Mars - The Red Planet

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Details At A Glance

Category Educational Theatrical Trailer(s) None
Rating Not Rated Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1999 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time 88 minutes (approx) Other Extras None
RSDL/Flipper No/No
Cast & Crew
Start Up Mode Selection then Movie/Menu
Region 1, 2,3,4,5,6 Director None
DVD International
Wild Releasing
Starring None
Case Amaray
RRP $39.95 Music Ryan Shore

Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None Dolby Digital 5.1
16x9 Enhancement No Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, 192Kb/s)
English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 448Kb/s)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.33:1
Macrovision ? Smoking No
Subtitles English Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, sort of - an Easter Egg

Plot Synopsis

    I'm not quite sure how to categorize Mars-The Red Planet. It isn't really a documentary since it is not really designed to be played through in linear order. It isn't really a reference work since it doesn't go into enough detail. It is perhaps best categorized as a multimedia educational resource on the planet Mars. The simplest way of describing the contents of this DVD is to work systematically through the menu options available on the main menu rather than attempting to give a global overview of what are the really quite disparate elements that make up this DVD.

    When this DVD is first inserted, you are presented with two options; watching the DVD in Entertainment Mode, and operating the DVD in Interactive Mode. The Entertainment Mode replays a significant portion of the DVD's contents sequentially, but very soporifically. This journey through the DVD's contents takes approximately 90 minutes. However, you would be doing this DVD an injustice if you were to judge it on the level of interest generated by the Entertainment Mode. This DVD really comes into its own as a multimedia resource when it is used in Interactive Mode.

    One gripe I had with the authoring of this DVD was that timing information is not encoded, with the DVD player display stubbornly displaying "--:--:--" throughout so that I could only estimate the actual running time of this DVD.


    This presents multiple timelines for Mars missions from the 1960s through to missions planned for the future. Many of the missions have additional information accessible, and many have additional multimedia content such as still images or archival footage. All-in-all, this is probably the guts of the educational component of this DVD, and it is very well presented. Of most interest to me, and currently quite topical, is the number of Mars missions that have failed during attempted landing on Mars.

Interactive Maps

    This is a series of aerial views of the Martian surface that you can progressively zoom in on and navigate. There are apparently around 700 images in this area of the disc. Whilst this is a clever feature, I feel that it is of limited use as one image begins to look like another after a while. Having said that, if this is something that you are interested in, then you will have a field day navigating across the entire Mars landscape.

Planetary Views

    This is a most unusual feature. This is a series of slow pans across detailed photos of the Martian surface at various latitudes, ranging from the North Pole to the South Pole, each circumnavigating the planet. Of particular interest is the way this feature has been encoded. A total of 6 pans have been included in this feature, all encoded as multiple angles selectable on the fly. Additionally, four different orchestral pieces of music have been encoded on four different audio tracks during this feature, making it very highly configurable indeed.

    This page also leads to several pages of data and photos of Mars and its two moons, Phobos and Deimos.

Surface Views

    This menu option leads to a number of unique features.

    Firstly, we are presented with a 360º panorama from the surface of Mars. This is available both in 2D and in 3D formats. The 3D format utilizes the typical red and blue glasses common to this type of stereoscopic presentation, which are included in the DVD packaging. The 2D presentation is fascinating, but the 3D presentation is not all that convincing, with only a limited 3D effect apparent.

    Another option accessible from this menu is the option to Explore [the] Surface of the planet. In essence, this is the same panoramic view presented in the 2D/3D presentation but in static form, allowing you to select various features for a close-up view. Many of these close-up views are also in unconvincing 3D and after a while all the rock formations begin to look the same.

    The final option accessible from this menu is Life On Mars, which leads to a series of text and still image screens covering the possibility that life existed on Mars in the distant past. This is very interesting indeed.


    This menu option leads to a series of artists' renderings of the exploration and colonization of Mars. This failed to pique my interest, and seemed to be present more as a space-filler rather than as anything really substantial.

    Additionally, you are able to access a synthesized version of Gustav Holst's The Planets suite from this menu, with some additions from Ryan Shore.

Martian Coronae

    This informs you of the 200-odd Easter Eggs hidden on this DVD. If you really are obsessive about checking out all the hidden Easter Eggs, you can find an almost-complete list here.


    As the menu heading implies, this is a single help screen.

DVD-ROM Features

    This outlines the additional features available via DVD-ROM. In essence, this is comprised of a screen-saver with around 50 images of Mars and web links to the Mars-The Red Planet DVD Web Site to gain access to additional images. The additional image feature did not function correctly when I tried it, consistently giving a "URL Not Found" error.


    This option leads to multiple screens listing brief credits, biographies and copyright messages.

DVD Previews

    This offers a brief preview of Earthlight, another DVD from the same distributor.

Transfer Quality


    This is a generally remarkably good video transfer, within the limitations imposed by the source material. The still images, in particular, are of very high quality indeed.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. It is not 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer was acceptably detailed, with still images in particular being beautifully rendered with copious amounts of detail. The moving images are variably detailed, mainly dependent on the source material with the older material being far inferior to the more contemporary material. Shadow detail was acceptable given the nature of the material. Low level noise appeared in the older archival footage but was absent from the contemporaneous footage.

    The colours were accurately rendered. There is little more to say about the colours, other than what we have on offer here is any and all shades of orange; orange, dark orange, light orange, sienna, burnt sienna, brown, yellow. Did I mention orange? There is a lot of orange on this DVD. The Surface Views come as quite a shock as they are not orange, in comparison with the aerial shots of the planet.

    There were a few minor MPEG compression artefacts present, particularly during the Planetary Views multi-angle content. In these cases, you could make out a very small amount of pixelization as the image panned across the screen with a resultant slight loss of detail. Given that six high resolution video streams are interlaced with four audio streams, this is understandable. Aliasing is not a problem with this transfer. Film artefacts are copiously present in some of the more historical footage, but quite absent from contemporary imagery.


    There are fundamentally two types of audio track on this DVD; English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono and English Dolby Digital 5.1. Footage containing voice-overs was encoded with 2.0 mono sound. All the music was encoded in 5.1.

    The 2.0 mono audio is problematic. It is very metallic and muffled-sounding, as if it has been over-compressed or processed in an odd fashion. This significantly decreases the intelligibility of this audio, and is somewhat of a disappointment. In contrast to this, the 5.1 audio is beautifully clear and detailed.

    The music was adapted and performed by Ryan Shore and was not particularly noteworthy.

    The surround channels carried some minimal musical ambience but that was all that they did. The .1 channel was active during the initial DVD International logo, but fell silent thereafter.


    This DVD cannot be meaningfully categorized into a feature with additional extras. Accordingly, I refer you to the Plot Synopsis which covers the contents of this disc, which could be considered as one big extra.

R4 vs R1

    This DVD is the same the world over.


    Mars-The Red Planet is an innovative DVD, with some unique resources to be found within its menus. Anyone that has any sort of interest in the subject material will be well-pleased with the contents and presentation of this DVD, although it seemed to be a tad lacking in actual, meaningful content and somewhat bloated by the inclusion of superfluous material which acted more as filler than as substantial content.

    The video quality is remarkably good given the source material available.

    The audio quality is poor during the 2.0 audio but good during the 5.1 audio.

Ratings (out of 5)

Audio (2.0 audio)
(5.1 audio)
Extras N/A

© Michael Demtschyna (read my bio)
6th June 2000

Review Equipment
DVD Loewe Xemix 5006DD, using RGB output
Display Loewe Art-95 95cm direct view CRT in 4:3 mode, via the RGB input. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Denon AVD-2000 Dolby Digital AddOn Decoder, used as a standalone processor. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Amplification 2 x EA Playmaster 100W per channel stereo amplifiers for Left, Right, Left Rear and Right Rear; Philips 360 50W per channel stereo amplifier for Centre and Subwoofer
Speakers Philips S2000 speakers for Left, Right; Polk Audio CS-100 Centre Speaker; Apex AS-123 speakers for Left Rear and Right Rear; Hsu Research TN-1220HO subwoofer