Customer Review

63 of 106 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not all that I hoped for, 23 Jan 2013
This review is from: Africa [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
This review comes from someone who loves BBC programs like this and truly believes that Attenborough is an inspirational character who is at times the only reason I can justify paying my television licence (especially now Patrick moore has sadly passed away).

However looking beyond these rose tinted glasses for a second, I have to say the program lacks depth and does not go far enough to immerse the audience in the knowledge and understanding of the natural world.

If I was asked for my reasoning for this view it would be based on two main aspects that I do not think help with this type of program.

Firstly I think many scenes are too focused on HD viewers. A prolonged scene of (for example) animals running in slow motion is excellent and should be supported with (where appropriate) dialogue. However some scenes seem to be created just to 'show off' the skills of the camera man. Skills that are excellent I must say, but not in my view essential to a good nature program. What would be better is a renewed focus on the dialogue and explanations of why the animals behave as they do. Clearly this is still present at some levels, however it seems lacking in my view.

Secondly I believe that the last quarter of a program should not always be given over to how the program was created. It use to be the case that this would form the extras on a dvd, but now we are expected to watch this as a main section of the program. I would suggest that this either integrates into the program fully or goes back to being an extra section. I do understand that people like to know how things are done but I do feel this distracts from the 'magical nature' of the program (i hope that makes sense). I often feel that the people who make these programs are demanding notoriety instead of allowing themselves to become discovered.

Moving away from the negatives, this still is a very good program and well worth a watch. A factual program that goes some way to show the inspiring continent that is Africa.

I hope my views help you to decide whether or not you wish to buy this blu-ray.
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Tracked by 4 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 11 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 24 Jan 2013 11:49:47 GMT
DaveT says:
Not sure I agree. They have to do something different and the major develpment since Wild Africa (2001) is the big improvement in picture and sound quality (especially on a Full HD screen - 1080p). The new series does not set out to be as "educational" as previous Attenborough series, more to show previously unseen behaviour and less well-know animals. No wildebeest crossing the Mara as yet for example.

Personally I enjoy the 10 minute 'how they made it' slots (1/6 not 1/4). They give an insight into how difficult some scenes are to shoot and the risks they take for our entertainment. They also mean that the main programme can be shown in full on commercial TV with ad breaks in a 1hr slot.

Posted on 24 Jan 2013 16:32:02 GMT
Last edited by the author on 7 Feb 2013 10:23:44 GMT
M. Meech says:
I would like to add that BBC NHU does deliver more highbrow factual docs. They are often on BBC2 as they have a different demographic audience.

When a series costs over £1m to produce each programme you need to make it accessible to the widest possible audience, especially if it's paid for by the viewers. These kind of high budget productions also do an important job in introducing new (younger) audiences to the Natural World. It's less about the skills of the cameraman and more about making something beautiful and entertaining to watch.

Your second point is subjective but you could always just think of the two sections as different films. There is a natural break between the two sections. To intertwine them would throw you out of the narrative of the story, So it really is the only way to do it. Without this section at the end it would be a very blinkered view of, in this case, Africa. It really isn't always the perfect eden that the first 50 mins make it seem. So it's important to educated viewers that there's another side to the stories. Another explanation of this section is that it's easier to schedule a 60minute programme on the BBC as there are no advertising breaks. When the BBC sells this to other countries they will chop the 10 min 'Making of' off the end and fill the extra 10mins with adverts, usually 3 x 3 minute breaks. by creating a 50 min and a 10 min film the BBC makes it cheaper to produce content for other countries. I believe it's a small price to pay for not having advert breaks.

... I just read DaveT's comment on your post. He has said a similar thing. Sorry for being repetitive.

Posted on 25 Jan 2013 13:43:35 GMT
Biggis says:
I totally disagree with this review. I also can't help but feel that expectations of Attenborough and the BBC are now so high that some people are not seeing this series for what it is. In my view there is no less depth, including explanation of animal behaviour, than in previous similar series. And the 'eye to eye' section takes up about the last 10 minutes (perhaps not even that) of the programme, not the last 15 minutes as the reviewer states. Not only do I enjoy this part of the programme, but I also finds that it actually adds to the magic, as it helps viewers to appreciate the fact that a great deal more goes into making these programmes than one would assume.

In reply to an earlier post on 25 Jan 2013 14:49:39 GMT
Last edited by the author on 25 Jan 2013 14:51:21 GMT
DaveT says:
I am just re-watching Life on Earth as part of the 24 disk box-set for £40. It seems much more educational as though the script was written and then they went out to get footage to illustrate it. I get the feeling they did it the other way round with the current series, going out to see what spectacular footage they could get and then wrote the script to link it together. I think both approaches work and some will prefer one to the other. The early Attenborough series feel quite dated but are well worth watching again if you have a particular interest in the subject.

Another series you might like which felt rather educational to me was SOOLP with Chris Packham:
Secrets of Our Living Planet [DVD] [2012]

In reply to an earlier post on 25 Jan 2013 15:22:18 GMT
Last edited by the author on 25 Jan 2013 15:24:29 GMT
Biggis says:
In a way the programme makers can't really win, as viewers seem to be demanding unique insights and coverage of new behaviour, and ever more spectacular footage utilising the latest filming techniques. I'm also not sure that you can directly compare 'Africa' with 'Life on Earth'. The latter was, I believe, the first of its kind in this particular genre, and its remit was probably quite different to that of later series such as 'Africa'. Also, in making such programmes the BBC clearly have to build upon that which has gone before, and with regard to 'Africa' it's quite clear that they are attempting to film things that have never been seen before. They also need to strike a balance between entertainment and education, and I personally think they get it about right.

I would also recommend Chris Packham's 'Secrets of Our Living Planet', though it's clearly meant to be more educational than programmes such as 'Africa'.

Posted on 6 Feb 2013 16:15:17 GMT
Mark, Is the point not that you should, as in all BBC series, buy the accompanying book (£10 hardback in this case). These books are always very detailed, informative and have plenty of glossy stills without being too academic.

I always buy both as the DVD is really about the live action and has limited scope for informative detail. For a tenner, try it out. I am sure that you will find that they complement one another perfectly. The long experience that the BBC has accumulated from working with the Open University over many years is one of the few remaining jewels in its crown and the prices are always low for the quality of the product. No horse meat DNA here (OK not my best analogy). Good luck and enjoy.

Posted on 22 Feb 2013 08:49:30 GMT
J. J. Ward says:
How can anyone be disappointed with such a superb programme.

In reply to an earlier post on 22 Feb 2013 20:28:29 GMT
Mr.Ward, I now have the book. It is a superbly presented complement to the dvds. It is highly informative, well organised with stunning and plentiful still photography. I recommend the hardback as I would expect it to become well read over the years. The total production of the series is the combination of both formats. The text is very well-researched and well written for the layman. Although intelligent youngsters will enjoy it, it is great reading for adults and does not dumb down. The chapters mirror the structure of the DVD episodes.

Over the years for all the great series that the BBC have produced they have provided a similarly high class book usually in partnership with the Open University. If you have previous dvd sets but not the books then I urge you to buy them. They are all still available. (No, I don't work for the BBC Marketeers - off to enjoy a monkeyburger - a Big Macaque - for supper - only kidding) 5+ stars. Enjoy, Tom K.

Posted on 8 Jul 2013 18:32:53 BDT
Last edited by the author on 8 Jul 2013 20:34:02 BDT
Mike Mac says:
It seems rather odd to me to complain that a programme which is first and foremost a televisual experience focuses too much on 'photography' Attenborough's ground-breaking series of nature programmes have always promoted cutting edge visual portrayal of nature as a core value, and that, above all, is why they have been so successful. Personally, I find Attenborough's accompanying narrative quite 'deep' enough for the subject matter, and if I want a more detailed account I can always buy the accompanying BBC book. 'Negative' aspects of the programme?. I don't think so.

Posted on 22 Jul 2013 14:55:24 BDT
Mark L says:
Looking back over my past comments, I was pleasantly surprised by the comments left. Usually people on here wish to draw blood rather than offer suggestions or worthwhile comments. I have taken the advice suggested here and purchased the book that accompanies the series. A worthwhile purchase that does add to the factual content that I feel is lacking at times. However this does raise the question should I need to make the additional purchase - has, for me at least, tv lost an element of informational entertainment?

Interestingly I saw an old rerun of a BBC nature program the other day and became, once again, captivated. Maybe I or others find these programs so captivating as they are the programs that sparked a love of natural world and just maybe I am not the only one concerned that through the pursuit of the masses factual programs forget their core values.

Finally the post regrading television programs and photography should recognise that the two are neither mutually exclusive or inclusive before commenting.
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