Review by Leonard Norwitz
Theatrical: Discovery Channel Pictures (TV)
Blu-ray: Genius Products
Runtime: 40 min.
Size: 25 GB
Case: Locking Blu-ray case
Release date: April 7, 2009
Aspect ratio: 1.78:1
Video codec: AVC
English Dolby Digital 5.1; English Stereo 2.0
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
April 1st, 2009