For its latest project, the BBC Natural History Unit turns its attention to one of the seven natural wonders of the world, crafting another highly educational program filled with amazing imagery. Available now to American audiences in its original three-part format, the Blu-ray's high definition presentation is spectacular, properly showing off the beauty and marvels of the massive marine structure.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 3 Hr. 5 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 04/09/2013
Situated off the tropical coast of Australia and measuring over 1,600 miles in length, the Great Barrier Reef is the largest living structure on the planet and home to an astonishing array of wildlife. Understandably, BBC Earth, the British production company that’s become synonymous with natural history documentaries, in conjunction with Australian broadcast media, has trained its lenses on the CNN-designated “natural wonder of the world” for its 2012 made-for-TV program, appropriately titled Great Barrier Reef.
The Production Rating: 4/5
Hosted by affable marine biologist / broadcaster Monty Halls, the three-part series (which aired as a two-hour special on Animal Planet in September 2012) starts by providing viewers with a basic understanding of how the reef functions, adapts to changing environmental conditions, and creates a myriad of habitats for its thousands of marine inhabitants. In the second episode, the cameras move to the lagoon area that exists between the reef proper and the continental coast, a region described as an underwater desert for its comparatively barren environment, but that has its own share of amazing creatures and natural events. Halls also takes viewers to shore to several of the many islands, or coral cays, that are home to everything from monitor lizards to pre-historic looking flightless birds. In the final episode, the series looks at the wildlife that visit the reef on a cyclical basis, most notable being the tens of thousands of green turtles that struggle their way onto Raine Island to lay their eggs, creating one of the largest breeding events in the world.
Compared to more high profile BBC Earth series like Planet Earth or Life, Great Barrier Reef feels more conventional, a workmanlike effort more than a masterpiece of natural history filmmaking. Not that there aren’t some amazing moments on display - the green turtle journey is certainly one of them and the sheer range of wildlife inhabiting the reef and its adjacent regions speaks volumes. But the focus on one natural wonder brings with it an inherently narrower vision, proving perfectly educational but not as inspirational in the grand scheme. Nevertheless, it’s a program worth watching, especially considering American audiences saw it in a truncated form, rather than in its original three-hour, three-part entirety.
Great Barrier Reef includes the three episodes that aired on British and Australian networks in 2012:
- Nature's Miracle (1:01:42)
- Reef to Rainforest (1:01:36)
- The Reef and Beyond (1:01:45)
Framed at 1.78:1, the 1080p, AVC-encoded transfer looks spectacular across-the-board, from black levels to contrast to color. Detail and sharpness are similarly impressive, holding up in both the program’s wide angle panoramas and underwater macro photography. There’s some noise in the more extremely detailed images (in flight views of forest areas) and a bit of unavoidable blooming with skyward shots from the ocean floor, but considering the video technology these issues are source related rather than artifacts of the transfer.
Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA
Halls’ narration and dialogue in the English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio track is consistently crisp, detailed, and intelligible. The lack of surround channel activity and LFE doesn’t really take away from the presentation, the two-channel presentation having a consistently pleasing, if not more than adequate, breadth and dynamic range.
Audio Rating: 3.5/5
No bonus material is included, which is a shame considering the precedent of “how’d they shoot that” behind-the-scenes footage included on other BBC Earth releases.
Special Features Rating: 0/5
BBC Earth delivers another impressive high definition presentation for its made-for-TV programming, this time exploring the myriad natural wonders of the Great Barrier Reef with marine biologist Monty Halls. Though the Blu-ray lacks any special features, the release is worthy of at least a rental for casual viewers and natural history buffs alike, if only to see the series in its original, un-cut format.
Overall Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewed By: Cameron Yee
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