DVD International // 2006 // 83 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // June 6th, 2007
So realistic your extremities will go numb.
Hungry for another reference disc to pop in your new HD-DVD player and drive your friends goofy with envy? And would you want to learn a thing or two about penguins? HD Scape has your answer with Antarctica Dreaming, an 80 minute documentary, detailing the geography and wildlife of the great white mass of ice and snow at the bottom of the planet, all shot in glorious high-definition.
The program is broken up into 13 sections, and jumps between the animals that can be found on the frozen wasteland and the frozen wasteland itself. You'll learn about Gentoo, King, Adelie and Chinstrap Penguins, Elephant, True and Fur Seals, indigenous seabirds as well as glaciers, icebergs and Antarctic weather. It's a comprehensive walking tour of the continent (though I admit I am no Antarctic expert, but it sure seemed like they covered everything) and while you soak up the images you have your choice of two audio tracks: music-only and narration. The music-only track is of the meditative, ambient ilk, suitable to nap to; the narration turns the disc into a National Geographic special, and really, that was my preference. I like to learn!
Regardless of which you choose, the soundscape, rendered in 5.1 Dolby Digital, is not what will leap out the most about this release. It's all about the video quality, and the images your eyes will be treated to are breathtaking. Even on my relatively modest set-up (32," 1080i Toshiba LCD monitor connected through HDMI), the visuals were stunning. In fact, the difference between the disc footage and something on HDTV, I believe, is negligible. Sure, the color palette of Antarctica is white and blue, but the clarity of vibrancy of the landscapes -- icebergs and glaciers especially -- was remarkable. Plus, when different colors do make an appearance, for example, the King Penguins with their bright yellow feathering, the contrast is made starker. What is especially striking about the image quality, compared to standard DVD (which is available on the flipside of the disc) is the level of detail present in images in the background. There are multiple scenes featuring thousands of penguins stretching to the horizon, and you will be able to pinpoint individual penguins miles away. Truly a marvel. The only downside? The intimacy of seal nostrils. When the camera zooms in on these big, furry bastards, you'll get the full treatment. I made the mistake of eating a big bowl of Crispix during the seal parts.
There's not too much else to say. Even if it hadn't been available in high-definition, Antarctica Dreaming is a fine example of a nature documentary. The footage is truly outstanding, and the cross-section of wildlife and landscape ornamentation is expansive. The gorgeous HD transfer adds an incredibly amount, however, and earns a spot in your selection of reference discs.
Six bonus documentaries from David Hannan (Coral Sea Dreaming) are also included and run about five minutes or so. The obligatory man-made climate change feature is there, of course. At least I didn't have to endure Al Gore's nostrils in HD.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: DVD International
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 83 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Six Bonus Mini-Documentaries
* Standard DVD Version
* Music-Only Track