DISCLAIMER: This is not a review of President Obama or his policies. It is a review of a collection of news coverage of his Inauguration Day, and is intended to be an objective look of how the material is presented. I will refrain from providing any commentary on the speeches made at the event as well and do not necessarily endorse the views of the speakers.
Whether you agree with the decision of the American people or not, the Inauguration of Barack Obama was a once in a lifetime moment in American history. ABC News' "A Moment in History: The Inauguration of Barack Obama" presents an abridged, "highlight reel" of January 20, 2009. For someone like myself, who grew weary of the media hype and actually avoided the coverage, it was nice to sit down and watch this disc, to see what I had missed.
The program, running around 90 minutes begins with the Oaths of Office and ends with the first (but very brief) interview with President Obama. Featured here are the oaths for both Vice President Biden and President Obama. The invocation by Rev. Rick Warren, Inaugural Speech by Obama (arguably the highlight of the disc), and finally Elizabeth Alexander's recitation and Dr. Joseph Lowery's benediction. These events appear to play out in real-time and are the heart of the day's events. From there the program kicks into "highlight reel" mode.
Former President Bush's departure from the White House is noticeably edited, as the original footage showed Bush being met with a steady stream of boos and jeers from the crowd. The parade is understandably edited to focus on a section where the President and First Lady leave their vehicle and walk along the route. The day's events conclude with Denzel Washington introducing the new President to the crowd at the Neighborhood Ball, Obama's address to that crowd, and finally the first dance between he and his wife.
The entire program features narration/commentary from Charles Gibson, Diane Sawyer, and George Stephanopoulos. This is never intrusive and is very helpful as it provides much-needed context for the viewer, especially towards the end when the program becomes edited for time. As a whole, this is an impressive collection of the day's events and sure to attract the attention of Obama fans and history buffs. The average person, such as myself, will find interesting either because they have not seen it, or would like to take another look at it, now that the initial emotion of events have passed.
The disc is presented in a 1.33:1 full frame presentation. While it might make sense, given the fact that much of the disc's programming stems from news programs, that this is an original aspect ratio, it's very upsetting that the actual Oath of Office and Inaugural Speech are not in anamorphic widescreen. I have personally seen the footage available elsewhere in widesceen, so it's not a matter of it not existing. My only thought is since ABC is the source of this material, that perhaps this is the only source they have; personally I think it's unlikely and ABC has HD footage for much of the footage.
Small rant aside, the video is nothing stunning and in fact, more or less on par with VHS. Most noticeable are an abundance of compression artifacts and cross colouration. A crowd scene of excited people looks like a rainbow blur. I can understand low video quality for the bonus footage of the past Oath's of Office, but for footage from two months ago, in 2009, this is inexcusable. I highly suspect all of the footage was transferred from tapes as well, due to a general soft look.
The English 2.0 audio track is perfectly acceptable for the format and style of the program. Voices are clear and I only noticed a bit of distortion during a few moments towards the end of the program when the crowd was extremely excited. Optional English subtitles are included.
The disc features five extra features, most noteworthy are Barbara Walters' November 2008 interview with the President and First Lady. This interview runs around 45 minutes. Next up is Obama's Election Night Victory Speech and is the most appreciated feature. The Oaths of Office from the past nine presidents is a very interesting feature showing each President since JFK take their Oath of Office (notably absent, but understandably so is LBJ's first oath). It's an interesting feature but the replay value is debatable. Lastly, are two, less than three-minute interviews, the first being with Michelle Obama, and the second being with Beyonce. The extras are a nice touch and appropriately chosen.
As a whole, this collection of the Inauguration of Barack Obama is a nice time capsule of a truly historic event. I can't say for the average person the replay value will be high, but for Obama fans and history buffs it will make a nice addition to their collection. I definitely recommend this DVD to anyone who, like myself, managed to avoid/miss all the hullabaloo and would like to go back and see what went down. There are portions of this disc I could see myself popping in and re-watching, but the majority of the program is a one-time viewing. ABC definitely dropped the ball on the video of the presentation and felt at times like I was watching a VHS recording of the day's events and if anything made the viewing experience less than enjoyable, it was this. Rent It.