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|Home: BigScreen Journal - Blu-ray Review: Planet Earth Special Edition|
Planet Earth - Special Edition
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.
| Video Format:
||1080p AVC (Features)
SD MPEG-2 (Extras)
Movie: BD-50 (x6)
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.
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!
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!
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.
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 is not provided as an option on any of the discs in this set.
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.
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.
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.
Don't just take our word for it, check out these resources for more reviews of the movie and of the disc.
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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