Life in the Freezer (1993)
|Year Of Production||1993|
|Running Time||175:04 (Case: 174)|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL (92:33)||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||None Given|
Roadshow Home Entertainment
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||English Dolby Digital 2.0 (256Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.33:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||Yes, Credits roll over the final scenes in each episode|
If there is a better presenter of documentaries on the planet than David Attenborough then they are a rare species indeed. Possibly the best known face of naturalist history, Attenborough embodies the very essence of a good presenter; he's passionate, knowledgeable and erudite. His soft, lilting voice is perfect for the material he presents and getting up close and personal with his subject matter adds that edge of verisimilitude. This series, brought to you by the BBC and National Geographic is another splendid collection of 30 minute episodes about the coldest, most barren and sparsely populated part of our planet, the Antarctic. For those of you familiar with Attenborough's style, you will not be disappointed with the quality of this disc and it is a worthy addition to any collection.
Originally made for television, this 1993 series has all the hallmarks of using digital technology, and that is not to discount the abilities of the crew. In some places this is so spectacular it is breathtaking in its clarity. Occasionally it looks like stock footage was used as filler or for a different perspective, but on the whole and apart from some minor annoyances this is just stunning.
This was originally presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and that is what we get on this disc. It is not 16x9 enhanced.
Sharpness is crisp, clean and there is edge enhancement very visible on the non-nature footage (i.e. that with the cast/crew/David Attenborough, eg: 4:07 in The Bountiful Sea). Apart from that, though, the rest of the show is beautifully presented. Shadow detail is as bountiful as the seas with copious amounts of fine detail visible throughout. Background detail only diminishes when presenting something sharply in focus in the foreground. Grain is light and minimal until Episode 4, The Door Closes, whereupon at 24:10, after some stock footage is used with heavy grain visible, the grain actually becomes more persistent. That's not to say it was bad, just visible from that point on. Low level noise was simply not an issue with deep blacks and no visible problems.
Naturalist footage is excellent with all the colours of life on display. Whites are crisp and great variance can be seen in them. Skin tones look very natural. The only annoyance is colour bleed which accompanies David Attenborough and his use of a red anorak. Basically whenever he appears wearing that coat, bleed occurs (eg: The Bountiful Sea - 1:20 and 7:45, The Race to Breed - 19:26, The Door Closes - 26:45, and plenty of other times). There is the odd colour bleed on the animal life but it is rarer (eg: The Ice Retreats - 21:17 along the wing edge of a penguin, The Door Closes - 4:33 on penguin and again at 9:58). Chroma noise is not an issue.
Film artefacts are fairly rare, only being visible on a couple of occasions (eg: light spray of flecks at 3:08 in The Bountiful Sea, The Ice Retreats at 11:50 and Footsteps in the Snow at 13:50). Pixelization is visible if you care to look, but it is mostly light and unnoticeable for the most part (eg: The Bountiful Sea - 26:20 along penguin beak, The Ice Retreats - 9:53 along a wing edge and The Big Freeze - 12:11 along the snow line). Other slight imperfections can be found in The Ice Retreats - 20:04, a hair at the bottom of the screen, ghosting in The Door Closes - 9:58 on one of the penguins and again at 14:12 on David Attenborough's outline. The Door Closes also has some smudges on the picture at 14:31 on the left hand side and Footsteps in the Snow has visible lines running through it at 23:42 which appear similar to microphony, quite surprising given the excellence of the rest of the series.
The subtitles are small, white with a black border (obviously to be seen more easily against the predominantly white backgrounds), easy to read and very accurate to the spoken word.
The layer change occurs at 5:07 in Episode 4, The Door Closes. It's mid penguin swim, quick and relatively painless.
Only one soundtrack is available on this disc, an English Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded track at 256 kilobits per second. Given the fact that documentaries are dialogue-centred, this is usually more than adequate for the job. In this case, it is actually better than that. Naturally, the centre speaker is the focus of attention for most of the series with strong, clean sound from David Attenborough seeking to maintain your interest. The front speakers are used most often for the sound effects; wind, crashing of waves, the sounds of the birds or animals, but every now and then the music will pick up and place you squarely inside a wall of sound, ably enhanced by the surrounds which do a sterling job. Overall this was a totally enjoyable sound experience combining the best of both music and effects but never over-riding the dialogue.
The syncing was excellent with no noticeable disparity. David Attenborough's dulcet tones are perfect for the dialogue and his simple, articulate and thoroughly enjoyable style was perfectly in evidence.
The music was composed by George Fenton who is better known for his movie soundtracks (eg: Groundhog Day, The Fisher King) but he definitely come up with a sterling effort on this series. As the saying goes, 'sound maketh the movie', and in this case it is definitely true. Using a full orchestral setup, this includes quiet, somnambulant pieces all the way up to thundering crescendos which form a symbiosis with the vision.
The surround encoding on this disc means that the rears were used more to add power and presence to the music and sound effects, which they did in generous portions. The sound level from the rears was very decent and everything has a much more encompassing feel to it.
There was no subwoofer usage on this disc.
|Surround Channel Use|
At this time there doesn't appear to be a Region 1 (or Region 2) release of this DVD, making the local product the product of choice.
Life In The Freezer is another superb series from the BBC presented by David Attenborough. This one is about the loneliest place on the planet, and the coldest, yet he manages to make it sound almost exotic. Definitely one for the collection if you are a lover of great documentaries, and they don't come any better.
Every now and then you will be amazed at the brilliance of the video, while the rest of the time it is merely excellent with some amazing camera work. There are only a few minor blemishes to report.
An excellent aural companion to the video is on offer. Although most of the time you'll be concentrating on the dialogue, every now and then you'll be pleasantly surprised by the breadth and scope of the soundtrack.
No extras are present on this disc.
|DVD||Toshiba SD5300, using RGB output|
|Display||Loewe Xelos (81cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Rotel RSP-976. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Amplification||Rotel RB 985 MkII|
|Speakers||JBL TLX16s Front Speakers, Polk Audio LS fx di/bipole Rear Speakers, Polk Audio CS350-LS Centre Speaker, M&KV-75 Subwoofer|