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To ALL DVD Talk Reviewers: How long does it take to review a typical DVD?

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To ALL DVD Talk Reviewers: How long does it take to review a typical DVD?

Old 06-19-04, 01:51 PM
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To ALL DVD Talk Reviewers: How long does it take to review a typical DVD?

(For actual question, see 2nd paragraph)
First off, I just want to say want an unbelievable job you ALL do in reviewing the DVD's that us DVD-philes buy, collect, rent, sell, trade, pawn, barter, broker, watch, destroy, lend, love, hate and most oft cherish. You obviously follow a review template: movie, disc visual, audio, and extras and do such a superb job in chronicling the details, the intricacies of every aspect that a particular DVD includes. Your reviews are thorough, engrossing, and literary at times, simple and to the point and results in a purchase, rental or perhaps a brief discussion with other DVD Talkers for me. I respect your reviews above any other site and enjoy them for the sheer volume, timeliness of reviews, ease of understanding, presentation of grading system, and accessibility. You guys and gals continually do an amazing job of keeping us abreast of all we should know and even things we may not want to know about our beloved DVD medium. So thanks! Which leads me to my question…?

How long does it take to fully review an entire DVD? Meaning, if you have a DVD with a 2-hour movie, which includes a 2-hour commentary, and perhaps 2 hours of extras, does it take a total of 6 hours to watch the DVD? Do you have to watch the movie and then watch it again with the commentary to review that feature? In addition, what if a DVD has more than 1 commentary track? Would you do all of this in 1 sitting as well or break it up?
I mean this is only a 2 hour movie, I can only imagine what it must take for a “Lord of the Rings Extended Edition” or TV Set, but for sake of the thread just a typical DVD will do.

I have been very curious and fascinated as to what the process might be and I think I might not be alone. So if you could spend a few minutes discussing the process I would certainly appreciate it. I know you must have another movie to review, but just in case, you want to relinquish the pain…

And, keep up the stellar work, I for one greatly appreciate what you ALL do!!!
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Old 06-19-04, 09:11 PM
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I can only speak for myself, but....

To answer your question, it depends. A movie or set of movies are all watched start to finish, of course. When reviewing an entire season of a TV series I try to watch 6-8 episodes, often referring to web sites for episode recommendations if I'm unfamiliar with the show.

With commentaries I try to listen to at least 45 minutes or so of each track. If it's a good commentary (as was the case recently with ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES) I'll listen all the way through. If it's on the dull side, particularly if it's mostly describing action onscreen, or if there are long stretches of silence, I'll usually opt for getting the review posted a little earlier than listening all the way through.

I watch all documentaries and trailers, wade through photo galleries and deleted scenes -- though in my case I'm mostly looking at pre-1980 catalog titles, so there usually isn't the wealth of material one finds on LORD OF THE RINGS-type DVDs. THE TIMES OF HARVEY MILK was one title I did recently that did have several hours of extras, and fortunately most of those were very good.

I usually take 3-4 (reporter-size) pages of notes with each title, though I had something like ten pages of notes on the Johnny Weissmuller TARZANs, and spend about 90 minutes writing an average review.

Your comments are greatly appreciated, though as a relative newcomer I am near the end of the line of those who deserve credit. I heartily agree though, that Aaron Beierle, DVD Savant, Holly Ordway, John Sinnott, Ian Jane, et. al. do a fantastic job. I don't know how some of them can be both so prolific yet write thoughtful, carefully considered reviews!
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Old 06-19-04, 09:50 PM
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Hey, thanks for the praise from you both! I do put a lot of effort into my reviews, and it really feels nice to be appreciated!

As to your questions...

The time it takes to review something varies a great deal. Like Stuart, I watch the movies fully (though if the movie is, shall we say, less than stellar I may use the opportunity to do something else, usuallly exercise, at the same time - I watched Poltergeist II and III while on my stationary bike trainer, hehe. Maybe that sounds like cheating, but hey, it saves my sanity.). For television shows that come in season sets, I try to watch at least half the episodes before writing the review, usually trying to sample ones through the whole season; if it's a small set (like one with only four or six episodes) I will watch them all. For exercise DVDs I always do the exercises! No just sitting and watching, hehe. Made for some fun when I reviewed several belly-dancing discs!

One thing I don't do is watch episodes, or multi-movie sets, in a marathon session. That would just make me hate the show, no matter how good it is. So I'll generally have several "active" screeners to alternate between.

For special features, I look at everything to judge how worthwhile it is. That may mean watching the whole thing (in the case of featurettes) or just dipping into it at several points (as in the case of commentaries or blatantly promotional making-of pieces).

Interestingly enough, I hardly take notes at all. I'll end up with a half-sheet of scribbled notes when I review the special features, with maybe a comment or two about the audio/video quality and features, but that's it. I don't take notes at all while I'm watching the main feature, as I feel that this distracts from the engagement factor. I'll mull over what I want to say in my head for a while before I write the review, but I don't write notes down.

If it's a title for which I have an earlier edition, I will do a scene-to-scene comparison for a couple of representative scenes to see if there are differences in the transfer. If strange things come up, that can add a lot of time to the review... for Dances with Wolves SE, I must have spent an hour, easily, figuring out what the heck was the deal with the aspect ratios for each film!

Depending on the title, I may try to dig up a little information on it. That's usually most relevant for films with ambiguous correct aspect ratios (I always try to research what's the original), or films that are based on books or plays, or that are re-makes of other movies or shows. I don't go nuts with that, since I feel the point of the review is to review the film, not write an informational article on it, but if I think something will shed some light on the film or on my response to it, then I'll include it.

When it's time to actually write the review, it takes anywhere from 45 minutes (for a super quick review of a bare-bones title) to 2 or 3 hours, maybe more, actually in front of the computer. I don't really keep track; it's more "it takes as long as it takes" to get what I feel is a quality review.
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Old 06-19-04, 10:22 PM
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My process isn't that interesting.

One difference between myself and the other reviewers that have posted is that I watch season sets in their entirety. The series I watch are frequently very serial, building heavily on previous episodes up to a climax that's difficult to appreciate without having seen everything that led up to that point. I do this even if I've already seen all of the episodes in a season set before, just because my opinion might have changed. I give movies my undivided attention, although I frequently multitask during audio commentaries. (Usually with commentaries, I listen to them on my DVD-ROM, jot down comments in Notepad, and browse the web as I listen.)

I used to keep notes but rarely bother anymore. That's probably due to my emphasis on rather mediocre movies. Being a complainer by nature, I can usually remember flaws in the presentation and griping points in the movie without having to refer back to anything. If I were viewing a gripping, intelligent film, it may be worth the time, but for a British slasher starring Paris Hilton...not so much.

So anyway, my general process for a movie with audio commentary... First, I pop the DVD in my DVD-ROM and scribble down the bare essential technical notes -- aspect ratio, whether or not it's in anamorphic widescreen, type and bitrate of the soundtracks, subtitles, closed captions, etc. Then I give the disc a spin on my home theater. Upon completion, I head back to my computer, write comments on the quality of the presentation (I generally handle the audio portion before video), and I'll review whatever other extras may be present on my DVD-ROM. Generally, audio commentaries and concluding paragraphs are the very last thing I tackle, although I always go back afterwards and read my review through once or twice, making corrections, rephrasing awkward bits, and generally just trying to make it read as if I'm a quasi-intelligent, moderately amusing person. Hopefully I succeed every once in a while.

I type quickly, but I write excruciatingly slowly. (My message board posts are penned much more quickly, which explains all of the grammatical errors.) Although I have a pretty decent turnaround time with my titles, I wouldn't be surprised if I turned out to be the slowest reviewer on the site. I spend two hours minimum, probably closer to three hours and change on average. I don't really do anything that justifies that lengthy chunk of time. I just labor unnecessarily over certain words and phrases. I used to write an outline in shorthand first, then I'd go back and flesh everything out, but for whatever reason, I cut that out.
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Old 06-19-04, 11:21 PM
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Originally posted by Adam Tyner
One difference between myself and the other reviewers that have posted is that I watch season sets in their entirety. The series I watch are frequently very serial, building heavily on previous episodes up to a climax that's difficult to appreciate without having seen everything that led up to that point.
That's true; some series lend themselves to sampling and others don't. It seems like lately I mostly review series that are fairly episodic, so the 1/2 to 3/4 rule works pretty well. For the ones that are based on story arcs, like Babylon 5, I'll watch the whole set, since it's more like an extended movie than a collection of episodes.
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Old 06-20-04, 10:20 AM
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As posted above - it really depends on the movie - but most I can do in an afternoon. The real hard work comes with the boxed sets - something like "Winds Of War", which I reviewed a few weeks ago took over a week to put together. Longer shows (like TV seasons) can take a few weeks. Something with just the movie and no extras can take less than 3 or 4 hours. I'm one of the reviewers that watches everything (including listening to commentary tracks) before I write the review.

On average though, I can usually do a review of a DVD in about 6 hours (including writing time).
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Old 06-20-04, 05:15 PM
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The actual reviewing of a DVD doesn't take that long: ~2 hours for the movie, 1/2 - 2 hours for commentary (if it's really outstanding I'll check out the entire commentary pre-review) and whatever it takes for the extras.

If a movie is REALLY bad and there are other circumstances (like the transfer is total filth) then I might not be able to make it all the way through. I'll try to get a sense of the thing by skipping through a bit, but this is pretty rare. It's really just the total bottom of the barrel. (For example, this was giving me a migraine and had to go.)

What unfortunately takes the longest is finding the time to do it at all. I've got "Out of the Past," which is such an amazing movie, sitting here waiting to get reviewed. I'm going to watch it later, but life keeps getting in the way. Grrr!!! At least I lost my voice so it's not like I can get distracted and go do karaoke or something!
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Old 06-20-04, 08:18 PM
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Its been almost two years since I stopped reviewing for DVDTalk (just couldn't find the time to squeeze everything in w/ work and college), but my reviewing "style" mimicked those above - I'd watch the movie, watch the extras, listen to most of each commentary (if they were dull, I'd skip around), and take some notes whilest doing all that. Once at the computer, I'd do some background research (previous films by the director, aspect ratio, etc.), and hammer out a rough draft. Then I'd tweak that till it flowed. I'd say, depending on extras and how many notes I took, it would take at least 75 minutes to write the review, most of them were closer to two hours. Only rarely did I bail out of a movie towards the end (some were pretty bad). And it is hard to review an entire TV season by watching every episode, especially if its 20+ hour long episodes, since we had a two-week turn around time.
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Old 06-20-04, 09:22 PM
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These are such great and detailed answers. I can't wait to sift through all them just to understand how the whole process works as I am truly fascinated.
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Old 06-20-04, 09:39 PM
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Hope it's OK if someone from another site pitches in.

Personally, I give audio commentaries 15 minutes. If they don't grab me, I don't finish it. Life is too short to listen to dull commentary tracks. If I don't finish the track, I note this in my review, in case someone points out that the commentary becomes really fascinating after the half-hour point or something. The only time this strategy has gotten me in trouble is with the 3 commentary tracks on the movie Auto Focus. It turns out that one of the three tracks ends halfway through the movie, and I didn't mention that in my review (the review was later updated when someone brought it to my attention).

I take notes on legal-sized pages of paper, usually one page per movie. The movie itself gets the front of the page, and the specs and supplements the back side. My wife bought me a lighted pen for Christmas one year and I find it invaluable for taking notes in my darkened theater room.

My reviews take forever to write, mostly because I'm a terrible procrastinator and spend too much time cruising the DVDTalk forums when I should be writing (like right now, for instance).
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Old 06-21-04, 10:33 AM
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Originally posted by Josh Z
Hope it's OK if someone from another site pitches in.
Ditto for me.

On average it is the following equation:
Length of movie + approx 1 - 1 1/2 hours writing per title
(more if it is some mammoth multi-disc set or something I feel particularly chatty about, much less if it's a by-the-numbers genre film). Season sets I do my darndest to watch every ep, but sometimes it just isn't possible.

With the amount of discs I review, I have begun to dread the things I used to look forward to. I'm apprehensive when a title has more than one commentary, multiple featurettes, etc, because generally it means more mediocre forgettable crap to sift through. Standout supplements are few and far between. A lot are simply tolerable, and many seem like filler meant to enhance a disc's marketabilty.

Last edited by Pointyskull; 06-21-04 at 11:40 AM.
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Old 06-21-04, 03:07 PM
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Originally posted by 12thmonkey
With the amount of discs I review, I have begun to dread the things I used to look forward to. I'm apprehensive when a title has more than one commentary, multiple featurettes, etc, because generally it means more mediocre forgettable crap to sift through. Standout supplements are few and far between. A lot are simply tolerable, and many seem like filler meant to enhance a disc's marketabilty.
I wholeheartedly agree with everything you've said here. I feel relieved whenever a title I've requested turns out to be a movie-only release. The less crappy "bonus features" I have to sit through, the better.
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Old 06-21-04, 03:59 PM
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Originally posted by Josh Z
The less crappy "bonus features" I have to sit through, the better.
Anymore, it's rare for me to watch extras unless I'm reviewing. Every once in a while, I'll give a commentary or a documentary a spin, but I'd rather take the time I'd spend digging through extras and watch another movie.
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Old 06-22-04, 07:20 PM
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Came to this thread a little late, but I my reviewing habits are similar to the other reviewers. I watch the entire movie (the only one I haven't finished was Too Late for Tears in which the video was unwatchable. (http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/read.php?ID=10837 pay attention to the screen cap. If you d/l the picture and raise the brightness of the image you can see that there is actually something there.)

For TV shows I like to watch the whole thing if I can work it in. With shows that don't have any continuity I don't feel bad if I watch 1/2 of them, but something like West Wing I like to veiw the entire season.

I watch at least part of all the extras. If it's a music video to a song I don't like, I'll just view the first few seconds. I also have grown to hate lame "making of" documentaries that are just promotional love fests. "It was great working with the director and the other actors and the lighting guy and the wardrobe person and the lunch lady and..."

As for commentaries, I listen to the entire first 15 min - 1/2 hour and then if it hasn't pulled me in I chapter skip ahead. I usually listen to the last few minutes too. I'm not sure why, I just do.

I always take notes, about 2 pages per movie. I've started using my wife's laptop to take notes on, and I like that becasue I don't have to look away from the TV and it's faster. I find it is easier to type down quotes from the movies too.

As for the actual writing, like Adam I'm pretty slow when it comes to writing things down. A basic no-frills review will take 1 1/2 - 2 hours to write. I usually write the technical aspect first, then do the movie review, but not always. I try not to read any other reviews of the movie before I've submitted mine, but I do look for technical specs etc.

Interesting thread Scott, now I have to check out the other one you've started.
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Old 06-22-04, 07:48 PM
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That screen cap rules!
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Old 06-22-04, 09:04 PM
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Originally posted by Gil Jawetz
That screen cap rules!
Yeah, it looks sorta like the menu for This is Spinal Tap.
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