on 23 June 2006
I have never in my life seen anything like this series. I had thought that the Blue Planet, also by the BBC, was the pinnacle of achievement of wildlife television. The deep sea episode had left me breathless, but that proved nothing compared to Planet Earth. The effort that went into this series is obvious. Only at the end of each show when we spend time with each of the crews do we really get a sense of what they had to do to bring such beauty before us. This is not self-serving "let's pat ourselves on the back" television. It only adds to the sense of wonder, and to the sense of how privileged we have been to see some of the rarest sights in nature. The camerawork is sensational. The killer whale rising out of the sea with the seal in its mouth, the diving hawks making their mid-air kill, the snow leopard bounding down sheer cliffs, the chandelier cave. All incredible. This is unlike most other "animal" tv shows, where the audience is patronised into listening to an ill-thought out anthropomorphic commentary which is little more than "ooohhh...isn't that cute" or "whoooah...isn't that dangerous". Attenborough is wonderful. He has the humility to understand that the show is not about him, and he is prepared to say nothing whilst our senses drink in "that shot" of Angel Falls or the intense colours of the Okavanga Delta. The behaviour of the Gobi desert camels left me speechless; you don't need some idiot telling you how amazing it is. I can recommend this serious without hesitation. This is public television at its best. It cannot be financially prudent to spend 40 days in the Gobi desert chasing Bactrian camels, but it takes real corporate bravery to say that natural beauty cannot be captured on the cheap. The camera techniques (remember the African dogs chase?) are priceless. You must watch this series. People at my office were discussing each episode for days afterward. Friends' children were having the same discussions - "oh my god - did you see that?" If 8 year old children and 60 year old lawyers have the same base sense of wonder, nobody will watch this and think, "it's just another documentary". This is nothing like you will have seen before. I thought I was a cynic, but this really has re-opened my eyes to the raw power of nature.
on 23 November 2010
I've recently purchased a Blu Ray player and as soon as I had handed over my cash for that I knew that I wanted to watch Planet Earth on it - the idea of seeing those amazing images in crystal clear high def just seemed to be perfectly suited for the world of HD home entertainment.
I'd already owned a copy of Planet Earth on DVD and thoroughly enjoyed it. It simply provided everything that the original broadcast on BBC provided with a couple of extra bonus features thrown in. Although very good I really wanted to upgrade to the Blu Ray edition to make the most of the increased image qualities.
I had a look at the product description for the standard original Blu Ray edition and although it certainly sounded like the increase in picture quality I was seeking would be well provided for I noticed that it said that the Planet Earth Diaries features, behind the scenes 10 minute shorts that accompanied each episode, were nowhere to be found and for some reason they weren't included with the Blu Ray release. This made me feel a little cheated that my several year old DVD set was more complete and definitive than the more expensive Blu Ray edition. As a result instead of charging into buying a product that I longed for I "umm"ed and "ahh"ed and ultimately put off buying it for a wee while. I was glad I did.
I ended up seeing the Special Edition Blu Ray listed on Amazon and after finding out it had everything the DVD version did and more I went and bought it straight away.
Firstly if you're unaware of the show in the first place it is truly awe inspiring. It is as if there is an Intergalactic Tourist Board and this is their advertisement for aliens to come and visit Earth. It shows off the most wondrous of things that exist on this hunk of rock, including plants, geology and most prominently animal life, many of which I had no idea even existed before seeing them up close in this example of perfect TV.
The picture and sound quality are superb throughout. The images were all filmed on the most cutting edge HD cameras of the time and look sensational on this transfer. They are sensationally complimented by the score of the BBC Symphony Orchestra and, of course, Sir David Attenborough's legendary narration. Sir David brings such gravitas to any production and the respect he clearly has for the topics being shown is infectious.
The Blu Ray contains all the Planet Earth Diaries for the entire series. They're not shown straight away after each relevant episode - as they were shown when first broadcasted and on the DVD - but must be accessed from the Special Features menu. This isn't a hassle at all though so it doesn't spoil anything and indeed it's nice to have the option of just watching them when the mood suits.
All in all this is a sensational release. I am racking my brains to think of a better example of what TV can be when dedicated people put their minds to it but I truly can't think of anything that surpasses Planet Earth in terms of quality and the impact it has on the viewer. On top of one of the greatest shows of our time the updated, and indeed greatly improved, release has now made this natural history essential even more essential.
Of all the natural world style documentaries that have been done this is surely the best. Needless to say David Attenborough gives an excellent commentary, but it's the production values here that take the breath away. From the huge array of overhead views of all sorts of vista's from deserts to jungle to the minute and painstaking close up shots that pass in seconds but took months to shoot this simply oozes quality.
With so many other similar documentaries already done this needed something different and arresting to pull in the audiences and so we are presented with hour after hour of all manner of things most of us never even knew existed let alone have seen from creatures that can only be found in 2 of the worlds waterfalls to sandstorms hundreds of metres high charging across a desert . The programme is also unusual in that it rarely pauses for too long on any one subject, you are really getting as much as possible packed into every episode.
The whole planet gets a look in and by the end you want to go back and see it all again.
Well done to the BBC for such high production values in the DVD too. The picture is superb, no graininess, dark and light scenes are handled equally well and colour is vivid and yet still lifelike. Hi-def was made for this type of release.
Sound is also well mixed in subtle 5.1.
The extra look at how each episode was made is a nice bonus too.
If you feel you've probably seen it all before then think again as this really is a breath of fresh air. This is a great programme and is well worth owning.
on 4 February 2008
Documentary: 5/5, Picture: 3-5/5, Extras: 4/5
Planet Earth takes a rather different approach to Sir David Attenborough's previous Life series: instead of taking a species or phylum, it explores a particular habitat. This is not so much a geological study of the Earth but rather a broad survey of the rarely seen or visited habitats and their inhabitants, with an emphasis on how they adapt to the forces of nature. At times it looks more like showing off spectacular scenery than a systematic study. Coverage is by no means exhaustive but what is presented is truly remarkable. Episode one takes you from the South to the North Pole, passing the various forest ecosystems and desserts in between and is a preview of later episodes.
If you have watched the Life series and the BBC's Blue Planet you will notice some familiarity in Planet Earth. There are recurrent themes on survival and adaptive behaviour. I am constantly reminded of and impressed by the resilience of life.
Memorable shots are too many to mention but polar bear cubs exploring the snowy slopes, the great white shark leaping out of water (with footage slowed down 40 times) and snow covered mountains come to mind. I particularly like the aerial views.
PICTURE: VC-1 1080p 16:9
The main feature IS "1080/24p", as indicated by my Pioneer BD player. The production for broadcast is mastered in 25p from various framerates (details on bbcresources.com); the PAL DVD is in 50i (equivalent to 25p) and each episode runs for 48 minutes (excluding the extras) compared to 50 minutes on Blu-ray. So the Blu-ray runtime is in keeping with a 25p to 24p slowdown. The 1080i v. 1080p feud has been blown out of all proportions. For the material shot on video the HD cameras used in the early 2000s were mostly 720p; note it says on the back "some footage was not captured in full HD". While a lot of scenes are spectacular there are occasional artefacts. People who find Blu-ray to be softer than HD broadcast have incorrect set-up somewhere in the video signal chain: it is not the fault of the Blu-ray.
THE NARRATION AND SOUND TRACK (Dolby Digital 5.1)
The background narration is occasionally too soft. The script is very well written, full of interesting statistics and entirely appropriate without being verbose. The music when present adds to the serenity of the magnificent scenery or the drama of hunting scenes. Subtitles are in English only.
THE SUBSTITUTED EXTRAS (1080/60i)
Regrettably this release does not have the original DVD extras: the 10 minute "Diaries" at the end of each episode and the 'Planet Earth - The Future' feature (2h56') and people felt let down. The "Dairies" are interesting and the message on the state of the planet is of course important and the BBC underestimated the viewer's sentiment. But the extras included here, Dessert Lions and Snow Leopards (the subject of DVD episode 2 "Diaries") from the BBC's Natural World in HD are interesting programmes in their own right and more amenable to repeated viewing. The biologist who tagged collars on the snow leopards died recently so that makes it even more valuable to watch. But it would be better to give us the original extras and have Natural World on a separate release.
WHICH VERSION TO GET?
The US Discovery Channel version is truncated and has an American non-naturalist narrator so that is a non-starter. This UK version has the same encoding as the US BBC/Warner four-disc version (both region free) but has the extras on a fifth disc and hence the best value. If you cannot live without the original extras then borrow the DVD.
I would now recommend the Special Edition instead as it has the Diaries and more extra features at similar price, but note the main episodes are 1080i50 (the original broadcast frame-rate) and the Diaries are 576i50. There is an American SE version in 1080i60 over there.
A MUST-HAVE FOR EVERY BLU-RAY LIBRARY
Just marvel at the contents: once you understand the technical issues you will realise that whatever technical limitations there are they are really of no great significance here.
on 22 December 2006
I have not much to add to all the reviews below but just want to add my 5-star rating as a token of my appreciation for this amazing production.
We own Life in the Freezer, Life of Birds, Life of Mammals and Blue Planet series on DVD but this really is better than anything that came before it, partially thanks to the eye-in-the-sky camera. But it's not just pretty pictures. This is educational without being condescending. Sir David Attenborough's commentary is peerless and the subjects are fascinating.
We've only watched the first two episodes but highlights so far are plenty: a great white in slow motion (high-speed camera) suspended several feet above the water during an attack on a seal, underwater close-ups of swimming elephant, a snow leopard barrelling down a mountainside in full hunting mode, the most bizarre birds of paradise I've ever seen. ..
What a beautiful planet it is!
on 10 July 2006
As has been said by everybody who has reveiwed anything by the awesome Sir David Attenborough, he is without doubt the greatest presenter/narrator of nature documentaries and the beeb are the greatest producers of nature docs.
The amount of money that has gone into the legendary Natural History Unit is money well spent as it has opened up our eyes to the glorious natural splendour that out planet has to offer.....if only we would keep it that way!!
Now the team that has brought us 'The life of.....' series, 'The Blue Planet' and 'Wildlife on.....' come up with a masterpiece. The videography is out of this world, which means we have to thank those who sat there for ages to bring us these pictures! One of the many highlights, being the reclusive snow leopard running down a sheer gorge to catch its prey.
You have to wonder, how much of this splendour will be left of in 50 or 100 years or so, unfortunately Sir Dave will be gone, in his place will be left his legacy, an entire natural dvd collection that will show future generations what the Earth was like from 1970's through to 2000's, how much it changed and how we messed it up. The truth hurts!!
on 9 May 2007
How these images are captured with such staggering clarity is beyond me. There's so much beauty and rarity to so much of this series that it's almost impossible to take it in. As usual, the photography is beyond reproach and David Attenborough's narration is what completes this series to perfection.
The Blu-ray medium really is mind blowing, and one gets the impression that this is what high definition is really for. The passing shots of mountains, rivers and plains show so much crystal detail you'll want to play each episode again and again. There's simply hours of painstakingly captured footage showing places that few have ever seen before and some of the most weird and wonderful creatures to inhabit the planet.
Ostentatiously called 'Planet Earth', it doesn't take long to realise why. Superb in every way, beautiful to both eye and ear, informative and educational, and something worth watching time and time again.
Furthermore, the Blu-ray version has no region coding so any copy will work on any BD Player.
on 1 February 2007
I received this box set of DVDs for Christmas, and I cannot emphasise enough the hours of enjoyment, wonder, and information they have given me. The team involved in making this epic work of beauty are deserving of anyone's very highest praise, and if they were not awarded for their efforts, then something very wrong occurred.
It covers a whopping ten hours and five discs of some of the most beautiful footage of nature I have ever had the privilege to see. Each disc covers various different natural environments, exploring the habitats and behaviour of the various animals who live in them. We are taken from the dazzling crystals of subterranean environments to the dancing rituals of birds of paradise, each camera shot dazzling even more than the last. Just about every kind of natural environment on earth is included within the five discs, from Deserts to Plains, to Deep Oceans, and everything in between. To top all of that, there is also a ten minute mini-programme at the end of each individual programme explaining how the Planet Earth team went about getting their footage.
At which point it becomes even more mind-boggling. One cameraman camped out in the Himalayas for about three months just to get a few minutes footage of a beautiful snow leopard, another cameraman spends days waiting for the courting of two birds of paradise. These people either have incredible reverence for nature, or they must love their jobs a great deal. The camerawork is perfection, and the things they are filming are stunning. I envy the wonderment and excitement of their jobs, and the pleasure they must feel at seeing the end product.
The musical score is also fantastic, suitably beautiful for a work of such magnitude, and David Attenborough's narration is always a pleasure to listen to. He is one of Britain's most inspiring individuals, a man whose respect for nature has never diminished once in decades, who has devoted an entire lifetime to informing people about nature and encouraging people everywhere to respect the natural world. His commentary is in turns insightful, informative and amusing.
Some of the locations are incredibly dangerous, some are very inaccessible, some are just plain beautiful, but all are given the same painstaking attention to detail and complete reverence. These are landscapes and wildernesses which the majority of us could only dream of seeing, and now, thanks to the Planet Earth team, we can explore them from the comfort of our own living rooms. I fervently wished that these DVDs never had to end. Who cares for a social life when you can switch on your television and see some of the most spectacular sights in the world, night after night?
The animals themselves are the true stars of the box set, however, each and every last one of them piquing my interest and impressing me with their individuality. Each and every one of them has their own struggle and difficulties to overcome, usually put in their paths by human interference. The predators of this series must be respected for their strength and agility, the prey must be admired for their fight for survival. Each and every other species has something admirable about them and every living organism included in these documentaries has their own purpose, their own reason for existence, and their own relevance within the fragile ecosystem of our planet. These DVDs have increased my respect for nature a thousand fold. They should be compulsory viewing for children, so that they too have a reverence for nature.
Nevertheless, reality must always hit home at some point, and the final disc of this set concentrates on the urgent need for conservation and ecology. These last three programmes are vital, concentrating on interviews with people who have very definite ideas about how the human threat to nature must be addressed. These range from the insightful, from an African Professor who criticises Western materialism, to the not-so-insightful, from a rather silly American suit who attempts to downplay the threat of climate change. The naysayers will have to learn the hard way - unfortunately, they might just ruin things for the compassionate people in the process. These money-worshipping idiots could never have the intelligence or sensitivity to appreciate the enormous beauty of 'Planet Earth'.
My final assessment of these DVDs is that the BBC deserve huge praise for their documentary-making abilities, David Attenborough is still one of the very greatest figures in broadcasting, and I shall now be seeking out all of his other work, since the beauty of nature is far more profound and dazzling than anything humans could EVER create.
on 2 May 2008
Watching this release on a Full HD set is, for lack of a better word, astonishing. I watched this series with my jaw open, and at times was actually moved to tears by the stunning beauty of the images of our planet on show here. This is what I invested in Blu ray for, and time and time again, hi def proves not be a marketing gimmick but a genuine next-step experience in home entertainment; the amount of pin-point detail, dimensionality and scale takes you into the images, so that you feel as if you are there, and in this regard Blu ray is involving in a way DVD cannot match. The wonderful thing about Planet Earth on Blu ray is that the stunning image actually makes clear the filmmakers intentions-not necessarily to give an in-depth education, but to remind us of the beauty and awe inherent to our troubled planet, and the vast open vistas, mountains, plains on show here are enough to make anyone remember why our planet is so very special and worth saving. If that isn't reason enough to invest in this set, I don't know what is.
on 21 December 2006
Its quite clear with their track record that the BBC make the best natural history documentaries. Having Sir David Attenborough to present or narrate them just emphasises that dominance.
Planet Earth is simply stunning. You cannot overstate this series in any way.
The footage in each episode will literally leave you open mouthed and eyes glued to the screen in awe. As Life In The Undergrowth is, this is unique in many ways, the camera work, the angles, the ultra-slowmo shots, just boggle the mind.
Hats must be taken off to the tireless work from the cameramen and crew who spent days and weeks in some parts, waiting to grab just a few seconds of footage for us. These people are the heroes in this series. If it wasnt for their dedication and sometimes bravery (recalling the cameraman pulling his equipment on a sled in Antarctia with temps of -50 degrees while hurricane force winds brought him to his knees), we could not be witness to the maginificent splendour that nature still has to offer us.
How long it will continue to offer us this is up to us.
Thankfully for the most part, Planet Earth takes an optimistic approach and shows us what we still have while still slipping in the odd reminder about what climate change and our own interference is doing to the other species who WE share the planet with.
I would go so far as to say that this type of thing should be required viewing in all schools.
Do not miss out on this. If you are reading these reviews then you have enough interest already and not owning this superb series will be a sin in my book.