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Adjust Your Tracking

posted Mar 18, 2014, 5:48 PM by Vu Nguyen
Adjust Your Tracking

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Rewind This!
I just saw Rewind This! a documentary on the rise of VHS and its impact on culture. Like many of you who grew up in the 80s, I had a little VHS collection, but I gave them up when many of those movies …

Just to give you a little background, I used to collect VHS, but when DVD arrived, I dropped it in favor of the digital revolution. As a movie fan, the visual and audio were a million times better than VHS, so I did not have any problem leaving my VHS collection behind.

Between the two VHS documentaries, Rewind This! vs Adjust Your Tracking, the latter is not nearly as complete in its scope. You only get a partial story of the VHS, but to defend Adjust Your Tracking, I believe their main focus is the VHS collectability aspect. So you don't get the introduction, you don't get the analysts on why it ended or what the future hold. You just get the VHS collectors. So, in my opinion, between the two documentaries, Adjust Your Tracking was not as satisfying.

I'll start with the bad:

The way this VHS documentary was put together, it felt like somebody's bad idea of organizing their VHS collection. It didn't make sense to me, but it made sense to the organizer. For example, already 11 minutes in are they discussing about DVD and the death of VHS, which personally I felt should be put at the end.

There is an agonizing slow, slow, slow, intro. It took three minutes for the documentary to actually start. Look, to get someone interested in watching your film, start the movie right away... don't make me sit through three minutes of a floating VHS tape. The sad part is that the filmmakers probably spent a lot of time and effort to get the graphics together. But ultimately, if it adds absolutely nothing to the documentary.

Other problems I had was famous people, such as like Lloyd Kaufman, were terribly underused. In the case of Kaufman, sure, maybe he didn't have a lot to say about VHS, but I felt, like all those tricky box artworks of old VHS, that the filmmaker using his image on their box art was misleading to say the least.

Finally, the worst problem is the poor quality of the video. Yeah, I understand they were probably trying to emulate that crappy VHS 4:3 aspect ratio and intentional bad tracking... but that's only cute for two minutes, not for the entirety of the whole documentary. Fans who enjoy watching bad quality video, they probably also enjoy watching movies on an old CRT-tube television. It looks bad, and that's not a compliment.

Now for the good:

Extra features are great. The filmmakers had enough material over their 100+ interviews to stick on the second disc of a two-disc DVD release. To be honest, I didn't feel the documentary was that compelling that I would need to see more... which are probably all the bad interviews that they couldn't fit on the main feature.

There are also (I think) two audio commentaries on the main feature. Again, since I didn't actually like it, I'm not interested in hearing what the filmmakers had to say about their film. But I do appreciate that they took the time to record the commentaries. If they were really trying to be ironic about it, they could release a second DVD with just the audio commentary tracks, just for laughs*.

I also love that they feature Wizard Video and their artworks. I feel that with DVD and later Bluray, that the art of the artwork has been lost. They only release tamed/boring artwork so the Best Buy and Walmart will carry it.

Matt Desiderio with his copy of Tales from the Quadead Zone
Maybe they could have spent more time with Tales from the Quadead Zone and other rare VHS titles. Maybe even have a whole section on films that never made that DVD jump... to me, I think other VHS collectors would be interested in hearing about that (and particularly to actually see that the box exist in someone's hands).

I think if you are into collecting VHS, you'll probably love this documentary. According to Amazon, Adjust Your Tracking will be released on June 17, 2014, however, it looks like you can buy it now directly from adjustyourtracking.com.

* PS That's a joke, in the old days, audio commentaries were available on separate VHS tapes because the technology to switch audio track was not available on tapes.