How'd They Build That? Concrete Truck:
How'd They Build That? Concrete Truck is nifty and all, probably a nice inclusion in a gift-pack for a construction obsessed kid's birthday present, or a decent 28-minute-long primer for some poor out-of-work couch potato (I'm looking at myself here) who'd sort-of like to do anything to make a living at this point. But then again, it is merely a 28-minute-long look at building concrete trucks - with a few entertaining tidbits about those burly machines - that's destined to clutter up Dollar Store DVD shelves and eventually landfills, so you'll probably want to take the whole product with a grain of Portland Cement.
Shot in HD, for all ages, this program is what it is. You get the basics of fabricating one of these trucks, including thoughts on what the trucks are used for, all pretty much filmed in one construction facility, and enhanced with some decent 3D computer animation. Ideally, I'd finish my review now, with a hearty Rent It for the appropriate kid, but I guess I'll have to commit due diligence.
For instance, did you know that a concrete truck full of cement for mixing weighs about 40,000 pounds? They actually make longer versions of said trucks, in order to better distribute their weight for traveling over bridges. Yes, it's true. I'll leave out any other fascinating information, so you will be more surprised and entertained when viewing, except for this bit: There's a large metal ring that's used as a collar in which the tumbler part of the truck spins. The ring is formed through a series of compressions by a hydraulic machine that generates 375 tons of force. That's equal to a SIMULTANEOUS PUSH FROM TWO BLUE WHALES. Presumably, there was some field-testing involved to come up with that comparison, an analogue so abstract I have no idea what it means, nor how this program's writer landed on that particular idea, but it sure does perk up the ears, doesn't it?
Such informational highlights intersperse live footage in the factory with silly graphics like a 'wipe' using a still shot of a football player zooming by. (This for comparison of the factory's size and the length of a football field.) I think that 375 ton press might actually generate the same force as 25,000 football fields massaging a mountain, but I'll need to get my fact checkers on it.
How'd They Build That? Concrete Truck is actually quite interesting, not to mention somewhat dire in implication, especially when it's noted that 6 billion tons of concrete are mixed every year. For a late night discovery on cable TV, the program would be bleary-eyed fine, and might even stand up to two DVD viewings for intrepid adults. Little Johnny or Janey, gaga over construction vehicles, may get a few more viewings out of it, however I'd refer to the first paragraph here, and approach this DVD mainly if you're looking for a way to augment a theme-party gift.
Coming at ya in 1.78:1 widescreen for your 16 x 9 TV, concrete trucks are sharp and clear, with good color depth and intensity for this type of programming. Digital artifacts and evidence of a poor transfer is kept to a minimum, with only a predominance of aliasing spoiling the overzealous HD treatment.
Digital Stereo Audio sports a fine mix, with good balance between MOR rock soundtrack music and narration, narration very much in the Mike Rowe vein, by the way: In all, solid but unremarkable.
Extras are limited to four Previews for other DVDs in this Marvelous Machines series. You get your Big Trucks, your School Bus, your Fire Truck and Military Machines. Most of the previews are about 7 minutes long, bringing total runtime for everything on this DVD to about 53 minutes, pretty close to the 58-minute length listed on the box.
How'd They Build That? Concrete Truck, is a rock solid half-hour kid-friendly but appropriate for all ages documentary that takes you through most all steps of fabricating these chunky, highly specialized machines. Lots of live factory footage and computer animations combine with the lowdown and curious factoids to warm the heart of construction hungry viewers. This would be a great addition to any construction-themed birthday party, but its brevity and specialized nature means it certainly isn't for everyone, so we'll give it a Rent It, but if your 5-o'clock bell just rang, and you said "little Ned will love this for his 8th birthday!" then you're probably right.
- Kurt Dahlke
~ More of Dahlke's DVD Talk reviews here at DVD Talk I'm not just a writer, I paint colorful, modern abstracts, too! Check them out here KurtDahlke.com