Glacier National Park (2007/Image Blu-ray) + How The Earth Changed History (2010/BBC Blu-ray) + Ride Around The World: IMAX (2006/Image
C+/B-/B- Sound: C+/B/B Extras: D/C/C Main Programs: C+/B/B-
more commercial success on Blu-ray and home video in general (plus some
networks devoted to such documentary coverage), nature documentaries are as
popular as ever and three examples of the different kinds on the market. You get the HD-produced features like Glacier National Park (2007), TV
Mini-Series like How The Earth Changed
History (2010) and large frame format IMAX filmed pieces like Ride Around The World (2006), now all
released in separate Blu-ray editions.
Glacier National Park runs an hour and is a fine, if
too passive, look at the title locale.
It does not try to be more than it is, but despite all the beauty and
even with the narration provided (which sometimes does not make sense), it
still seems like there are a few missed opportunities here.
How The Earth Changed History has five episodes and leaves no
stone unturned. Deep Earth, Wind, Water, Fire and Human Planet
make for excellent demonstrations (and for some, arguments) in how the world we
live in today resulted and for the most part, I would agree with the
presentation and content, but Professor Iain Stewart is very enthusiastic about
it all and is having a good time and that rubs off if you watch enough. You will see some shots here of our world you
will not see anywhere else.
Ride Around The World may be the shortest presentation
here at 40 minutes, but writer/director Harry Lynch’s look at the history of
cowboys and how they shaped the modern world is much more interesting than you
might expect and does not play to any stereotypical notions of anything as is
typical of the high quality of IMAX productions. If anything, cowboy are alive and well, using
horses, skills and a combination of old and new technology to get their jobs
done. It is a fitting tribute and
another solid look at the nature around us which plays a towering role here in
the several countries this was shot in and fits the genre we place it into.
All have 1.78
X 1 digital High Definition images in 1080i, save the IMAX Ride Blu-ray, with relatively clearer 1080p digital High
Definition 1.78 X 1 playback, which should be the outright winner here, but
there are just one too many soft shots from what is likely an older HD
master. At its best, however, its
superior shots put the other releases to shame as expected. Changed
has up to date HD cameras that still have their share of motion blur and detail
issues, but no where nearly as bad as Glacier,
with its aliasing problems, detail issues and other softness that shows it is
an older HD production, saved only by color and some good shots
throughout. Its three Dolby Digital 5.1
options (with natural sound, narration or music) are also the weakest of the
three Blu-rays, making the program without narration seem like a new age piece
not unlike the fishbowl or fireplace programs that have been issued in all
video formats as a gimmick.
leaves the remaining programs sporting DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) lossless 5.1
mixes that are both pleasant surprises and deliver fine playback
performance. In the case of Changed, the sound is not the lesser
DTS-HR of some BBC Blu-rays and does not skip on the sound, which has a nice
soundfield throughout all the five episodes.
It is warm, involving and well-recorded.
IMAX Ride was originally a
70mm 6-Track stereo release and typical of the standard IMAX configuration
where the narration is very much in the center channel but soundfield does not
suffer much and can be very impressive.
I only had a few moments where the sound was lower in some places than
it should have been, but not much.
While Glacier has no extras, extras on the
other releases include the Filming In
Extremes interview with Prof. Iain Stewart on Changed and 23-minutes-long making of featurette on IMAX Ride, which also adds a Trivia
Quiz and trailers for other IMAX Blu-ray releases.
- Nicholas Sheffo