The last time Judge Kent Dixon was revealed he wore his kilt on a windy day.
A celebration of the stunning landscape of Scotland.
With a rich history, breathtaking landscape and some of the most diverse architecture in the world, Scotland is a place not many of us may visit in our lifetimes, but all of us should. Fortunately, in 2009, the three-part documentary series Scotland Revealed was produced by STV, formerly known as Scottish Television. In less than three hours, viewers are taken on a diverse tour across the country that highlights majestic man-made and natural landscapes, from the streets of the capital of Edinburgh to the awe-inspiring peaks of the Cairngorm mountain range in the Highlands.
Series host and narrator Vanessa Collingridge was an interesting choice indeed. Since I wasn't familiar with Collingridge or her background, I did a bit of homework to prepare for this review. It seems that after starting her TV career as a question checker on game shows, Collingridge completed a 14-month run as a weatherperson for BBC Scotland, during which she quickly became a household name; not surprising, as her bright red hair and enthusiastic personality could likely engage even the most curmudgeonly viewer. Later in her career, she became a producer and presenter for all five British national TV channels, as well as BBC national radio.
Collingridge lends her journalistic skill and experience to Scotland Revealed and viewers will quickly realize that this project was likely her own from the very beginning. For me personally, while I appreciated her on-screen charisma and interview skills, I found her cadence and emphasis to be a bit too "evening news" for my liking, never really conveying the deep love and appreciation she clearly has for all things Scotland. That said, she is a fantastic host and her love for the country becomes all the more believable when we learn early on that, while she was born in England, Collingridge fell in love with Scotland the first time she visited and has now lived there for more than 20 years.
The series is divided into three episodes, each covering a specific region of the country and highlighting different features that make Scotland unique. Where Scotland Revealed really differs from other travel documentaries of this kind is that much of the footage featured in each episode is shot from the air. While this likely increased the production budget significantly, the impressive natural and manmade features could only be truly appreciated from a bird's eye view. Back on the ground, Collingridge interviews local historians, engineers, geologists and other experts to add their insights on the topics at hand. The end result is a well-rounded series that does justice to Scotland and its many diverse elements; I was most impressed by how much content was covered in a relatively short time, all without the pace feeling rushed.
Since the series was shot in HD, it's quite likely the Blu-ray release of Scotland Revealed is a stunner. As I watched this version, I kept finding myself thinking, "I'll bet this part is really impressive in HD," mainly due to the fact that the SD presentation is just not that great. I wanted to love it, and the subject matter, content and overall presentation made that quite easy, but it all came down to a relatively inconsistent video presentation and a shameful 2.0 audio mix. I've seen some recent TV series DVD releases and the color, clarity and contrast would have you swear it was a Blu-ray disc you were watching. Given the source material was HD, there's just no reason why the image quality couldn't have been stronger. From Collingridge's soothing alto voice, to the score and ambient elements, Scotland Revealed could have offered an impressive and engaging 5.1 mix; instead, everything is crammed together in a 2.0 mix that is locked in the front channels. Someone made the wrong call. The only extra feature is a 20-minute bonus program called "Scotland's Winter Wonderland" that revisits many of the highlights of the main feature, but this time, under a thick blanket of snow, as Scotland woke one morning in December 2009 to an uncharacteristic cold spell.
Beyond bagpipes, Craig Ferguson and some of the best whiskey and literature in the world, Scotland boasts a rich and diverse landscape of both natural beauty and man-made wonders. If you can't afford the cost of a plane ticket, food and lodging to visit in person, I highly recommend Scotland Revealed as a solid in-depth travelogue on one of the most memorable and unique countries in the world.
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