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Aerial America – New England Collection, Blu-ray (2013)

Aerial America – New England Collection, Blu-ray (2013)

Cast: Jim Conrad – narrator
Director: Richard Mervyn
Studio: Tusker Television for the Smithsonian Channel IMG1229BD (7/9/13)
Video: various aspect ratios for 16:9 screens, HD color
Audio: English DD 5.1
Length: 276 min.
Rating: **

A less than inspiring travelogue, with less than pristine video.

This Blu-ray disc is a collection of the New England states of Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. These are the same programs that air frequently on the Smithsonian Channel on cable and satellite TV.

The shows were all shot with a Cineflex V14HD gyro-stabilized camera system mounted under the front cabin of a helicopter. These shows have been around for a long time. PBS had an Over America show that is still being aired, and I remember similar shows going back to the 1980s.

Still, the photography is generally beautiful, shot at opportune times of day. There is plenty of history, looks at famous places and National Parks, and things that tourists see, and some things tourists would never see.

I think the problems with the shows on this disc is it’s a lot of content, 276 minutes, to watch in one session. I began to feel numb, but happily you can select a particular state or two or three and have a shorter session.

Although the history can at times be interesting, the generic narrator has a less than dynamic script, and the accompanying 5.1 music is what I would term ‘elevator’ or ‘dentist office’ music. Sometimes the dramatic crescendos don’t really match the mundane video on the screen, and sometimes the music is just too ‘cute’, with feeble attempts at things like rural-sounding music, or Mt. Everest style magisterial music when I’m seeing some low hills in Maine.

The video, which should be of demonstration quality, isn’t. I thought the video wasn’t is sharp as I expected it to be, being Blu-ray, and it looks like the video is interlaced, not 1080p. The disc doesn’t specify. The surround sound is weak; most of what I hear music-wise is up front, so the 5.1 is pretty wasted. Although the disc is advertised to be subtitled, I could not find any evidence of captions.

It’s hard to get overly excited about these programs, which have been played to death on TV for years. The video is nice enough, but as mentioned, interlaced. The narration is often uninspired, the music is forgettable.  A better buy would be a particular state you want, rather than this collection. If you want more, put your DVR to work.

—Mel Martin

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