How'd They Build That? School Bus:
After the fascinating time I had with How'd They Build That? Concrete Truck I knew I must sit down with How'd They Build That? School Bus to enjoy another ride. This shot-in-HD series of DVDs from Marvelous Media is fascinating stuff for young and old - if they've got a serious jones for manufacturing. The School Bus edition takes about 40 minutes to break down in detail the process of building a school bus, with the good graces of the IC School Bus Factory in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Robust and enthusiastic narration follows us on a journey from the first metal sheets cut to size for the floor of the bus all the way to the final decals slapped on the side. IC's operation is huge, encompassing most all school buses built for North America. It's interesting to see how specialized each portion of manufacturing is, with machines and robots each doing highly specific things all along the mile-long floor of the plant. Yep, you heard me - one. mile. long.
Let's not leave that one as a lonely superlative. How 'bout this? Buses have over five miles of wiring inside. A bus's floor is 93 inches wide. It takes eight gallons of primer and paint combined to paint a bus. Well, OK, so maybe some of these 'fun facts' that keep popping up aren't that interesting, and unless you're a fourth-grade boy you'll only be able to eke out mild entertainment if you're forced to watch this. At least for that audience, this brisk, informative, exciting documentary will keep their minds busy and buzzing for a while.
In an attempt to jazz up proceedings, VH-1-styled 'fun facts' keep popping up. Not only are these facts often not that interesting, they don't just pop up over what you're seeing. Instead we're switched to a graphic of sheet metal with words on it, and different music playing. Call me insane, but I was getting into the trundling flow of the documentary and Fatboy Slim-on-a-budget soundtrack. Then all of a sudden my reverie comes to a screeching halt for some other, lame music, a static graphic, and a dull fact.
But I quibble. You may know some young one or shut-in with a thing for the yellow school bus. They'd like to know how one is built, and they want a 37-minute documentary told with some computer graphics, tons of footage from the manufacturing plant, and narrative drive that can only be likened to '80s mania. How'd They Build That? delivers just such an artifact.
Approaching your stop in 1.78:1 widescreen for your 16 x 9 TV, these school busses 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 a fun and funky dance-music-lite soundtrack and narration. Narration, which is always clearly audible and understandable.
Extras are limited to four Previews for other DVDs in this Marvelous Machines series. Previews range from four to seven minutes long, constituting varying levels of compaction for these documentaries, and adding 20 minutes to the DVD runtime, bringing it up to about an hour total.
As heavy-vehicle manufacturing documentaries go, How'd They Build That? School Bus is aces. Aces, for those who want a burly yet smart, energetic approach that doesn't overload minds (young or old) with too many technical specifics. Minus the herky jerky, jammin'-tunes-and-flow-interrupting fun facts, this is a solid effort for a really select group of folks, so select, that I have to tell everyone else that if they really think they might want to see this, to Rent It.
- 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