Planet Earth (BBC/Mini-Series/Blu-ray/HD-DVD/DVD-Video)
B+/B+/C+ Sound: B- Extras: D Episodes: B+
they also comprised many a feature film on their own, nature documentaries and
animation were popular theatrical short subjects from the silent era
onward. As TV cut into the film business
in the 1950s, both became immediately as popular on the little screen as they
had on the big one. Jacques Cousteau’s
films and Marlin Perkin’s Wild Kingdom
were huge hit, public TV had such material as a mainstay and even a few cable
networks built themselves around such programming. Now, the BBC has come up with the David
Attenborough-narrated Planet Earth (2006)
and it is a hit that is a throwback to all those classics.
decades, all the way to large frame film formats like 70mm (see Baraka and Chronos elsewhere on this site) and IMAX, nature has been a popular
subject for filmmaking and microphotography was yet another breakthrough. When the first analog High Definition
shooting was possible, it was one of the first subjects yet again and as HD
went digital, more specials and archival clips were being shot in HD. The BBC is known for top rate productions and
spent millions here on this spectacular 12-part program everyone will want to see.
1) From Pole to Pole
3) Fresh Water
6) Ice Worlds
7) Great Plains
9) Shallow Seas
10) Seasonal Forests
11) Ocean Deep
12) The Future
program was shot in 1080i HD and some 576i (not unlike the way the original Avengers series from the 1960s was
remastered) and is presented in 1.78 X 1 on all three formats released in 1080i
except for the 480 of the anamorphically enhanced standard DVD. There are the shots that looks soft and
substandard, especially on the DVD where they look soft, then there are those
shots that shine and this is particularly true in scenes where it would be hard
to get light in (darkness or underwater) and since HD is an electronic medium
like its PAL/SECAM/NTSC predecessor, it can sometimes be like night vision
without trying in capturing the illumination of light. Though it is not as clean, sharp or clear as
the best film and has Video Red limits, the HD (like the various color formats
past films on the subject were processed in) gives us yet another view at a
nature so rich that it is difficult to capture in any format.
all, this never looks phony or like a nighttime shot on the evening news. Every bit as much as any other HD of outdoor
shots (and even more than the enjoyable HDScape
Antarctica disc we covered on HD-DVD elsewhere on this site, the kind this
series might have learned something from), the shooting here is often
meticulous and that alone is the reason why the box sets in both HD formats are
doing as well as those for The Matrix
Trilogy and initial TV series offerings in the new formats.
there is the sound, which is Dolby Digital 5.1 in all cases, with the “Plus”
dubbing missing on the HD-DVD. The sound
is pretty good in all cases, but do not differ much. The sound effects on location are decent,
while the score by Sam Watts and George Fenton a throwback to the earlier shows
noted above with their “Mickey Mousing” of the conflicts of the various animals
throughout. I wish there was DTS in all
cases, maybe even PCM, DTS-MA or Dolby TrueHD, but this is more than sufficient
for this series just the same with healthy enough surrounds throughout and
Attenborough’s commentary is very well-recorded. There are no extras, though having Sigourney
Weaver’s version of narration as an alternate (with all due respect to Mr.
Attenborough) would have been nice.
this is now one of the hot HD titles and is also hot on standard DVD, so know
that in any format, Planet Earth
delivers and is highly recommended.
- Nicholas Sheffo