One of the best selling sets for both next generation HD formats has
been The Planet Earth, a documentary series from the BBC.
The reason that this has sold so well is that the show is both visually
stunning and thoroughly captivating. Filled with images of animals
and nature that have never been shown before, this is a unique look at
our planet. The Blu-ray presentation is simply gorgeous with a picture
that just jumps off the screen.
One of the most (if not the most) expensive nature shows ever produced,
The Planet Earth had a budget of approximately $25 million.
It was filmed over a five year period and utilized over 200 locations in
62 countries. While those figures are impressive, they don't begin
to prepare viewers for the amazing sights that are contained in each episode.
This is really a ground breaking series, since it utilizes technology that
hadn't been previously used in shows about animal life and the environment.
Not only was the series filmed in high definition, but they employed a
new camera system that was able to let them do things filmmakers couldn't
do in the past. This system could be mounted on the bottom of a helicopter
and still obtain a still, non-jerky image. Very powerful lenses were
used too, allowing the creators to get crystal clear close-ups from a very
long distance away.
just about every nature show about Africa you'll see an aerial shot of
a herd of Wildebeest thundering across the plains. This is because
once the helicopter came near the animals, they became startled and ran.
That doesn't happen in this series. With their advanced camera set up,
the creators could fly high enough so that the animals on the ground didn't
even know they were there. This is a key part of the show.
For the first time (in many cases) viewers can see animals acting totally
Narrated by Sir David Attenborough, each of the eleven episodes in this
series takes a look at another ecosystem or area. From the peaks
of the tallest mountains to the depths of the oceans, from pole to pole
and even into the interior of the planet, there is seemingly no type of
wilderness that is left unphotographed. Every episode is filled with
amazing scenes of the local flora and fauna living out their lives, and
interesting facts about the habitat being examined.
series is all about stunning images. Viewers get to see the rare
Snow Leopard (with only 40 estimated to be living in the wild) hunting
in the Himalayas, running down-hill across rocky, near vertical, terrain
in pursuit of a mountain goat. I can't imagine slowly climbing
down that land, much less running full bore, leaping over rocks and landing
gracefully on boulders. The migration of caribou is nearly as impressive.
As the camera, focused on a small group, pulls out farther and farther
the herd goes from large to huge to gigantic to amazing. Three million
animals travel together each year, and to see it up close and personal
The only thing against the show is its lack of depth. While every
episode looks at one type of environment, none of them are really looked
at closely. This isn't an examination of any one topic, but an overview
of many. There were times where some more detail and background information
would have been welcome. This is a minor complaint though, since
the information the show does give is so engaging and visually moving.
I would be remiss if I didn't note a word of warning about this series.
It is about nature, and life in the wild can be violent and short.
Animals die and many of them are eaten by predators. One of the most
amazing shots in a series filled with amazing shots contains seals swimming
in the sea. All of a sudden a large seal will disappear inside the
mouth of a Great White Shark that leaps out of the water, swallowing its
prey whole. There are sad parts too, such as the baby elephant that
loses his mother in a sand storm while crossing the Gobi. The young
thing was smart enough to follow his mother's footprints, but he follows
them the wrong way, and slowly walks deeper into the desert and certain
death. This isn't the focus of the series, and these parts are in
the minority. And while none of the scenes are overly bloody or gruesome,
young and sensitive children may be affected by these scenes.
These 11 episodes, about 50-minutes in length each, come on four 25GB
Blu-ray discs. These are housed in a double width case that holds
a disc on the front and back of the case, and the remaining two discs are
held on a page that is attached to the spine of the case. (One
on each side of the page.) This in turn is housed in a nice, sturdy
slipcase which has the same cover art as the disc case itself. All
in all an attractive set.
discs were mastered in 1080p and the image looks simply amazing.
If you want to show some guests just why you spent all of that money on
a Blu-ray player and HD display, just throw this puppy in and watch their
eyes pop out. The level of detail is excellent, with individual drops
of water being easy to discern when a whale exhales from its blow-hole.
The colors are also stunning; they are bright, solid, and just pop off
the screen. From the radiance of an endless field of wild flowers
to the bright feathers of the Bird of Paradise, this set really brings
forth all of the hues in glorious brilliance. Likewise the undersea
shots and low light images (such as winter in the Antarctic) are clear
and detailed with a wide range of gray tones.
The only problem I could find was a very slight amount of posterization
in some of the low light sequences, but this was very minor and I doubt
that many people would even notice it if they weren't specifically looking
for it. It's almost not worth mentioning. Other digital defects,
mosquito noise, aliasing, and macro blocking are not a concern what so
ever. This is an excellent looking set that is sure to please the
most discriminating viewers.
This set come with a DD 5.1 track in English and there are optional
subtitles in English, French, and Spanish. While the picture is incredibly
impressive, the audio is only very good. It is appropriate for the
show, but isn't as flashy or striking as the video. While the narration
is centered on the screen, there are some parts where the room just fills
with the sounds of nature. The whale songs in one episode are a good
example, totally immersing the viewer in the sights and sounds of the underwater
world. Unfortunately this technique isn't utilized as often as it
could be, for most of the audio is constrained to the front sound stage.
The lack of a lossless audio track is another strike against the discs,
though the DD 5.1 doesn't have any noticeable defects or imperfections.
The only disappointing thing about this lovely set is the lack of bonus
features. Like the HD DVD version, this Blu-ray set has no added
content. The SD DVD set includes a 10-minute behind the scenes short
for each episode which is missing from this BD set. Standard def
DVD buyers also get a fifth disc which includes three full length documentaries
that act as an epilog to the series. That is nowhere to be seen in
this BD set. This is a real blunder. If the studios ever want
Joe Six Pack to invest in HD technology, they have to convince him that
he's really missing something, namely a much improved picture and better
sound. The DVD revolution illustrated that people were willing to
purchase new technology if the advantages are big enough. By removing
bonus material from HD discs they are just shooting themselves in the foot.
This is one amazing series. I've seen my share of wilderness shows
in my time and I can safely say that this is the most impressive one, hands
down. With jaw-dropping scenes, remarkable (while not being dreary)
information and compelling narration, Planet Earth is a show that
is a joy to watch. This Blu-ray set is reference quality, with a
picture that is so brilliant and detailed that it is going to be hard to
beat. The only qualm is that this set doesn't port over all the bonus
material from the SD version of the show. If it wasn't for that,
this would have been a home run. Highly Recommended.
Note: The images in this review are not from the Blu-ray disc
and do not necessarily represent the image quality on the disc.