Blue Planet (1990) (NTSC)
Main Menu Audio
|Year Of Production||1990|
|Running Time||42:24 (Case: 41)|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||1,4||Directed By||Ben Burtt|
Warner Home Video
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||480i (NTSC)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.44:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
I remember seeing Blue Planet at the local IMAX theatre sometime in 1993. I think it was the first full IMAX feature that I had seen and I was quite impressed. The very comfy laid back seats, the massive all encompassing two-storey high screen, the speakers all round (they were even lit up during the intro to show off exactly how big they were - and boy were they big!). Even though we didn't get much in the way of duration for our ten bucks entry with the feature running less than an hour, I still enjoyed the experience.
I volunteered to review this title for two reasons. Firstly, I was gripped by a touch of nostalgia to see something again that I had only viewed once, and I was very interested to see just how this format, more renowned for super-sized screens and bombastic sound systems translated to the somewhat smaller screen found in my family room.
Made by the Smithsonian Institute in 1990 for its National Air and Space Museum, this is more than just a series of images taken from several space shuttle flights. Showing footage from the later Apollo missions and various shots from other places on Earth, this is a documentary that highlights just how fragile our 'blue' planet is and how the interference by man and the fury of nature have taken their course over time to forever change how some of the planet looks. The footage taken from the shuttle missions is exceptional. Whole countries and continents can be seen and you can't help but try to guess in advance what country or region you are actually looking at from several hundred kilometres above the earth's surface.
I found myself thinking that something was decidedly lacking while we watched this documentary. Having seen it originally on a screen that measures about 10 times the size of a normal cinema screen and now watching on my Loewe 84cm, I must admit I was somewhat disappointed with the impact that it had. Obviously there isn't much I could do to improve that, but I must admit that the bigger your screen, the more impact this is going to have and your enjoyment level will rise in direct proportion to your screen width. This is also an NTSC disc, so you'll need a suitably capable display to view it.
Presented in an aspect of 1.33:1, it is not 16x9 enhanced. Interestingly the IMAX format is presented theatrically in an aspect of 1.44:1 so this is pretty close to how it looked at the theatre - just not quite as large! There are also instances where there is some footage shown (particularly from the Apollo moon missions), that is presented in quite a small window on the screen. If I remember correctly when I saw this theatrically, the bulk of the footage was shown in IMAX format with some 'smaller' 35mm shots interspersed amongst it. Vision from the later Apollo missions and some of the file footage of the hurricane damage were shown this way. Unfortunately, on my screen these show up somewhat smaller than a 34cm TV set.
The transfer is a bit of a mixed bag in terms of sharpness. The footage taken on from the shuttle missions is excellent with a decent level of detail on the shuttle exterior and the views of earth. The footage on the ground exhibits some occasional blurriness and the jaggies associated with NTSC (particularly whenever people are present). Otherwise, it is also quite finely detailed. The transfer is virtually free of grain and there is no low level noise.
Colours are certainly the highlight of this transfer. The deep blues and greens that cover much of the Earth's surface are superbly rendered and are a real joy to behold. The footage on the ground suffers from some minor bleeding and oversaturation but this is not overly disruptive.
I noticed no MPEG artefacting and only very small amounts of film to video artefacts in the form of minor aliasing. There are a reasonable number of film artefacts present throughout. The majority are on the older file footage and the other film taken on the Earth. The IMAX footage taken from the space shuttle also includes a number of smaller artefacts. None of these are particularly obtrusive.
There are four sets of subtitles present, these being English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese. No problems were noted with the English flavour.
This disc is single sided and single layered. Given the extremely short duration of the presentation, that is not surprising.
Blue Planet sports a fairly surprising remastered audio presentation that utilises some innovative left/right and surround channel use.
Contrary to the packaging, there are two audio tracks available on this disc. A Dolby Digital 5.1 effort is available in both English and French even though the packaging only mentions English.
Dialogue is provided by way of narration by Toni Myers and is very clear, concise, and extremely well paced. The very small amount of dialogue by the space shuttle astronauts shows no sign of any audio sync problems.
The musical score is fairly tame. IMAX is mostly a visual experience, so the music simply provides backing to what you are seeing.
The surround channel use is quite innovative and often used. The most noted cases are when the vision is of the earth from the space shuttle and the astronauts are commenting on what they see. All this dialogue comes from the rear speakers, giving the impression that we are peering out the shuttle portal and the crew are standing right behind us and describing what we are seeing. Quite neat I thought. Listen out at 36:15-36:47 for the best example. There is also decent rear effect use at 11:28 during an approaching thunderstorm. Some interesting and unique left/right use is evident at 17:30 where the devastating effect of a hurricane is being shown. There are 3 smaller screens on the screen at the same time. Each screen has its own 'speaker' (left, centre, right) that draws attention to the particular destruction occurring at the time. Also quite neat.
The subwoofer is used but not as well I would have hoped for, seeming to try just a little too hard at times and then not enough when I would have thought it appropriate. Listen out for it at 3:55-4:30 during the shuttle takeoff and 25:41 during the mock earthquake for the best examples.
|Surround Channel Use|
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The Region 1 offering is identical in every way to the Region 4 disc. I'd favour the local product here on price alone.
You should by no means expect that an IMAX presentation is going to translate perfectly from the big screen to your home system. The jaw-dropping sight of earth as the space shuttle glides over it in orbit is still pretty impressive, but is no real different to what we've seen many times now. The biggest disappointment with this disc is the brevity of the content. Surely with such a wide-ranging and important topic as the survival of our planet, we could have seen the inclusion of some substantial extras in the form of follow-up documentaries made ten years later to compare just how far we have come (or gone backwards) in that time. Whilst it has a certain school documentary tone to it, this is certainly a decent documentary that provides some thought-provoking scenes. While not having aged as well as I would have hoped, it is still a worthwhile view, even if it only runs for 40 minutes. The video is above average as is the audio which provides some innovative left/right and surround use in a remastered 5.1 track. There are virtually no extras.
|DVD||Teac DV-2000, using S-Video output|
|Display||Loewe Calida (84cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Front - B&W 602S2, Centre - B&W CC6S2, Rear - B&W 601S2, Sub - Energy E:xl S10|