Planet Earth on DVD
BBC's spectacular documentary series takes up five discs, and there isn't stinker among the first four.
David Attenborough narrates this gloriously shot, 11 part series that takes us from pole to pole, from mountain top to ocean deep, giving us marvelous looks at our planet and its animal inhabitants – spectacular footage that will take your breath away.
The first episode sets the scene, brilliantly, with the rest focusing on one particular aspect of our biosphere, for example "Mountains," "Fresh Water," "Caves," "Deserts," "Ice Worlds" and more.
Each episode made us wonder just how much they paid the crews they sent to the far corners of the world; this was a tough gig! If you don't believe it, you'll be shown via a "Planet Earth Diaries" "show within a show" mini-documentary that follows each episode. Here they take one segment from the show and let us ride with them as they work to capture it on "film" (the show was shot in high definition).
The scale of the show is mindboggling, whether it's showing you huge crystal formations inside a gigantic U.S. cavern or literally millions of critters migrating – or running to escape hunters. You'll see mating rituals never before seen on TV (not even on "Friends"), lions hunting – and taking – an elephant much larger than they, and much, much more.
There's some animal "brutality" here that may be disturbing, but it's an honest look at the "circle of life" that is our planet, though they do manage to ignore the human race for the most part. And that said, they don't beat us over the head with eco-whacko stuff.
They save that for Disc Five, a companion piece subtitled "The Future" that lays it on thick right from the first shot.
But in the main series some cautionary material: for example they talk about the receding habitat for polar bears, but this is more presented as a celebration of Planet Earth and its inhabitants than a major political statement. And that's good. The overtly political/ideological stuff on the last disc would have made the main series unwatchable to many.
The spectacular photography cannot be mentioned enough, and the musical score accompanying the images and narration is as good as any – ominous during hunts, light during humorous moments, etc.
The BBC Planet Earth series is spread across four discs, with the fifth containing the abovementioned Planet Earth: The Future, the three episode companion series that beats the conservation drum.
Video quality is top notch. We watched it in 480p and, later, upconverted to 1080p for even more spectacular results. A lot of the shots are so beautiful you could print them out and hang them on your wall as posters. Naturally, the image is in the 16x9 aspect ratio of HDTV, which fills today's wide screen televisions perfectcly.
Audio is Dolby Digital surround and it's also very good. The multi-channel recorded sounds immerse you in the natural world, making you feel a real part of the adventure. Attenborough's narration could be a little more "front and center" (okay, that's where it is – the front center channel – but he could be a tad louder), but overall it's a very satisfying soundtrack.
Bonus features include over an hour and a half of behind the scenes stuff (the Diaries section that closes each episode), and the 150 minute, beat 'em over the head plea on disc five.
Planet Earth, from BBC Home Entertainment
Jim Bray's columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.
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