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

Blue Planet [Blu-ray]


(Ben Burtt, 1990)






Review by Leonard Norwitz



Theatrical: NASA & Graeme Ferguson

Blu-ray: Warner Home Video



Region: FREE! (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 0:42:26.585 

Disc Size: 13,006,584,580 bytes

Feature Size: 6,791,178,240 bytes

Video Bitrate: 18.10 Mbps

Chapters: 16

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: July 31st, 2007



Aspect ratio: 1.78:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: VC-1 Video




DTS-HD Master Audio English 3803 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3803 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / Dolby Surround



English, French, Spanish, none



• The Dream Is Alive – in HD (36:33)



The Film: 7
Despite the title on the box this is really a double feature, both filmed in IMAX and transferred to Blu-ray in the early days of the medium. The "main" feature, Blue Planet, examines our planet in orbital vistas that alternate with supportive images from the ground. The narration wants to support the one with the other, at times to show its wonders, at other times to show the threats to those wonders. The target audience is schoolchildren, though it does not talk down to them. The images must assume they have better eyesight than I, for there were instances where we are expected to see how those pictures from orbit demonstrate the points made (as in "from space you can clearly see x") and I couldn't make it out.

The second feature, The Dream is Alive, was shot five years earlier, in 1985, the year before the Challenger disaster. Walter Cronkite narrates the efforts of NASA to put the shuttle program in operation, and includes footage of one of Challenger's nine missions.



Image: 6/8    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.
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.

Not as sharp as they are dramatically impressive. While color and contrast are excellent, the features suffer from pervasive edge-enhancement (check out the crowd in Capture #1). Blue Planet is marginally better in terms of resolution, but both lack the kind of sharpness we'd expect from high definition, let alone footage sourced from IMAX. My screencaps include an equal number of frames from each movie.
















Audio & Music: 7/6
It's is telling that I came to this disc nearly three years after its release since I used to complain that Warner came on board so late with uncompressed audio. But here it is in July of 2007, one of the first titles in the medium and it's in Dolby TrueHD! Too bad we've had to suffer with so many titles after that in garden variety Dolby Digital.

The narration is not as crisp as we would like for the main feature; better for Cronkite. The music is insipid, but serves to take up the silence in space. Contrived as the audio mix is, it is also, on occasion, one hell of a dynamic presentation: The rumbling of the rocket at take off will shake your room good and proper. However, in Blue Planet we hear applause in the surrounds from the crowd gathered some distance from lift-off, but no one is clapping. It's effective as long as you close your eyes. During the lightning strikes in the storm sequence, which is one of the most vivid recordings of a storm on video, the audio out of sync with the lightning. (I wonder why they do that? After Poltergeist doesn't everyone know that lightning and the sound it makes do not occur at the same time unless you're fried.)



Operations: 6
There's very little of concern here except for considering The Dream is Alive as a Bonus Feature.


Extras: 6
What's with the "Bonus Movie" idea in the first place? The Dream is Alive is every bit a feature as Blue Planet. The visuals, by comparison, are a mixed bag, but the film is, I think, more dramatically compelling – all the more so in the wake of the shuttle disasters that followed – the first, only a year after this IMAX movie was made.

But there are no other bonus features.


Bottom line: 6
Despite the IMAX pedigree, this title is not ready for prime time as an image demo. The audio is spectacular at times. Rent it.

Leonard Norwitz
April 2nd, 2010






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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