Nature’s Most Amazing Events, Blu-ray (2009)
Narrated by: David Attenborough
Director: None Listed
Studio: BBC Worldwide
Video: 1.78:1 widescreen, 1080i HD
Audio: English DD 2.0
Extras: Making Of Featurettes
Feature Length: 300 minutes
Nature’s Most Amazing Events is a six-part documentary from the BBC that’s very much in the same vein as their acclaimed series Planet Earth. As sprawling as that eleven-hour episode was, you wouldn’t think that there’d be much in the way of new subject matter to cover, but this six-hour plus series that also recently debuted on the Discovery Channel surprised me with the breadth of entertainingly informative footage that only built on the foundation laid by its predecessor. I was luckily able to view the television premiere of several of the episodes in conjunction with my evaluation of the Blu-ray set. That experience offered me an excellent opportunity to compare the Blu-rays to their broadcast counterparts, and led me to a couple of revelations (and questions) about the set.
The opening episode, “The Great Melt,” offers a study of climate shifts in the Arctic and the startling impact on the patterns of creatures ranging from polar bears to a variety of whales. “The Great Salmon Run” shifts southward to western North America, and explores the impact of human encroachment not only on the migration and breeding patterns of the big fish, but also on their place in the food chain for larger predators like grizzly bears. The next three episodes move the action to the African continent, starting with “The Great Migration,” where a pride of lions follow the annual migration of herds of zebra and wildebeests. It’s pretty amazing to watch the strategy the big cats employ in their hunting tactics, and the dangers they often encounter in their quest for survival. “The Great Tide” takes you beneath the waves off the South African coast, offering breathtakingly good photography of the spawning rituals of pilchards and the ensuing feeding frenzy by dolphins and nearby seabirds. The final African installment, “The Great Flood,” takes you to the inlands of Botswana where elephants, antelopes and hippos are forced adapt to their ever-changing environment. The series concludes with “The Great Feast,” and explores the precarious balance that exists between whales, dolphins and sea lions off the Canadian coasts.
At the conclusion of each episode, there’s an excellent “making-of” featurette that documents the often extraordinary efforts the BBC Natural History Unit made to produce these remarkable films that help us better understand the often precarious existence of earth’s many species. While the six installments generally offer fairly up-close explorations of creature habitats, there’s also a plethora of satellite imagery and majestic panoramas that are often simply breathtaking. Of course, nature is all about survival, and along with the multitude of warm and fuzzy images there are numerous shots throughout younger viewers may find disturbing.
Technically, from an image standpoint, this two-disc set was quite good. The image quality was a bit variable; while most of the footage was incredibly sharp and detailed, there were occasional instances of grain to be found throughout. However, compared to the broadcast version, the Blu-rays were superior in their overall image resolution, and some of the footage was perhaps the sharpest and best-looking I’ve ever seen! Color representation was magnificent, with deep blacks and excellent contrast. Yes, while I did note the presence of occasional grain, it wasn’t that egregious, and many viewers probably won’t even notice it. The audio content was another case entirely, and based on my viewing of the broadcast version left me with a few questions that I’ve yet to get the answers for. The review copy I received for this Blu-ray release was obviously a production copy, and was incomplete in terms of any available information accompanying the set. The disc menus contained no options for audio content or subtitles, and the only available audio option was Dolby stereo, combined with English subtitles. When I viewed the broadcast version, it was accompanied by a 5.1 surround option – leading me to believe that it must be available on the finished version. A couple of emails to the BBC have yet to get my questions answered – I’ll post an update when I eventually get them.
Apart from a few image inconsistencies and my inability to determine the actual audio content or offered subtitles, I still found the series amazingly informative and enjoyable to watch, and the stereo soundtrack was serviceable if not optimum. Highly recommended!
— Tom Gibbs