Planet Earth-Episodes 6-11 (2006)
|Category||Documentary||Main Menu Audio & Animation|
|Year Of Production||2006|
|Running Time||353:58 (Case: 360)|
|RSDL / Flipper||
Dual Disc Set
|Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Alastair Fothergill|
Roadshow Home Entertainment
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.78:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
My review of Part 1 of this tremendous BBC documentary series can be found here.
Part 2 is not a true second part. It is in fact the same series, but the separate packaging came about through a staggered broadcast schedule. Part 2 includes episodes 6 to 11 of the series. They are as follows:
The mood of this episode is sombre. The heat of global warming has led to a break up of the pack ice in the Artic. The dominant predator, the mighty polar bear, has had its hunting grounds decimated as surely as the farmers axe has destroyed great sections of the Amazonian rainforest. The episode follows a polar bear as it travels the open sea in search of prey. The final scenes are sad and a bit disturbing for the young ones. The Antarctic section focuses on the emperor penguins. With recent films such as March of the Penguins and Happy Feet some may have seen enough of these chubby critters. Not me - I still laugh when they run across the ice with their unique wiggle.
Herd upon herd of animals dominate this episode as Attenborough takes us from the freezing plains of Tibet to the wetlands of India and the great savannahs of Africa. Grass in its many shapes and forms is the constant across the plains of the world, sustaining life and continuing to grow despite harsh and unforgiving conditions. The highlight of this episode is a segment in Africa, in which a large pride of hungry lions take on an elephant.
The jungles of the world are teeming with life. Sometimes the creatures can be difficult to spot but they are never difficult to hear. The jungles are alive with the sounds of primates, birds and bugs. Figs seem to be the most plentiful source of food in the rainforest canopy. Below in the dark undergrowth, reptiles and insects fight for survival. This episode features a dramatic end as a group of chimpanzees go on a raiding party to turf out some neighbouring chimps - with some horrific consequences.
Although the shallow seas make up only 8% of the ocean mass they contain the vast majority of ocean life. This episode features a humpback whale and calf in the shallows hiding out and, in the case of the calf, gathering strength before travelling to the arctic region to feed. Amazing shots abound in this episode including some more sharks hunting seals and some resourceful dolphins aquaplaning their way to food in centimetres of water.
In keeping with the tranquility of the forests themselves, this is a more restrained episode. There are glimpses of the rare Amur Leopard and a very cute set of ducklings learning to fly. Some of the camerawork is awe inspiring as we are taken from the floor of the forest to the top of some mighty trees which stretch as high as a thirty story building.
This episode is not just about the ocean depths but also the sea creatures which roam the open sea looking for food. Krill and plankton form the bottom of the food chain for everything from tiny fishes to the mighty blue whale. Some bizarre and frightening creatures of the very deep seas are also featured in this episode, including the choicely named vampire squid from hell. Fans of the previous documentary series The Blue Planet might see some repetition in this episode, although there were a few creatures who seemed entirely new.
In my previous review I gushed about the standard of this DVD's presentation. It is presented in a 1.78:1 transfer, which is 16x9 enhanced.
I felt then and feel now that this series is the visual pinnacle of nature television. My views are unchanged. So too are my views that the High Definition releases of this series, slated for later this year in the US, will be indispensable. At the moment this release lags slightly behind the series as televised.
For those not desperate for the highest resolution formats this is still breathtaking image quality.
I don't propose to repeat my general comments but some of the highlights from this series are:
The flight of the arctic snow geese at 8:33 in episode 7, the exquisite flying frogs at 18:30 from episode 9 and the rare and beautiful lynx at 4:15 from episode 10.
The high definition camera work is at its best in the close-ups where every hair on a creatures face can be counted as well as in the slow moving panoramas of majestic forests and mountain peaks.
Perhaps the only less-than-stellar moments are in the episode about the ocean depths. I suspect old footage from previous dives was used here as it can't be that easy to take high definition cameras to the ocean floor.
All in all, this is a remarkable effort.
The sound for the series is English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s). The sound for the show continues to be excellent.
Attenborough is clear and engaging in his voice over and the animal sounds (assuming they weren't cooked up by some overzealous foley artists in the studio) are well rendered.
Viewing these further episodes has confirmed the exceptional effort of George Fenton to create a soundtrack of symphonic proportions which is a work of art in its own right. Each of the carefully chosen themes is a rich complement to the on-screen action. There are the percussion heavy chase scenes and the full symphonic majesty of the mountain peaks.
Although the surround sound is rarely overbearing there are a few moments, such as the tree falling down at 5:10 in the Jungle episode, which have deep bass. There are a few chase scenes which create a rumble too but the surround is most effective in creating the feeling of a living forest or ocean as the viewer is surrounded by the sounds of nature.
The soundtrack also swells at just the right times and has a nice separation.
|Surround Channel Use|
As with Part 1, each episode in Part 2 is followed by a 10 minute documentary about an aspect of the episode, usually a troublesome or special part of the shoot. In Part 2 these are:
This extra looks at the camera people at both ends of the pole, each with their own problems. For the team in Antarctica it is the extreme cold as they struggle to film emperor penguins in a constant blizzard. The team in the north faced a different challenge - hungry polar bears dropping by their shack to see if there was anything edible inside!
This segment focuses on the hunt by the African team to get lions on night vision attacking an elephant. It is clear from the outset that the filmmakers were in as much danger at times as the elephant, as lions prowled around their flimsy vehicle throughout the night.
In the jungle of Papua New Guinea, a patient cameraman sits in a tiny hide, waiting to snap some footage of birds of paradise performing for their admiring females. In fact, the lack of females was the problem as he spent over 300 cooped-up hours to film three different birds. The results, however, are spectacular and justify his efforts.
The sight of great whites leaping out of the water to chomp on unlucky seals, all in ultra-slow motion, was one of the highlights of the first set. Here we see the work that went into the filming as the crew scoured the sea around Cape Town waiting for that elusive strike. The results are stunning.
One of the highlights of the extras this includes humour and drama as a cameraman in Africa comes to grips with the revolutionary technique of shooting from an adapted hot air balloon. Tragedy is barely averted as the balloon collides heavily with the boab trees they are filming.
More sharks feature in this extra. This time it is the oceanic white tipped shark which roams the surface of the deep sea looking for prey. Two intrepid cameramen, working without cages, paddled among these recognised man-eaters until they had all the images they needed. This shark species has attacked more people than all the other shark species combined. The divers emerged not a moment too soon as the sharks were gearing up for a feast!
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
This DVD has not been released in Region 1 yet. Apparently the show will be broadcast in the USA beginning March 2007 with a voice-over by Sigourney Weaver (for shame!) but the eventual DVD release will have the original narration. There are three more episodes which have been produced dealing with some of the conservation themes of the programme. These were released in a special box set, with all the regular episodes in Region 2. For completists, the Region 2 release would seem to be a good buy but all others might want to hold off for the High Definition releases.
The second part of the BBC series is equally as good as the first.
The visuals and sound are superb and the series contains some unforgettable moments.
The extras are fun and a good reminder of the trials and tribulations of getting this stuff on film.
|DVD||Pioneer DVR 630H-S, using Component output|
|Display||Panasonic TH-50PV60A 50' Plasma. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.|
|Amplification||Onkyo TX - SR603|
|Speakers||Onkyo 6.1 Surround|