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On disc-based video formats, an audio commentary is an additional audio track consisting of a lecture or comments by one or more speakers, that plays in real time with video. Commentaries can be serious or entertaining in nature, and can add information which otherwise would not be disclosed to audience members.[1]

Contents

Types of commentary

The DVD medium allows multiple audio tracks for a 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:

  • Partial or scene-specific, which only covers selected scenes of the film. Sometimes these are recorded without the speaker viewing the film and thus the commentator may make more general comments than pointing out specific details.
  • Feature-length or screen-specific, which is recorded in one session: the speakers watch the movie from beginning to end and give their thoughts directly based on what is happening on-screen.

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.

History of audio commentaries

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 predate 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 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."[2]

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, while others (such as Steven Spielberg or 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."[3]

Notable DVD audio commentaries

  • The DVD release of Ghostbusters contains a "video commentary" track with director, Ivan Reitman, writer/star Harold Ramis, and associate producer Joe Medjuck. Silhouettes of the trio were added to the picture using one of the subtitle tracks, in a manner that made it seem as if they were sitting in a theater commenting on the movie as it was screened for them. This was seen as a homage to (or imitation of) Mystery Science Theater 3000. In some scenes, arrows, lines, or circles may be drawn onto the screen to highlight things the directors are talking about. The DVD releases of Men in Black and Muppets from Space had similar features.
  • The DVD release of Fantasia features two separate commentaries: one by Roy E. Disney, James Levine, John Canemaker, and Scott MacQueen; and a second by Walt Disney, created using audio clips of interviews and a voice actor reading his production meeting notes, hosted by Canemaker. When its sequel, Fantasia 2000, was released on DVD, it also included two separate audio commentaries: One featuring Roy E. Disney, Levine, and Canemaker, and the other featuring commentary on each of the separate segments of the film by the directors and art directors of each segment. For the sections starring Mickey Mouse ("The Sorcerer's Apprentice") and Donald Duck ("Pomp and Circumstance"), voice actors Wayne Allwine and Tony Anselmo were used to make it seem as though Mickey and Donald were providing their own commentary on their appearances in the film.
  • The DVD releases for Atlantis: The Lost Empire (Special Edition), Treasure Planet and Finding Nemo contained specially-edited "video commentaries"; the feature-length audio commentaries by the directors and producers were punctuated by cues to video segments illustrating various behind-the-scenes aspects. Similarly, in several commentaries on the first season of Lost, the commentators would actually stop the episode's progress and play behind-the-scenes clips, continuing to talk over the footage.
  • The 2000 DVD of This Is Spinal Tap features a commentary by the three members of the band, in character. They relate how they felt slighted by the film, and how the director (Marty di Bergi in the film) did a "hack job" with the documentary. The commentary is another added element to the fiction of the band. Actors Michael McKean, Christopher Guest and Harry Shearer had previously recorded a commentary for a Criterion Collection DVD which had gone out of print. Similarly, the DVD of series 1 of the BBC sitcom I'm Alan Partridge features commentary from the characters of Alan and his assistant, Lynne. Like Spinal Tap, Alan is heard to be frustrated at how the show makes him appear.
  • The Ultimate Matrix Collection, a box set of the entire Matrix trilogy, has two audio commentaries on each film — one by philosophers who loved it (Dr. Cornel West and Ken Wilber), and one by critics who hated it (Todd McCarthy, John Powers and David Thomson).
  • The commentary on Trey Parker's Cannibal! The Musical (aka Alferd Packer: The Musical) is notable in that the commentators — cast and crew — start out sober at the beginning. As the movie progresses, the group drinks and gets more and more inebriated. A similar commentary, featuring many of the participants from that commentary, was recorded for Orgazmo.
  • The fourth, fifth and sixth season box sets of The Simpsons contain special "illustrated commentaries" on selected episodes, where two animation directors draw on screen while commenting on the episode. This is achieved by using subtitle data to produce the drawings overlaid on top of the video in sync with the audio commentary track.
  • The Simpsons and Futurama, both Matt Groening creations, are among the few TV series to have audio commentary tracks on every episode in their season box set DVD releases. For Futurama, the commentators point out who voiced minor characters. The actors for these characters are otherwise unlisted in the ending credits. Doctor Who, Mr. Show, Red Dwarf, volumes 4 and onwards of Family Guy, the first season sets of Twin Peaks, The Shield and Goodnight Sweetheart and all episodes and specials of The League of Gentlemen are other examples of this.
  • The commentary for Eurotrip has the writers and director playing a drinking game to their own film, while giving a commentary.
  • When the first season of Veronica Mars was rushed to DVD so first-time viewers could catch up before the second season began airing in Fall 2005, the creator, Rob Thomas, recorded an audio commentary for the pilot which was a downloadable podcast because there wasn't time to get it on the boxed set.
  • In lieu of recording a commentary himself, Michael Moore allowed his interns and secretary to record the audio commentary for his documentary Bowling for Columbine.
  • On the DVD release of Shaun of the Dead, one (of the four) commentary tracks is given over entirely to a recording of the actors who played zombies in the movie. The first cast audio commentary (including Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kate Ashfield, Lucy Davis and Dylan Moran) also mocks audio commentaries as the cast admit that they almost never listen to them (with Simon Pegg claiming he listens to them when going to sleep), as well as Dylan Moran saying that they simply involve people saying things like "oh, we used a steadi-cam for that one because Roger had a bad knee", and that no-one was interested in hearing it.
  • There is a fake DVD commentary on the DVD of Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story with Rawson Marshall Thurber, Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller arguing. 40 minutes into it, all three exit and the commentary is replaced with the audio commentary from There's Something About Mary. The real audio commentary can be found as an easter egg on the DVD.
  • On the audio commentaries for seasons of The Venture Bros., Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer have conversations that have little to do with the episodes being shown.
  • On the cast and crew commentary for Superbad, Judd Apatow orders the actors not to swear in front of his nine year old daughter Maude, who is also present for the recording. Actor Jonah Hill restrains himself from cursing until halfway through the movie, and he proceeds to chide Apatow for "Bring Your Daughter to Work Day." After this argument, Apatow and his daughter leave to go attend a showing of the Broadway musical Spamalot, and the remaining cast and crew begin swearing profusely immediately after their departure.
  • The cast commentary of Tropic Thunder features Ben Stiller and Jack Black as themselves, while Robert Downey, Jr. is in character as Lincoln Osiris, and later Kirk Lazarus, before dropping character at the end. This is a reference to a line spoken in the film by Lazarus: "I don't drop character 'til I've done the DVD commentary."
  • The DVD for Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog contains two commentary tracks; one is a musical in which they sing about each other and the 2007–2008 Writers Guild of America strike.
  • The unrated DVD for "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy" contains a commentary track where the director, Will Ferrell, and David Koechner get into a fight because David thinks he had too little parts in the movie, and Andy Richter and Kyle Gass get into a fight because they didn't get into the movie, leading one of them to punch Will Ferrell in the nose.
  • The commentary track for "Step Brothers" features director Adam McKay, Will Ferrell, and John C. Reilly doing the bulk of the commentary as a musical performance accompanied by film composer Jon Brion and Los Angeles Clippers player Baron Davis.

Prolific commentators

Alternate commentaries

Originally inspired by a column by Roger Ebert,[5] 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[6], 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.

Kevin Smith recorded a commentary track for Clerks II intended for download to an MP3 player for viewing in the movie theater during the movie's first run, coined In-Theater Audio Commentary; however, the commentary was not released because theater chains felt it would be distracting to viewers who were not listening to the commentary. This commentary was later included on the Clerks II DVD.[7]

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.

Parody

DVD commentaries have been parodied by a number of people. Most notably:

  • The Coen Brothers movie Blood Simple has a fake commentary written by the Coens and read by an actor posing as a film historian. This "historian" Kenneth Loring gives information about the production that almost everyone would recognize as being totally ludicrous. He claims for instance that one the opening scene was shot upside down with the actors saying their lines backwards and that some roles were reserved for Rosemary Clooney and Gene Kelly.
  • In an episode of The Simpsons ("The Bart Wants What It Wants"[8]), Bart is watching an Itchy & Scratchy DVD and decides to turn the commentary on. A small box appears at the corner of the screen, showing Scratchy ("We shot this at four in the morning, and the crew was getting a little cranky") and Itchy ("You can never get enough takes for Steven Soderbergh"); midway through Scratchy's next sentence, Itchy cuts off his head.
  • Welsh comedian Rob Brydon starred in the ITV comedy show Director's Commentary (2004) in which he played a fictional director, Peter De Lane, and parodied the often conceited and pompous nature of directors when giving DVD commentaries by articulating his thoughts over archive footage. Although the show was well received, it did not sustain viewer interest, and as of 2006 only one six-episode season was produced.[9]
  • The book Speak, Commentary, by Jeff Alexander and Tom Bissell, collects a series of fake audio commentaries purportedly made by well-known American cultural critics and political pundits on popular science fiction and fantasy movies. The contents include Ann Coulter on Ridley Scott's Alien, as well as Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn on Peter Jackson's films of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers.
  • The Adam and Joe Show parodied audio commentaries in a sketch which stated that audio commentaries often sound like "self indulgent wankers in a pub".
  • Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy contains audio commentary where the characters end up discussing very little of the film's content.
  • Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby features a commentary in which director Adam McKay fabricates nearly every piece of information about the film, such as the production's move to Brazil, the roles of Walker and Texas Ranger being played by robots, and that the original cut of the film was 9 1/2 hours long and contained a segment of a stick of butter.
  • Monty Python's The Meaning of Life features a fake commentary titled "Soundtrack for the Lonely: A Soundtrack for People Watching at Home Alone." It consists of a rather disgusting man played by Mel Smith who burps, yawns, farts, and talks under his breath while he watches the film at his flat. Throughout the commentary, he calls his friends (played by Terry Jones and Eric Idle) by telephone.
  • The Hot Fuzz 3-disc collector's edition DVD includes a commentary featuring real policemen and a commentary in which director Edgar Wright and fellow filmmaker Quentin Tarantino discuss nearly 200 films and television series[10] but barely make reference to Hot Fuzz.

Commentary re-use

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 does not license their commentaries for use on later DVDs when the rights to films they have release revert back to the studio, including the aforementioned Taxi Driver. 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.

Video games

Some video games, such as the episodic sequels to Half-Life 2 and Lara Croft 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.

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List of video games with audio commentary

References

External links


On disc-based video formats, an audio commentary is an additional audio track consisting of a lecture or comments by one or more speakers, that plays in real time with video. Commentaries can be serious or entertaining in nature, and can add information which otherwise would not be disclosed to audience members.[1][dead link]

Contents

Types of commentary

The DVD medium allows multiple audio tracks for a 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.[original research?] The two main types simply define the length of the commentary rather than the type of content. They are:

  • Partial or scene-specific,[neologism?] which only covers selected scenes of the film. Sometimes these are recorded without the speaker viewing the film and thus the commentator may make more general comments than pointing out specific details.
  • Feature-length or screen-specific,[neologism?] which is recorded in one session: the speakers watch the movie from beginning to end and give their thoughts directly based on what is happening on-screen.

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,[specify] (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.

History of audio commentaries

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 predate 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 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."[2]

In general,[original research?] directors are open to recording commentary tracks, as many feel it can be helpful to young filmmakers,[citation needed] or they simply want to explain their intention in making the film,[who?] while others (such as Steven Spielberg or David Lynch[citation needed]) 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.[citation needed] 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."[3]

Notable DVD audio commentaries

  • The DVD release of Ghostbusters contains a "video commentary" track with director, Ivan Reitman, writer/star Harold Ramis, and associate producer Joe Medjuck. Silhouettes of the trio were added to the picture using one of the subtitle tracks, in a manner that made it seem as if they were sitting in a theater commenting on the movie as it was screened for them. This was seen as a homage to (or imitation of) Mystery Science Theater 3000. In some scenes, arrows, lines, or circles may be drawn onto the screen to highlight things the directors are talking about. The DVD releases of Men in Black and Muppets from Space had similar features.
  • The DVD release of Fantasia features two separate commentaries: one by Roy E. Disney, James Levine, John Canemaker, and Scott MacQueen; and a second by Walt Disney, created using audio clips of interviews and a voice actor reading his production meeting notes, hosted by Canemaker. When its sequel, Fantasia 2000, was released on DVD, it also included two separate audio commentaries: One featuring Roy E. Disney, Levine, and Canemaker, and the other featuring commentary on each of the separate segments of the film by the directors and art directors of each segment. For the sections starring Mickey Mouse ("The Sorcerer's Apprentice") and Donald Duck ("Pomp and Circumstance"), voice actors Wayne Allwine and Tony Anselmo were used to make it seem as though Mickey and Donald were providing their own commentary on their appearances in the film.
  • The DVD releases for Atlantis: The Lost Empire (Special Edition), Treasure Planet and Finding Nemo contained specially-edited "video commentaries"; the feature-length audio commentaries by the directors and producers were punctuated by cues to video segments illustrating various behind-the-scenes aspects. Similarly, in several commentaries on the first season of Lost, the commentators would actually stop the episode's progress and play behind-the-scenes clips, continuing to talk over the footage.
  • The DVD release of the third season of "How I Met Your Mother" includes a commentary by Jason Segel and Chris Harris for the episode "The Chain of Screaming". Harris, a writer on the show, did not write this particular episode, but was included in the commentary at the request of Segel, who spent the majority of the commentary intoxicated and in only his boxers. Segel at one point places 12 condoms on the table between the two and spends the majority of the commentary insinuating a relationship between him and Harris, much to Harris' chagrin.
  • The 2000 DVD of This Is Spinal Tap features a commentary by the three members of the band, in character. They relate how they felt slighted by the film, and how the director (Marty di Bergi in the film) did a "hack job" with the documentary. The commentary is another added element to the fiction of the band. Actors Michael McKean, Christopher Guest and Harry Shearer had previously recorded a commentary for a Criterion Collection DVD which had gone out of print. Similarly, the DVD of series 1 of the BBC sitcom I'm Alan Partridge features commentary from the characters of Alan and his assistant, Lynne. Like Spinal Tap, Alan is heard to be frustrated at how the show makes him appear.
  • The Ultimate Matrix Collection, a box set of the entire Matrix trilogy, has two audio commentaries on each film — one by philosophers who loved it (Dr. Cornel West and Ken Wilber), and one by critics who hated it (Todd McCarthy, John Powers and David Thomson).
  • The commentary on Trey Parker's Cannibal! The Musical (aka Alferd Packer: The Musical) is notable in that the commentators — cast and crew — start out sober at the beginning. As the movie progresses, the group drinks and gets more and more inebriated. A similar commentary, featuring many of the participants from that commentary, was recorded for Orgazmo.
  • The fourth, fifth and sixth season box sets of The Simpsons contain special "illustrated commentaries" on selected episodes, where two animation directors draw on screen while commenting on the episode. This is achieved by using subtitle data to produce the drawings overlaid on top of the video in sync with the audio commentary track.
  • The Simpsons and Futurama, both Matt Groening creations, are among the few TV series to have audio commentary tracks on every episode in their season box set DVD releases. For Futurama, the commentators point out who voiced minor characters. The actors for these characters are otherwise unlisted in the ending credits. Doctor Who, Mr. Show, Red Dwarf, volumes 4 and onwards of Family Guy, the first season sets of Twin Peaks, The Shield and Goodnight Sweetheart and all episodes and specials of The League of Gentlemen are other examples of this.
  • The commentary for Eurotrip has the writers and director playing a drinking game to their own film, while giving a commentary.
  • When the first season of Veronica Mars was rushed to DVD so first-time viewers could catch up before the second season began airing in Fall 2005, the creator, Rob Thomas, recorded an audio commentary for the pilot which was a downloadable podcast because there wasn't time to get it on the boxed set.
  • In lieu of recording a commentary himself, Michael Moore allowed his interns and secretary to record the audio commentary for his documentary Bowling for Columbine.
  • On the DVD release of Shaun of the Dead, one (of the four) commentary tracks is given over entirely to a recording of the actors who played zombies in the movie. The first cast audio commentary (including Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kate Ashfield, Lucy Davis and Dylan Moran) also mocks audio commentaries as the cast admit that they almost never listen to them (with Simon Pegg claiming he listens to them when going to sleep), as well as Dylan Moran saying that they simply involve people saying things like "oh, we used a steadi-cam for that one because Roger had a bad knee", and that no-one was interested in hearing it.
  • There is a fake DVD commentary on the DVD of Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story with Rawson Marshall Thurber, Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller arguing. 40 minutes into it, all three exit and the commentary is replaced with the audio commentary from There's Something About Mary. The real audio commentary can be found as an easter egg on the DVD.
  • On the audio commentaries for seasons of The Venture Bros., Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer have conversations that have little to do with the episodes being shown.
  • On the cast and crew commentary for Superbad, Judd Apatow orders the actors not to swear in front of his nine year old daughter Maude, who is also present for the recording. Actor Jonah Hill restrains himself from cursing until halfway through the movie, and he proceeds to chide Apatow for "Bring Your Daughter to Work Day." After this argument, Apatow and his daughter leave to go attend a showing of the Broadway musical Spamalot, and the remaining cast and crew begin swearing profusely immediately after their departure.
  • The cast commentary of Tropic Thunder features Ben Stiller and Jack Black as themselves, while Robert Downey, Jr. is in character as Lincoln Osiris, and later Kirk Lazarus, before dropping character at the end. This is a reference to a line spoken in the film by Lazarus: "I don't drop character 'til I've done the DVD commentary."
  • The DVD for Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog contains two commentary tracks; one is a musical in which they sing about each other and the 2007–2008 Writers Guild of America strike.
  • The unrated DVD for "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy" contains a commentary track where the director, Will Ferrell, and David Koechner get into a fight because David thinks he had too little parts in the movie, and Andy Richter and Kyle Gass get into a fight because they didn't get into the movie, leading one of them to punch Will Ferrell in the nose.
  • The commentary track for "Step Brothers" features director Adam McKay, Will Ferrell, and John C. Reilly doing the bulk of the commentary as a musical performance accompanied by film composer Jon Brion and Los Angeles Clippers player Baron Davis.
  • The 2007 DVD for The Fountain did not include a commentary track because Warner Bros did not feel that adding one would help sales. However, director Darren Aronofsky recorded a commentary track on his own and made the track available for free download on his personal website. [4]

Prolific commentators

Alternate commentaries

Originally inspired by a column by Roger Ebert,[6] 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[7], 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.

Kevin Smith recorded a commentary track for Clerks II intended for download to an MP3 player for viewing in the movie theater during the movie's first run, coined In-Theater Audio Commentary; however, the commentary was not released because theater chains felt it would be distracting to viewers who were not listening to the commentary. This commentary was later included on the Clerks II DVD.[8]

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.

Parody

DVD commentaries have been parodied by a number of people. Most notably:

  • The Coen Brothers movie Blood Simple has a fake commentary written by the Coens and read by an actor posing as a film historian. This "historian" Kenneth Loring gives information about the production that almost everyone would recognize as being totally ludicrous. He claims for instance that one the opening scene was shot upside down with the actors saying their lines backwards and that some roles were reserved for Rosemary Clooney and Gene Kelly.
  • In an episode of The Simpsons ("The Bart Wants What It Wants"[9]), Bart is watching an Itchy & Scratchy DVD and decides to turn the commentary on. A small box appears at the corner of the screen, showing Scratchy ("We shot this at four in the morning, and the crew was getting a little cranky") and Itchy ("You can never get enough takes for Steven Soderbergh"); midway through Scratchy's next sentence, Itchy cuts off his head.
  • Welsh comedian Rob Brydon starred in the ITV comedy show Director's Commentary (2004) in which he played a fictional director, Peter De Lane, and parodied the often conceited and pompous nature of directors when giving DVD commentaries by articulating his thoughts over archive footage. Although the show was well received, it did not sustain viewer interest, and as of 2006 only one six-episode season was produced.[10]
  • The book Speak, Commentary, by Jeff Alexander and Tom Bissell, collects a series of fake audio commentaries purportedly made by well-known American cultural critics and political pundits on popular science fiction and fantasy movies. The contents include Ann Coulter on Ridley Scott's Alien, as well as Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn on Peter Jackson's films of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers.
  • The Adam and Joe Show parodied audio commentaries in a sketch which stated that audio commentaries often sound like "self indulgent wankers in a pub".
  • Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby features a commentary in which director Adam McKay fabricates nearly every piece of information about the film, such as the production's move to Brazil, the roles of Walker and Texas Ranger being played by robots, and that the original cut of the film was 9½ hours long and contained a segment of a stick of butter.
  • Monty Python's The Meaning of Life features a fake commentary titled "Soundtrack for the Lonely: A Soundtrack for People Watching at Home Alone." It consists of a rather disgusting man played by Mel Smith who burps, yawns, farts, and talks under his breath while he watches the film at his flat. Throughout the commentary, he calls his friends (played by Terry Jones and Eric Idle) by telephone.
  • The Hot Fuzz 3-disc collector's edition DVD includes a commentary featuring real policemen and a commentary in which director Edgar Wright and fellow filmmaker Quentin Tarantino discuss nearly 200 films and television series[11] but barely make reference to Hot Fuzz.

Commentary re-use

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 does not license their commentaries for use on later DVDs when the rights to films they have release revert back to the studio, including the aforementioned Taxi Driver. 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.

Video games

Some video games, such as the episodic sequels to Half-Life 2 and Lara Croft 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.

List of video games with audio commentary

References

  1. ^ "Los Angeles Times: Archives". http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/latimes/access/48148296.html. 
  2. ^ "Video Capsule Review: Contact". by Steve Daly, Entertainment Weekly.. 1998-01-09. http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,281444,00.html. Retrieved 2007-01-25. 
  3. ^ Total Film: Woody Allen interview
  4. ^ Sciretta, Peter (September 17, 2007). "Darren Aronofsky Releases The Fountain Audio Commentary Online". /FILM. http://www.slashfilm.com/2007/09/17/darren-aronofsky-releases-the-fountain-audio-commentary-online/. 
  5. ^ http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001752/bio
  6. ^ Ebert, Roger (February 2002). "You, Too, Can Be a DVD Movie Critic". Yahoo! Internet Life. Archived from the original on 2002-10-12. http://web.archive.org/web/20021012042315/www.yil.com/columns/column.asp?columnist=ebert&date=020201&page=01. Retrieved 2007-01-11. 
  7. ^ Cataloged extensively at Zarban's House of Commentaries.
  8. ^ Luck, Richard (2006). "Clerks II (2006) - Channel 4 Film Review". Channel4.com. http://www.channel4.com/film/reviews/film.jsp?id=158265&section=dvd. Retrieved 2007-02-21. 
  9. ^ http://www.snpp.com/episodes/DABF06
  10. ^ Lewisohn, Mark. "The bbc.co.uk Guide to Comedy". BBC.co.uk. http://www.bbc.co.uk/comedy/guide/articles/d/directorscommentary_999040128.shtml. Retrieved 2007-01-11. 
  11. ^ Every film mentioned by Edgar Wright and Quentin Tarantino in their Hot Fuzz commentary track
  12. ^ Totilo, Stephen (October 16, 2006). "Game Developer Confessions: Rare Commentary Explains Whys And Hows". MTV. http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1543168/20061016/index.jhtml. Retrieved September 8, 2009. 

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