H D - S E N S E I

A view on HD DVDs by Gary W. Tooze




Planet Earth - The Complete BBC Series [Blu-ray + HD DVD]


BBC Warner  (USA)
Review by Gary W. Tooze

1.78:1 1080p
Audio: English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French, none
Released: April 24th, 2007
HD-DVD case
15 chapters

Product Description:

With an unprecedented production budget of $25 million, and from the makers of Blue Planet: Seas of Life, comes the epic story of life on Earth. Five years in production, over 2,000 days in the field, using 40 cameramen filming across 200 locations, shot entirely in high definition, this is the ultimate portrait of our planet. A stunning television experience that captures rare action, impossible locations and intimate moments with our planet's best-loved, wildest and most elusive creatures. From the highest mountains to the deepest rivers, this blockbuster series takes you on an unforgettable journey through the daily struggle for survival in Earth's most extreme habitats. Planet Earth takes you to places you have never seen before, to experience sights and sounds you may never experience anywhere else.


As of its release in early 2007, Planet Earth is quite simply the greatest nature/wildlife series ever produced. Following the similarly monumental achievement of The Blue Planet: Seas of Life, this astonishing 11-part BBC series is brilliantly narrated by Sir David Attenborough and sensibly organized so that each 50-minute episode covers a specific geographical region and/or wildlife habitat (mountains, caves, deserts, shallow seas, seasonal forests, etc.) until the entire planet has been magnificently represented by the most astonishing sights and sounds you'll ever experience from the comforts of home. The premiere episode, "From Pole to Pole," serves as a primer for things to come, placing the entire series in proper context and giving a general overview of what to expect from each individual episode. Without being overtly political, the series maintains a consistent and subtle emphasis on the urgent need for ongoing conservation, best illustrated by the plight of polar bears whose very behavior is changing (to accommodate life-threatening changes in their fast-melting habitat) in the wake of global warming--a phenomenon that this series appropriately presents as scientific fact. With this harsh reality as subtext, the series proceeds to accentuate the positive, delivering a seemingly endless variety of natural wonders, from the spectacular mating displays of New Guinea's various birds of paradise to a rare encounter with Siberia's nearly-extinct Amur Leopards, of which only 30 remain in the wild.

That's just a hint of the marvels on display. Accompanied by majestic orchestral scores by George Fenton, every episode is packed with images so beautiful or so forcefully impressive (and so perfectly photographed by the BBC's tenacious high-definition camera crews) that you'll be rendered speechless by the splendor of it all. You'll see a seal struggling to out-maneuver a Great White Shark; swimming macaques in the Ganges delta; massive flocks of snow geese numbering in the hundreds of thousands; an awesome night-vision sequence of lions attacking an elephant; the Colugo (or "flying lemur"--not really a lemur!) of the Philippines; a hunting alliance of fish and snakes on Indonesia's magnificent coral reef; the bioluminescent "vampire squid" of the deep oceans... these are just a few of countless highlights, masterfully filmed from every conceivable angle, with frequent use of super-slow-motion and amazing motion-controlled time-lapse cinematography, and narrated by Attenborough with his trademark combination of observational wit and informative authority. The result is a hugely entertaining series that doesn't flinch from the predatory realities of nature (death is a constant presence, without being off-putting).

Excerpt from Jeff Shannon HERE



In my opinion this is the Holy Grail of DVD. The pinnacle of which the new format can achieve.

Being a typical male I've always been a bit keen on nature shows and grew up watching Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom. Host Marlin Perkins, had a Margarita in the tent while Jim Fowler wrestled a 25 foot boa constrictor (to borrow from Carson). If I had to choose my 10 favorite DVDs - I guess it would be this, Casablanca HD and 8 Criterions. I actually feel inadequate in fully describing how fabulous the HD-DVD of Planet Earth is. Understanding the world in which you reside is, or rather should be, part of your inherent nature - but seeing it in such glorious visuals can be totally humbling. How is it that I do not know so much about my world; the environment and the creatures that I share it with?

Although it is not always pristine - the image is easily described as such. Totally un-manipulated and therefore 'real' appearing 3D-like at times. I own about 4500 standard DVDs and 20 HD-DVDs but nothing really comes close to how stunning these 4 shiny discs can look... and make you feel. Regarding the content - you needn't to take my word - simply look at IMdb - almost 3000 people have voted and the score is, an unheard of, 9.8/10. Memorable scenes include the caves (from 'The Caves' segment), slow-motion of the Great White, a starving polar bear (the largest land carnivore) fighting, and losing to, a whole herd of Walrus who are protecting their young, camels in permanently frozen Siberia and a hungry pride of lions attacking an elephant. Add to that many species of animals that I was never even aware existed and places on earth so remote and beautiful that it accentuates one's insignificance. In a word: magnificent!

NOTE: the below captures were the best I could do - but don't do justice to the HD-DVD set.  

Screen Captures*











* HD image derived from a digital camera - depending on the system the actual DVD image will probably look far superior.

Audio: Narration is by Sir David Attenborough and a better choice could not exist. The 5.1 is never really tested - George Fenton's gentle score deftly supports the visuals and it is all communicated clearly and consistently.

Optional English, French or Spanish subtitles support the narration.

Extras: There is an 'Extended Credits' chapter option (1:46) at the end of Disc 4 and it hardly seems to be thanks enough for those who worked on this incredible project.


BOTTOM LINE: I suspect that I have gushed enough but if there was ever a reason to purchase a new format player - this would be it. You owe it to yourself to take a few hours out of your busy life and watch this in HD, Blu-ray or even SD. Visual enlightenment and global education is at new levels with Planet Earth.




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