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May 2, 2009
Humpbacks From Fire To Ice - Blu-Ray Movie Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Narrator
N/A7/5/2009ABC/Village RoadshowDavid Attenborough
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
MPEG-2DTS-HD MA 5.1ENature!

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Mother and calf enjoying the ocean.
Ever since I was very young I have always had a love for documentaries. We live on such a diverse and varied planet that there are literally thousands of subjects that could take up a lifetime of research and study. The vast oceans are one such place and this documentary focuses on the Humpback Whale.

A whale calf – a humpback whale. She's boisterous... almost carefree... This is a film about the first year in her life. She has: twelve months to learn the way of whales, twelve months to learn how to survive in an underwater world ruled by cunning and ruthless predators. Come on a journey as we follow a mother and calf on their perilous path across the Pacific Ocean from Hawaii to Alaska and back... A journey from active volcanic islands bathed in a subtropical sea to the majesty of glaciers and icebergs in icy Alaska... A journey from fire to ice.

Humpbacks: From Fire to Ice is a solid documentary which looks magnificent and has some magnificent footage of the massive animals in their environments. Narration by David Attenborough is superb with a clear, natural voice. I have to admit though that with a runtime of under an hour there was still room for more detail and information. I wasn't aware that each tail, or fluke, on a whale was different in shape and markings and that is how the researchers identify each individual whale. Also interesting is the way in which the whales battle to mate with the females and the losers then remain motionless and start singing. Fascinating.

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Humpbacks breaching the waterline.
Still, there were some areas which did disappoint. There is plenty of talk about whales mating, but no footage is actually shown of the sexual encounter. Likewise there is no footage of a whale being born. Perhaps they haven't captured it on film, or perhaps it was a decision to keep the documentary more "family friendly".

Overall this is a good documentary which is a little short but covers most of the bases fairly well. Certainly the highlight is the sensational footage, much of which is under the surface unsurprisingly. Worth a look.

With a runtime of only 53 minutes there is certainly plenty of space on this disc to keep the bitrate high and indeed the majority of the documentary sees the bitrate hovering around the 20-30Mbps mark. Using the MPEG-2 codec the image quality of this 1.78:1 1080p presentation is very impressive. Water is always one element of nature which proves to be particularly difficult to compress, but they've done a fine job here. Colours are good, although the majority of the film has a blue-gray tint to it as you can expect.

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Using bubbles to block the view.
In terms of issues we did notice some very slight colour banding in some scenes, particularly those with sunsets or rises, and we also noticed some scenes were a little blurrier then others, although this could be a result of zooming in an image from a distance.

We were pleasantly surprised to see this disc contain a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio track. It certainly isn't a documentary that needs such great audio, but it is great to have it nonetheless. The Narration by David Attenborough is clear at all times, and suits the documentary perfectly.

The only other audio option on the disc is a Dolby Digital 5.1 track encoded at 640kbps. It doesn't quite have the fidelity of the DTS-HD track, but those stuck with the lesser format will still be impressed. The documentary also includes a single English subtitle track, and it's accurate to the narration.

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From Fire to Ice looks spectacular.
Sadly there are absolutely no extras on this disc. No deleted scenes, no details about the filming, or the editing. Given the wonderful extras on Australia Land of Parrots this is quite disappointing especially given this documentary was financed by the ABC and Film Finance Australia.

Humpbacks From Fire To Ice is a nice documentary which looks and sounds great, but lacks the depth to make it a must have title. The complete lack of any extras also hurts. One for lovers on whales and documentaries.

Review By: Dave Warner


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