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

The Beauty of Snakes [Blu-ray]


(Joanne Scofield, 2003)






Review by Leonard Norwitz



Theatrical: Brooks Lapping for Animal Planet (TV)

Blu-ray: Genius Products



Region: All

Runtime: 43 min.

Chapters: 8

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
The Beauty of Snakes is one of two shows from Animal Planet that I have on my plate for review this week (the other being The World's Biggest and Baddest Bugs). Unlike the bug piece, this one is narrated in voiceover from a respectful distance. We don't find images of humans covered with snakes to show off what we can do if we really put our minds to it. There is some spectacular footage here of snakes doing what they do best: shedding, hunting, lurking, slurking, posing, poising, poisoning and swallowing. Even though some of the scenes can be fairly graphic, others seem to be edited with children in mind as the likely audience.


Image: 8/9
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. This one appears to be high def video, presented in widescreen anamorphic 1.78:1 with bit rates in the mid 20s and with no evidence of artifacts or enhancements. Perhaps because of the photography of these incredibly colorful and awesome creatures, which is more noticeable on freeze frame than in motion. As you can see from the screen caps, this movie - over before you know it - is filled with gorgeous pictures.












Audio & Music: 6/7
Aoife McMahon's narration is clear and engaging, as befits the subject. She draws us into this world of creatures both feared and revered. Environmental sounds are minimal, but there is some nicely turned hissing and slithering, despite the small scale. At times the music opened up the soundstage for either mix. I found the 2.0 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 episode chapters, but no access to them from the menu. This is particularly inexplicable considering how neatly the chapters could have sorted themselves out (e.g., Birth, Hunting, etc).


Extras: 0


Bottom line: 8
Unlike the other Animal Planet Blu-ray disc under review this week, (The World's Biggest and Baddest Bugs), The Beauty of Snakes truly lives up to its title. I would have liked a 1080p presentation, but even in 1080i, the image is stunning, the actors mesmerizing and the information fascinating, if not basic. By the way, do you think that there's anything to it that they people involved in making this movie are women?

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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