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A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Leonard Norwitz

Africa's Elephant Kingdom [Blu-ray]


(Michael Caulfield, 1998)






Review by Leonard Norwitz



Theatrical: Discovery Channel Pictures (TV)

Blu-ray: Genius Products



Region: All

Runtime: 40 min.

Chapters: 6

Size: 25 GB

Case: Locking Blu-ray case

Release date: April 7, 2009



Aspect ratio: 1.78:1

Resolution: 1080i

Video codec: AVC



English Dolby Digital 5.1; English Stereo 2.0



English SDH




The Film: 7
Avery Brooks narrates this story of an African elephant herd from the birth of new calves to playful times under the "White Mountain" to their trek across the Kenyan desert in search of water. The herd itself is matriarchal, the bulls being loners except for mating season. Remarkable are scenes of great warmth and sensitivity, particularly around loss and death. The concept of family is hard not to be impressed by. Brooks speaks for one of the bulls, but have no fear – there are no animatronic lip movements here. In fact, the script takes him from the subjective to the objective without missing a beat.



Image: 5/7
The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale. The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

Like other Discovery and Animal Planet Blu-ray entries so far, this one is presented in 1080i, as would have been the broadcast, regardless of the original source. From the look of it, I would guess this one to be 16 mm. Resolution and sharpness varies from fair to good, but most often it is non-committal, despite bit rates in the mid 20s. Most of the time, color and contrast is weak. On a large display, I found it a little tiring. I took a quick peak on a 48 inch plasma, and it was much more acceptable.












Audio & Music: 6/7
Brook's narration is clear and decisive, with tones representative of his character. Environmental sounds are convincing enough, though they might be looped from other events. I suppose the fact that it's not obvious either way is a good thing. The music is appropriately supportive, never becoming sappy or dominant. I found the 2.0 mix to have more focus. No surprise there.




Operations: 2
Loading is quick, as expected for a single-layer disc. The Spartan and, frankly, not very attractively designed menu is easy enough to use, but offers only the choice of 5.1 or 2.0 audio, and English subtitles on or off. There are chapters, but no access to them from the menu.

Extras: 0



Bottom line: 6
A good story with interesting facts about elephants you might not have known (I didn't.) The image is soft and thin, unrepresentative of the medium.

Leonard Norwitz
April 1st, 2009








About the Reviewer: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.

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