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Blu-ray Review: Yellowstone: Battle for Life

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Written by Caballero Oscuro

BBC’s esteemed nature photographers deliver another outstanding effort with this new release focusing entirely on Yellowstone National Park . It’s a sumptuous treat for the eyes in its high definition Blu-ray format, with amazing color, detail, and sound clarity that truly makes viewers feel like they’re in the park. The Blu-ray allows viewers to see every strand of fur, every scale on the fish, and every color of the park’s Grand Prismatic Pool, while also providing crisp surround sound that brings the park’s ambient noise fully into the living room. Aside from the eye and ear candy, it’s also an effective and interesting concept as it follows the wildlife in the park over the course of nearly a year, exposing viewers to the park’s dramatic changes throughout the seasons.

The production is split into three 50-minute segments. Interestingly, the first segment starts in the dead of winter rather than the more obvious rebirth of spring. It’s an inspired choice that immediately pays off with stellar footage of the harsh beauty of the park at a time most people never see it. The park can get up to 50 feet of snow in the winter, effectively cutting it off from civilization and preserving the delicate ecosystem struggling for survival against the harsh conditions. The production’s primary focus is the wildlife in the park, so the initial segment explores the efforts of the animals to survive the winter, such as the bison burrowing their heads down through feet of snow to find scraps of grass and the elk attempting to thwart hungry packs of wolves by seeking temporary shelter in freezing rivers. There’s also an enthralling segment about the park’s beautiful diamond dust caused by moisture in the air freezing into ice crystals, made all the more impressive by the Blu-ray’s fine detail that captures every miniscule glittering crystal floating through the air.

In the second section, spring transforms the park into a fertile plateau able to sustain the life of the scores of resident animals. The bears emerge from hibernation with their new cubs, the flies emerge just in time to make a tasty snack for industrious birds, and the flora explodes into a concert of color. As spring gives way to summer and the snow recedes, the park’s solitude gives way to the flocks of tourists out to explore its famous geysers and other natural wonders. I had some misgivings that the production would be heavily weighted toward footage of those geysers, but thankfully there’s only brief mention of them as the crew keeps the focus firmly on the wildlife.

The final segment shows the park winding down for the year as it enters autumn. The animals begin their preparations for another winter survival, such as the birds that carry pine nuts to secret stashes all over the park and the beavers that stockpile tasty branches under water near their lodges. The migratory animals begin making their way out of the park, which leads to the only other mention of human influence in the film as it shows the precarious lowland winter pastures of the elk that have been overrun by drilling operations and cattle ranchers.

The disc has three bonus featurettes that focus on humans: one about a man who removes the deep snow from the roofs of Yellowstone’s buildings throughout the winter to avoid cave-ins, another about an odd group of geyser watchers who help to predict the activity of geysers throughout the park, and another about a man involved with the park’s fish population.

Yellowstone: Battle for Life is now available on DVD and Blu-ray. If you have Blu-ray capability, the price differential between Blu and DVD is extremely small, while the Blu definition is completely awesome even though it tops out at 1080i instead of 1080p, making the format choice an easy decision.  The audio is available as DTS HD 5.1 but I didn’t really notice anything impressive about the sound over regular DVD quality.

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