You cetacean lovers out there are in for a treat with this three-hour look at whales and dolphins lovingly assembled by the good folks working for BBC Earth and PBS's Nature programming. It's a gorgeous grouping of deceptively softball information, that might lead you towards more investigation or simply impart an exultant feeling about Earth's wonders. Either way, it's a winner.
Comprised of three hour-long Nature programs, Ocean Giants bounces along with charming and intrepid underwater cameramen Doug Allan and Didier Noirot as they capture plenty of breathtaking footage that will not only floor you, it also astounds the cameramen as they capture it. Each program deals with certain aspects of these creatures' lives. Included are Giant Lives, Deep Thinkers, and Voices Of The Sea. Switching back and forth between different types of dolphins and whales - including Amazonian River Dolphins, Killer Whales and more -poetic imagery is coupled with easy-to-digest information, delivering numerous fascinating revelations.
Giant Lives tackles the big ones only, including all your favorites from the Arctic to the Indian Ocean. From the lifespan of whales (sometimes much longer than you'd think) to their sex lives, (you haven't seen anything until you've seen a whale penis flapping around in the water) Giant Lives gives you way more information than you'd expect for such a beautiful program. Yet some things remain more mysterious, in particular the world's largest creature, the particularly hard to photograph blue whale.
Deep Thinkers includes dolphins in the mix. Though not even close in scale to the giants in this series, dolphins share many similarities with whales, representing some of the brightest minds in the animal kingdom. Narcissistic dolphins and touchy-feely whales demonstrate just some of the human-like qualities these animals possess, though they most often show quantifiable intelligence with unique hunting strategies.
Voices Of The Sea examines both esoteric and prosaic aspects of whale and dolphin vocalizations. Clicking and buzzing noises are used for hunting, navigating, and maybe even killing. Some dolphins even communicate with humans in a symbiotic relationship of the dolphins' creation. Humpback whales, however, seem to sing just for fun. As with each hour-long episode, Voices boasts tons of stunning footage.
This three episode set on one disc (including a bonus Blu-ray disc with the same programs) is a pure joy for anyone interested in the sea, while it just might send whale fans straight over the edge. Footage of both types of creatures is simple, beautiful, and dynamic. Sights of dolphins leaping from the sea to create rhythmic communications are as entertaining as the sight of a 15-ton mother sperm whale rushing up from the bottom of the sea is thrilling. With tastefully reverent, moving music, and a gentle attitude encompassing education and awe, this collection is an incredible experience.
Delivered in 16 X 9 widescreen ratio, there's no denying the power of these pictures. One wonders, though, if the desire to move people on into the world of Blu-ray isn't coming on in force with releases like this. Naturally, I enjoyed the content in HD first, before going back to the DVD for an AV quality comparison. On BD, images are super crisp, details (when available) are very sharp, and the overall experience is of visual luxury. Going back to the DVD, those three-hours of images (a lot for one disc) don't look quite as good. No mistake, it's still a gorgeous group of programs, but details aren't all that sharp in the background, the image is crisp but not quite sharp enough, and - though compression artifacts are kept to a bit of posterizing during all those murky ocean scenes - the overall experience is of just-about average viewing for a DVD.
Digital Stereo, however, sounds good on both discs. Audio is distortion-free and precise, allowing you to clearly understand gasping exclamations from Doug and Didier while also zeroing in on weird whale clicks and hoots with fine fidelity. The beautiful, dramatic soundtrack is mixed in tastefully, at a perfect volume, and sounds great. Stereo separation serves to create a natural-feeling, if not totally immersive, environment.
There aren't any real extras, beyond English SDH subtitles, except for the inclusion of the better-looking Blu-ray Disc of the same program. Will it be enough to make you go over to the Blu side? Or will it be a coaster or gift for a friend?
Ocean Giants gathers three BBC Earth/ PBS Nature programs about whales and dolphins. Full of eye-popping visuals and interesting new information about these super-intelligent sea mammals, these three hour-long programs are entertaining, educational, and even a bit emotional, as they examine these creatures with a reverent and open-minded attitude. Even without extras, (other than the Blu-ray copy) this disc is Highly Recommended for enthusiasts.
- Kurt Dahlke
~ More of Dahlke's DVD Talk reviews here at DVD Talk I'm not just a writer, I paint colorful, modern abstracts, too! Check them out here KurtDahlke.com