Microcosmos (Le peuple de l'herbe) (1996)
|Year Of Production||1996|
|Running Time||72:09 (Case: 77)|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4,5,6||Directed By||
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.66:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Microcosmos is a feature length documentary examining the daily lives of the various insects that inhabit a French meadow.
This film features some stunning photography that is able to capture the lives of a range of insects and arachnids. Set over a twenty four hour period, the movie shows the various creatures in their natural habitats carrying on with their daily lives. As the day progresses, the viewer witnesses the morning dew clearing, the devastation of a sudden rain shower and the different creatures that emerge after the sun goes down.
Unlike a traditional nature documentary, this film has no narrator describing the on-screen action, instead matching the visuals to a musical score. While this does force the visuals to speak for themselves, the viewer may find that a little information regarding the behaviour displayed on screen would have been welcome. Despite this lack of explanatory information, the feature is still able to captivate the audience with numerous examples of stunning camera work.
This feature took over three years to make and was filmed both on location and also on a specially-built stage with numerous computer-controlled cameras to allow the filmmakers to capture the action.
The video transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.66:1 and despite the packaging claims the transfer is NOT 16x9 enhanced.
The transfer is acceptably sharp throughout but during some of the long shots, such as the opening cloud sequence, the transfer is a little soft. The small number of dark shots display high levels of shadow detail.
The colours displayed during this transfer appear to be accurately reproduced and are well saturated. As you would expect, the transfer displays a significant amount of green in combination with the bright vibrant colours found on the insects and flowers.
A single instance of MPEG artefacting may be seen during the transfer at 7:24 but this is quite minor and is only minimally distracting to the viewer.
A very minor instance of aliasing may be seen at 7:53 but this was the only time this artefact was detected during the transfer.
Numerous film artefacts may be seen throughout the transfer. Some examples of these artefacts may be seen at 0:30, 1:05, 2:25, 2:32, 3:05 and 3:54. Due to their frequency, these artefacts are moderately distracting to the viewer. During the scenes shot using conventional lenses, some film grain is visible but this is not distracting.
A digital dropout may be seen at 6:03 resulting in the bottom half of the image becoming distorted for a single frame.
No subtitles are included on this disc.
The packaging claims that this is a dual layered disc but this is incorrect as the disc is single sided and single layered.
The transfer has only approximately 45 seconds of dialogue in total with around half a dozen sentences at the start and end of the feature. This dialogue is always clear and easy to understand.
As the small amount of dialogue is presented as a voice-over, there is no problem with audio sync during the transfer. No dropouts were detected during the transfer.
The constant musical score by Bruno Coulais features a mixture of classical and operatic pieces and this suits the on-screen action very well.
The surround and subwoofer channels were not utilised during this transfer. This was very disappointing as a full 5.1 mix would have provided excellent surround effects as the featured insects flew around the soundfield.
|Surround Channel Use|
The non-animated menus are presented at an aspect ratio of 1.33:1.
This featurette is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.66:1 with a French Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. No subtitles are provided for this featurette so viewers will have to understand French to gain any real information. Numerous MPEG artefacts are visible during this featurette. If English subtitles had been included for this featurette it would have proven very interesting as it appears to discuss a combination of the technical difficulties the filmmakers had to overcome as well as the locations and creatures featured.
This trailer is presented with a French Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack at an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is not 16x9 enhanced.
The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;
The Region 2 French version of this disc misses out on;
The Region 2 Dutch version of this disc misses out on;
This disc is not currently available in R1 but there appears to be at least two different versions released in R2. The first is a French release featuring a French Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and both a 1.85:1 16x9 enhanced version and a 4:3 version on opposite sides of a DVD-10. This disc also includes a short description of fourteen different creatures featured in the movie. The second R2 release is a Dutch version featuring the French Dolby Digital soundtrack and a 1.85:1 16x9 enhanced transfer. This disc also includes French and Dutch subtitles as well as a series of outtakes, the making of featurette and Cast and Crew information detailing 28 of the creatures featured and four crew members.
If you must have a version of this film now I would recommend the R2 Dutch release but viewers should note that there are no English subtitles for either the feature, which is no real loss, or the making of featurette, which is disappointing. Hopefully, a future R1 release will include all the features seen on the Dutch release as well as English subtitles.
Microcosmos is a very enjoyable documentary that features some stunning close up photography.
The amazing visuals are let down by a fairly standard non 16x9 enhanced transfer that shows a relatively high number of film artefacts.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack is disappointing and would have been greatly enhanced with a full surround mix.
The minimal extras would have been quite interesting, but as the featurette has no subtitles this is only of real use to a French speaking audience.
|DVD||Toshiba 1200, using S-Video output|
|Display||Sony KP-E41SN11. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Amplification||Front left/right: ME75b; Center: DA50ES; rear left/right: DA50ES; subwoofer: NAD 2600 (Bridged)|
|Speakers||Front left/right: VAF DC-X; Center: VAF DC-6; rear left/right: VAF DC-7; subwoofer: Custom NHT-1259|