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Blu-ray Review: Planet Earth Special Edition

Posted on Friday, October 28th, 2011 5:08 PM by Scott Jentsch

Front Cover ArtworkPlanet Earth - Special Edition
Blu-ray
BBC
420 Minutes

List Price: $79.98 (Check Price at Amazon.com)

This title is also available from Amazon in a Limited Edition package, which has the discs contained in a globe-themed case.

Available 10/4/2011

Not Rated


  TheatricalThis Disc
Video Format:
N/A
1080p AVC (Features)
SD MPEG-2 (Extras)
Aspect Ratio: N/A
1.78:1
Audio:

N/A

DTS HD High Resolution 5.1
DTS-HD High Resolution 5.1
Dolby Digital 2.0 (Extras)

Other:  

Movie: BD-50 (x6)

Disc 1 Contents

  • Upfront Ads
    • BBC Promo
  • Programs
    • From Pole to Pole
    • Mountains
    • Fresh Water
  • Bonus Features
    • Planet Earth Diaries 1-3

Disc 2 Contents

  • Upfront Ads
    • BBC Promo (0:17)
    • Human Planet on Blu-ray (2:21)
  • Programs
    • Caves
    • Deserts
    • Ice Worlds
  • Bonus Features
    • Planet Earth Diaries 4-6

Disc 3 Contents

  • Upfront Ads
    • BBC Promo
  • Programs
    • Great Plains
    • Jungles
    • Shallow Seas
  • Bonus Features
    • Planet Earth Diaries 7-9

Disc 4 Contents

  • Upfront Ads
    • BBC Promo
  • Programs
    • Seasonal Forests
    • Ocean Deep
  • Bonus Features
    • Planet Earth Diaries 10-11
    • Great Planet Earth Moments

Disc 5 Contents

  • Upfront Ads
    • BBC Promo
  • Programs
    • Planet Earth: The Future
      • Saving the Species
      • Into the Wilderness
      • Living Together

Disc 6 Contents

  • Upfront Ads
    • BBC Promo
    • Ad for other BBC nature documentaries on Blu-ray
  • Programs
    • Snow Leopard: Beyond the Myth (AVC HD, DTS HD HR 5.1)
    • Secrets of the Maya Underworld (MPEG-2 SD, DD 2.0)
    • Elephant Nomads of the Namib Desert (AVC HD, DD 2.0)
    • Frozen Planet Sneak Peek (AVC HD, DTS HD HR 5.1)
  • Bonus Features

New Special Features

  • Special Sneak Peek at Executive Producer Alastair Fothergill’s next blockbuster project: Frozen Planet
  • Commentary on select episodes
  • Greatest Planet Earth Moments – Relive the greatest moments of this revolutionary series and discover how these scenes were captured on film.
  • Snow Leopard: Beyond the Myth – The BBC Natural History Unit explores a secret cave deep in the mountains of Pakistan where generations of snow leopards return each year to raise their young.
  • Secrets of the Maya Underworld – The freshwater pools that dot Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula were believed by the Mayans to be portals to the underworld.  For the first time ever, the BBC Natural History Unit explores this incredible, labyrinthine system of underground rivers.
  • Elephant Nomads of the Namib Desert – Follow the struggle for survival of two female elephants trying to raise their young in one of the harshest climates on Earth.
  • Music-only viewing option
  • Original DVD Bonus Features Now on Blu-ray
    • 110 minutes of behind the scenes footage – one 10-minute behind the scenes production video diary for each episode
    • Planet Earth – The Future – This 3-part series looks at what the future may hold for endangered animals, habitats and – ultimately – us.
  • About this Title

    In 2007, BBC took the nature documentary world by storm when it released the Planet Earth series of documentaries. Released in the UK and in the United States (with different narrators), this series took the nature documentary genre and brought it into the high definition age! It went on to win several Emmy awards and it remains the definitive nature documentary series, rivaled only by subsequent efforts by the BBC (Life and Human Planet). The Blue Planet preceded Planet Earth, and is very good, but it serves as a transitional piece between the nature documentaries that came before and the new standard that Planet Earth set.

    This 6-disc set brings with it three hours of new content, including a look at director Alastair Fothergill's next project, Frozen Planet. This edition is narrated by David Attenborough, who narrated the UK version of the original and was preferred by many people over Sigourney Weaver's narration for the series that aired on the Discovery Channel in the United States.

    How Does it Look?

    Still from the program (not an actual screenshot)

    The original Planet Earth set the bar for nature documentaries, and for all Blu-ray releases in general. It's unclear if this set has been remastered from the original, but the picture quality is stunning. I would be hard-pressed to find a more impressive demonstration of high definition quality than any one of the discs in this collection!

    How Does it Sound?

    Like the picture quality, the sound in this collection is amazing, and is the perfect companion to the visuals. The barely-lossy DTS-HD High Resolution soundtrack is a technical upgrade from the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 surround soundtrack, but I can't say that I would be able to pick the two out of a double-blind A-B test (not that I tried, though). What matters is that the sound is good, it fits the subject material well, and the levels of the narration, music, and sound effects are mixed well.

    Of special note when it comes to the soundtrack is that this collection introduces a feature that we've long wanted on more Blu-ray releases: an isolated score. You can read more about that in the text below, but this is something that we wish more Blu-ray content creators would provide!

    Extras

    Isolated Score

    This option is selectable from the menu under "Audio Options" and when selected, the narration is removed, leaving the music and sound effects of the scenes. This turns Planet Earth from an interesting and informational documentary into a screen saver for your home theater or living room. The music is quite fitting to the visuals and the addition of ambient sounds keeps you from feeling like you're watching one thing while listening to another.

    The isolated score is only 2-channel Dolby Digital, which is unfortunate, but given that so few discs provide this feature at all, we'll take it. Perhaps future discs can raise the bar set here and provide a lossless multi-channel surround isolated score.

    Videos/Clips

    There are quite a few additional videos included in this set, and they are outlined in the breakdown above. Disc #5 has three episodes under the heading of "Planet Earth: The Future" which were included in the standard definition DVD releases, but oddly, not the Blu-ray sets released previous to this one.

    Disc #6 has three full-length episodes that were not included in previous releases. The most interesting of the three is Snow Leopard: Beyond the Myth, which takes an in-depth look at the plight of the snow leopard in Pakistan and the efforts of documentarians and scientists to study these elusive animals, but in very different ways. The sneak peek of their upcoming title, Frozen Planet, creates anticipation for yet another sweeping documentary series.

    BD-Live

    BD-Live is not provided as an option on any of the discs in this set.

    Digital Copy

    There is no digital copy feature provided. That's ok, as these shows really need to be enjoyed on a full-sized HDTV to be truly enjoyed. The "diaries" could have been provided on DVD, since they are in standard definition, and doing so would have made them more portable, but it probably makes more sense to keep those features with their corresponding full-length feature.

    Other Aspects

    Bookmarking is not supported, and there is no resume feature. This would have been a nice feature to have, since families watching these shows may not be able to watch them in their entirety, and being able to pick up where they were left off would be appreciated. This has become more and more popular in recent years, and it's disappointing that the BBC did not include it.

    The packaging of this set is a step down from the UK version that I have. Whereas that set had all the discs in separate plastic carriers, this set stores each disc in a paper pocket-folder. These folders are bound book-like. While it makes for an attractive package at first glance, it's difficult and somewhat annoying to pull the discs out of the folders. I much prefer not to have to touch the surface of my discs, and this packaging makes that impossible for the most part.

    Conclusion

    Planet Earth is by far my favorite nature documentary, and I'm a big fan of nature documentaries. That fact biases me towards a positive overall review of this set, but even an outsider/non-fan should be able to appreciate the value that this set provides.

    If you don't own the previous release on Blu-ray, this is the set to get, but if you want to save some money, buying the 2007 release will get you better packaging, and most of the episodes that are found here. If you already own Planet Earth on Blu-ray, it becomes a more difficult decision. However, you could justify the purchase by buying this set for yourself and giving the 2007 set to someone that would enjoy it.

    If you are thinking of buying this as a holiday gift, anyone would be very fortunate to be on the receiving end of such a gift. If they don't already have a Blu-ray player, this series alone is justification to take the high definition plunge. If you're very generous, you could buy them a Blu-ray player as well, making this a great bundle for someone who only has a DVD player connected to their HDTV.

    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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