Shout! Factory continues their release of IMAX films on 4K Blu-ray discs with Humpback Whales and fascinating look at the gentle giants of the sea. More than just footage of these creatures swimming through the water, this documentary presents a lot of information on the whales and relates it in a fun and entertaining manner.
This documentary starts out giving a brief history of humpback whales, how absolutely enormous they are and how they were heavily hunted until relatively recently. Narrator Ewan McGregor then goes on to explain how these whales have made a comeback in recent years and how scientists are continuing to learn a lot about these aquatic mammals.
That's when the documentary really shifts into high gear. The amount of information that is known (as well as what is not understood… such as their mating habits, no one has ever seen the whales mate) is incredible and engrossing. I was fascinated to learn, for example, that humpback whales hunt in packs. A group of whales will search for a school of herring, and when they find one, they work as a team to maximize the number of fish each whale can consume. One whale circles the school blowing air out of his blow hole creating a "bubble net" that keeps the herring together. The other whales will dive deep and get under the school while making noise to disorient the fish. Finally they will all swim up through the school with their mouths open, until they break the water and swallow their meal. This last moment is an amazing sight and looks absolutely stupendous in 4K.
The documentary also discusses what is known about the whales mating habits and gestation, as well as how the young are cared for and conservation efforts. While the information is all very interesting, what really sell this film are the stunning visuals. Whales leaping out of the water, groups swimming through the sea near the surface, and as well as some close-up looks at these impressive beasts will keep the attention of even the most jaded viewer. There are some gorgeous shots accompanied by very remarkable information.
Shout! Factory has done a great job with this combo set, it has all: 4K, 3D Blu-ray, and Blu-ray on two discs (the 3D and 2D versions of the film share the same disc).
The 1.78:1 image is quite impressive across all three formats. It's not surprising that the 4K disc looks the best, but an added bonus is that Shout allows viewers the option of either HDR or SDR while watching the UDH disc. This is great for early adopters of 4K sets, as some of those do not have HDR capabilities. The 4K disc was quite impressive, with an astonishing amount of detail and exceptional colors. Everything from the wispy clouds to the scales on a butterfly's wing was clear and sharp. It's a very nice looking disc. The 3D version was also top-notch, with a good amount of depth. I preferred the 4K version of the film, but with this set viewers have their choice.
This documentary arrives with a Dolby Atmos (core Dolby TrueHD 7.1) soundtrack and it works well. There's a fair amount of *umph* when the whales jump out of the water and crash to the surface and the rest of the time the time the narration and scientists who speak come through loud and clear.
In addition to the documentary itself, there is a making-of featurette that is interesting and a series of trailers for other 4K IMAX releases.
This is a gorgeous and fascinating documentary. It's more than just a recitation of facts about whales, though there is that too, but a look at what is known about these giants that were almost hunted to extinction. If you're at all interested in these amazing creatures, but sure to check this documentary out. Highly Recommended.