Grand Canyon Adventure: River at Risk Blu-ray Review

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by Simon Crust Nov 25, 2010 at 12:00 AM

  • Movies review


    Grand Canyon Adventure: River at Risk Blu-ray Review
    SRP: £19.99


    The disc presents a widescreen 1.78:1 (cropped from 1.44:1) 1080p 2D and 3D transfer. To put it bluntly the 2D transfer is stunning; the clarity, the detail, the colour reproduction, everything is terrific. Scenery is breathtaking, colours are bold and striking, and depth is amazing. Brightness and contrast are set to give deep blacks, even though it is shot in near-blinding sunshine, with no crush and plenty of detail on show, no boosting or over saturation, basically meaning this is a truly striking picture.

    And thankfully the 3D picture is just as stunning. In this live action 3D Blu-ray we have a demo disc to show that isn’t a Sony CG animation! Right from the credits you know this is going to be a treat, the credits are enclosed in a sphere of water that floats a long way out of the screen, ok it is a very obvious effect, but it’s distance is astonishing, and when I was trying to gauge the depth of the background frame I found myself trying to look around the bubble! Once we are into the film proper things only improve, MacGillivray frames his picture well to make good use of the 3D effect, but not making it obviously ‘pointy’, such as placing an overhanging rock in the foreground while looking at middle distance and then way off into the background; wonderful depth on show. I particularly liked the use of the nineteenth century 3D photographs held up to camera that dissolve into how the canyon now looks; it is extremely effective, the pictures themselves show remarkable 3D with the dissolve revealing an amazing picture. But perhaps the most effective shot is the ride through the rapids; the camera is positioned on the nose of the boat and uses a subtle fisheye lens so the field of view is all around, much like your eye sees – when the boat is ploughing through the water, with waves crashing over you, combined with the excellent sound, the effects is truly like being there. Genuinely astonishing camera work to bring such an effective shot – you find yourself swaying with the boat and ducking the splashes!

    The colours are just as bright and vivid as the 2D picture and the detail is, if anything, sharper, from drops of water to the strata in the canyon itself. Close ups have the detail and 3D presence to actually touch! The bright outdoor locations do not prove to be any problem for the contrast setting and brightness is set to give decent black levels, though the film seldom uses them.

    Digitally there were no compression problems, no banding or posterization and no edge enhancement either. With all this great news, it pains me to say that the disc does suffer from crosstalk in quite a few instances; this can be quite noticeable and does become a nuisance due to the otherwise pristine print. A shame because in every other way this picture is reference, however I am still going to award a 9, because it is simply stunning!

    Grand Canyon Adventure: River at Risk Picture


    Only the two sound tracks to choose from: French Dolby Digital 5.1 and, reviewed here, English DTS-HD MA 5.1. I wasn’t expecting much from a documentary sound track, but I was pleasantly surprised. The narration, by Robert Redford, is very clear and natural sounding, the participants, when talking to camera, again, all sound very natural with good reproduction. Effects wise, there is plenty to throw through the speakers, especially with the river journey, particularly effective are the rapid runs, where surrounds and sub join the frontal array to give an experience as if you are actually there, a wonderfully effective mix that places you at the river. The score by the Dave Matthews Band plays a very prominent part of the sound-scape, has effective stereo, a terrific dynamic range and places you in the centre of the action. In all a very effective mix.

    Grand Canyon Adventure: River at Risk Sound


    • Making or Documentary – 33:42 SD

    With contributions from the director, producers and participants we are treated a well documented and engaging look at the difficulties of filming with such bulky equipment on the river. A huge crew is needed just to keep thing moving and even the simplest shot involves time and patience to set up and film. It’s a fascinating look and well worth exploring, if only more making of features were this comprehensive and informative and not the padded out excuses we normally get.

    • Message from Teva - 5.56

    A spoof survivalist tracks through the woods to inform us on finding water. Funny in a ‘so bad it’s good’ kinda way.

    • Water Saving tips from KOHLER – 2.51

    KOHLER, who helped finance this film, big up themselves then provide you with some tips on conserving water as they do.

    • Tara’s Music Video – 4.06

    Tara, from the film, gets the chance to promote her music career

    • Sample Sound Track

    Two tracks from the Dave Matthews Band are accessible to play in their entirety; Grand Canyon Railway and Lava Falls.

    • About the Director

    Text based information and a filmography

    • Trailers

    For other IMAX DVDs, sixteen in total

    In a nice touch the menu is also in 3D. A small but reasonably entertaining amount of extras, the making of documentary is by far the most watchable, shame it’s not in HD though.

    Grand Canyon Adventure: River at Risk Extras


    Grand Canyon Adventures walks a very fine line between being too preachy and informative, luckily it gets the balance spot on; with breathtaking scenery, stunning photography, historical accounts, cautionary tales and a river ride down the canyon itself, the Blu-ray delivers on all fronts for a thrilling, entertaining and informative disc.

    As a Blu-ray package, demo picture is backed-up by decent sound and a thin, but nevertheless informative extras package, meaning that even if the film itself may not strike a chord, the 3D aspect and cheap list price definitely make it worth consideration.

    Suggested retail price when reviewed: £19.99

    The Rundown



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