The Living Planet-The Complete Series (David Attenborough) (1984)

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Released 2-Dec-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Main Menu Audio
Featurette-Making Of
Rating Rated E
Year Of Production 1984
Running Time 652:42 (Case: 654)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (26:18)
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 $89.95 Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.29:1
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.29:1 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

    Where do you start to review a series like this? It is very well known, spawned many imitators and gave comedians all over the world endless material to lampoon. The image of David Attenborough, standing on some rocky outcrop or beside a rushing river, looking bedraggled and unkempt, in his white or later in the series dirty brown safari suit is truly iconic. This is an awesome work of great breadth and yet marvellous depth in some areas, which sets out in 12 approximately one hour episodes to cover the natural Earth completely. It covers all the major habitats on earth investigating the plants, animals, birds, insects and reptiles and how they have adapted to their specific environment. It also covers how man is impacting on those natural environments either in a non-harmful or harmful way.

    Despite now being over 20 years old, this series is still just as fascinating today as when it first appeared on the BBC in 1984. Nearly all of the information covered has not dated, although the last episode which talks about man made environments and man's effect on the natural world has obviously aged more than the others with focus purely on the natural world. Unlike more modern productions this series is also very very serious - there is no time for jokes or even a smile, which makes the tongue-in-cheek making of featurette all the more welcome. Another wonderful thing about this series is that each episode reveals some fascinating fact which you have not heard before, like that there is a part of the Antarctic not covered in snow and ice or a breed of vultures which only feed on bones or how ants go about digesting grass.

    The show was filmed over a three year period in the early 1980s and the crews traveled to every part of the world you can imagine, from the frozen wastes of Antarctica, to remote islands, to the very top of the atmosphere over 5 miles up, to the top of the canopy in the Brazilian rainforest. Considering the age of this show, some of the footage is wonderful including slow motion, extreme close-ups and time lapse.

    This four-disc set includes all twelve original episodes, all of which are of equivalent quality with the possible exception of the first one. The episodes are:

  1. The Building of the Earth - This episode covers how the various land masses of the earth were formed, including discussion of tectonic plates, faults, volcanos and other such forces. Also discusses how flora and fauna adapt to these sorts of environments as they currently exist. Includes visits to the Himalayas, Mount St Helens & Krakatoa. I found this episode slightly drier than the following ones but still interesting.
  2. The Frozen World - Covers the life that exists in frozen areas of the world such as high up in the mountains, and in the Arctic and Antarctic. Also discusses how plants and animals adapt to extremes of temperature, for example where there are very cold nights and extremely hot days. Includes coverage of algae, insects, sheep, squirrels, seals, penguins, foxes, polar bears, lemmings, owls, caribou, geese, Eskimo and much more. Places visited include Kenya, South America and USA.
  3. The Northern Forests - Covers the great coniferous forests which ring the earth just below the Arctic ice in the north. Also covers other temperate forests such as the redwood, sequoia and pine forest. Life forms covered include birds, squirrels, moose, owls, lynx, wolverines, woodpeckers, shrews, voles, deer, bears, chipmunks, salamanders, ducks, snakes and fungi.
  4. Jungle - Focuses on the equatorial jungles all around the world and the incredible array of life which inhabits them. Goes through the various levels of the jungle, including above the canopy, in the canopy, between the canopy and the ground and on the rainforest floor. Includes eagles, insects, monkeys, bats, frogs, gliding snakes, squirrels, macaws, various parasites, dancing birds, jaguars and the native people who inhabit rainforests.
  5. Seas of Grass - This episode covers the wide, sweeping savannah lands which are much drier than the forest but still support an amazing array of life. Includes anteaters, insects, armadillos, birds, deer, tapir, lizards, wolves, crocodiles, turtles, capybara, frogs, gophers, prairie dogs, bison, coyote, antelope, giraffes, gazelle, lions, cheetah, monkeys, elephants, wildebeest, impala, zebras and the native peoples who live alongside them. Areas visited include Africa, North & South America and Asia.
  6. The Baking Deserts - This episode looks at the driest parts of the earth, the deserts, and reveals the life which exists there despite the heat and lack of water. Also discusses how the deserts developed and why. Animals included are hyenas, foxes, jerboa, lizards, native cats, gerbils, scorpions, spiders, wolves, turtles, lizards, birds, plants, frogs, snakes, lizards, moles and the ship of the desert, the camel. Covers the effects of rain, how creatures live in sand dunes and the ecosystems in oases.
  7. The Sky Above - Focuses on life above the earth, including animals which can actually fly and other which have the ability to glide or at least fall gracefully. Includes discussion of how birds actually fly including take-off and using thermals and other wind currents. Also includes a trip by hot air balloon to the end of the earth's atmosphere, 5 miles above the ground. Also includes information about how some creatures use gravity to their advantage. Includes insects, floating seeds, flying spiders, gliding frogs, geckos, lizards and squirrels; and many varieties of birds including the diving birds and bats.
  8. Sweet Fresh Water - Covers life in streams, puddles, lakes and rivers including the various stages of the development of rivers from their headwaters right through to the deltas. Also covers the effects of silt, erosion, rocks, waterfalls and other natural features. Includes larvae, water birds, reptiles, fish, pelicans, cormorants, snakes, fresh-water seals, otters, crocodiles, turtles and much more.
  9. The Margins of the Land - This episode focuses on coastlines including mud flats, mangrove swamps, rock pools and beaches. Creatures included are insects, crustaceans, worms, deer, boar, mud skippers, crabs, water birds, otters, crocodiles, sea urchins, anemones, starfish, mussels, mollusks and the magnificent sea turtles and their nesting habits.
  10. Worlds Apart - This one covers habitats which are so remote and cut off from the rest of the world that they develop very specific sets of flora and fauna. These include a remote island 250 miles off the coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean, coral atolls, islands in Indonesia, Hawaii, Easter Island and New Zealand. Covers such diverse life forms as coral, crabs, tortoises, giant floating seeds, flightless birds, the dodo, Komodo Dragons, birds and insects which live in volcanic wastelands, tuataras, kiwi, moas, kea and the effects on them of feral cats. Includes discussion of how these animals arrived in these remote locations initially and how they have adapted to suit their habitat. A fascinating episode.
  11. The Open Ocean - This one focuses on the oceans, both in terms of their geography and their ecology. Discusses the various forms that the ocean floor takes including trenches, mountains and plains. From a life perspective this episode includes deep ocean creatures, plankton, anemone, crabs, rays, sharks, tuna, dolphins, narwhals, whales, walrus, seals, fish of all kinds, ducks, sea dragons, cuttlefish. From a specific habitat perspective many types including kelp forest, coral atolls, underwater deserts, the Sargasso sea, the gulf stream and the grand banks are all covered. Also discusses the effect commercial fishing is having.
  12. New Worlds - Covers the effect man has had and is having on the natural environment and the effect nature has on man. Includes domesticating animals, clearing forests, introducing different species, farming development and techniques. Also shows how animals live in cities and other urban environments and the effects of pollution, over-fishing, short sighted decisions and the ever-growing population of man. This episode is obviously out of date as it was made over 20 years ago.

    All in all, this is the most comprehensive nature documentary series I have ever seen and also one of the very best.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video quality is acceptable considering the age of the material but it is certainly not without its flaws.

    The feature is presented in a 1.29:1 aspect ratio non 16x9 enhanced which is the original aspect ratio.

    The picture was reasonably clear and sharp throughout, with no evidence of low level noise. Having said that, it is quite badly affected by variable grain and some macro-blocking. This makes the picture less than desirably clear, dependent on the scene. This is especially true of underwater filming. The shadow detail was reasonable for the age of the production, but quite murky from time to time by more modern standards. Close-up photography was noticeable fuzzy around the edges of the screen, presumably a reflection of the nature of close-up photography technology at the time.

    The colour was again decent for the age of the show, however by modern television standards a bit dull and lifeless, although the occasional brightly coloured creature did really stand out. I did notice some minor colour bleeding here and there.

    As you would expect for a television show of this age, artefacts were significant including quite a bit of telecine wobble, most noticeable in the credits but also in other footage. Additionally, there was some quite noticeable edge enhancement, especially around the safari suit; jagged edges; quite a bit of macro-blocking especially in snow, clouds, and underwater; some minor tape tracking artefacts and quite a few white and blacks specks, blobs and hairs. No worse than you would expect but it is obvious that not a lot of restoration has been done to the original footage.

    There are subtitles in English for the hearing impaired. The English subtitles were very clear and easy to read and virtually exact to the spoken word.

    The layer change occurs at the middle of the second episode on each disc, so for example at 26:18 in episode 2. The first time I played the second disc I found the layer change caused the picture to get stuck on one frame but subsequent times it played normally. Generally the layer changes were not too noticeable.
    

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

Audio

    The audio quality is reasonable but certainly no more than that.

    This DVD contains an English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack encoded at 192 Kb/s.

    Dialogue was clear and easy to understand and there was no problem with audio sync which is obviously the most important part of the soundtrack for a documentary series.

    The music by Elizabeth Parker is very dated and by the end of nearly 12 hours very annoying indeed. It is electronic music made mostly with a synthesizer which probably seemed really impressive in 1984 but now just sounds annoying. Additionally, the music sounds distorted from time to time.

    The surround speakers and subwoofer were not used.

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

Extras

Menu

    The menu included stills, music and the ability to select scenes.

Making of The Living Planet (39:23)

    Now this is quite a lot of fun. It is hosted by Miles Kingston and is very droll and tongue-in-cheek. Includes interviews with David Attenborough and various other members of the crew. Covers difficulties in filming nature, anecdotes, transport difficulties, the endless waiting, filming techniques, building models and globes, the music and editing. It also includes some wonderful outtakes, behind-the-scenes footage and deleted scenes. It really only flags when the composer is going on about her synthesizer. Great stuff!

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;

    On this basis, the Region 4 version of the disc is clearly the winner.

Summary

    A wonderful and comprehensive survey of the entire natural world and all its habitats, animals, plants insects and reptiles. Let down only slightly by being just a little out of date.

    The video quality is reasonable for its age.

    The audio quality is reasonable for its age.

    The disc has a very good 40 minute making-of documentary as its only extra.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Tuesday, February 15, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV667A DVD-V DVD-A SACD, using Component output
DisplaySony FD Trinitron Wega KV-AR34M36 80cm. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL)/480i (NTSC).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-511
SpeakersBose 201 Direct Reflecting (Front), Phillips SB680V (Surround), Phillips MX731 (Center), Yamaha YST SW90 (Sub)

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