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Do you manage a store that sells high-definition televisions? Do you run a gift shop located inside or near one of America's great national parks? Are you seeking a Blu-ray disc that you can allow to play in the background that will impress your friends with the quality of your HDTV yet not distract them too much from whatever else may be going on? Do you have a lot of patience and an equal amount of love for Yosemite National Park? If so, uh, I guess Yosemite National Park is the Blu-ray for you. Otherwise, I'm not so sure.
Here at DVD Verdict, we've been asked to review some rather peculiar items from time to time. This is one of those items. While it doesn't seem nearly as pointless as something like Nigel Tomm's Hamlet (bravely reviewed by our own Judge Brett Cullum), Yosemite National Park is the sort of thing that can't really be reviewed in conventional terms…it's barely more ambitious than one of those digital fireplaces.
Here's how it works: for approximately one hour, the camera slowly pans across majestic stretches of Yellowstone. Every now and then, we'll move in closer and watch an animal in the park wandering around for a while. It's very pretty, relaxing footage that just kind of sits there waiting for you to regard it. Now, these images are accompanied by three different audio options:
Natural Ambient Sound: Listen to the sounds of waterfalls, wind, crunching leaves, and so on as you watch the images. It's like you're actually in the park!
Music (+ Natural Ambient Sound): A sugary-sweet piano-and-synth score underlines the attractive images, which may be more appealing for those attempting to use the disc to set some sort of mood.
Narration (+ Music + Natural Ambient Sound): Every few minutes or so, a narrator with a very smooth voice (it's almost creepy) will soothingly issue some facts about Yellowstone. Had this feature been used more actively, it might have made the disc feel more like a nature documentary, but that doesn't happen due to the rather long gaps between bits of narration.
That's it. If you're looking to learn more about national parks, I suggest checking out Ken Burn's comprehensive The National Parks: America's Best Idea, or one of the many other nature documentaries that have been made on the subject. Yosemite National Park is strictly intended for background purposes, not really intended to provide a compelling viewing experience for an entire hour. It's the sort of thing that one might walk by and observe for a couple of minutes before saying, "Huh, that's kinda neat," and moving on.
On the positive side, the disc does get a rather strong Blu-ray transfer. The images really are gorgeous, presented with crisp detail and considerable warmth. The level of nuance is pretty spectacular both during close-up shots of wildlife and longer shots that attempt to capture the full scope of things. The color palette tends to be bright and inviting most of the time, with a minimum of darker footage. Audio is also solid, as the natural sounds are well-distributed throughout the speaker system. It really does provide a pretty immersive experience, especially when you remove the music and narration and just let the captured sounds flow through the room. There are no extras on the disc.
It's hard to judge this disc by traditional standards…granted, to actually sit and watch it for an hour is a very dull experience, but that's not how it is intended to be used. Proceed at your own risk.
Not guilty, I suppose.
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