Even if you don't follow tennis, you undoubtedly know that Wimbledon
is one of the biggest professional tennis events of the year. This
"Grand Slam" event always attracts the brightest stars in
tennis, all vying to win or at least make it into the finals. The
Wimbledon Video Collection: 2004 Official Film is best described
as a "highlights" program for this event: given that the
Wimbledon championships run over the course of two weeks, it would be
impossible to give more than an overview in the program's 52 minutes
of running time.
The 2004 Official Film is rather an odd piece, even considered
as a highlights program. In fact, it feels more like a memento for
viewers who've already seen most of the action on television (or in
person, for true aficionados). The clips of tennis action are
separated by short pieces in which actors portraying Wimbledon staff
members have casual conversations about who's a favorite to win.
There's also a lot of attention paid to the overall "Wimbledon
experience," so for instance the intermittently rainy conditions
during the 2004 event ends up being a major theme of the program.
The film does handle the chronology of the tournament well: the mens'
and womens' events are interleaved, as they were at the actual event,
and we see the progression from the early stages to the semi-finals
and finals. Each of the major players is given a brief but useful
introduction, so we find out who's a hot newcomer to the tennis
scene, and who's an aging veteran saying goodbye to his fans. While
the cover does show the images of the men's and women's singles
winners, the film itself doesn't give away who wins, so if the
winners aren't fresh in your mind, I'd suggest trying not to look at
the cover before you pop in the DVD. While none of the doubles'
tournaments are shown, the winners of these events are shown in the
The actual tennis footage is frustratingly uneven in quality. For the
major matches, we get to see many of the crucial plays, which is
great, but the camera work tends to get in the way. Instead of
sticking with the excellent full-court view, the camera often cuts to
a close-up at crucial moments. Considering that the excitement comes
from seeing how the play is made, it's annoying to be shown only the
player and not the full court when it really matters.
Overall, The 2004 Official Film is a light-weight piece that
certainly doesn't substitute for following the whole tournament. I
don't know a whole lot about tennis, so it was entertaining for me to
get a glimpse of what Wimbledon is like; if you're a dedicated tennis
fan, you may enjoy the film as a reminder of the 2004 tournament.
Overall, the image looks quite good. It's presented in a nice
anamorphic widescreen transfer (1.85:1); this surprised me and at
first I was concerned that it would be a cropped version of the
television broadcast footage, but in fact (thanks to British
television embracing the widescreen format) it's clear that the
images are presented in their original and correct aspect ratio. The
image is very clear and bright, and most of the time it looks nicely
sharp and clean; the only problem is that during close-ups, whenever
there's motion in the image there are noticeable compression
artifacts. I suspect that this is a problem with the original digital
broadcast footage, not with the DVD transfer, as all of the footage
that was filmed specifically for the DVD looks perfect.
The Dolby 2.0 soundtrack is perfectly satisfactory for the film. The
voiceover narration is clear and crisp, and the recorded sound from
the tennis matches is clear as well.
A section of "Golden Moments from the Archive" presents
very short clips of key moments in previous Wimbledon tournaments.
The clips, which run about one minute each, come from the 1985
Ladies' Final, 1988 Ladies' Semi-Final, 2000 Men's Final, 2001 Men's
Final, and 2001 Ladies' Semi-Final. It's interesting to look at the
1980s clips and see how much the style of tennis has changed since
then. A brief tennis-themed Rolex commercial is also included.
there are many professional tennis DVDs out there, so while the
Wimbledon 2004 Official Film is a fairly light-weight piece,
it does start to fill a niche in the sports DVD field. I thought it
was mildly interesting to get a view of what Wimbledon is like, and
tennis fans who followed the tournament on TV may enjoy seeing it as
a reminder of the key moments. Rent it.