Top positive review
Beautiful photography, informative content + David Attenborough
on 22 July 2017
A superb Blu Ray release from the BBC. Colours are natural looking, vibrant but easy on the eye, (in Planet Earth II some of the colours were so bright they were almost glowing.) Detail here is sharp the image is crisp and even the underwater photography and the darker sequences are very impressive in terms of clarity.
The Blu Ray comes with 1080p resolution, Aspect ratio: 1.78:1 and audio DTS-HD HR 5.1. The series was able to take advantage of the latest camera stabilization technology while filming from helicopters and planes, the results are some sublime overhead and establishing shoots. My favourite comes from the insect episode where the camera starts off looking downwards at a waterfall before smoothly panning up to reveal a lake, beyond that a forest and beyond that again a large mountain in the distance with not a sole in sight.
By 2009 HD digital cameras were in full use by the BBC's natural history unit, having previously been used on Planet Earth (2006) and Life in Cold Blood (2008), no longer 480p but now 720 and then 1080.
The plant episode is one of my favourites with it's expert use of time lapse photography, it feels like an updated Private Life of Plants. The beautiful winter photography in this episode is also a stand out feature. The sound is also crisp and clean, whether it's a trickle of water, a rustling leaf, insect noise or an animal call. The narration from David Attenborough is also distinct, intelligible and is never muffled by the score.
On the critical side some of the most recent releases from the BBC natural history unit feature slightly less factual content, the programme seems more interested in trying to wow you with it's imagery and music than trying to educate the viewer. Earlier series tended to be drier, with more detailed narration. Life just about gets away with it's approach, the content is still very informative, there isn't so much attempt to build up drama or humour as later series would do. During the primates episode the narration did border on stating the obvious too, not trusting the audience to grasp finer points but spelling it all out for them. Attenborough tells us 3 times that the Japanese macaques monkeys in the hot spring exclude other monkeys, it slightly labours the point here. Show don't tell please.
The series is pure eye candy in terms of showing off your HD TV. Even when using minature cameras the image still retains it's high quality.
For those interested in the details of the Blu Ray it's Resolution: 1080p, Aspect ratio: 1.78:1, Audio English: DTS-HD HR 5.1.
Another stand out episode is the insects with frogs leaping in slow motion to catch insects to the sound of violin strings and soft drums.The soundtrack is orchestral having moved away from the more symphonic sound often used in the 1980s and 1990s. Some of the cinematography of the butterflies in Mexico is sublime as is the time lapse photography of changing skies. We also learn a great deal too in this episode about insect camouflage, armour and acid. 85,000 species of fly. It's worth reflecting too on how critically threatened much of this is by global warming and overpopulation. Behind the scenes looking at this episode is also well worth a look. commercial drones for photography weren't really around back in 2009, very different to today. For one shot the camera had to glide along a wire in order to travel with the butterflies. 17 takes were done after 3 days of prep for what probably amounted to 5 seconds of footage.These people are trying so hard to get the right result for the viewer, you have to applaud the results. Unofficial sources put the budget of this programme at around £10 million, it's not just the production where the money was spend I'd bet but also the post production, All the footage looks like it's been extensively colour corrected to ensure everything looks smooth and matches up with the previous image.