Hubble's View Of The Universe

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Details At A Glance

Category Special Interest Credits
Previews (3 trailers)
Screensaver (DVD)
Screensaver (Windows)
Rating Exempt
Year Released 2000
Running Time 55:53 minutes
RSDL/Flipper No/No
Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Selection, then Movie
Region 1,2,3,4,5,6 Director  
Alpha DVD
Wild Releasing
Starring The Universe
Case Amaray style, three clip
RPI $39.95 Music 2002

Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Music 1 (Dolby Digital 5.1, 448 Kb/s)
Music 2 (DTS 5.1)
Music 3 (Dolby Digital 2.0, 192 Kb/s)
English (Dolby Digital 2.0, 192 Kb/s)
French (Dolby Digital 2.0, 192 Kb/s)
German (Dolby Digital 2.0, 192 Kb/s)
Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0, 192 Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
Macrovision ?Yes Smoking No
Subtitles English
English Nomenclature
French Nomenclature
German Nomenclature
Spanish Nomenclature
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    Err, John - you best look away as I am not going to be able to make this bad! [Ed. John R was initially going to review this DVD, but was unable to because it had DVD-ROM content on it.]

    WOW! And just so you do not miss it - WOW! In fact, there simply are not enough superlatives around to throw at this little collection. This is an utterly incredible collection of images, the likes of which I doubt that any but a select band of scientists have ever seen before. For those that do not know, the Hubble Space Telescope was launched in 1990 and placed into orbit about 365 miles above the Earth. Its 20 year mission is quite simple - to look to the stars. Free from the distorting effects of the atmosphere, the telescope is intended to delve into the very depths of space to record what is out there in this great big Universe in which we live, albeit on a small, insignificant little piece of rock orbiting an utterly unmemorable little star on the outer edges of a completely unremarkable little galaxy. And just how big is the Universe? Well, the Hubble Space Telescope cannot look right to the very edge of the Universe, but it can look a heck of a long way. Indeed some of the images in this collection are of what is known as the Hubble Deep Field, a block of space that is a very small cross-section of the total arc of space, that has been investigated and catalogued as a typical block of space: this little chunk of the Universe is used as a yardstick to estimate how common all objects are in the Universe. So you are saying, what of it? Well, the Hubble Deep Field is about 12,000,000,000 light years away from the Earth. Yes, 12 billion light years. That is a very long distance, in both time and space. What can you see out there? Well, nothing. But the Hubble Space Telescope can see quite a lot. Approximately 1,200 to 1,500 galaxies are out there in the Hubble Deep Field - multiply that by all the other arcs of space and there are a very, very, very large number of galaxies out there in the Universe. This little collection of images lets you actually see an infinitesimally small number of them in all their majestic glory.

    This is definitely a collection of images that makes you really think about our existence here on this little piece of rock. When you can see such utterly clear and beautiful images of galaxies outside of our own, full of billions of stars, it is very difficult to accept the arrogant view that life exists only here on Earth. It is simply inconceivable that, in all those hundreds of galaxies that you can see in the photographs, there is contained no life whatsoever. And that makes you wonder why we have not yet gone to the stars. We, the people of Earth, seem utterly determined to destroy this beautiful little piece of rock upon which we are so completely dependent. We are equally determined to spend hundreds of billions of dollars per year on going to war for no other reason than the fact that someone has different political views, different skin colour or different religious views. Just imagine what that money would have achieved if spent far more wisely, including a serious commitment to the exploration of space. Intelligent life on Earth? There is no such thing and this collection goes a long way to proving it. If there were intelligent life on Earth, we would be a long way further into space than just looking at some incredible images from across the cosmos and sending (and losing) remote vehicles to the other planets in the solar system.

    The presentation here is simply a collection of many dozens of images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope since it was launched, gathered together in a rather loose manner and displayed accompanied by some suitably ethereal music. Perhaps it should be pointed out that the images are not actually photographs taken by Hubble per se, as the telescope cannot do that. What it actually does is collect data using several different instruments, which is then passed down to the controlling Space Telescope Science Institute on Earth where the data is painstakingly re-combined to produce what we see here as a photograph. The presentation may sound a little dull, but believe me it is not. When this DVD first turned up in my office, I threw it into my PC and watched excerpts of it with the love of my life (and this is the only time I have seen something more beautiful than she). She was rather impressed, even with the relatively poor image presented on a lousy seventeen inch computer monitor. When I got home and threw it into the DVD player and watched it on my normal setup - well, suffice it to say that everyone who has thus far seen it (and I have now watched it six times in four days myself) has managed to utter such superlatives as "incredible", "amazing", "magnificent", "stunning", and "look at that" with what is becoming monotonous regularity! I have not bothered to work out how many photographs are actually included in the collection, and I really do not care how many there are. I just sit there engrossed by what I am watching! The images comprise some of the most visually stunning that I have ever seen, of such magnificent cosmic displays as galaxies, supernovae, nebulae, globular clusters, stars and some of the planets of our own solar system. The stand outs? Pick any of them! The Cat's Eye Nebula, the Orion Nebula, the time lapse animation of Mars put together from hundreds of images of the planet, the Polar Ring Galaxy and so on and so on and so on.

    I may have thought Earthlight without much point, but those stunning images are completely overshadowed by this collection, and this collection does have some point: it is a supremely magnificent piece of work with which to contemplate our place in the Universe. Whether you believe in The Big Bang Theory and The Theory of Evolution, or whether you believe in the glory of God, it makes no difference for this collection will reaffirm your beliefs a hundred times over! This should become the biggest-selling DVD in the world, it is that good. It is a magnificent collection of images, superbly presented and I urge you all to at least look at this DVD.

Transfer Quality


    Okay, first things first: this is an NTSC transfer and therefore you will need to have a display device capable of displaying the signal. If you have not got a display device that will display the NTSC signal, then this is the reason to go out and get one! This is a superb transfer that falls just shy of reference quality owing to two relatively trivial instances of shimmer in the image. Not bad for a format that is inherently less sharp than the PAL system!

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78.1 and it is 16x9 enhanced.

    Considering that some of the images are from the very depths of space, one could be excused for being willing to accept a certain degree of lack of focus in the images. I mean, since I can barely get a photograph over one hundred metres to be completely in focus, I was willing to accept a fair degree of latitude here. No need to. The photographs are extremely sharp and well detailed and are quite magnificently rendered in the transfer. Even when they were not, most notably the example of lensing that is given here, the photographs are far better than anyone has the right to expect over the distances that are involved. Just to give some perspective here, there are quite wonderful photographs of objects such as NGC 4214, which is about 12 million light years from Earth, or NGC 4414, which is about 60 million light years from Earth. The slight loss of focus only comes into play in general in the photographs of really distant objects, such as that of 18 young galaxies, which are approximately 11 billion light years from the Earth. I think that is to be accepted as reasonable! Shadow detail is not much of an issue here as across the vastness of the Universe, shadows don't come into play much! However, detail in general here is utterly superb, and the level of detail that can be discerned in the photographs of all but the most distant objects is quite staggering. There is no problem with low level noise in the transfer.

    However, if the detail has not impressed enough, then the colours will definitely do so! When you sit down here on Earth looking up at the heavens, all you really see is black and white, with some indications of red and yellow. Ha! This is the most amazing collections of reds, blues, greens, yellows, oranges, pinks, browns, and all sorts of colours in between! This is a magnificently vibrant transfer in every respect and this is what really gives the collection of images the huge wow factor. The subtlety of the colours is staggering, the range of colours is staggering and the depths of the colours are staggering. Apart from the few photographs which inherently tend to oversaturation - quite natural when you have shots of bright stellar objects closely together - there is not a hint of oversaturation otherwise. Colour bleed is completely absent from this transfer. This is as vibrant and as colourful a transfer as I have ever seen on DVD.

    This is a virtually faultless transfer in every respect bar two: there is a mild amount of shimmer across the image between 20:50 and 21:02, and another very brief instance at 25:30. That is it - the only faults that I have seen after six viewings of this DVD. Maybe I am being too charitable, as I am too engrossed by the programme content, but then if I am, others will be too I would suspect. Other than that, there are no MPEG artefacts in the transfer, there are no film-to-video artefacts in the transfer and there are no film artefacts in the transfer. This is as fine an example of mastering as I think you could wish for.

    Watching all these images would be pointless if you did not know what they were: after all, this is also an educational tool of the highest order, as well as being a piece of entertainment. To this end, there are four subtitle tracks, in English, French, German and Spanish, that provide a brief notation of the object being shown on screen. These appear only briefly once the image comes onto the screen so as not to interrupt the viewing. The descriptions generally comprise the popular name of the object (where one has been assigned) and the astronomical number given the object: most of these are the NGC number but others are used where applicable. There are also four subtitle tracks, in the same choices, to underscore the narration provided.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    Matching the video transfer is an equally stunning audio transfer.

    There are seven audio tracks on this DVD, comprised of music tracks with a choice of Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2.0, as well as a narration track in a choice of English Dolby Digital 2.0, French Dolby Digital 2.0, German Dolby Digital 2.0 and Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0. I listened to the music tracks in all three choices and the English narration track.

    The music was written and performed by 2002, and is a very nice collection of ethereal ambient music. It beautifully complements the subject matter. However, if you do not enjoy the music of Enya, then you will not enjoy this, as it is entirely reminiscent of her music, so much so that everyone has so far asked if the music is by Enya. Whatever choice you make to listen to the music track, you should be more than satisfied. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is quite magnificent, with some wonderful presence and dynamics, but ever so slightly marred by slightly too much resonance in the bass channel on a couple of occasions, especially during the main menu. The DTS 5.1 soundtrack is equally wonderful, but does not suffer the same bass resonance problem as the bass is spread more across all six channels. I personally prefer the more subtle bass of the DTS soundtrack compared to the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, but that is a preference that others may not agree with. Certainly if you like more prevalent bass, then the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack will be the soundtrack of choice. The Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack obviously lacks the surround channel and bass channel enhancement of the other two soundtracks, but if your situation dictates this as the soundtrack of choice, do not worry. The music is still quite nicely carried, albeit without the presence, and it will continue to entertain. Actually, this is one of those rare instances where no choice will disappoint and where no choice suffers from any significant problems.

    The narration, at least on the English soundtrack, is just a little on the dry and educational side for my liking. It is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 sound over a muted Dolby Digital 2.0 music track. The presentation is more than adequate for the purpose it serves, although the presenter could certainly have livened things up just a little. I generally found it quite an interesting programme, alternating between providing specific information about the objects on-screen and providing a broad overview of the purpose and work of the Hubble Space Telescope. There is certainly nothing wrong with the soundtrack, being very clear and easy to understand and completely free of any distortion or any other imperfection.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    Since I would cheerfully put up with the main programme alone, such is the quality, anything in the way of extras is an added bonus indeed, and we have been provided with something of a decent extras package, at least in theory, as the web stuff only created problems for me!


    Quite presentable and very functional. Nice audio enhancement though.


    Not often that I mention these as extras, but the people who made this DVD possible, from the scientific team through to the DVD mastering team, deserve the mention in my view.

Previews (3)

    These are presented in full frame format, not 16x9 enhanced and with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. They are for the Naxos Musical Journey range, Earthlight Special Edition and Mars - The Red Planet. There is nothing much wrong with the technical aspects of the previews, although the latter does seem to suffer a little from some MPEG compression problems. Of course, the complexities of international distribution rights means that the first preview relates to product not distributed by Wild Releasing.

Paintings (9)

    These are something of an easter egg, as they are mentioned nowhere in the menus nor on the packaging, and are displayed straight after the end credits of the presentation. They are nine paintings from Marilynn Flynn, one of the truly great space painters around, of objects featured on the DVD. This is an unexpected pleasure as she is a wonderful artist and it has been a while since I have seen any of her work. They are presented as widescreen images with just a note of their title, but are a very nice bonus indeed.

Screensaver - DVD

    Fed up with the normal screen displayed when your television is on but no programming is selected? Just toss this into the DVD player, hit the DVD-Video option in the Screensaver menu and you will get random images, in full frame, of stellar objects. Most are from the main programme, but there are also some nice photographs of the Hubble Space Telescope itself - presumably taken from repair missions flown by the Space Shuttle fleet. Whilst it is a bit difficult to count them, there are certainly over fifty different images presented, at least six of which are of the telescope. Nice, but of dubious value I would think.

Screensaver - Windows

    Toss the DVD into the DVD-ROM drive, fire up Windows Explorer (sorry, Mac not supported it seems) and click on the setup.exe file. This sets up the screensavers on your computer, by firing up your internet connection and downloading them from the website for the DVD. At least I am presuming that is what happens, as every time I try it, I get as far as starting to download the data before getting a nice little message saying "An error has occurred during the move data process: -2147166892". So I really cannot say whether the whole deal works or not, nor whether the effort is worthwhile or not - and boy am I annoyed about it, too. I was really looking forward to getting those screen savers!


    Ah! So if the automatic connection does not work I thought, just dial in manually to the website listed in the DVD package and all would be fixed. Nice theory - all I kept on getting was an HTTP 404 File Not Found Error message. Damn - so lets try Help. Same result. Methinks that some work is needed here to get the package working correctly!

R4 vs R1

    This is identical to the Region 1 DVD, right down to the NTSC formatting, so everything is even.


    StarGaze - Hubble's View Of The Universe is an incredibly stunning visual and audio delight, demonstrating just an infinitesimally small number of the cosmic wonders that are out there waiting for us to visit. The sheer quality of the presentation is almost overwhelming and the whole package is extremely well done (barring what would appear to be a few glitches). This is a wonder that everyone needs to behold and I cannot urge you enough to go out and indulge in this DVD. A magnificent achievement. If Earthlight is one of the best-selling DVDs on the planet, then I would be expecting this effort to soon surpass that one.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris (have a laugh, check out the bio)
8th October 2000

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-515; S-video output
Display Sony Trinitron Wega 80cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built in
Amplification Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL