Let's get this out of the way for a start. Being Human is a 1080i encode that is presented in the original aspect ratio of 1.78:1. It should be noted that although the disc is actually region free, the US PS3 will NOT play the disc.
Having originally bought the DVD of this, before getting my region free player, I did have fun comparing the two. And although this may only be a 1080i encode it is still a vast step up over the DVD. I only ever saw the series in SD on television though so I can't comment directly on any comparison with the HD version presented on BBCHD. I cannot imagine the TV presentation came anywhere close to this though.
Obviously, Being Human is not like the big budget TV shows that America produce in high definition, so there is less of a gloss about this image. But this, in all honesty, suits the show a lot more. The level of detail present in this transfer is fantastic. Just look at the scene near the beginning of the first episode, when George goes down into the basement looking to transform. Every mark he has made on the walls during previous visits is clearly visible and delineated. Later on, as he runs through the forest again looking for a safe place, even at night the foliage is clear and precisely defined.
The everyday surroundings of the flat are also well presented, and shadow detail is precise. In the darker scenes (I am particularly thinking of the scene in episode four with the accident); much more detail is brought to life. The depth of this image is more noticeable too. Look at the scene in the graveyard in episode three to see Bristol laid out behind the protagonists.
Being Human is not the most colourful transfer that has ever been presented on disc. The whole colour palette is deliberately muted. However, when blood spills it does so with visceral colour that really shocks. Surprisingly for a BBC show, this does not scrimp on the blood - so when it is spilled the deep colour makes it that much more shocking.
Although purists may scoff at the 1080i encode (and it is rather strange that 2entertain have gone with this), this is easily the best rendition of the series available and a noticeable step up of quality over the DVD.
Being Human is a downright scary show in places, so a really decent 5.1 mix is essential. The DVD only had a stereo mix, so I was really looking forward to a decent soundtrack here. Sadly, I was only to be disappointed. All we have here is a Dolby Digital stereo mix, and it was impossible for me to tell any difference between this and the DVD.
To its credit, there is a very good front separation here. Sound effects are well prioritised to the left and right, and presents a nice, wide field of sound. The dialogue is always clear and well presented and there is no need for any manual tweaking to clearly hear what is being said. The music is well balanced with the effects and the dialogue.
However, due to the complete lack of action in the rear speakers, and the lack of LFE, I cannot help feeling there has been a major lost opportunity here. To be fair, the authors of the disc can only produce the original mix, and it has since become clear to me that this is how Being Human was filmed. As such, there is nothing wrong with the representation of how it was meant to be heard. But the track is rather anaemic and lacking in real power and atmosphere. This is a great shame and lets hope season two has a full 5.1 track.
Unlike the DVD, we are presented with a really decent set of extras to really sink our fangs into on this disc. We start with a series of character profiles where the actors give some really interesting insights into how they see their characters. It is obvious, here, that the actors really do care deeply about the show and have thought deeply about how to play the roles. They provide some facts that I didn't realise - and I thoroughly enjoyed these.
We then get a series of deleted, extended, and alternate scenes. To be honest, it is interesting to see these, but the show is so well edited and put together that it is easy to see why these weren't included originally. We then have Vamping it Up a five minute précis of what vampire rules were used in the series and which were jettisoned, and the reason the decisions were made. For example, they decided that vampires can not be seen in silver-backed glass - which was a budgetary constraint. They couldn't paint his reflection out of shop windows or car glass, for example.
Toby Whithouse on the journey is a seven minute interview with the writer about the history of the series. We learn, for example, that BBC3 decided to drop the series before the pilot had even been shown. But internet reaction managed to get the series made. He does then go into character development, which is also covered elsewhere by the actors - and this does make this segment seem rather superfluous. Locations is a ten minute feature about Bristol, its architecture and the features used in the show. This made me feel quite nostalgic, having grown up near the city, but this featurette goes a little deeper looking into the history of the slave trade in the city, and how this originally brought the vampires in. We also get a look at the house and how they converted an actual house into a set. The final extra on disc one is Costume and Make-up lasting 2 minutes. I would rather have seen more on the gruesome makeup for the vampire attacks, but this is still rather interesting.
Onto disc two we go. Here we start with stunts package, a ten minute behind the scenes look at various key stunt scenes from the series and how they were filmed. Our Journey's End looks at the relationship between the three main characters, and in particular where they are at the end of the series. Becoming a Werewolf is five minutes looking at the (very effective) prosthetic based werewolf transformations. Finally, we get a rather fascinating video diary segment where each main actor films their own behind the scenes footage. I found these really enjoyable - the chemistry is obvious.
So, we get an awful lot of stuff here, which provides a fascinating insight into the series and production - and is far more extensive than the DVD version. However, there is also quite a bit missing here. For example, where is the Pilot episode? The writer considers it canon, so why isn't included? I still haven't managed to see it, and it should be here. Likewise, small segments were shot explaining each character's history before series one started on TV, and shown on the website. These aren't included. Finally, behind the scenes docs on each episode were also placed on the website and don't appear here.
This is slightly churlish of me, however. There is a lot of really interesting stuff here that entertains (the video diaries are great) and informs. I just wish they had gone that little bit further and at least included the pilot.
To my mind, Being Human is one of the finest series that BBC has ever produced. Cruelly ghettoised on BBC3 and then only shown with little fanfare on BBC1 months later, many may have missed it. If they did, they missed a horror comedy with real lashings of blood, humour, and pathos. It may start slightly slowly, and episode three may be a very slight weak link compared with the rest, but from episode four onwards the series just never stops. In fact episode four, in my opinion, is one of the finest 50 minutes of television I have seen this decade. It is that good. At a time when American series hog the limelight it is refreshing to see the Brits producing such brave television.
The disc itself is encoded with a 1080i transfer which some may baulk at. However, I thought that what is presented here is perfectly fine without being particularly stunning. At the budget level they were given, and due to production decisions, this was never going to be a jaw dropping image. But it is the best version you can get, and this is exactly how it should be. The audio is very disappointing but this is constrained by the original stereo mix.
Although there are some serious omissions amongst the extras (where is the pilot?) what is here is extensive and will do a good job of entertaining and informing the viewer.
Despite the flaws, I can do nothing but recommend this disc. To me, you will be getting one of the finest series the BBC has produced, an excellent horror / comedy hybrid that horrifies and moves in equal measures. It is streets ahead of the DVD both with extras and AV quality so if you are undecided which medium to go for, then this wins hands down. If you have never seen Being Human you really need to do yourself a favour and add it to your collection. I cannot recommend this series highly enough.
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