Product Review - Video Essentials Laserdisc - July, 1996

By Stacey Spears



The much anticipated sequel to "A Video Standard" (AVS from here on out) has arrived! "Video Essentials", the new disc from video guru Joe Kane Jr., is now available from all major laser disc dealers, and well worth the $49.99. First, whether you own AVS or not, Video Essentials is a MUST have LD.  Forget THX certified LD's, ISF Certified is the way to go! (ISF is The Imaging Science Foundation. It was formed by Joe Kane Jr., President, and Joe Silver, Producer. They train dealers and anyone who wishes to know how to properly calibrate any video product, Direct View, Rear Projection, Front Projection, etc.)

1 Disc, 2 Sides, All CAV, 16 Chapters, ISF Certified, Swelltone Encoded, Dolby Surround, AC-3, 1.33:1, Blue Filter.


Side ONE: CAV 29 Minutes Side TWO: CAV 28 Minutes
0 Opening Titles 9 Video System Calibration
1 Audio/Video System Tour 10 Brightness
2 Audio System Connections 11 Contrast
3 Left Channel, Pink Noise 12 Overview of Color & Tint
4 Center Channel, Pink Noise 13 Adjusting Color & Tint
5 Right Channel, Pink Noise 14 Sharpness
6 Surround Channels, Pink Noise 15 Video Test Material
7 Subwoofer, Band Limited Pink Noise 16 Acknowledgments
8 Center Channel Polarity Check  

Side 1

The disc begins with an introduction of what is ahead on the disc. Side 1 is the Audio side of the disc, covering Pro Logic, THX, and AC-3 technologies. Complete diagrams of each technology are displayed and discussed. The disc provides killer on-screen graphics via a layout of a living room with the footage being shown on the TV that is on screen. It does the basic in-phase, out-of-phase tests as well as a chapter dedicated to each speaker for pink noise. The surrounds are twice as long because of the separate channels for AC-3. The video goes on to try and cover proper hookup of your home theater and proper speaker placement, with some comical subwoofer placements. :-)

Side 2

This side contains the video portion of the disc. The disc covers the 5 basic parameters that we, as the individual, can adjust on our TV: Brightness, Contrast, Sharpness, Color, and Tint. Unlike AVS, you get no book telling you all of this for you own interpretation, but what you do get is on-screen demonstrations that really help. Each section will show that test pattern on the monitor and adjust through the range, indicating what will happen, and finally stopping on the proper setting. After the demo, the test pattern is placed full screen for you to follow. This disc also goes into detail about ambient lighting and background lighting. Then there is Chapter 15, one of my favorites! This is a running demo that starts out with the ultimate comb filter test: a black and white test pattern with a bouncing ball. I ran my CLD-97 and CLD-99 through this, which showed how much better the CLD-99 3-D comb filter is compared to the 97's 2-D. There are two boxes at the top, one labeled 300 and the other labeled 400. With the 97, these boxes have a colored rainbow pattern; with the 99, they remain black and white. On the moving ball itself, the 99 does have the rainbow pattern, but much less than the 97, and when the ball stops, the rainbow goes away, showing that the 3-D filter is stronger with static images. I have just obtained the Audio Alchemy VRE 1.0 (outboard comb filter), and I will report on this at a later date. The chapter continues with live footage of beautiful scenery consisting of film and outdoor material. This is some of the best looking video I have ever seen, with so much color and detail! If only every LD could look this good. The next chapter contains every possible test pattern, and a lot of photos from the original AVS LD.


This is truly an invaluable disc. I just wish Joe would have included a book covering what all the test patterns were used for. This disc was designed with the average consumer in mind. It is VERY easy to follow. The supplied blue filter is flimsy, like a piece of 35mm film, not at all like the one supplied with AVS. (The blue filter is used to calibrate the color and tint controls on your TV, in conjunction with the color bar pattern on the disc.) This is the first ISF certified laser disc, and I can only hope that more LDs follow with this type of video quality. While this disc covers all you need to know about obtaining the best video picture you can, I would hold on to AVS if you have it, for even more in-depth coverage.

Stacey Spears

Copyright 1995, 1996, 1997 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
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