The Life of Mammals (2002)

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Released 2-May-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Platypus; Elephants; Big Cats
Featurette-Video To Music Sequence
Notes-Fact Files
Scene Selection Anim & Audio
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Cave Bats; Grizzly Bears; Canopies
Gallery-Photo
Audio-Only Track-Original Score (7)
Web Links
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 500:56 (Case: 550)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL
Multi Disc Set (4)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By None Given
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring David Attenborough
Case Gatefold
RPI $99.95 Music Dan Jones
Ben Salisbury


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement Yes, mildly
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Eastwards With Attenborough, The Tribal Eye, Life On Earth, The Living Planet, The Trials Of Life, Life In The Freezer, The Private Life Of Plants, Attenborough In Paradise, The Life Of Birds, State Of The Planet and The Blue Planet. When you consider that list, it is very easy to understand why the BBC Natural History Unit is the finest of its kind in the world and why Sir David Attenborough is the finest presenter of natural history programming that the world has ever seen. All of those titles were either written by and/or narrated by the man. That is by no means a complete list of his work either. Irrespective of that point, what immediately stands out is that each succeeding program seems to have been able to top the previous effort with ease. The result is that by the time we get to The Life Of Mammals you are almost wondering whether there is any prospect of seeing anything better in the field in the future?

    Make no mistake - what we have here is one of the best natural history programs I have ever seen. Superbly photographed, wonderfully executed, highly informative, entertaining and even quite funny on occasions. There really is not much that this program does not have. Obviously concerned with the most successful group of animals on the face of the Earth at the moment, even the mammoth task of delving into the varied subject matter has been well executed in the episode set up:

    This is just an absolutely superb series and one that was eagerly awaited in my home. Each series David Attenborough does seems to top the previous one and this is no exception, with a superb blend of photography of various sorts and computer animation. Whatever you do, check this release out. Superb entertainment as well as being superb education.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    After the disappointment of the Life Of Birds there was a degree of trepidation in approaching the review session. I really need not have worried as this was significantly better from the first episode.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. It is of course 16x9 enhanced.

    This is really an excellent transfer in most respects, with little to complain about. In general it is very sharp, with excellent detail even in some of the rather extreme photography (ordinary film is mixed with infra-red photography and starlight camera photography). Shadow detail is excellent - even in the infra-red photography in the black-as-night shots in the caves. Clarity is general very good with only a few sections where grain becomes an issue (86:35 and 140:20 on Disc One and 15:03 on Disc Three being good examples). However, in the overall scheme of things these are not really serious issues at all.

    The colours are extremely well done, and wonderfully vibrant. Whilst there is a wide degree of variety in the locations obviously, the high degree of uniformity in the colour presentation is a staggering achievement in all respects. The transfer is very nicely saturated with just a few places here and there where you could have hoped for a bit more depth to the tones - but in over eight hours of programming, this is hardly a major issue.

    MPEG artefacts are not an issue here, although at times the grain does descend somewhat towards pixelization (such as at 7:32 and 122:01 on Disc One). Aliasing is the main problem with film-to-video artefacts - I definitely saw a few instances of it here and there (such as at 6:48 on Disc One). Film artefacts are not an issue at all. Have you got the idea here? Basically terrific, with minor qualms.

    The four DVDs making up the set are all dual layer efforts, with Discs One and Two being RSDL formatted. The layer changes come at 76:16 and 72:53 respectively: whilst noticeable they are hardly disruptive to the flow of the programme.

    There is just the one subtitle option on these DVDs, that being English. The subtitles are generally quite good but here and there words are missing or changed around, even though they do not really change the context of the dialogue.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There is just the single soundtrack on the DVD, being an English Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack.

    There is nothing at all wrong with the soundtrack other than the fact that a 5.1 soundtrack would have been even better. Dialogue comes up very well and the animal noises are likewise very well dealt with. There are no apparent audio sync issues with the transfer.

    The original music score for the series comes from Dan Jones and Ben Salisbury. In a word - superb! From the opening credits to the end credits, there is pure excellence all the way through each episode. The result is a significant contribution to arguably the finest natural history series ever presented.

    This is just a really good soundtrack in every way. Sure a full blown 5.1 soundtrack would have done an even better job of presenting the ambient sounds of the rainforest environments (for instance), but you would have to be pretty anal to find this soundtrack unsatisfying. Wonderfully clear and open, just about every ambient sound is presented crisply and cleanly. There is not a blemish in the whole set as far as I could tell.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    The extras are spread across discs three and four of the set, which contain only two episodes rather than the three episodes of the first two discs.

Menus

    Very nice presentation with classy audio and animation enhancement.

Disc Three:

Featurette - Behind The Scenes

    This really is three separate featurettes that look into the filming of the sequences relating to the Platypus (8:30), Elephants (8:37) and the Big Cats (8:39). In particular, they look at the difficulties in obtaining the footage that was desired - and how much the effort was truly worth it when rewarded with the footage such as the baby platypus, footage that had never been shot before and provided a huge boost to our understanding of these fascinating creatures. With interview footage with the people who were responsible for the filming, this is very interesting stuff. These are presented in the same format as the main feature.

Featurette - Video To Music Sequence (10:21)

    In reality this is simply an extended ten minute long trailer for the series, the sort of thing that would probably be aired at the launch of the show before David Attenborough came out to answer questions from the gathered journos. Not too shabby within itself but really hardly in the league of the above featurettes. Again presented in the same format as the main feature.

Notes - Fact Files

    Exactly what it says - a collection of fact files of varying lengths about mammals featured in the programme. There are twenty animals featured. Actually quite interesting potted details about the animals, and quite informative as regards their status (quite a few are endangered or threatened).

Disc Four:

Featurette - Behind The Scenes

    Not as good as those on Disc Three, but still more than worthwhile. This one is more focused on the actual difficulties of photographing Cave Bats (5:29), Grizzly Bears (3:20) and Canopies (8:58), with the persons responsible for the filming or the setup being the subject of the narrative. Again presented in the same format as the main feature.

Gallery - Photo

    Featuring 77 annotated (!) photos of creatures from the programme. Whilst the photos could perhaps have been a little bigger, these are actually quite nicely done.

Audio-Only Track - Original Score (7)

    Seven audio tracks lifted from the superb music composed for the series. Including both the excellent start and end credits pieces, this only serves to indicate just how good the music is - and makes you really wish there was a genuine Isolated Music Score on the DVDs!

Web Link

    A clickable link for www.bbc.co.uk/nature/.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    From the limited information that I can find regarding the Region 1 release, it differs from the Region 4 release in the following ways:

    Whilst the fact files on the Region 4 release are very good, I would have a hard time suggesting that an additional eleven of them would be a persuasive argument in favour of Region 1. Call this one even I would suggest.

Summary

    Those visitors who have been checking this site for a while might recall that the last time I reviewed a David Attenborough series - Life Of Birds - I was quite critical of the transfer. The result was that I inducted the release into the Hall Of Shame. So, there was a degree of trepidation when I sat down to review The Life Of Mammals. Those fears were almost completely unfounded, and whilst the transfer is by no means perfect it is more than acceptable. With the series itself setting further benchmarks for natural history programming, this is an excellent release that just begs to be added to your collection. I have no reason to stop you from picking this release up.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Friday, June 06, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-1600, using S-Video output
DisplaySony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

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