hard at all. Just get on the appropriate page and search on a particular phrase you hear on the DVD. The Journal site contains complete transcript of the air to ground conversations of each Apollo mission as well as commentary from the astronauts who were there. You can read what they're saying while gaining valuable insight, which is especially helpful when it's hard to make out the what they're saying.
While this DVD set is a priceless treasure, it does have a few flaws. Some of which are beyond the control of Spacecraft Films or anyone else who wasn't at mission control during those early days of February, 1971. My first complaint has to do with the quality of the original video itself. At the beginning of the lunar EVA, the picture quality is as good as any Apollo lunar television transmission. The picture is relatively clear and in good focus. It is not washed out and shows enough detail to make me wish I was there. A few minutes later, when the TV camera is taken from the LM storage bay, and mounted on the tripod, the picture suddenly becomes totally washed out and the focus is not as good. It stays that way for the next 9 hours or so. This is not the fault of Spacecraft Films. They did a great job of cleaning up the audio and video as much as possible. It's just that those are the settings the astronauts were told to use for the TV camera. What were the people at Mission Control thinking? While you can still see what's happening, you have to use your imagination to fill in a lot of quality gaps. In spite of the lower TV quality, it's still good to see the Sim bay unloading in the back of the LM. This is the only Apollo video which shows that. This is also the only Apollo DVD that I know of where the astronauts use profanity on the surface of the moon. There are only a handful of references that I can recall. Most are from Alan Shepard, who gets very frustrated near the end of EVA 2 and shows it in his words. I didn't find it offensive at all. On the contrary, I found his humanness in a sterile scientific world rather refreshing.
The Apollo 14 astronauts traveled further from the LM than either of the previous two sets of astronauts, making it impossible for them to be on TV most of the time. The good people at NASA recognized this problem and compensated by providing them with a 16mm DAT camera to use on the surface when out of range of the TV camera. We see the benefits of this while they're setting up the flag and during the ALSEP deployment. I watched the entire second EVA on angle 2 and didn't see any 16mm of the trip to the rim of Cone Crater. They took the camera with them on the MET. Apparently, they chose not to use it. Spacecraft Films provided multi-angle viewing so we could see the TV transmission when the 16mm camera was unavailable. However, during ALSEP deployment, the 16mm camera runs out of film. Instead of switching back to the TV angle, the people at Spacecraft Films left the screen black. Yes, you can manually switch back to the TV angle, but you'd miss some, if not all of the 16mm film when it's finally reloaded and switched back on. I actually did miss it the first time I watched it and had to rewind to find the beginning of the restart. That's a rather unnecessary headache for the viewer. Why Spacecraft Films didn't switch back to the TV on angle 2 during the 9 minute blackout is beyond me. Did they really think we'd spend all that money on the DVD just so we could watch a black screen?
The only other flaw on the DVD set is how they show the photographs. Unfortunately, this is SF's fault. On angle 2, some of the photographs pop up while viewing the TV transmissions of the lunar surface EVA's. Spacecraft Films does a great job of coordinating the photographs with the real time activities of the astronauts, not just in this set, but in all their Apollo videos. This is particularly handy when viewing the second EVA when Shepard and Mitchell disappear for more than 3 hours. I didn't actually count them, but I don't think they show all the pictures the astronauts shot at each particular stop. To view all of the pictures, the viewer has to either select "Photography" on the main menu or wait till the end of the TV transmissions when the pictures start by themselves (if you select "View All"). The problem I see is that the viewer has to manually advance the pictures one at a time. There's no slideshow option. That's a lot of unnecessary button pushing. It's slow and very tedious. I actually went through all of them on the DVD just so I could get the full DVD experience. It probably would have been much easier to look at the pictures on the internet than to hit the button over and over again. Spacecraft Films could have just put them on the screen for 30 seconds each and let us FF through them if we wanted to view them faster, or pause if we needed a longer look. Better yet, they could have shown all of the pictures on Angle 2 while the astronauts were out of range of the TV camera like they do for the Apollo "J" (Rover) missions. That way we could have seen all the pictures and not missed any of the dialogue.
Basically, I feel relieved and very fortunate to have this set. I pre-ordered it nearly a year ago. It finally completes my Spacecraft Films collection. I missed some of the Apollo 14 mission when it atually happened back in 1971. (What did I know, I was just a teenager.) It was great to put in the DVDs and relive the tension and excitement that was Apollo 14. I only wish Spacecraft Films had kept the viewer in mind when producing it. I definitely recommend it for it's historical benefit. It's better than nothing, and I don't mean that in a bad way at all. If you can wait, you'd be better off buying it when and if the new and improved version comes out in another few years. If you're an Apollo addict like me and you just have to have it no matter what, then by all means, buy it now. Unfortunately, I'll probably buy it again when they fix the flaws. Maybe that's what Spacecraft Films wanted me to do all along. I don't mind. I've done it before. I've already pre-ordered my copy of the remastered Apollo 11 DVD."
Disappointing as editing goes . . . but I liked it anyway
Dsinned | Northern California | 10/11/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I just got this long awaited set and have not yet completed watching all five discs, so this is just a preliminary review.
Like the last reviewer, I too am an Apollo Junkie. I concur with that reviewers comments, and his fitting review title (Historical treasure, production nightmare"), but I cannot be nearly as accepting of the way Spacecraft Films chose to (not) edit the audio and video sequences in this DVD set.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of video footage with a "substitute" sound track where what is shown in the video does not match. In fact, the video and audio are from entirely different parts of the mission, and thus completely out of sequence. I suppose it is possible (although unlikely) some of NASA's original coverage of Apollo 14 did not have TV film and audio recorded together, such as an audio tape recording without motion pictures, and vice versa.
For example, at the beginning of Disc 1, there are a series of pre-mission press conferences and interviews with the Astronauts where you "hear" the Q&A session but what is shown at the same time in the video is a totally different aspect of the mission itself. This detracts from the continuity of the DVD because it is distracting to view one without the other.
I suppose "seeing" the Astronauts going through pre-mission training exercises (on the ground), while listening to a Voice of America interviewers Q&A session, is a good way to economize on DVD disc space. Frankly, I would rather see AND hear what I am watching and listening to at the same time, and of the same event, exactly as it happened in the original recording.
Even more annoying is an early on DVD segment of the astronauts' POST-mission press briefing that is completely out of sequence with respect to the rest of the DVDs. In this segment, the astronauts are giving a slide show presentation of photos taken of the Moon while in orbit, followed by a Q&A session with the press. However, what you are "seeing" in the video during this segment has nothing to do with that press conference. Stu Roosa's commentary during the slide show is very interesting, but without the video to go with it, the average listener will be puzzled why s/he is unable to "see" what the Astronauts were talking about in slides. This is DVD editing at its worst!
There are some unavoidable presentation issues with this and Spacecraft Films' other DVDs of the Apollo Missions. But why is there no attempt to at least subtitle the voice transcripts of the Astronauts in-flight and EVA communications between themselves, and with Mission Control? Unfortunately, there are many voice communications that are partially garbled and/or drowned out by air to ground radio static, which makes it very difficult to understand the how, what, when and where of the activities taking place in the video. For example, there is a segment on Disc 2 of the actual lunar landing from the 16mm DAC. This is a truly fascinating live action film footage to watch especially after pitch over while the LM travels past Cone Crater just before the landing. But, there is still leave much to be desired. So much of the real time voice communication from the Astronauts during this particular segment is just plain unintelligible. (This is the point in the mission where many of details about the contaminated Abort switch's and late landing radar lock-on, and their deterious affects on the primary guidance computer, are in the dialog between Shepard and Mitchell and Mission Control, during the actual PDI burn to the lunar surface.) During many periods of garbled voice communications, ubtitles would have greatly helped to follow along, and should have been provided. This would have been an appropriate, if not easy measure to remedy this quality deficiency, without taking away from the authenticity of such an exciting event to relive 35 years later.
I don't think I am overly nitpicking . . . but still gratified to be able to have captured on DVD ~15 hours of one of the six Apollo missions to land men on the Moon. Nevertheless, it is disappointing that a new DVD just released in 2006, cannot have better editing in order to coordinate the historical film and audio elements together to make for a much more enjoyable A/V presentation. For this reason, sadly, even a 3 star review is perhaps being a bit generous."