< Previous Project
Return to index page
Next Project >   

Dick Spanner DVD
Completion Date: 
April 12, 2014 (Last upgrades)
Production Time: 
Two Weeks
Number Of Discs: 
Retail PAL VHS Tape
Retail PAL DVD
This was a 2010 project to create a Dick Spanner P.I. DVD, by transferring both episodes from the 90s 'Polygram Video' VHS release, and provide an alternative to the 2007 'Pickwick' retail DVD release.

Dick Spanner P.I. was a stop-motion comedy animation TV show made in 1986 by Gerry Anderson (the creator of Thunderbirds), originally broadcast on UK TV Channel 4, as two episodes/stories split into 22 six-minute segments; 'The Case Of The Human Cannonball' and 'The Case Of The Maltese Parrot'. It chronicled the futuristic adventures of a hapless robotic private detective called Dick Spanner, voiced by Shane Rimmer, and was littered with puns and visual gags. I remember this show fondly from my childhood. I was a little young to have seen it first time round, but I do remember seeing later repeats on Channel 4 weekday lunchtimes in the early 90s, when I went home from school for lunch.

DVD cover artwork - 14mm spine (click to enlarge)
In the late 80s, a company called 'Channel 5 Video' spliced together both respective stories (removing each of the 22 segments' start & end credits) to produce two complete uninterrupted 47 minute episodes, and gave them separate VHS releases. In the early 90s, both episodes were re-released back-to-back on a single 95 minute VHS tape by 'Polygram Video'. All three VHS tapes are now quite rare.

Late 80s 'Channel 5 Video' episode 1 retail VHS cover

Late 80s 'Channel 5 Video' episode 2 retail VHS cover

Early 90s 'Polygram Video' double episode retail VHS cover
In 2007, 'Pickwick' released both episodes on a two disc DVD box set, along with some additional new extras. Unfortunately, at the request of Anderson himself, this DVD featured new acoustic background music in place of the original synthesiser theme tune & background music (which is probably the series' most fondly remembered element). The remaining soundtrack & effects were altered to the extent that many of the show's audio gags either no longer work, or are missing entirely. Both episodes are presented in 1.85:1 widescreen, which simply crops the top & bottom off the original 4:3 image, making it widescreen for widescreen's sake with scant regard to the original TV or VHS presentations. The quality of the DVD source master tapes appears to have degraded somewhat since the VHS releases, as they seem a lot cleaner, with more vibrant colour. Finally, although the DVD release version has been split back into it's original six minute segments, the original end credits sequences have been replaced with a new set of credits made specially for the DVD. In all, the 'Pickwick' DVD is a less-than-faithful representation of the original series, and quite disappointment upon first seeing it.

This spurred me on to transfer one of the VHS releases to DVD. It took me a good few months to track down, but I finally found a copy of the Polygram release at a reasonable price. I specifically wanted this, as given that it was the newest VHS tape available, it would likely be the best quality, and has both episodes on the one tape.

To transfer the tape, I used a JVC HR-S7600EK S-VHS PAL VCR, connected to a PC with an ATI All-In-Wonder 128 AGP card via an S-Video cable and Left & Right audio phono leads. The full tape was captured to an AVI file using VirtualDub 0.9.6 with the Huffyuv 2.1.1 video codec and uncompressed WAV audio. From that I used AVIsynth scripts to edit the video (leaving the hard interlace as it was originally captured) and frame-served it HC MPEG2 Encoder 0.23 for the MPEG2 M2V encode, and used Aften 0.0.8 to encode the AC3 audio. The M2V & AC3 files were then multiplexed together with ImagoMPEG-Muxer 1.1 giving the final MPEG2 files. I gave the MPEG files quite a high bitrate as I opted for one dual layer DVD for this project; 7800kbps average and 9500kbps maximum bitrate, along with 192k AC3 stereo audio. They're both virtually the same length so came out the same size at 2762mb each. I also used VirtualDub to encode XviD AVI versions as I figured at some point someone would make them anyway, and they might as well be properly done using the uncompressed source footage rather than the compressed MPEG DVD. They came out at 350mb each, so both would fit on one 700mb CD-R, but were put on the DVD-ROM folder of the DVD disc.

I used GIMP 2.6.7 to design the DVD cover, which then made the disc artwork & DVD menu screens background simple as they were assembled using many of the same edited graphical elements. The DVD cover was based on the Channel 5 VHS release cover rather than the Polygram VHS tape I'd captured, as I just preferred it's look. Since this was more of a nostalgia project, which was unlikely to have mass appeal beyond the people who already knew what it was, I didn't go overboard with technical information or DVD symbols, leaning more towards trying to replicate the look & feel of that original VHS cover. I also added high quality 600dpi scans of the three VHS tape covers to the DVD-ROM folder (the 'Polygram Video' double tape and the separately released two 'Channel 5 Video' tapes), along with scans of the 'Pickwick' DVD artwork, and some miscellaneous promo photos I'd found while working through the project. DVD-Flick was used to author and assemble the final dual layer DVD.
I know some directors are inclined to tinker with their old work as it's re-released on new media, even if this is to the severe detriment the piece in the eyes of it's fans. If the 2007 retail DVD release had contained the untampered versions, I would have happily bought it and there would have been no need for this DVD to exist. Actually, it would have been cheaper for me to buy a brand new DVD, rather than the second/third hand 'Polygram Video' VHS I used as the capture source.
2007 'Pickwick' box set retail release DVD cover
Disc 1 artwork
Disc 2 artwork
In March of 2015, Network released a UK DVD called The Lost Worlds Of Gerry Anderson, which came with 'Dick Spanner, PI - an unscreened episode with accompanying image gallery', which I bought the same month. What it contained was a 6m 3s partially completed unbroadcast episode (which strangely used the original broadcast music, rather than the new 2007 'Pickwick' DVD re-scored version), along with a photo gallery running at 8m 27s. I re-authored my DVD and added both in as extras.

In September 2017, Network released an upgraded Dick Spanner, P.I. set, and it's a great improvement over the previous 2007 'Pickwick' DVD. It's not just a repackage of the same source material. There are two DVDs in this new set; one with all the episodes separated out; top & tailed with the original credits as they were originally show on TV, and the second has all those little episodes edited together into one long episode each, with a break in the middle. Each episode is presented in it's original 4:3, with the original music. Comparing the framing with my fanmade VHS/DVD, it's just about the same. With this DVD, you gain a little over the VHS at the bottom edge, but loose a fraction at the top and left sides. Overall it's just about the same. The image is much brighter and a little clearer on this DVD too.

This official release is a pretty faithful representation of the original Dick Spanner TV episodes, and unless a Blu-ray is made available, the definitive release too. It's well worth the price. As such, I won't generally be trading my fanmade DVD, but you can view and order that official DVD set for around 10, Here.
Disc 1 of 1 - Disc Artwork & Menus
Total DVD Running Time: 
ISO Image Size: 
0 (Worldwide)
Disc Format: 
Video Format: 
MPEG-2 / 720x576 / 4:3
Audio Format: 
AC3 2ch Stereo

Disc 1 - Disc artwork

Disc 1 - Main menu

   < Previous Project
Return to index page
Next Project >