After getting home, I was happy to see the Chen Taijiquan: Laojia Yilu & Straight Sword DVD featuring Ren Guangyi with Music/Narration by Lou Reed (wow.. was that a mouthful!) in the mail. One thing to note off the top, this is a demonstration video, not a learning video with detailed breakdowns of form postures, etc.
The video came nicely packaged in a full-sized DVD case. The chapters and menus were accessible and very easy to navigate. One of the things that caught me about this video was the following line from the description:
Captured in high-definition (HD) in New York’s Central Park, each form is presented in a multiple-angle format, and showing the name of each movement.
I was really expecting to see very good, high quality video, but instead I got some blockiness and distortion on my 56″ HDTV. Granted, the video may have been “captured” in HD, but that really doesn’t mean much if the target format is standard DVD! What’s the difference?
[Stepping on A/V Soapbox] High Definition (HD) video has AT LEAST 720 lines of vertical display, whereas an NTSC standard DVD has at least 480 lines of vertical display. This could be the reason why I saw some levels of blockiness. Also, my DVD player automagically upscales regular DVD (480) to 1080i, which would make the video artifacts much more noticeable.
In addition, most HD content is captured with an aspect ration of 16:9 (aka widescreen mode), however the DVD is produced with an aspect ratio of 4:3 (aka standard square TV mode).
Overall, the video quality was decent, not by any means horrible. I just felt the “HD” convention on the video description is a bit misleading due to the resolution and aspect ratio of the footage being formatted for standard DVD. [Getting off my A/V Soapbox now]
As noted by the title, this DVD contains demonstrations of 2 Chen taiji forms.
1. Laojia Yilu
2. Straight Sword
The camera angle alternated between front and side views depending on the movement. The name of each movement was displayed in a caption.
It’s always interesting to note how master’s choose the name of movement. I’m more familiar with the standard names like “buddha warrior pounds mortar”, however RGY chose to call the movement “Vajra Pestels”. Just a minor difference, but enough to catch my attention and wonder.
Each form is then played again with Front/Side and Rear/Side angle options. During any given point during the form, the “angle” button can be pushed on a DVD remote to switch the angles. This is especially nice to get extra clarification and alternate viewing angles for home training. I see this feature to be quite valuable from a “reference material” perspective.
Overall, each form is played 3 times. First with alternating front/side angles with music and movement name captions. The second time with manual front/side angle options and the third time with rear/side angle options.
The DVD contains a special section called “Flipper Vision” for the two forms. It’s basically a sequence of pictures of RGY demonstrating the forms in “flip book” fashion. Again, good for referencing alignment and posture.
The DVD has an original list price of $39.95, however I got a 20% discount for preordering it. I paid a total of $37.46 including 2-day shipping.
Despite all the hype about HD, I’m happy with the purchase. The ability to change angles on the fly with a “follow-me” version (back/side view demonstration) make it a great reference video for those training in the Ren Guangyi flavor of the form. The production quality is high for a martial arts DVD and I hope this will be the future of martial arts related material.