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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Special Interest > Nature > Animals > Geography > Music > Science > Technology > HD Scape Antarctica: Dreaming Wildlife On Ice + Sampler (HD-DVD/DVD-Video Combo Discs)

HD Scape Antarctica Dreaming - Wildlife On Ice + Sampler (HD-DVD/DVD-Video Combo Discs)

 

Picture: B/C+ Sound: C+ Extras: C/D Main Program: B/C

 

 

Every time a new format arrives, software arrives to offer something different in the format. These Special Interest releases can take many forms, including the inevitable travelogue type programs. DVD International is taking that route with a series of titles meant to take advantage of the unique look HD can deliver. The first title is Antarctica Dreaming - Wildlife On Ice, which is every bit as interesting as any documentary on animals of late in IMAX, film or HD thanks to David Hannan, who has a knack for picking interesting shots and angles.

 

Split into 13 chapters, we get to see the ice (before it melts?) and the inhabitants including Gantoo Penguins, Seals, Adelie Penguins, Seabirds, Chinstrao Penguins, Fur Seals, King Penguins, Elephant Seals and other land structures like the Lamarie Canal. Running about 80 minutes, the program never wars out its welcome and each segment is just enough to take in what the footage/locations have to offer.

 

There is no pretense to the shooting or the subject, just a simple and direct approach that is more of what HD fans and fans of nature and geography will want to see. One reason the HD formats have not been selling is because not enough impressive and relatively naturalistic material has been made or is being shown properly. The Visions Of series is only available on standard DVD from Acorn so far, with only decent HD broadcasts of the same material (showing the locations of each country featured) deserves similar treatment. Give or take the Discovery Atlas series we are still waiting to see on HD-DVD, this is more like the color and fidelity HD can deliver. That is even with some limits, but even they do not stop this from looking better than many titles in the HD formats (usually bad feature films) with gutted color and the like.

 

The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image on both discs looks like it originated in older 1080i HD format, but despite some limits and micro-jagged-edges here and there, the anamorphically enhanced DVD-Video sides look good if depth and detail limited, while the HD sides have nice color and lighting that help overcome the technology limits of when they were shot. But as compared to many concerts in the HD format, al the footage is certainly on par if not better.

 

Dolby Digital 5.1 is the format for both sides of both discs. I thought we would see a Dolby Digital Plus logo, but the nature of the sound on all sides is usually subdued even when narration is added to the Antarctica disc. You get natural ambient surrounds, but not much more, except in the Sampler clips with the Shostakovich piece and Swelltone (THX-like) test piece from the Digital Video Essentials test HD Combo release we will be looking at next. The Antarctica disc was originally scheduled for Dolby TrueHD, but that would have only yielded marginal improvements.

 

The Sampler has no extras, but does have a clever option that allows you to plays the clips in loops over and over until you decide you have had enough. The Antarctica disc has six decent mini-documentary featurettes and allows you the option of playing the disc with or without narration about the locations and scenery show. I liked that too.

 

 

- Nicholas Sheffo


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