For All Mankind blasts off with varied, and at times stunning, image quality at 1080p MPEG-4/AVC and framed correctly at 1.33:1. The variances only come from the original source material. Some of the images, like the Gemini space walk are simply fantastic and exhibit a level of detail never seen by the general public prior to this. Other shots of early blast offs or footage on the moon is somewhat grainy, and never up to the quality one would expect to see from any recent premium release but still better than anything that has been on general release before.
Blacks are suitably dark enough in the pitch black of space, the horizon on the moon and the dark stripes down the body of the Saturn V rocket. Whites on the other hand are pristine, occasionally creeping into their surroundings but never so much as to detract from your viewing pleasure.
It is the colours and details that take centre stage here though. The colours on the flag planted on the moon's surface is deep and well rendered and the detail on the astronauts suits, equipment or the insides of the command module are all so much better than what we have previously seen from these iconic shots. There are images of the Earth creeping over the lunar horizon and only now can we really see the beauty of this marble hanging in space.
Sterling work has been done on this transfer from 16mm, to 35mm then to disc and the team who have worked on this should be commended for their efforts. Bearing in mind that some of the source material is never going to be as well defined as something new shot on digital cameras this still gets a worthy top mark.
There's only English tracks to choose from and they come in DTS-HS MA 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2.0 flavours. The latter is no real difference other than being a little quieter and with no real surround use. As the former has little surround use anyway there's not a lot to choose between them. It's fair to say that this DTS-HD track is never going to fire on all your speaker cylinders. True there is some oompph when the Saturn V booster rockets kick into action but apart from that you might as well be listening to the 2.0 variety. The track is pretty clean in nature with no hisses or pops to speak of and this is only attributed to the fact that the original Dolby Digital track from the DVD has been cleaned up a little.
The somewhat limited backing score by Brian Eno does filter to the surrounds on occasion but after that it's all up front, and why not really. The all important dialogue is incredibly crisp, well defined and locked firmly in the centre channel. The frontal array widens somewhat when Eno's score kicks in but really you're looking at a somewhat narrow affair. Anything else for this release would have detracted from the words we are listening to and those all important visuals.
So a good track, faithful to the original source no doubt, clean and defined but nowhere near testing your system to its limits.
- Commentary by Director Al Reinert and Apollo Astronaut Eugene Cernan.
Recorded in 1999 for the Criterion DVD release this is an interesting track from these two people. The majority is left to Cernan and he has some great insight into the workings of NASA in the early Seventies. Reinert states an interesting fact when he says he never made this movie, he was just lucky enough to find it already in the NASA movie archives. Some 6000 hours were trawled through and this is what he managed to piece together. Worth a listen.
- An Accidental Gift. - 0.32.02 - 1080p / MPEG-4/AVC
The NASA film historians freely admit that the images that these missions gave us only really came about because of an accident. The films shot were there for scientific purposes, to record any failures, to document the lunar surface. That we were left with some stunning images is indeed a gift which should be remembered.
- Paintings from the Moon - 45:30 - 1080p / MPEG-4/AVC
Alan Bean, crew of Apollo 12, discussing why he decided to start painting his experiences of space flight and walking on the moon. He states how he went from a scientist who paints to now thinking of himself as an artist who once walked on the moon. It's good to see him at work, the techniques he uses and the passion he feels for his art and his previous exploits. After this short, 7 minutes introduction we see some of his paintings with Alan giving an overview as to why he painted them.
- 3,2,1... Blast Off. - 2.36 - 1080i / MPEG-4/AVC
Five video clips showing each rocket booster used in the original missions leading up to Apollo. We get launches from Mecury-Redstone, Murcury-Atlas, Gemini-Titan, Saturn 1B and the amazing Saturn V.
- NASA Sound Archive.
21 tracks which can be played individually or en masse. It's what it says on the tin really, some small snippets of sounds we'll never forget, such as... “The Eagle has landed”, ”One small step..” and “Houston we have a problem”
A good set of extras for an already bursting at the seams excellent documentary. The commentary is certainly worth a listen, but my favourite has to be the paintings of Alan Bean. He's a very structured, detailed and 'scientific' artist but I like what he has created, bar a couple of really cheesy ones you'll easily identify, and I enjoyed listening to him saying how his art evolved and the techniques he uses to make them absolutely unique. On top of this there are optional subtitles which indicate who's on screen, and a superb little 26 page insert which details the work for both the audio and video transfer, a short piece by Reinert, memories of that first moon landing and some small pictures.
You either love, hate or tolerate documentaries. I for one love a good detailed piece which gives you further insight into something that you already know or one which sparks something within you to go and do more research. Planet Earth is a must have if only simply for those glorious visuals and whilst this is not quite in the same league it still deserves a place on your shelves. It details one of the Twentieth Century's most incredible achievements. To take a man from the surface of our Earth, to land him on the moon and to return him home safely. It is incredible you have to admit.
I believe Reinert pays homage to the whole team at NASA, the men who flew the craft, the people on the ground supporting their efforts. The audio is good if not somewhat limited, and the video is pretty sublime, there are images contained on this disc that you really just have to sit back and wonder at the beauty.
Eureka pull no punches here, taking the previously released locked Region A Criterion disc and allow those of us who have Region B only machines the opportunity of seeing for ourselves what the fuss is all about. Highly recommended that's for sure, but that recommendation will surely be based on your interest in the source material to hand. Anyway, straight 8s across the board can't be bad.
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