Discussion in 'TV on DVD and Blu-ray' started by Neil Middlemiss, Nov 2, 2010.

  1. Neil Middlemiss

    Neil Middlemiss Producer

    Nov 15, 2001
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    Real Name:
    Neil Middlemiss

    Earth and Space

    Studio: History Channel
    Year: 2006-2009
    US Rating: NR
    Film Length: How the Earth Was Made: 10 Hours, 11 Mins. The Universe: 11 Hours, 45 Mins
    Video: 1080P High Definition 16X9 - 1.78:1
    Audio: How The Earth Was Made: English 2.0 DTS Master Audio The Universe: PCM 2.0 (Uncompressed) Audio
    Subtitles: English

    Release Date: October 26, 2010

    Review Date: November 2, 2010

    “In the beginning there was darkness, and then – Bang – giving birth to an endless expanding existence of time, space, and matter. Everyday new discoveries are unlocking the mysterious the mind-blowing, the deadly secrets of a place we call – the Universe. "


    What could be better than a collection of History Channel episodes that cover everything from the center of our planet to the farthest reaches of the galaxy; a documentary-style set of series that break-down the complexity of geology and astrophysics with the use of interviews with genuinely smart people fun and entertaining computer generated imagery. My answer is…not much!

    How The Earth Was Made

    The Show: 4 out of 5

    If you have a fascination about the geological marvel that is our planet, How the Earth Was Made will satiate your curiosities. This series features topics that range from the churning geologic forces that create the natural disasters on our planet, to the deepest and darkest mysteries of our planet that are meticulously peeled away –through bravado and brains – to reveal the answers to the grand questions about the place we all call home. Much like the companion series in this set, The Universe, How the Earth Was Made relies heavily upon exciting C.G.I animation to explore and explain places that we could never hope to reach otherwise. The series has sought to tantalize with the more broadly palatable, with earthquakes and volcanoes and the gargantuan forces that create them, but also explores the more fundamental aspects of the sciences that fall under the umbrella of earth studies.

    The fascinating process of the earth’s surface, the impossibly big tectonic plates which slide above the lithosphere (The lithosphere is made up of the rocky, outermost layer, of the planet and also includes the fossil fuels such as gas and oil, upon which the vast majority of the planet is dependent as a source of energy for cars and homes), are explored and explained

    There are discussions of the fossil evidence embedded in our planet which are an integral part of the geologic column – and the rich and diverse history of our planet etched in the igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rock – that even the most science averse will have reason to sit up and be amazed.

    If there was one criticism I have of the show it is in the repetition. During the course of an hour long episode when watched on live TV, the two steps forward, one step back to recap, doesn’t seem quite as distracting, but the repeating of information to catch up the audience borders on silly. Overall, however, this is a solidly entertaining show with exciting topics that actually do seem to educate and fascinate – the way a good science class should. If you ever have occasion to take a geology (or Geography class for those back home in England), then this series could well prove to be a helpful companion to what you read and learn in classes. It’s certainly helping me!

    Disc One:

    Episode 1: San Andreas Fault

    Episode 2: The Deepest Place on Earth

    Episode 3: Krakatoa

    Episode 4: Loch Ness

    Episode 5: New York

    Disc Two:

    Episode 6: Driest Places on Earth

    Episode 7: Great Lakes

    Episode 8: Yellowstone

    Episode 9: Tsunami

    Episode 10: Life and Death of a Star

    Disc Three:

    Episode 10: Asteroids

    Episode 11: Iceland

    Episode 12: Hawaii

    Episode 13: The Alps

    The Universe

    The Show: 4 out of 5

    There’s a wannabe astrophysicist inside me wanting to get out. If I was just a little smarter, and demonstrated a penchant for remembering the complex mathematics that are ingrained requirements of that fascinating scientific field, I would be applying to be apprentice to Dr. Neil DeGrasse Dyson with disturbing frequency. But alas, that is not the path meant for me, and so shows like The History Channels The Universe serve up delicious, lamens-term loaded eye and brain candy that dance on the precipice of the meaty mechanics that churn at the center of understanding the rich and riveting realities of the realm of everything around our little blue planet.

    Confidently narrated by Erik Thomas, the approach of The Universe is to explore the fantastic side of science, and explore the giddy, tantalizing spheres of possibility in the quest to understand the universe around us. And the balance between ideas grounded in plausible scientific hypothesis, and the outright off-the-wall, upper end of possibilities spectrum (more commonly the realm of science-fiction than science fact) is reasonably well maintained.

    For legitimate students in the study of galaxies, supernovae, gamma ray bursts (GRB), particle physics, the unified theory of relativity, and countless other elements that make up the canvass of study for everything not held hostage by Earth’s gravity, The Universe will seem too pulpy to be taken seriously. But there are incredibly complex theories and scientific questions under investigation through this series.

    This collection of episodes encompasses the shows entire first season and is primarily is concerned with our backyard of planets, planetoids, asteroids, meteors, and the average star we call the Sun, and runs the gamut of stories from the secrets of our live-giving star, the mysterious ringed planets, and our silent orbiting partner, the Moon. This set also includes the documentary ‘Beyond the Big Bang’. Perhaps due to a particular adoration of the ringed planet – it was the first solar system object that I saw through my telescope that literally took my breath away but the episode Saturn: Lord of the Rings is a standout.

    Considering the magnificence of mystery and magnificence that we have in our small slice of our galaxy (about 2/3rds of the way out on one of the spiral arms), those curious about the seemingly infinite possibilities in our solar system will have more than enough to hold your attention. This collection would also seem to be better suited to high-school or first-year college courses as materials to consider for certain courses (though the depth and complexity of the series is not nearly deep enough for more engaged studies).

    The Universehas at its disposal a talented team of computer animators bringing to life in vivid detail, and with exciting visuals, many of the concepts explored in each episode. It is this sense of fun and wonder that makes this show such a pleasure to watch. And all this exciting scientific possibility, mixed with excellent CGI work, is punctuated with legitimacy by the appearance and postulations of noted scientists, astrophysicists, and other assorted ‘nerds’.

    A cynic might call The Universe ‘dumbed-down’ science, but as a person with a greedy love of all things related to the formation and continued mystery of the universe, and a persistent desire to read all things written by Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Stephen Hawkin, or Brian Greene (and his excellent The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory), I find The Universe to be as endlessly entertaining.

    Disc One:

    Episode 1: Secrets of the Sun

    Episode 2: Mars: The Red Planet

    Episode 3: The End of the Earth: Deep Space Threats to our Planet

    Episode 4: Jupiter: The Giant Planet

    Episode 5: The Moon

    Disc Two:

    Episode 6: Spaceship Earth

    Episode 7: The Inner Planets: Mercury & Mars

    Episode 8: Saturn: Lord of the Rings

    Episode 9: Alien Galaxies

    Episode 10: Life and Death of a Star

    Disc Three:

    Episode 11: The Outer Planets

    Episode 12: The Most Dangerous Places in the Universe

    Episode 13: Search for ET

    Bonus Documentary: Beyond the Big Bang

    The Video: 4.5 out of 5

    This collection of episodes from both series looks good on blu-ray. The computer generated graphics are incredibly sharp, super-clean, fluid, and high-quality rendered. The filmed sequences, including the interviews with guests and regular experts, and the analogous demonstrations filmed, look very good here, especially some of the footage capture on location. Pay attention to episode two of How The Eathe Was Made, with the recent footage taken from aboard vessels in the Atlantic – the clarity and color are genuinely exquisite. Only the occasional use of stock footage stands out as being of poorer quality (as you can expect from stock footage). The Universe is a bright show, with vibrant yellows, blues, reds, and greens used in the graphics really showing off the look of this show.

    The Sound: 3.5 out of 5

    The Universe is disappointingly presented with and underwhelming PCM 2.0 uncompressed audio. When broadcast on History HD, the explosions, scenes of destruction, and even the rumble of the music provide a solid audio accompaniment to the series, but on blu, there is no depth of dimension. Erik Thompson’s narration, and the voices of those interviewed, can be heard out of the front speakers (rather than the center channel), and the lack of activity in the surrounds, while images of the universe zip by is noticeable and disappointing. The audio is extremely crisp – but as a partner to the fine image, fails to deliver what is required.

    How the Earth Was Made on the other hand is presented with an entirely more impressive English 2.0 DTS Master Audio. While certainly not as immersive as a 5.1 track, the 2.0 still delivers extremely crisp dialogue from the center channel, all the requisite whooshes and zips of a camera moving across the globe or down into the depths of the Marianas Trench deep beneath the ocean.

    The Extras: 3 out of 5

    The Universeis listed as coming with the ‘Beyond the Big Bang’ – a terrific documentary of how humanity has evolved its understanding of the universe through the centuries as technologies have developed, public opinion and cries of heresy and blasphemy have ebbed and flowed, and our species unending curiosity has given us cause to wonder what is out there.

    How the Earth Was Madedoes not come with any extras.

    Final Thoughts

    I have long been a fan of The Universe, and the companion series How the Earth Was Made seems to nicely fill my mind with easy to watch, educational, and frequently entertaining television.

    For those who look up and wonder what could have created such unimaginable wonder, of have looked at the folds and faults of rick formations, thought about the contours of a curious planet, and pondered what the danger that this enormous hunk of rock and other materials floating around the sun is all about, then this collection of two of the History Channels excellent shows is just the thing for you.

    Overall 4 out of 5

    Neil Middlemiss

    Kernersville, NC

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