Earth: The Biography Blu-ray Review
PictureThe disc presents a broadcast correct widescreen 1.78:1 1080i transfer that is VC-1 encoded. Now, the disc may only be 1080i, but I have to say it is one of the most breathtaking pictures I have come across on this wonderful format. There is nothing so dramatic or spellbinding to watch than our natural world and when presented with such a glorious picture it is jaw droppingly beautiful. Panoramic views of rainforests or glaciers or volcanic provinces with lava spewing forth are presented in all their naked magnificence. Detail is absolute pin sharp clarity, right down to individual sand grains or leaf stems. The canopy tops of the rainforests are post card perfect in their clarity, as are the various mountain-scapes; shots underwater are absolutely stunning.
Colours are bright and vibrant, greens are lush, blues are perfect; all grade wonderfully with no posterization. Brightness is set to give decent enough blacks, although the program rarely uses them, excepting in come cave sequences and under glaciers where there is decent enough depth to the frame. Contrast is set perfectly to give clean bright whites with no detail lost anywhere; this is particularly well seen in the many snow filled shots, either mountainous or glacial where all is crisp and clear and looks so damn cold.
With all this good news there has to be some balance right, well that comes in the form of the stock footage which is of varying quality, this footage is older filmed material of volcanic eruptions, animals in their habitats, snow drifts etc. and shows its age and damage. Thankfully though the program rarely uses it and I'm not going to let this slight dip in quality colour my overall score, because the rest of the picture, some 99%, is perfect.
Digitally there are no compression problems, there is no edge enhancement, there is no original print damage (saving the stock footage used) and there is no grain. In short this clear reference quality stuff, the kind of material that TV retailers put on their garish sets to show how good HD really can be; and believe me, it really can be this good. Stunning.
SoundOnly the one sound track to choose from an English DTS-HD HR 5.1. Due to the nature of the program I wasn't expecting much from this track, so I was pleasantly surprised when I was greeted with a reasonably immersive track. The score makes the most of the speakers, dramatic and sweeping in places, there is some good separation throughout the speakers. Range is good with some decent bass holding everything together. LF effects are very limited to volcanic eruptions and thunder and even then are rather light, but the beginning thump during the credits was something to look forward to. Of course it's the dialogue that really counts, this being a documentary and I'm happy to report that this is clear and precise and comes across very naturally. Don't expect full on immersion it's not that at all, but it does well with evoking a sense wonder along with the visuals and gets its message across with some light but effective thrills.
VerdictThe BBC have once again shown they are documentary makers extraordinaire, pioneering the way with Attenborough's series' and proving they have not lost their touch with this new evocative set. Few people know the story of our planet and a series such as Earth: The Biography is just the programme to demonstrate just how lucky we are; both in the unique place we live and in its survival throughout time allowing life itself to develop. Dr Iain Stewart is a likeable front man and delivers his information is a pleasing manor, the series itself stays mainly on track, even the various environmental issues that are brought up are balanced with examples throughout geological time.
As a Blu-ray set this two disc set presents a truly spectacular picture, has decent enough sound but rather let down by a lack of extras. However, I believe the series to be of such worth that this oversight can be overlooked and the set enjoyed for what it is.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £24.79
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