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November 17, 2008
Galįpagos - Blu-Ray Movie Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Narrator
N/A20/11/2008Village RoadshowTilda Swinton
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
VC-1Dolby Digital 2.0 448kbpsENature!

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One of the worlds greatest predators.
Last year we were absolutely blown away with the release of Planet Earth on Blu-Ray. One of the greatest documentaries was brilliantly presented visually on the new high definition format. Americans were fortunate in that they also received Galįpagos - The Islands That Changed The World on Blu-Ray in October last year as well, and being another BBC production it's well worth a look. As you can probably guess from the title this release focuses on the Galįpagos Islands, one of the most remote, and fascinating, natural environments on the globe.

The inspiration for Darwin's theory of evolution, the Galapagos Islands are a living laboratory, a geological conveyor belt that has given birth to and seen the death of many species of plants and animals. As the western islands rise up from the sea offering a chance of life, the eastern islands sink back beneath the waves guaranteeing only death. Between the two are the middle islands; fertile, lush land in its prime that contains an incredible diversity of life. Nowhere else on the Earth are the twin processes of creation and extinction of species so starkly apparent...

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High Definition video looks stunning!
Galįpagos - The Islands That Changed The World was is the full three part series. The first episode titled 'Born of Fire' provides an introduction to the volcanic islands, and the brilliant wildlife that lives upon them. The second called 'Islands that Changed the World' details how the island helped Charles Darwin build his theory of evolution while the third 'Forces of Change' focuses on how the islands are formed, and how each has different climactic and volcanic conditions.

Certainly one of the highlights of this release is the stunning underwater photography. The third episode contains some of the most remarkable, breathtaking footage of deep sea marine life ever captured. The brilliance, and often translucent, nature of these creatures is perfectly captured for presentation on Blu-Ray.

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Galįpagos looks stunning on Blu-Ray.
If there is one complaint about this release it is the fact that, being made for TV, some of the footage and comments seem to be repeated from one episode to the next - primarily for the opening and closing of each episode.

What more can I say about this release. Galįpagos - The Islands That Changed The World really is one of the best documentaries made on one of the more remote and diverse locations on the planet. With a runtime of around 140 minutes there is plenty to see here and if you, or anyone else you know enjoys documentaries this is a great purchase for under $40 in Australian stores.

The video on this release has been encoded using the VC-1 codec at the aspect ration of 1.78:1 and the results are quite superb. Unfortunately though the image has only been encoded at 1080i which means the image is interlaced, and while still spectacular does exhibit some shimmering in the slow pans across the jungles in particular. There was also some very slight colour banding, but for such a lengthy documentary, this presentation on a BD-25 disc is still a stunning example of what the format is capable of achieving with some special care.

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Underwater scenes look glorious in HD.
What really astounds is the find detail. Not only will you see the feathers, but also the barbs that make them up. Not only will you see the leathery scaly skin on the Marine Iguana, but also their nicks and scars. Blacks are handled surprisingly well, as are the busier scenes such as waves crashing, or brilliant red volcanoes erupting.

Please Note: The images surrounding this review were captured off a TV broadcast, the Blu-Ray release does not have the BBCHD logo.

One of the more disappointing aspects of this release is the audio which is only presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 at 448kbps - there is no option for surround sound, let alone any form of High Definition audio including Linear PCM, Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio. Still what's presented here, including the comments from Tilda Swinton and the occasional spot of music, is very clear. Indeed the noises from the animals, and ambient sounds from the island, are stunningly clear.

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Some of the strangest birds in the world.

None. Nothing. Nada. Disappointing as I suspect there was a tonne of deleted footage, and even a basic pop-up trivia track with details of animals being show, or an interactive map showing locations would have been quite suited.

Galįpagos - The Islands That Changed The World is another brilliant BBC documentary. The video quality on this release, and indeed the actual footage, is superb and while the audio is a little disappointing, and the extras non-existent, this remains a must have release for nature lovers.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyright© BBC/Village Roadshow. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.