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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Antarctica Dreaming (Blu-ray)
Antarctica Dreaming (Blu-ray)
DVD International // Unrated // October 30, 2007 // Region A
List Price: $24.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by John Sinnott | posted November 13, 2007 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

Antarctica is one of the few places on Earth that has stayed largely unchanged since it was first explored.  It's basically the same today as it was nearly a century ago when Falcon Scott and Roald Amundsen raced to the South Pole.  (A race that Amundsen won.  Scott and his companions arrived after the Norwegian explored and died on the return trip.)  One of the most inhospitable places on Earth, it's also a continent of great beauty and amazing sights.  Now people can enjoy the gorgeous vistas and remarkable animals of the southern most place on Earth from the comfort of their own living room with Antarctica Dreaming:  Wildlife on Ice.  This Blu-ray disc has a wonderful image that is sure to impress.

Originally released on HD DVD earlier in 2007, HD Scape has created a very unique viewing experience with this disc.  Like many of their releases, this BD is great to put on when you want soothing music and striking images on in the background.   This disc goes a step further however, and also includes an optional narration track which turns this disc into a very good documentary.  The narration provides ample information on the animals, geological formations, and landscape that make up this disc and really adds a lot of value to the disc.

The feature is broken into 13 parts, each of which examines a particular animal or part of the Antarctic environment.  While four types of penguins and three varieties of seal make up the bulk of this documentary, the producers wisely split them up.  Interspersing sections on other animals and some wonderful chapters on the landscape and weather with the seals and penguins ensures that the show doesn't get dull.  The life and habits of the flightless birds are fairly interesting, but too much at once would have ensured boredom.  As it is, the show is entertaining for the entire 83 minute running time.

Even more engaging than the animals are the sections on icebergs and glaciers.  Who would have thought that pictures of ice would be compelling?  These gigantic hunks of frozen water are so impressive and beautiful that it's hard to take your eyes away.

Filmed by Emmy Award winner David Hannan the compositions and framing are truly impressive.  Virtually each frame is an exciting image.  Hannan really understands where to place the camera in order to get a wonderful shot, and this disc is full his carefully composed visuals.  Even if you have no interest in the wildlife of Antarctica, this is still a fascinating disc to watch.

The Blu-ray Disc:


Video:

The MPEG-4, AVC encoded 1080p image is presented with a ratio of 1.78:1 and looks very impressive. The white-blue landscapes are achingly beautiful, with the whites being strong but not crushed or overly bright.  The level of detail is stunning at times, with textures and wind blown patterns easily discernible on the snow and ice covered land.  The individual hairs of the Fur Seals are easy to see in the close-ups with the dark fur being well defined and sharp.

Digital defects are surprisingly minimal.  Digital noise was absent though I was expecting it to be prevalent.  The large patches of white are smooth without any mosquito noise and the cloudless sky is even and quiet.  There was only the most minor posterization in one or two shots, and some equally trivial jittering during a couple of camera pans.  These are easy to ignore, and most viewers won't even notice them.

Audio:

Viewers can screen this disc in two ways:  with narration or only music only, both in DD True HD 5.1.  This is one of the few discs where a music soundtrack makes sense.  It turns this solid documentary into a great disc to have on when entertaining or for just to liven up a room.  The music really accents the on-screen images well, creating a relaxing yet interesting piece.

The narration by Ben Feldstein is informative and well done.  Feldstein is a bit sedate in his delivery, but his well toned voice is perfectly suited for voice-overs.  He's not trying to entertain the under-20 crowd like some documentaries that are being released nowadays; he's informing viewers about the amazing visuals that they are seeing, which is as it should be.

The audio quality on both options is very good.  The multi-track audio makes good use of the soundstage, with some nice panning and some discrete audio effects.  The music has a wide range, and the highs aren't clipped.

There were some parts that left me a little cool (no pun intended.)  The bass wasn't as deep and forceful as I was hoping.  When they show apartment building-sized chunks of ice breaking off a glacier and falling into the sea, for example, the sound accompanying the event is small and thin and not nearly as impressive as the visual effect.

Extras:

I was pleasantly surprised to find some nice bonus features included on this disc.  The most interesting extras are the six mini-documentaries:  Antarctica, Falklands, South Georgia, Whaling, Tourism, and Climate Change.  Each runs around five minutes and is a nice addition to the main feature.  There are also text pieces on the people involved with the production, and a short behind-the-scenes text page.

Final Thoughts:

This disc is full of beautiful images and would make a great Blu-ray disc to play in the background.  What's even better is that the optional narration turns this film into a solid documentary.  Filled with interesting facts about the denizens of the southern most continent, Antarctica Dreaming is more than just a glorified screen saver.  The image presented on this disc is lovely too, and sure to please high def buffs.  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.
 

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