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The Inhabitants of the world beyond the world we think we own
on 29 January 2010
After Planet Earth became a legendary hit on home cinema for certain sequences on full HD, there were high expectations placed on any HD follow up releases. Life doesn't disappoint in this respect. 4 Years in the making, this Latest series is a bewildering showcase of the reclusive types of life we find on the planet and technology used to capture it.
As opposed to being a purely educational lesson on the variety of species and their relations with each other and their environment, it is the weird and wonderful species that get the film time. This is a good thing due to the rarity of some of the obtained footage. The skill that has been required by the team to capture these moments is immense, probably not replicable by all other wildlife documentary makers due to time and budget constraints.
Episodes are 50 minutes long followed by a ten minute insight into their efforts at the end illustrating the techniques used to film a single scene in an episode. Each episode covers a separate animal group, with some episodes covering broader issues such as hunters and prey and general challenges faced by some life. These broader episodes do often have repeated footage, eg some penguin sequences are shared between the `challenges of life' episode and the `birds' episode. As I watched these all in quick succession, I found some parts repetitive, but watching some of the more stunning sequences for a second time was still welcomed.
Particular highlights were seeing the primates at work and using tools, which deeply illustrated our genetic proximity to them. (It made me wonder at times if I could actually find an example of a primate making more intelligent use of its environment and each other than a human). I generally appreciated the sequences that depict a species clever use of environment or body parts that hints towards higher intelligence than we would normally attribute to the other members of the animal kingdom, and there were plenty of these occasions to behold. The marine episode also captured some striking sequences and the butterflies collecting in huge numbers on the insects episode was stunning.
The HD picture quality is more evident in some places than others, though generally id say its excellent overall and still definitely more consistent than Planet Earth was. As the filming takes place in the real world with real lighting and positioning constraints, not all images are going to be as fantastic as the next. The underwater sequences showed a mix, where some of the coral and organisms looked wonderfully sharp and illuminated, but other shots could look murky due to the impurities in the water. I would say every episode captures at some point a jaw-dropping sequence that gives you the full justification for why you bought your Bluray player. In many cases it really had to be appreciated how some things so small such as ants could be captured in sufficient detail to fit a full 1080p image with no focus issues.
This series seemed designed to bring images to shock people, as they would come to realise that such weird organisms exist in reality and not just in CGI movie sequences. Of the seemingly almost infinite variety of species on the planet, only a tiny fraction is represented here, that leaves me wanting another series to continue the showcase. No doubt Attenborough and team will oblige.