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4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
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on 19 November 2012
I'm not going into the details of the content of this fabulous series that has first been broadcast in 1979 and represents the first of several series in David Attenborough's "Life" programmes - this has been sufficiently covered elsewhere. Suffice to say that even more than 30 years after its creation, it remains absolutely fascinating and instructive without being overbearing. Scientific facts are well explained, animal behaviour is analysed and presented with passion by D.A. and a considerable entertainment factor.

The question that most of you are probably asking themselves: How's the picture quality on Blu Ray as compared to the DVD release?

Well, I have both of these, having bought the DVD a few years ago and acquired the new Blu Ray release just last week. The remastered Blu Ray release is without any shred of doubt far, far superior to the initial DVD release. With the latter, I had the impression of a VHS transfer and although I loved the series, the fascination came more from its content than from the picture quality. The picture quality of the new Blu Ray has been improved to an extent that - taking into account the considerable age of the source material - it seems incredible to say the least. Contrasts are far better, colours more intense, the picture is sharper in general and many deficiencies that were visible before have been cleaned up. If you didn't know it, you would never believe that this series is almost 35 years old. Obviously, you cannot compare it to recent documentaries such as "Frozen Planet" or "Life" which have been entirely filmed with HD cameras and in a 16:9 format, but it now has a clean, vibrant and very sharp look to it that makes the various episodes also much more visually fascinating than before.

The sound quality is also better than before, although here (as with other extensively remastered material) the difference is not as stunning as it is for the picture quality. In addition, the sound is not really a major factor for a documentary anyway (at least in my opinion). It is now clearer and the likeable and engaging voice of David Attenborough accompanies each episode marvelously.

Recommended without reservation - even for those who already own the DVD versions. I can only hope that the other Life series will also benefit from this treatment - so far only the present series as well as "The Trials of Life" have been remastered.
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on 30 November 2012
As others have stated: this is magnificent and what a real upgrade compared to my DVDs. It also contains the only obvious booboo I have ever come across in a David Attenborough series: In disc 3 he talks about the penguins on the Antarctic mainland and clearly means the Emperors. However the film illustrating this is of King penguins on Salisbury Plain, South Georgia! Bloody cold too but never -40 and anyway Kings like warmer climes such as the Falkland Islands, Kerguelen, Crozet etc. and are NEVER found on the Antarctic mainland. Never mind, Sir David, you are all the better for being human! This is a fantastic prelude to the equally good Trials of Life on Blu, not as spectacular but more science based. Buy them both.
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on 1 February 2013
Firstly, reading all the previous reviews, bear in mind that this series was filmed in the mid-1970s and shot on 16mm film. For this reason film grain is far more obvious on the Blu-Ray version than on the DVDs I had previously. I bought this to replace the DVDs which were part of a faulty batch of BBC releases, the two layers separated rendering the discs unplayable. I'd already made copies of them before they deteriorated beyond recovery, but this looked interesting so I picked it up.

The discs appear to be fresh telecine transfers from the original 16mm films. They are presented in the original 4:3 aspect, as although 16mm film can give a 16:9 aspect it requires some vertical cropping and the shots would have been framed for 4:3 safe aspect. It therefore made sense to crop the transfer horizontally to 4:3, as anything in the edges of the frame would have been irrelevant anyway.

Bearing in mind the age of the material it really does look stunning. Yes, the sound is mono as NICAM hadn't been invented then, but it is presented in a lossless format. Yes, there's a lot of film grain, but this would have been there on the original DVDs, you just couldn't see it.

I've watched this on a 51" full HD plasma TV and it looks stunning. Is it worth replacing perfectly good DVDs with Blu-Rays? Questionable. But given that my DVD set was pretty much unplayable, yes, it was worth it.

Highly recommended if you either don't already have the DVDs, or if your DVD versions have become damaged. Or if, like myself, you've still got the original VHS versions that you recorded off the BBC in the late 1970s!
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on 24 September 2013
Life on Earth as a series would get 5 stars from me but unfortunately this bluray release suffers from some unforgivable flaws. While it is great to see this classic in HD and mostly the film is greatly improved as several reviewers attest, the same is not true of the commentary which is badly edited and in places jumps from one topic to the next, missing out parts of, or even whole, sentences. For example check the transition in the Amphibian episode between David Attenborough talking about poison arrow frogs and then tree frogs with waxy skins. The first part of the sentence is cutoff so it starts halfway through his explanation of why frogs need to guard against drying out, basically you miss where he states this is a problem for amphibians. I have noticed several such bad cuts so far. Whoever did this seems to have not been paying full attention. Another annoyance is it is very hard to distinguish between selected and deselected options in the bluray menu, the visual cue is so subtle I can barely see it; several times I have turned on subtitles by mistake trying to select the right episode. This a shocking lack of attention to detail; quite disappointing given the stature of this series in BBC and TV history
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on 18 July 2015
The original masterpiece re-mastered (as best the BBC can) to Blu-Ray quality from the original 16 mm film negatives.
If you're expecting the stunning HD Blu-Ray Clarity of Planet Earth and Life and other modern productions, forget it - this is 16mm film from 36 years ago were talking about. Yes there are still moments of blurriness and graininess and the picture is in the boxed square format with bars down either side - remember there was no widescreen TV in 1979!
13 x 55 minute episodes on four discs with a few extras, but considering this is 36 years old now it has been cleaned up to an amazing clarity with the sound improved as well from the DVD version.
A master-class in film-making and presentation, this should be mandatory viewing for all school Biology Classes.
Worth purchasing for the scene with the Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda alone.
David's third series Trials Of Life is also now available on Blu-Ray, but does anyone know why the fantastic second series The Living Planet, Life In The Freezer, Lost Worlds Vanished Lives, The Life Of Birds, Life Of Mammals and The Blue Planet weren't released on Blu-Ray? Come on BBC, please release them now!
An essential, stunning, 5 star purchase, very highly recommended. Superb.
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on 16 December 2012
I have always love this series, and watched the original on tv when I was a boy where I was completely captivated and impressed by it episode after episode. I bought the original series on DVD when it was released, and was hoping for a Blu-ray release which has come in time to celebrate David Attenborough's 60 years of inspirational broadcasting. For episodes which were filmed in the 1970s and with an aspect ratio for the tvs and film of the time of 4.3, the overall quality is very good with a good balance of colours and contrasts, although some noise is still apparent which can only be expected from such an old recording. The sound, although in stereo, is very clear and defined. I am pleased the production team behind this new release kept the 4.3 aspect ratio intact so we have no clipping of the original film, and for die hard fans of 16.9 they can adjust the settings via their DVD players - although I think they would be missing out on the 'whole' dynamic experience of 'Life on Earth'. Please do not expect 'Planet Earth' type visual quality which was flimed in HD and relatively recently, but expect the 'best' quality version of the series presently available, and expect to be captivated and immersed within Sir David Attenborough's energetic and charismatic narrative, and the beautiful and wonderful sights and sounds of Life on Earth.
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on 1 January 2016
Wonderful series now on blu ray, very informative. 4:3 frame ratio, sound very clear. Colours are quite well defined & levels of detail are very good for a documentary released in 1979. Picture has been cleaned up quite a bit. The series follows the history of life in clear logical steps, each episode introduces a new development along our evolutionary history, e.g. reptiles. David Attenborough as ever is flawless in his delivery.
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on 30 October 2015
If you want to understand the evolutionary process and why life on earth is so varied, disparate and yet has common elements, there is probably nothing that surpasses this. Visually it is certainly not Blu Ray quality, but for me the primary draw is its educational aspect. The sound is okay and the music can only be described as 'discordant', but more than anything, this is a reflection of the television standards of its time.
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on 6 December 2014
Pretty good but with a few issues.

The bluray edition appears to have been heavily processed. For instance in one episode when it's supposed to be raining in the Galapagos, you can't actually see the raindrops, it looks like it's been subjected to noise reduction, either that or my eyesight's failing.
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on 15 May 2015
This series was first on TV when I was very young, so although I may have caught the odd repeat, I am essentially watching it for the first time. Before I mention the picture and sound, I first want to highlight what an amazing series this is in terms of quality and content. I am only on episode 3, but I am already astounded at the level of information given (it seems far more in depth that more recent work). Sir David (or "young Dave" as he was back then!) darts back and forth between the fossil record in various countries, to footage of animals/plants in the wild, to electron microscope stills, to diagrams. The pace is breathtaking at times but totally captivating. I have just read Richard Dawkins "Greatest Show on Earth" twice, and am buzzing with the detail and subtleties of evolution. Life on Earth takes that to the next level and shows the early stages of evolution and how some almost unchanged "relics" are still alive today. By the end of each episode I am literally left reeling at how much there is to know and see about our amazing planet. I will have to watch again and take notes! So picture and sound - well my review title gives it away! The picture is arguably as good as a 1970s documentary could look, and the detail in the microscope shots is unbelievable. It is only in 4:3 ratio (as broadcast) but that matters not one jot. The sound too is captivating, crystal clear, with David's dialogue clear and firmly in the centre of the image. You won't use this disc to test your system, but you will use Life on Earth to learn, and to inspire any children who are budding scientists.

I cannot recommend it highly enough.
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