The Universe: 7 Wonders of the Solar System 3D Blu-ray Review
The disc presents a broadcast correct widescreen 1.78:1 1080p transfer in both 2D and 3D, the disc itself is Region free. The majority of the show is CG, the only live action being the various presenters, all of which are standing fields and being native 3D, the disc showcases some pretty good effects, not only between layers, but of the layers themselves. Any of the space phenomena are well represented whether it is flying through the ice geysers on Enceladus, or through the asteroid belt, there is a real sense of depth to the image – the geysers and asteroids themselves show depth too, real solidity in a solid environment. False effects, such as the spaceship display panel, are equally as impressive, with a terrific sense of the cockpit tilting away from you, with the emptiness of space far beyond it. When looking at representations of the planets there is a nice sense of scale and depth; not only are they ‘round’, but show relief as well, cloud cover down to ground level indicates a tangible distance. The presenters, as mentioned, are interviewed in various fields, this is an obvious ploy to enlist a fantastic 3D image of distance, as you have the very foreground (grass and the like), the presenter and then it sweeps off into the middle and distant background giving superb depth to frame, as far back as the clouds in the sky – it's cheap, but it is very effective. Very few ‘point at the screen’ moments, though they couldn’t help but squirt the camera with the snow machine giving rise to a face full of ice!
The detail level is very precise, all of the CG shots are clean and clear, the various planets have indications of surface topography, this is particularly well realised on the surface of the Sun and, of course, Earth. The space ship is suitably detailed, as are clouds, dust, steam and other phenomena, typical of CG animation – ok it’s not Pixar, but it’s not meant to be, if anything it does look ‘cheap’ but it does represent what it’s supposed to, so on that level it is very good. Where it does shine is with the real footage, or that of the presenters which is incredibly fine, with individual blades of grass, or clothing weaves being particularly distinct.
Colours are bright and vivid when needed, the primaries are well represented, the blues of the water geysers, or the reds of the sun are bold and strong, showing no signs of wash or bleed. The real footage, if anything, fairs even better in the colour stakes with almost luminescent greens of the grass in the various fields.
Brightness and contrast give decent enough blacks (with the usual 3D caveat), but remember this is not the latest blockbuster meant to show off your system, this is a documentary to impart information, so whilst the blacks are suitably deep within space they are not absolute or for that matter ‘inky’ but do add to the sense of depth, enhancing the already great 3D.
Digitally there were no compression problems, no banding or posterization, nor was there any edge enhancement. Crosstalk was, thankfully, very light, and when it did occur was not that distracting and gone within the next screen cut. In all a very nice picture, shy of reference due to is lack of panache compared to some of the latest releases; whilst it is very good, there are better examples of demo quality material available.
Only the one track to choose from and thankfully it’s pretty good, English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. For a TV documentary I was quite surprised on how immersive this track was, the main effects coming in the form of artificial swooping of the spacecraft, while the rest is filled out from the score. Dialogue, the most important aspect of the documentary, is always clear and precise, locked to the front and sounds very natural; able to impart its information without gimmicks and is readily understandable. Stereo effects are obviously limited, though there is some left/right, front/back steerage as we traverse through the solar system. The main immersion is from the score which is suitably dramatic and utilises all six speakers to place you in the centre of the sound field. Bass is well defined, keeping everything grounded in reality, but there are no LF effects. In all a functional, but nevertheless, engaging track.
The Seven Wonder of the Solar System takes a look at some of the incredible sights that our Solar System has to offer, from the outer moons of Saturn and their spellbinding geysers of ice right through to the very surface of the sun; the life bringer and centre of the system around which everything revolves. Using state of the art computer graphics and 3D, the movie takes us into and through these wonders, highlighting their importance as a spectacle as well as their scientific nature. As an individual episode in the five season strong The Universe series this one does work very well and the fact that it was made for, and in, 3D does show in the presentation – I’d just like to have had it a bit more serious as much of the commentary and presentation is aimed a little bit too low – but when you are aiming for the mass audience that is what you get; so on that level is works extremely well.
As a 3D Blu-ray package this is a completely bare bones disc, though the picture and sound do very well with what they are asked to do; don’t expect demo quality, it’s not that kind of presentation but it’s still extremely good for what it is.
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