Great Wildlife Moments (2003)

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Released 3-Dec-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Main Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-Filmmakers Commentary
Featurette-Making Of-Blue Planet (4:42)
Featurette-Making Of-Life In The Freezer (5:02)
Featurette-Making Of-Trials Of Life (6:29)
Filmographies-Cast & Crew-Natural History Unit
Notes-Heads Of The BBC Natural History Unit
Rating Rated E
Year Of Production 2003
Running Time 108:48
RSDL / Flipper RSDL Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Various
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring David Attenborough
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Various


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    As we all should know, the British Broadcasting Corporation's Natural History Unit has been responsible for some of the best natural history television programming the world has ever seen. The Unit itself celebrates its fiftieth anniversary this year, and that is partly the reason for this compilation in some respects. Obviously during the course of those fifty years, the Unit has captured some truly memorable moments on film and whilst not all of those are gathered here, a fair number of them are, hence the name of the programme - Great Wildlife Moments.

    Regrettably, the programme does concentrate on the more recent programmes as a source of material: The Trials Of Life, The Blue Planet, The Life Of Mammals, The Life Of Birds and The Natural World for instance, whilst there is nothing from the earlier programmes at all. Whilst it would have been great to see some of the earlier work of the unit, particular some of that involving Sir Peter Scott, what we have here is certainly some fascinating viewing and a delightful appetizer for the full series from which it is derived.

    For those that don't know, and despite his relatively consistent appearance in programming from the Natural History Unit, Sir David Attenborough was not there at the instigation of the Unit (he joined very shortly thereafter however). The first series produced by the Unit was actually presented by Sir Peter Scott, who was himself an extremely interesting person. The son of Antarctic explorer Robert Falcon Scott, he was an Olympian in dinghy sailing, a famed ornithologist and wildlife artist. He established a bird sanctuary at Slimbridge, just outside Bristol in England, that I visited many times as a child. During those visits I had the good fortune to meet Sir Peter Scott on several occasions and he was probably the first person to really inspire my interest in preservation of the natural environment. It would have been very nice to have seen some of the work he did with the natural History Unit, but alas it is not to be.

    The programme comprises thirty one separate clips, including an introduction by Sir David Attenborough. The full list of items, and the programmes they come from, is:

    So basically sit back, relax and enjoy some of the finest wildlife photography ever seen. Relive some of those moments that have now become almost iconic in their field. Suffer with some of the animals as they endure life's hardships including death. If you cannot afford to indulge the series that are available on DVD, and much of what is here has not yet made it to DVD, then this is a great way of getting some of the finer moments at a decent price. Whilst the transfers are by no means perfect - certainly there are indications here as to why some of the programmes may take a while to get to DVD - there is very little to complain about in the overall sense, and there is nothing to dispel a highly recommended tag for this.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, and it is 16x9 enhanced. I have to say that this was a little surprising as a lot of the material here would not have been shot in widescreen and certainly not exhibited in widescreen. I can only presume that significant amounts of source material included in the transfer have been matted to a widescreen format. Make your own mind up as to whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. Whilst the consistency of presentation is nice, I am tending towards it being a bad thing...

    Given the variable nature of the transfers we have seen on the series that have hitherto been released on DVD, it is to be expected that there is a degree of inconsistency in the transfer here. This is precisely what we get, but on the whole it is a decently sharp effort with more than ample detail for the job it has to do. At its best, such as with the tigers, it is exquisite in sharpness and detail. Shadow detail is generally excellent given the problems that are obviously inherent in the shooting. There is a bit of grain floating around at times, most notably during the Life In The Freezer sequence and in the infrared material, but nothing that was not expected. The clarity is overall quite decent and there is thankfully little in the way of low level noise to worry about.

    Colours are a bit over the place, most probably as a result of the age of the source material as well as the fact that some of the material was filmed on video and some on film. I cannot say the slightly inconsistent nature of the colour bothered me, but it would have been nice if some greater vibrancy was present at times. At its best though, there is no complaint with the colours at all - deep even tones and plenty of vibrancy. Some of the best stuff was in the segments from The Blue Planet, most especially that gorgeous red jellyfish. There did not appear to be any issues with oversaturation at all, and I did not recall anything at all in the way of colour bleed.

    There did not appear to be any MPEG artefacts in the transfer. There did not appear to be any significant film-to-video artefacts in the transfer either. There were certainly a few film artefacts floating around, but only occasionally did they become obvious - a rather noticeable black hair at one point for instance.

    Given the amount of data on the DVD, this would seem to be an RSDL formatted DVD, although I have no idea where the layer change is. I would guess it is during one of the caption stills, but don't know which one.

    There is just an English for the Hearing Impaired subtitle option on the DVD. They are quite good and don't miss that much of the narration at all.

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

Audio

    There are two soundtracks on the DVD, being an English Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack and an English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. I listened to both in their entirety.

    Obviously there is not much required of the soundtrack other than to carry the dialogue well and give the chance for the natural sounds of the world to be heard. On both counts the soundtrack succeeds without any problems. There did not appear to be any audio sync issues with the transfer.

    The original music score obviously comes from all those individuals who contributed their talents to the original programmes - far too many to name here. There is uniformly nothing much wrong with the scores that do the supporting job required of them very well indeed.

    Despite the varying ages of the source materials, there is a degree of consistency in the sound that was a little better than I was expecting. Of course, the older material is slightly poorer than the newer material, but that is to be expected. Really, there is nothing wrong here at all though with nothing in the way of significant blemishes and only minor evidence of congestion in the older material.

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

Extras

   There is a nice collection of extras on the DVD, all things considered, which if you have not got any of the individual series releases certainly adds well to the overall package here.

Menu

   Curiously unimpressive with only some audio enhancement to give the main menu a lift.

Audio Commentary - Filmmakers Commentary

   Whilst it is a pity that every sequence did not get a commentary (ten of the thirty one clips don't have a commentary), those that did were generally very interesting and quite informative, relative to what we see on screen. With all sorts of difficulties to be overcome when trying to capture most of the footage, as you would expect those involved in doing so are justifiably proud of what they did. Rather well done.

Featurette - Making Of - The Blue Planet (4:42)

   It should be noted that you can either play the three featurettes as one continuous programme or as three separate efforts. A relatively short segment that looks at the efforts that went into the filming of Making Waves, the segment regarding the Blue Whales - of which we still know very little. Interesting, informative and of quite decent technical quality. Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, it is 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Featurette - Making Of - The Blue Planet (5:02)

   Another relatively short segment that looks at the efforts that went into the filming of Footsteps In The Snow, the segment regarding the filming of the Weddell Seals underwater and the Leopard Seals hunting the Emperor Penguins. Again very interesting and of very decent technical quality. Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, it is 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Featurette - Making Of - The Trials Of Life (6:29)

   A slightly longer segment this time that basically looks at the overall difficulties of filming wildlife in the wild, mainly through an interview with Swiss zoologist Christophe Boesche who researches chimpanzees in West Africa. Whilst this is a little bit grainier than the other two featurettes, it remains interesting and informative. Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, it is 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Filmography - Natural History Unit

   Eight pages of notes highlighting some of the achievements of the Natural History Unit in chronological order.

Notes - Heads of the BBC Natural History Unit

   Two pages of notes detailing the ten heads of the Unit since it was officially instigated in 1957 (even though it had started work in 1953 it did not become an official department of the BBC until 1957).

R4 vs R1

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

    It would appear that this has not yet been released in Region 1 and that the Region 2 version is the same as the Region 4.

Summary

    Short and very simple. Great Wildlife Moments has managed to distil fifty years of excellence from the BBC Natural History Unit into 108 minutes of essential programming that should be in every DVD collection. In most cases we are well aware of the shortcomings in the video, and so this cannot be called a disappointment in that regard. Otherwise, marvellous stuff that could only be bettered if it were twice as long and included some of the earlier programming from the Unit.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Wednesday, December 24, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-515, 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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