H D - S E N S E I

A view on HD DVDs by Gary W. Tooze


Introduction: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 4600 DVDs and have reviewed over 3000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction. So be it, but film will always be my first love and I list my favorites on the old YMdb site now accessible HERE.  

Gary's Home Theatre:
Samsung HPR4272 42" Plasma HDTV
Toshiba HD-A2 HD-DVD player (firmware upgraded)
Sony DVP NS5ODH SD-DVD player (region-free and HDMI)
Harmon Cardon DD/DTS receiver
Ascent (main) + Boston Acoustics (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

Gary W. Tooze








NOTE: We understand image quality (duplicate VC-1 encode) and content are exactly the same on both HD and Blu-ray editions.


Galápagos [HD DVD and Blu-ray]


(Producer Patrick Morris, 2007)

BBC Warner  (UK)
Review by Gary W. Tooze

1.78:1 1080i

Dual-layered Hi-def VC-1 encode
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0, DUB: French Dolby Digital Plus 5.1
Subtitles: English (SDH), none
Extras: none
Released: October 2nd, 2007
HD-DVD case
6 chapters per segment X 3

The Film:



Product Description:

The inspiration for Darwin's theory of evolution, the Galapagos Islands are a living laboratory, a geological conveyor belt that has given birth to and seen the death of many species of plants and animals. As the western islands rise up from the sea offering a chance of life, the eastern islands sink back beneath the waves guaranteeing only death. Between the two are the middle islands; fertile, lush land in its prime that contains an incredible diversity of life. Nowhere else on the Earth are the twin processes of creation and extinction of species so starkly apparent... see it all unfold before your eyes in this stunning series filmed entirely in high definition from the BBC and the National Geographic Channel.





2.5 hours of some of the best nature cinematography I have ever seen... EVER. Stunning visuals help document a realistic visage of 13, volcanically formed, islands approx. 1000 kilometers off the west coast of Ecuador. The islands have unique adjusting environmental circumstances and this BBC/National Geographic co-production identifies this, as one of the world's great wonders, depicting a microcosm of the evolution of our entire planet. Here four major ocean currents unite and seething undersea volcanic activity dominate the constant alterations of the landscape. The documentary, expertly narrated by Tilda Swinton, is divided into 3 sections of 50 minutes each. "Born of Fire" - gives us a grand overview of some of the flora and fauna while identifying some of the organic origins of the islands. "Islands That Changed the World" gives us some background on man's exploration in the Galapagos including its most famous visitor - Charles Darwin with a brief bio-picture history of his travels there. "Forces of Change" discusses some of the expected challenges for lifestyle inhabitation on the islands that will prove conflicting for both wildlife species and human beings. This is fabulous viewing - I was completely riveted throughout. One of the best nature documentaries I have ever seen. 

Gary Tooze




Eclipsing Planet Earth and even Relentless Enemies as not only the best hi-def nature documentary image I have ever seen, but the best digital image - period - that I have ever seen. There is so much beautiful cinematography in this series that you may find yourselves shaking your head during viewing - in disbelief at the pristine detail and brilliant color on this dual layered hi-def DVD. The only negatives are that there are some minor digital artifacts in a few open-space sky scenes - editing is fairly fastidious and it won't be notice at all. I took over 100 captures in the first 6 minutes of the video and the whole thing is 2.5 hours long. Now this is 1080i not 1080p and there is some minor interlacing that is virtually imperceptible to the human eye (on my system anyway), without using the slow function. This cinematography has to be seen to be believed and it's a big part of the enjoyment of the feature - you may find yourself constantly swooning.    


Screen Captures
















Only a 2 channel stereo track is offered and it is almost solely for Tilda Swinton's magnificent narration. Very little 'island' sounds are heard. I loved Tilda's formal-sounding accent. She does a great job - accenting certain key points or slowing down to impart attention. I might put her as the best I've heard (for female) commentary with Morgan Freeman possibly being my favorite among male narrators of nature documentaries. Dialogue audio is very consistent and supported by English or French subtitles, in a white font with black border.




None... and I wasn't expecting any. I can't see how any supplement would be a suitable companion piece. The 2 1/2 hour feature speaks volumes for itself and is certainly complete enough.   



If you like nature documentaries (and own a hi-def player) - you'd have to be crazy not to own this title. It is educational for both kids and adults and something worth watching repeatedly because of the staggering beauty and enormity of the topic. Plus it is the perfect demo disc for my system so far (of course this seems to change bi-monthly) to show friends and family some of the capabilities of these new formats.



NOTE: Image quality (duplicate VC-1 encode) and content are exactly the same on both HD and Blu-ray editions.


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