Life in the Undergrowth-Complete Series (2005)

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Released 2-Feb-2006

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Main Menu Audio & Animation
Interviews-Crew-Interview With Mike Salisbury (Producer)
Audio-Only Track-Original Score
Rating Rated E
Year Of Production 2005
Running Time 248:36 (Case: 275)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (24:43)
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By None Given
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring David Attenborough
Case Gatefold
RPI $49.95 Music Ben Salisbury
David Poore


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 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

   

'For every pound of people on earth, there are 300 pounds of insects'

    Think about the quote above for a while, and then be thankful that insects are not interested in running the world.

    Once more David Attenborough and the BBC natural history unit grace our screens with an excellent documentary series, this time focusing on invertebrates (or insects to their mates). The supply of quality documentaries seems unending from this man. Personally, I have reviewed a number of them including Attenborough in Paradise and Other Personal Voyages, Greatest Wildlife Show on Earth/Great Natural Wonders of the World, Living Planet, The: The Complete Series and Wildlife Special-Tiger. Of course, the list of those I have reviewed does not include any from the large set of documentary series into which this new series falls, The Life series. This includes such magnificent work as Life in the Freezer, The Secret Life of Plants, Life of Mammals and Life of Birds all of which have been previously released on DVD.

    This new series is the best of the ones I have reviewed and is an incredible achievement. Attenborough has put off making a documentary series about insects because he never felt that the technology was available to really take the audience inside the insect's world in all its glory and brutality. With recent advances in camera and lenses this has now been possible and the results are truly incredible. The photography here is simply stunning and the footage of insects is more detailed and fascinating than anything you have seen before on the subject. They use microscopic photography including endoscopic, slo-motion, time-lapse and infrared techniques to bring the audience up close and personal footage of all sorts of insect behaviour. Also amazing are the shots where the insects are in focus in the foreground and Attenborough is in focus in the background and you can see him intersecting with their world. We get incredible insights into the way they live and their hunting, sex lives and communities. Some scenes are like you would normally expect in a show about big cats with one insect stalking and attacking another or in one case a foot long centipede that catches and eats bats. The show also emphasises how important insects are to the world in which we live.

    Another incredible part of this production is the wonderful original score by Ben Salisbury & David Poore which is very effective and dramatic. Also, the sounds which have been captured of the insects themselves are incredible and sometimes a little gross as is some of the footage. I cannot recommend this show for anyone with a fear of insects or spiders as it would be very difficult for them to watch. Also included are some 3 dimensional computer generated recreations of extinct insects which are excellently realised.

    The series runs over 5 episodes each of approximately 50 minutes and there is never a dull moment. The discs are enclosed in a nicely designed cardboard slipcover and fold out sleeve which features some wonderful photos and quotes from the show. My review copy also came with a set of greeting cards featuring the insect stars of the show. These seem to come free when you buy the set but may be only available at some stores. I saw them at the ABC Shop.

    The five episodes are:

  1. Invasion of the Land - This episode focuses on the insect species which first evolved into land based invertebrates and their closest living relatives. Included are snails, worms, whip spiders, centipedes (including the one I mentioned above that catches bats by hanging off the roof of a cave and catching them out of the air!), slugs, millipedes, giant worms and scorpions.
  2. Taking to the Air - This time the focus is on flying insects and why they initially developed the powers of flight including mayflies, dragonflies, damselflies, butterflies, wasps, moths, bees, flies, beetles and cicadas.
  3. The Silk Spinners - The episode is on the various insects which produce and use silk and the purposes to which they put it including glow worms, gnat larvae, lacewings, spiders including red backs and more.
  4. Intimate Relations - This episode is about insects that have symbiotic or parasitic relationships with other insects, plants and animals such as aphids, ants, ladybirds, wasps, spiders, stick insects, water beetles and so forth. It also goes into the deceptions that insects use and how they use other creatures to rear their young.
  5. Supersocieties - This time the focus is on insects that live in large and complex societies such as ants, sand wasps, bees, wood ants, army ants, harvest ants and termites. It covers battles between various species, bullying tactics, mutinies and coups that affect these societies.

   I cannot recommend this series highly enough. It is fascinating and incredibly well produced. A must see (and probably own) for fans of nature documentaries.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video quality is excellent.

    The feature is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio 16x9 enhanced which is probably the original aspect ratio.

    The picture was very clear and sharp throughout, with no evidence of low level noise. Shadow detail was phenomenally good, driven by the use of infrared photography for night shots. Grain was virtually non-existent except for a few short passages which may have been due to zooming rather than an issue with the transfer.

    The colour was fantastic, displaying the wonderful variations of colour in the insect world.

    The only noticeable artefact was a few spots of extremely minor aliasing.

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

    The layer change occurs at 24:43 on Disc 1 and caused a slight pause. Disc 2 does not have a layer change that I noticed.
    

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

Audio

    The audio quality is very good.

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

    Dialogue was clear and easy to understand and there was no problem with audio sync.

    The score of this series by Ben Salisbury & David Poore is excellent as I mentioned above.

    The surround speakers feature lots of atmosphere, especially jungle and bushland noises.

    The subwoofer added some bass to the music.

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

Extras

    The extras are on Disc 2.

Menu

    The menu included scenes from the show, music, and the ability to select episodes and subtitles.

Disc 2

Interview with Mike Salisbury (30:18)

    Mike is the series producer and he gives an interesting and convivial interview here. He discusses the concept of the series, why they chose it, difficulties in filming, the technical advances that they needed, the filming approach used (mixture of high def digital and film), infrared lighting and the new and interesting behaviour which they discovered and filmed. Good stuff.

Original Score

    25 sections of the original score are available to play over the menu. The music is great but I'm not sure how often you would play it. A worthwhile extra nonetheless.

R4 vs R1

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

    This series is about to be released in Region 1 and is available in Region 2. Both are the same as our local release.

Summary

    A fantastic nature series featuring incredible photography.

    The video quality is excellent.

    The audio quality is very good.

    The set contains two extras which are both worthwhile.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Saturday, April 29, 2006
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
SpeakersMonitor Audio Bronze 2 (Front), Bronze Centre & Bronze FX (Rears) + Yamaha YST SW90 subwoofer

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