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December 2, 2008
Australia Land of Parrots - Blu-Ray Movie Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Narrator
N/A7/11/2008ABC/Village RoadshowColin Friels
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
MPEG-2DTS-HD MA 5.1ENature!

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Galahs having a drink of water.
You know that a format has hit mainstream when you start receiving documentaries for a very specific market, in this case bird watchers. Australia, as many of the readers of this site would be aware, is a remarkable place. Deserts, rainforests, bush land and scrubland are all on a single continent and few countries around the globe are as diverse as ours. With such diversity comes a diverse wildlife and this documentary looks at some of the most amazing creatures in our land - parrots.

With a year of shooting around the country some of the captured footage in this documentary really is remarkable and if you, or someone you know, loves birds then this is a real bonus. The beauty of this disc is the stunning detail that is delivered with the high definition format and the solid narration by Colin Friels.

Ultimately though, and despite the brilliance, this documentary still feels a little short. With a runtime of only 52 minutes 35 seconds (and not the 108 minutes as claimed on the packaging) there are still many birds that aren't covered, and some that feel a little short changed (such as the iconic galahs).

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The gorgeous Mulga Parrots.

Australia Land of Parrots is presented on Blu-Ray at 1080i at 1.78:1 using the MPEG-2 codec. Now, before you groan about MPEG-2 we must point out that there have been some stunning releases using that compression algorithm, and this release has many breathtaking scenes.

Sadly where the issues come into this release it's the 1920 x 1080i format. The interlacing often gives a shimmering look, particularly when the image is a flyover of the landscape. It's quite noticeable, and quite annoying - even my parents picked that on quite easily and commented on it. When you're not flying over the landscape though the images are breathtakingly sharp and this release is vastly superior to the DVD release with the finest feathers and colours on the birds always evident.

Australia Land of Parrots comes to Blu-Ray with two English Audio options. I first listened to the release with the impressive Dolby Digital 5.1 track encoded at 448kbps and it was very impressive, especially for a documentary. Half way through though I checked the menus and noticed something else - a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio track! Now that's a rarity on a documentary, and it provides a stunning clarity to these wonderful birds. Hell, even my cat looked around a couple of times at the speakers such is the clarity!

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Australia's famous Sulphur-crested Cockatoos.
Narration of the feature is by Australian Actor Colin Friels (Water Rats, Dark City) and he is clear at all times. The documentary also has some wonderful ambient styled music which fades in and out as required but never overwhelms the narration or the noises from the birds.

Again managing to surprise are the extras provided on this disc which are much more substantial then those listed on the back of the cover. In total they run almost as long as the entire feature which is impressive.

Audio Commentary by Director and Cameraman David Parer: As someone who worked on almost every facet of this documentary he has plenty of interesting information about the birds, the filming and the release.

Producer and Director Discuss Production (7:37/HD): As the title suggest the producer and director of this documentary discuss the lengthy process of creating this film. Included in the discussions are the difficulty of filming the birds, getting international financing and selecting the best sequences.

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Budgerigars in massive numbers.
Composer Talks About Music (13:59/HD): Needless to say the music in this release is fairly restrained which is exactly what you want. It's great to see a composer get to show off his trade in this decent featurette.

Recording Foley Sound (6:06/HD): This is actually a very impressive featurette which shows just how little sound is actually recorded in the wild, with most, including the birds flying recorded in studios. You wouldn't really expect filmmakers to give away so much of this 'secret' but they must be commended for doing so.

Editor Discusses Picture Editing (5:10/HD): The editor discusses the difficulties of making images of birds into some form of narrative coherence.

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The gorgeous King Parrot.
Cameraman Erecting Filming Tower (3:18/HD): A look at creating the filming tower.

Cameraman Filming From Aircraft (3:25/HD): A brief look at filming from aircraft above the land.

Twitchers Gallery By Sean Dooley (15:13/HD): Bird Watcher and Author Sean Dooley talks about his favourite birds viewed around Australia with video clips of what he saw. It offers a further look at more birds from the feature.

If you, or anyone else you know, loves bird watching then this release is well worth picking up. While the image is let down slightly with an interlaced image we guarantee that birds have never looked, or sounded, better. There a decent set of extras on this disc as well. Well worth a look.

Review By: Dave Warner


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