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Blu-ray Review: Planet Earth Special Edition

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Planet Earth Special Edition is an update of the 2007 Blu-ray release. This edition includes bonus features missing from the previous release along with some new Blu-ray exclusive features. Planet Earth is the highest selling documentary DVD and is the most expensive factual series ever created by the BBC. This six-disc set expands on the previous four disc set by offering over thirteen hours of bonus materials in the way of extra footage, making of documentaries, and commentaries.

Planet Earth was an eleven episode BBC series that aired in 2006. The episodes in this set are the original U.K. versions with narration from David Attenborough. Sigourney Weaver narrated episodes for U.S. television, and that narration is not included. The eleven episodes focus on different natural subjects and settings. The first episode, “From Pole to Pole,” is kind of overview with subsequent episodes focusing on specifics such as mountains, caves, water, and jungles. Planet Earth gives viewers the chance to see parts of the world hardly witnessed by humans. The entire series is an unobtrusive natural voyeurism into the fascinating world we all share.

The literature on the outside of the box specifies the release has taken “advantage of recent innovations in Blu-ray technology.” Though that is not specific it is an indication the picture quality has been boosted in some way from the previous release. The picture is presented in 1080i MPEG-4 encoding, though the original was presented in 1080p. The image quality is quite impressive. Colors are vibrant and detail is excellent. Planet Earth is one of the most spectacular Blu-ray presentations I have seen. Everything from wide plains to the tiniest insect is sharp. White snowscapes, green jungles, brown deserts, and sparkling blue seas all look as real as if you were there.

The sound is presented in 2.0Mbps DTS-HD 5.1 surround. The audio track is dominated by David Attenborough’s narration, which is clear and easy to understand. The rear speakers are well used with background noises such as storm sounds, running water, birds chirping, and insects buzzing. The sound is very good and ads atmosphere to the presentation. This presentation is more about the visuals with the sound being reserved for the narration and as an enhancement to the visual presentation.

The special features are the star of this new set. Original DVD features that were left off the previous Blu-ray release are now on this set. These include ten-minute behind-the-scenes documentaries for each episode, as well as the three part “Planet Earth: The Future” series. The behind the scenes segments are not enhanced for widescreen, but they are worthwhile looks at all that went into making this series. The “Planet Earth: The Future” series takes a look at what the future may hold for endangered animals and habitats. There are also several new Blu-ray features included in this set. There is commentary on select episodes, a sneak peak and executive producer Alastair Fothergill’s next project, Frozen Plant, “Greatest Earth Moments,” and several individual documentaries. These documentaries cover some specific topics like snow leopards, the Mayan underground rivers, and elephants of the Namib Desert.

Planet Earth is a must see, and this new set is a great package with some great features. My one complaint is the packaging itself. The discs are housed in flimsy cardboard sleeves with no protection. The discs can be easily scratched when pulled out or pushed in. It’s unfortunate considering how great the series as and the repeat viewing value it has. Otherwise this is a highly recommended set.

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About Sherry Lipp

Sherry Lipp is an entertainment and food writer who specializes in film and television reviews. She has published the gluten and grain-free cookbook Don't Skip Dessert.