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Blu-ray Review: Yellowstone: Battle for Life

Posted on Saturday, October 31st, 2009 8:12 AM by Scott Jentsch

Front Cover ArtworkYellowstone: Battle for Life
Blu-ray
BBC Warner
150 Minutes

List Price: $24.99 (Check Price at Amazon.com)

Available 9/29/2009

 

  SourceThis Disc
Video Format:
Unknown
1080i AVC
Aspect Ratio: Unknown
assumed to be 1.78:1
1.78:1
Audio:

 

DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 Lossless

Other:   BD-50 (x1) BDMV

Disc 1 Contents

  • Three Episodes
    • Winter
    • Summer
    • Autumn
  • Extras
    • The People of Yellowstone: Jeff Henry, The Snow Man
    • The People of Yellowstone: Geyser Gazers
    • The People of Yellowstone: Mike Kasic: The Fish Man

About The Show

In a land of beauty and peril, the dramatic lives and fortunes of these animals are inexorably bound together. Intimate and emotional, epic and engaging, Yellowstone: Battle for Life reveals the grandeur of this unique place as its animals struggle to survive over the course of three vividly changing seasons.

How Does it Look?

© Paul D. Stewart

In keeping with the standard set by the Planet Earth series, the BBC does not disappoint with a great 1080i HD picture!

When you see the bison waiting out a snowstorm and their breath comes out as a steam, you can almost see it crystallize into ice. Individual drops of water can be seen with great detail as they burst from Old Faithful. The list goes on...

If I had to pick on something, it would be the banding that can be seen on the usually-difficult scenes that transition between darkness and the sun rising. These moments are brief and don't detract any more than lens flare does once you've seen it a few times.

How Does it Sound?

The lossless DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack was a pleasant surprise, as so many nature shows are released in stereo Dolby Digital, even on the Blu-ray format. While there isn't much for the surrounds or subwoofer to do throughout most of the shows (this is a nature documentary, after all), the mix was always pleasing and the excellent narration was always easy to understand. If you have it quiet in the house, you'll be surprised to hear a hummingbird buzz into the frame and around some flowers with great clarity. It doesn't fly around the surrounds like a demo track, but the effective subtlety of the sound is impressive.

Extras

There are three somewhat behind-the-scenes featurettes that are about 10 minutes long, covering some interesting people at Yellowstone. The first, Jeff Henry, The Snow Man, shows how snow is cleared from the rooftops of Yellowstone's buildings to keep them from collapsing. When he's not shoveling, Henry has the unique opportunity of having Yellowstone nearly to himself and it allows him to photograph the park without the crowds to disturb the shot or the serenity of the moment. I found that aspect particularly intriguing. He mentions that the amount of snow has changed in all the years he's been doing the job, which is a cautionary statement about the environmental changes happening in the park as a result of pollution, global warming, and other factors.

Geyser Gazers covers the activities of a group of people that could be called groupies if they were following a rock band instead of geysers. It wasn't clear to me if they were volunteers or paid staff, but the park service has found a way to use the groupies for tracking geyser behavior and help visitors know about when a particular geyser is ready to show its stuff.

Mike Kasic: The Fish Man was probably the most interesting of the three featurettes, as it showed how we donned a wetsuit, helmet, and swim fins, and became one with the fish of the Yellowstone River. The photography is pretty good as it follows him into the water to watch the cutthroat trout as they are ready to spawn and to be in the water as the park service is bringing up nets containing non-native fish that they introduced years ago that are now harming the ecosystem of Yellowstone's waterways. This is the most aggressive in its conservation message as Kasic describes the importance of the cutthroat trout to Yellowstone, as they feed many of the animals seen in the documentary episodes on this disc.

Conclusion

I'm a sucker for nature documentaries, so it wasn't hard at all for me to agree to review this disc! However, there are run-of-the-mill nature documentary shows and then there are the great ones. Ones that use excellent photography, a good storyline and purpose, and effective narration to convey its message and entertain and inform the viewer. The BBC set the bar very very high when they released the excellent Planet Earth series; the Blu-ray version of which should be in every home theater.

Yellowstone: Battle for Life belongs right next to it on the shelf. While it doesn't have the scope and ambitious goals of the larger series, it does a great job of covering a year in the natural life of Yellowstone National Park. People of all ages will get something out of it, whether its just looking at cute animals by a 5-year-old, or a 9-year-old understanding the circle of life that exists in a natural ecosystem, to an adult putting all the pieces together and understanding why Yellowstone is an important jewel for us to preserve and appreciate.

Its low price is also a very attractive feature, since it makes it an easy purchase instead of just a rental. I highly recommend checking it out!

Recommended Reading

Don't just take our word for it, check out these resources for more reviews of the movie and of the disc.

RentBuy


Check Prices on Amazon.com

A copy of this title was provided at no cost by the movie studio/distributor for the purpose of this review. No expectation of the results of this review were set as a condition of receiving the item.



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