An audio commentary is an additional audio track, usually digital, consisting of a lecture or comments by one or more speakers, that plays in real time with a video. Commentaries can be serious or entertaining in nature, and can add information which otherwise would not be disclosed to audience members.
The DVD medium allows multiple audio tracks for each video program. DVD players usually allow these to be selected by the viewer from the main menu of the DVD or using the remote. These tracks will contain dialogue and sound of the movie, often with alternative tracks featuring different language dialogue, or various types of audio encoding (such as Dolby Digital, DTS or PCM). Among them may be at least one commentary track.
There are several different types of commentary. The two main types simply define the length of the commentary rather than the type of content. They are:
Typically a commentary track will include feature-length commentary from the film's director, cast members, or occasionally writers and producers. Occasionally actors will perform commentary in-character. (In recording sessions with multiple speakers, a designated moderator may encourage the discussion flow.) Some DVDs include outsider commentary performed by film critics, historians, scholars or fans. In more elaborate productions, multiple speakers from various recording sessions may be edited together for a single audio program.
Some DVDs feature commentaries with on-screen video enhancements, such as telestrator prompts, (allowing the director or commentator to "draw" on the screen, pointing out specific details), or the Ghostbusters "video commentary", where one of the subtitle tracks is used to add silhouettes of the speakers in a manner where they seem to be in a theater commenting on the movie as it was screened for them in the style of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Less common are actual video commentaries, showing the speakers as they are recording the commentary, requiring separate video tracks.
The value of audio commentaries as a marketing tool was revealed during the heyday of laserdisc, the laser-based video format produced before the introduction of DVDs. The Criterion Collection company, for example, produced high-quality "deluxe" editions of classic films on laserdisc, using the best available prints and re-edited versions. These were often very expensive compared to today's DVDs and included bonus material such as trailers, deleted scenes, production stills, behind-the-scenes information, and audio commentaries from the directors, producers, cast, cinematographers, editors, and production designers. They were marketed to movie professionals, fans and scholars who were seen as an elite niche of consumers who could afford to pay more for definitive, quality editions. The audio commentaries on laserdiscs were typically encoded on secondary analog tracks which had become redundant, as modern laserdiscs had stereo audio encoded digitally alongside. This is why certain older videodisc players, which pre-date the digital audio standard, are only able to play back analog tracks with audio commentary.
The first audio commentary was featured on the Criterion Collection release of the original King Kong movie, on laserdisc in December 1984. It featured film historian Ronald Haver and his first words were:
Hello, ladies and gentlemen, I'm Ronald Haver, and I'm here to do something which we feel is rather unique. I'm going to take you on a lecture tour of King Kong as you watch the film. The laserdisc technology offers us this opportunity and we feel it's rather unique — the ability to switch back and forth between the soundtrack and this lecture track...
The idea for the commentary track arose in the film-to-tape transfer room when laserdisc producers, Peter Crown and Jennifer Scanlin of Romulus Productions, Inc., thrilled by Haver's incredible commentary, suggested to Bob Stein and Roger Smith that this material needed to be included on the disc. They played back the completed movie as Ron watched and ad libbed his comments.
The decline of the laserdisc format and the increasing popularity of DVD was highlighted in the fall of 1997, when simultaneous laserdisc and DVD editions of the movie Contact were released. The former contained one bonus audio commentary track by director Robert Zemeckis, and producer Steve Starkey. However, the DVD contained two additional, separate audio commentaries (by Jodie Foster and the special effects producers), as well as other bonus features. Despite its history with laserdiscs, the idea of audio commentary was still such an uncommon notion that, in its January 1998 review of the Contact DVD, Entertainment Weekly scoffed, "Who in the universe would want to journey through more than eight hours of gassy, how-we-filmed-the-nebulae trivia included in this "Special Edition" disc? Meant to show off DVD's enormous storage capacity, it only demonstrates its capacity to accommodate mountains of filler."
In general, directors are open to recording commentary tracks, as many feel it can be helpful to young filmmakers, or they simply want to explain their intention in making the film. Eli Roth, for example, specifically states on the producer's commentary track for The Last Exorcism, that he and the other filmmakers will offer advice to people interested in making films, as well as film school students. He is a strong proponent of the educational use of audio commentary, having recorded five commentary tracks for his debut, Cabin Fever. He also recorded insightful commentary tracks, with Quentin Tarantino, for both Hostel films, in which the two horror movie fans share film-making anecdotes and offer advice on working in the movie business. Meanwhile, others (such as Steven Spielberg & David Lynch) feel commentary can de-mystify and cheapen a movie. Director Steven Spielberg has not recorded commentary tracks for any of his films. He feels that the experience of watching a film with anything other than his intended soundtrack detracts from what he has created. Woody Allen has a similar lack of enthusiasm for commentaries, stating, "I'm not interested in all that extra stuff. [...] I want my films to speak for themselves. And hopefully they do."
A number of films and music videos released today feature audio commentaries. While many of them will not hold the interest of the casual viewer, specific releases stand out, mainly those with elements of historical interest or subject-specific information from expert advisors. For example, the inventor of the steadicam, featured throughout the audio commentary track for The Shining, discusses his work with the ground-breaking technology in several films leading up to that landmark production. Non-movie buffs may be interested in the anecdotes offered by advisors to the filmmakers, such as the FBI profiler commenting on The Silence of the Lambs (Criterion DVD release). Filmmakers and cast may reveal stories from behind the scenes, explain the process involved in their work, or simply offer additional laughs.
Kevin Smith coined the idea of in-theater audio commentary, going to see a movie at the theater, and after having downloaded onto one's iPod a podcast of an audio commentary, returning to the theater a second time to watch the movie while listening to the commentary at the same time. As of right now, a few films have attempted to utilize this idea, including Smith's Clerks II, The Nines by writer/director John August, and Rian Johnson's The Brothers Bloom and Looper. August's blog lists "rules and guidelines" for how to use in-theater commentary.
Kevin Smith first recorded a commentary track for Clerks II around May 2006 a few months before its theatrical release that was to be downloaded through iTunes and listened to in the theaters, which was meant to appeal primarily to Smith’s hardcore DVD-purchasing fan base. Theater owners, however, felt that allowing people to bring outside devices would be distracting and disrupting to other audience members. The commentary track was not released for download while the movie was in theaters and was instead included on the 2-disc Clerks II DVD. The commentary track features Kevin Smith along with producer Scott Mosier and actor, Jeff Anderson.
An audio commentary track for The Nines featuring John August along with actor Ryan Reynolds was posted in m4a and mp3 formats onto August's blog. This film had a considerably more limited release than Clerks II, featured in only 5 theaters in the U.S.
Originally inspired by a column by Roger Ebert, a small but active fan base of DVD commentary enthusiasts has sprung up since 2002 offering their own specially-recorded fan-made DVD commentaries. These tracks (usually made available in MP3 format) allow the fans to put forth their own opinions and expertise on a movie or TV series in much the same way as an on-disc commentary. These commentary tracks are played by starting a DVD player with the movie and an MP3 player with the track simultaneously. A substantial community of fan commentators exists, creating many hundreds of downloadable tracks available on the Web.
The idea of downloadable commentary tracks has since been co-opted by TV show creators themselves, as creators of TV shows such as the 2004 Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek: Enterprise, and the Doctor Who revival have recorded downloadable commentary tracks meant to be watched along with the episodes as recorded from TV.
Mystery Science Theater 3000 head writer and on-screen host Michael J. Nelson has started his own website to sell downloadable commentaries called RiffTrax. He also regularly commentates on the public domain films that colorizing company Legend Films releases on DVD, including Night of the Living Dead and Reefer Madness.
The Audio Commentary has been a subject of discussion among filmmakers. Many directors see them as an unnecessary bonus feature, while others record "fake" commentaries, which may contain false information or inside jokes. Other filmmakers have parodied the commentary concept, as the following examples demonstrate.
Some film companies transfer the audio commentary of the laserdisc release of a film on to the DVD rather than creating a new one. For example, El Mariachi Special Edition, Total Recall Special Edition, Spaceballs and A Nightmare on Elm Street all contain the commentary from the laserdisc release. This may be for financial reasons, depending on whether the rights to the original commentary are cheaper to use than recording a new one (a company releasing a film on DVD today may not be the same company who released it on laserdisc); or it could simply be that the original commentary does its job well without the need for an update. Contrastingly, some DVDs do not have a commentary even though the laserdisc release did (for example, Taxi Driver). This may be because the parties involved have not reached a publication agreement.
The audio commentaries of The Criterion Collection are often considered some of the finest and most informative commentaries ever made, and the Laserdisc releases of classic films can be highly priced because Criterion generally did not license their commentaries for use on later DVDs when the rights to films they have release revert to the studio, including the aforementioned Taxi Driver. But commentaries like that now appear on the Blu-ray versions of films. Other notables include the commentary for The Silence of the Lambs (featuring stars Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins, along with director Jonathan Demme) and Terry Gilliam's tracks for The Adventures of Baron Munchausen and The Fisher King. In addition, the fact that Criterion have been commissioning commentaries since 1984 means that commentaries exist by film makers who died before the advent of DVD, such as Michael Powell.
Some commentaries that were issued on Laserdisc have not been reissued or replaced on DVD. Sometimes this is because there was a deluxe LD edition while there has only been a bare bones release on DVD, for example The Fisher King.
In the case of the first three James Bond movies, Dr. No, From Russia with Love, and Goldfinger, the commentary was once released on LaserDisc but quickly judged inappropriate, never to return (new commentary tracks are on the DVD editions). The commentaries are available to download at The 007 Dossier.
Some video games, such as the episodic sequels to Half-Life 2 and Tomb Raider: Anniversary, have experimented with audio commentaries. Unlike DVD commentaries, the systems used for video games do not use a predetermined continuous flow of speech, because the events of a game depend on the player's actions. Instead, in-game prompts are used to allow players to activate a relevant audio commentary for a specific area. The camera and action may also be altered to more readily showcase the developer's comments.
A Pest in the House is an animated short film released on August 2, 1947. It is directed by Chuck Jones and stars the characters of Daffy Duck and Elmer Fudd. The title is an appropriate play on "a guest in the house." The film is notable for featuring a sort of "in-between" interpretation of Daffy. He is not necessarily the zany, impish interpretation used famously by Tex Avery and Bob Clampett, nor is he the greedy, self-centered version that Chuck Jones later popularized in the 1950s. As Paul Dini said in the DVD audio commentary for this cartoon: "[In this cartoon, Daffy] is really kind of almost like a sprite. He's just a little, almost elfin creature who's not really out to hurt anybody or has any ill will or malice toward anybody. He's just completely out of his mind."It was only one of three non-Bugs Bunny cartoons from 1947 not to be reissued. The others were Catch as Cats Can and Mexican Joyride.
The cartoon was followed up in 1948 by Daffy Duck Slept Here, wherein Daffy (this time as a fellow guest) again doesn't let a hotel patron sleep - in this case Porky Pig.Cubism (video)
Cubism is a 2007 DVD release of Pet Shop Boys' Fundamental tour. Filmed on November 14, 2006 at the Auditorio Nacional in Mexico. The DVD contains a short documentary, a gallery and audio commentary as special features.Fade to Red
Fade to Red: Tori Amos Video Collection is a double DVD set from recording artist and musician Tori Amos and was released by Rhino Entertainment on February 14, 2006. It featured music videos spanning 1992 to 2005, including the singles "Silent All These Years," "Crucify," "Cornflake Girl," and "A Sorta Fairytale", which co-stars Oscar winner Adrien Brody. The DVD features digitally re-mastered 5.1 audio and included a comprehensive audio commentary by Amos herself on each video. The collection omits the following music videos: "Glory of the 80's," "Strange Little Girl," and "Mary (Tales Version)."Joking Apart
Joking Apart is a BBC television sitcom written by Steven Moffat about the rise and fall of a relationship. It juxtaposes a couple, Mark (Robert Bathurst) and Becky (Fiona Gillies), who fall in love and marry, before getting separated and finally divorced. The twelve episodes, broadcast between 1993 and 1995, were directed by Bob Spiers and produced by Andre Ptaszynski for independent production company Pola Jones.
The show is semi-autobiographical; it was inspired by the then-recent separation of Moffat and his first wife. Some of the episodes in the first series followed a non-linear parallel structure, contrasting the rise of the relationship with the fall. Other episodes were ensemble farces, predominantly including the couple's friends Robert (Paul Raffield) and Tracy (Tracie Bennett). Paul Mark Elliott also appeared as Trevor, Becky's lover.
Scheduling problems meant that the show attracted low viewing figures. However, it scored highly on the Appreciation Index and accrued a loyal fanbase. One fan acquired the home video rights from the BBC and released both series on his own DVD label.Rarities Volume 1
Rarities – Volume 1 is a digital-only 11-track compilation by English soprano Sarah Brightman. The lush and mellow tracks on this volume are extracted from the master tapes for the long sold-out special edition tour CD release of Fly (1995). This compilation contains a previously unreleased demo of “One Day I’ll Fly Away” with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and an unreleased version of Morricone's “Once Upon A Time In The West”
An audio commentary track by Sarah and producer Frank Peterson is included. The album was released on December 18, 2015 and was exclusively available for digital download for a limited time.Rarities Volume 2
Rarities – Volume 2 is a digital-only 11-track compilation by English soprano Sarah Brightman. The pop and rock tracks on this volume are extracted from the master tapes of the long sold-out special edition tour CD releases of Fly (1995) and Harem (2003). This compilation contains collaborations with Schiller and Sash! The album was released on December 18, 2015 and was exclusively available for digital download for a limited time.An audio commentary track by Sarah and producer Frank Peterson is included.Rarities Volume 3
Rarities – Volume 3 is a digital-only 20-track compilation by English soprano Sarah Brightman. Tracks on this volume are extracted from the master tapes of the 1995 Fly and 2003 Harem special edition tour CDs, the Voce album (a 2014 release available only in Japan), sessions with Gregorian and other sources. It contains songs and works that were previously released only in Europe and Japan and are now finally made available in all parts of the world.
The album was released on December 18, 2015 and was exclusively available for digital download for a limited time. The set was not available in Japan nor Europe.
An audio commentary track by Sarah and producer Frank Peterson is included.Sallertaine
Sallertaine is a commune in the Vendée department in the Pays de la Loire region in western France.
Apart from the two historical churches, the village is well known as an arts and crafts community due to the number of independent craftsmen and women who occupy various outlets, often in former homes, during the summer months. These range from potters and painters to jewellers and purveyors of fine, local foods. There is also a bread making museum that uses multi-lingual audio-commentary to illustrate how French artisan bakers make their famous products. It is possible for visitors to try their hand at bread making. On several evenings during the summer the village has live entertainment attracting French and foreign visitors. The village is also a centre for canoe hire from where the local salt marshes can be explored, including guided tours.Shameless (UK TV series)
Shameless is a British comedy-drama series set in Manchester on the fictional Chatsworth council estate. Produced by Company Pictures for Channel 4, the series aired from 13 January 2004 to 28 May 2013. The comedy drama, centred on British working class culture, was accorded critical acclaim by various sections of the British media, including The Sun newspaper and Newsnight Review on BBC Two. The programme was created and partially written by Paul Abbott, who is also the programme's executive producer. In 2005, the show won "Best Drama Series" at the BAFTA TV Awards and "Best TV Comedy Drama" at the British Comedy Awards. The network Showtime adapted the series into its own American version, which debuted in 2011.South Park (season 3)
The third season of South Park, an American animated television comedy series, originally aired in the United States on Comedy Central between April 7, 1999 and January 12, 2000. The season was headed by the series creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, who served as executive producers along with Anne Garefino. The season continued to focus on the exploits of protagonists Stan, Kyle, Cartman, and Kenny in the fictional Colorado mountain town of South Park.
The season consisted of seventeen 22-minute episodes, which aired mostly in two groups separated by a three-month gap. Continuing their practice from previous seasons, Parker and Stone wrote and produced each episode within the week before its broadcast date. They produced the first half of the season simultaneously while working on the show's film adaption, South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, which was difficult. The show's creators considered the third season an improvement on the previous season, due to a heavier focus on strong storytelling structure and character development, as well as increased creative control. In the second half of the season, the show was dealt a blow with the death of voice actress Mary Kay Bergman, who provided many of the female voices on the show. The remaining three episodes in the season are mostly absent of female voices for this reason.
The third season satirized such topics as the Waco siege, tropical rainforest conservation, and sexual harassment, films such as Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, Tron, and Gettysburg, and television shows such as Scooby-Doo and Pokémon. It also continues the show's tradition of lampooning celebrities, which in this season include Cher, Pat Robertson, and Rod Stewart. The season features a guest appearance from both the nu metal band Korn and Friends actress Jennifer Aniston.Steven Moffat
Steven William Moffat (; born 18 November 1961) is a Scottish television writer and producer, best known for his work as showrunner, writer and executive producer of British television series Doctor Who and Sherlock.
Moffat's first television work was the teen drama series Press Gang. His first sitcom, Joking Apart, was inspired by the breakdown of his first marriage; conversely, his later sitcom Coupling was based upon the development of his relationship with television producer Sue Vertue. In between the two relationship-centred shows, he wrote Chalk, a sitcom set in a comprehensive school inspired by his own experience as an English teacher.
A lifelong fan of Doctor Who, Moffat's first work on the series was the script of the parody episode The Curse of Fatal Death, which aired in 1999. When Doctor Who was revived in 2005, he wrote six episodes under executive producer Russell T Davies. Moffat was subsequently Doctor Who showrunner, lead writer and executive producer from 2009 until 2017. Moffat's run as executive producer aired from April 2010 to December 2017. Sherlock, which Moffat co-created with Mark Gatiss, began airing in July 2010. He also co-wrote the 2011 feature film The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn.
Moffat has won several awards, mainly for Doctor Who and Sherlock, including two Emmy Awards, five BAFTA Awards and four Hugo Awards.Suck My Kiss
"Suck My Kiss" is a song by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. It was released as the third single from their fifth studio album, Blood Sugar Sex Magik. The "Suck My Kiss" single was released in 1992 as an airplay single in the US and as a physical single in Australia. A music video was made for the song using footage from the Funky Monks documentary directed by Gavin Bowden. It also featured shots in shades of red of the American army returning from the Gulf War, revealed by Anthony Kiedis on the audio commentary in the band Greatest Videos compilation. The song was included on the band's Greatest Hits compilation.That's My Bush!
That's My Bush! is an American sitcom that aired on Comedy Central from April 4 to May 23, 2001. The show was created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, best known for creating South Park.
Despite the political overtones, the show itself was a broad lampoon of American sitcoms, including lame jokes, a laugh track, and stock characters such as klutzy bimbo secretary Princess (Kristen Miller), know-it-all maid Maggie (Marcia Wallace), and supposedly helpful "wacky" next door neighbor Larry (John D'Aquino).
The series was conceived in the wake of the 2000 presidential election, between Bush and Al Gore. Parker and Stone were sure that Gore would win the election, and tentatively titled the show Everybody Loves Al. However, due to the controversy regarding the election's outcome, the series was pushed back. Instead, the show was then plotted around Bush at the workplace.The show received positive reviews, with The New York Times commenting, "That's My Bush! is a satire of hero worship itself; it is the anti-West Wing and the first true post-Clinton comedy. [...] This politically astute criticism is embedded in so much hysterical humor that the series never seems weighty."The Front (The Simpsons)
"The Front" is the nineteenth episode of The Simpsons' fourth season. It originally aired in the United States on the Fox network on April 15, 1993. In the episode, Bart and Lisa decide to write an episode of The Itchy & Scratchy Show; after their script is rejected, they resubmit it under the name of their grandfather Abraham Simpson, resulting in Grampa being hired as a staff writer. Meanwhile, Homer returns to high school to retake a failed science course.
The episode was written by Adam I. Lapidus and directed by Rich Moore. It is the only Simpsons episode written by Lapidus.The Legend of Korra (season 3)
The third season of the animated television series The Legend of Korra, titled Book Three: Change, was created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, and consists of thirteen episodes ("chapters"), all animated by Studio Mir. The season began airing on Nickelodeon in the U.S. on June 27, 2014. After leaked episodes and following declining ratings, the series stopped airing on Nickelodeon after episode 8 on July 25, 2014. Episodes 9 to 13 of Book Three were subsequently made available on the Internet weekly through Nickelodeon's website and on digital download platforms.
The season takes place largely in the Earth Kingdom, one of the four major nations in the setting of the series, and also depicts the re-emergence of airbending among people of other nations. The season's antagonists are the "Red Lotus", a group of dangerous anarchists led by the new airbender Zaheer who wants to overthrow the world's governments and the Avatar. Among the season's new supporting characters are the now elderly Zuko, a character from the original series, as well as Lin Beifong's sister Suyin and her family.The Scarlet Claw
The Scarlet Claw is a 1944 Sherlock Holmes film directed by Roy William Neill and starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce. It is the eighth film of the Rathbone/Bruce series. David Stuart Davies notes on the film's DVD audio commentary that it's generally considered by critics and fans of the series to be the best of the twelve Holmes films made by Universal.The Strange Case of Alice Cooper
The Strange Case of Alice Cooper is a live concert video released in September 1979, of Alice Cooper performing with his backing band The Ultra Latex Band. The concert was filmed on April 9, 1979 during Cooper's 'Madhouse Rock' Tour in San Diego, California, at the San Diego Sports Arena, in support of the album From The Inside.
Two songs that were performed during the filming, All Strapped Up and Dead Babies, were omitted from the film for unknown reasons. A DVD version, with audio commentary by Alice Cooper, was released May 22, 2012 via Shout! Factory as a US-only release. Shout! Factory has also made the movie available digitally on their network for streaming and download.The Videos 1994–2001
The Videos 1994–2001 is a music video compilation by the Dave Matthews Band, released on August 21, 2001 on VHS and DVD. The compilation features all of the band's 12 music videos from their first four albums, from "What Would You Say" to "The Space Between", with the earliest released in 1995, contrary to the compilation's title. Each video features a Dolby Digital stereo and 5.1 surround sound mix, as well as an audio commentary by the video's director. The compilation also features a behind-the-scenes documentary for "Don't Drink the Water", "Stay (Wasting Time)", and "I Did It".