Combining interviews with various scientific experts, NASA footage, and CG animation, The Universe: A Whole New Dimension is nothing more than three episodes from season six of H2’s often-sensationalized documentary series The Universe that have now been converted into 3D. The content is interesting, if not repetitive, like many of the documentary series on the A&E and Discovery networks.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/MVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Run Time: 2 Hr. 15 Min.
Package Includes: 3D Blu-rayEco keepcase
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 01/14/2014
Exploring many questions and theories of the universe (how it began and how it will end), space travel, and other issues, The Universe is a series aimed at a rather elementary school level, using experts that try not to speak over the audience’s head, yet also manage not to speak down, either. The three episodes featured on this disc, from the series sixth season, are an odd mix.
The Production Rating: 2.5/5
Crash Landing on Mars throws what if scenarios, one after the other, of a hypothetical first mission to the red planet where nothing goes as planned and how the astronauts eventually overcome them to return home safely. If this many things went wrong on the same mission, no one would likely ever want to volunteer for a future mission.
Worst Days on Planet Earth is a countdown to many of the worst days that are behind us, and one that is looming in the future. The episode plays almost like celebrity-filled countdown shows on VH-1 and E! in its over-sensationalized style, with experts like University of California, Berkeley astrophysicist Alex Filippenko explaining their theory with way too much enthusiasm. This is, perhaps, the most annoying episode on the disc.
Finally, God and the Universe tries to bring physicists and theologians to the table to discuss the creation of the universe and the existence of God. This could have been a very interesting and controversial episode, but plays it safe by never leaning in either direction. The episode does do a good job trying to explain string theory, as well as other complicated laws and theories of physics, but in the end throws the aliens as gods theory into the mix.
Originally broadcast in 1080i, the episodes are presented in 1080/24p 3D on this Blu-ray, using the MVC codec (backwards compatible in 2D with the AVC codec). Obviously, these are going to be leaps above how they looked on cable or satellite, which are usually full of compression artifacts. Colors are vibrant without being over-saturated, with decent contrast and very good detail, overall. I did notice some minor banding here and there, but nothing too distracting. The episodes were post-converted to 3D, which is a mixed bag. Most of the CG animation and interview segments show some depth, but there is never anything that pops out at you. On the other hand, the stock footage from old sci-fi movies often appears as a flat plane just behind the screen. There is also some ghosting, particularly in shots that try to simulate severe depth, and this ghosting is not likely an artifact from my display or glasses (Samsung 60F7100), as the phenomenon was still present after closing my left eye. Is there any real benefit from viewing these episodes in 3D as opposed to 2D? Not really, although the increase in depth does add some minor realism to many of the shots.
Video Rating: 3.5/5 3D Rating: 3/5
As with most A&E networks, H2 broadcasts in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo, and the episodes get a 5.1 remix in DTS-HD Master Audio. Dialogue, as expected, is kept front and center, with music and sound effects spread throughout the soundstage. Discrete surrounds are rarely used, though, and the same can be said for LFE. The tracks benefit from the wider dynamic range and fidelity of the lossless codec.
Audio Rating: 4/5
The disc contains no special features (although Lionsgate is still under the impression that Bookmarks should fall under this category).
Special Features Rating: 0/5
A strange mix of episodes post-converted to 3D from an overly sensationalized documentary series makes for a tough recommendation. Grade school kids who are science geeks (and their parents) will likely enjoy this disc, but I really do not see much repeated viewing, at least in my household.
Overall Rating: 3/5
Reviewed By: Todd Erwin
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