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BBC Natural History Collection (Planet Earth: Special Edition / Galapagos / Ganges / Wild China) [Blu-ray]
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Experience the best the Earth has to offer in stunningly clear high definition. Witness rare action, impossible locations and intimate moments with our planet’s best-loved creatures with the critically acclaimed, Emmy-winning Planet Earth Special Edition, now packed with over seven hours of extras; travel the length and breadth of China and discover the fabulous diversity of its natural wonders in Wild China; visit the home of the most astonishing creatures found anywhere on Earth with Galápagos; and discover a kaleidoscope of color and energy as you explore the river that shaped the wildlife, culture and beliefs of India in Ganges. It’s your world as you’ve never seen it before in dazzling Blu-ray high definition!
Planet Earth: Special Edition [Blu-ray]
Wild China [Blu-ray]
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So here's the 411 scoop of accompaniments NEW to this 6-disc 2012 BD set that's NOT on the 2007 4-disc BD set, listed in the order of importance:
1) Diaries (bonus in disc 1-4), the 10-min making of clip following each of the 11 main features. Total of ~107 min in SD. Worthy to note, unlike the DVD version and other BBC nature diaries, which auto-plays the diaries immediately following the credits, here you do need to navigate back to the main menu to select these bonuses.
2) 3 new bonus documentaries (disc 6), total 150 min's:
a) Snow Leopards: Beyond the Myth 50 min in HD
b) Secrets of Maya Underworld 50 min in SD
c) Elephant Nomads of the Namib Desert 50 min in SD
-Note: the UK version contains Natural World - Desert Lions 50 min. Not sure why US version left this out. But lucky for US version, UK left out Maya Underworld and Elephants Nomads.
3) The Future (disc 5), 3 episodes in SD; total 3 hours:
a) Saving Species 60 min
b) Into the Wilderness 60 min
c) Living Together 60 min
4) Great PE moments (disc 4) 46 min in SD, narrated by Sir David the Great Attenborough himself.
5) Audio commentaries by producers, but only for 5 of the 11 main episodes: Pole to Pole, Mountains, Caves, Great Plains, Shallow Seas.
6) Music only viewing audio. This feature is a bust. Why in the world would you ever watch a documentary without a narrator? BTW, it's not really music only. The sound effects (water falling, animal sounds, etc.) are still tracked in. I guess they couldn't get rid of that. In my opinion any upgrade to the audio portion should have been to include the Sigourney Weaver (Discovery version) narration.
7) Sneak Peak at Frozen Planet (disc 6) 13 min's in HD. Oh great, more advertising :(. But this IS BBC's next big release following the Life and Human Planet series.
Technical issue: the transfer is 1080i. From my research regarding the ad nauseam debate of PE being i or p, the original cameras used to film this series were no better than 1080i, so that's the limiting step. Though some earlier 2007 BD packages states 1080p, and the signal to your TV indicates p, later releases of the 2007 version corrected this to say 1080i on the package. Considering this series was filmed over the course of the early 2000's, you really can't notch about this (it was the best they had then). The main feature is still reference quality by 2012 standards. However, regarding the extras, for the most part, ALL the bonus features (with the exception of Snow Leopard and the Sneak Peak Frozen Planet which are clearly HD) are all in SD, and at best, an upscaled 720 clearly not full HD from my sharp 20/20 on my 65" panny.
Most of you reading this probably already have a copy of Planet Earth on a different format of one of the many prior version(s) which contain a mix and match of various menus or narrations. You've stumbled across on Amazon here which probably your initial response is, oh no, another one? Like taking a complicated order for a simple burger involves smorgasbord of holding this or extras on that when it comes to every tailored garnish? Well, the problem with distributors setting the final cut allows no a la carte freedom to pick and chose extras. After all, this IS another chance for distributors to double dip, like in any industry, music, movies, etc. a genealogy of remakes, re-mix edits, extended edition, director's cut, previously unreleased bonuses tracks, re-master, new cover art, all in the name of gouging consumers. Especially with blockbusters, and Planet Earth (PE) is no exception. Yes folks, as long as you buy into it, you've suckered up into their marketing ploy. It was all in their strategies from the very start. After all, companies hire a panel full time solely dedicated to all the nitty-gritty tactical ways in capitalizing the bottom line of $, every chance they get, AKA milking the system. What can you do? Really nothing. You are at their helm when the goods are dangled to you in tantalization, and your pavlovian response is beyond your control. But I'm sure as you're reading this, you're wondering if this set is worth it. So without further a due, let's see what you get, and whether or not you can beat the system to your advantage.
So the concept of double dipping, can you beat the system to your advantage? Well, I'll tell you what I did. Ordered PE Spec Ed 6-disc used (much cheaper, note: got mine for $22), tossed out the scarfed package (it's cheap cardboard anyways). Bought a 6 disc blu-ray case (brand viva elite) for $2.50 from casetopia dot com, which BTW is the exact same size as the 4 disc case (15 mm thickness). Fit's perfectly into your old slip case. Successful upgrade. Donated the old version to a friend. Done.
Ultimately it's up to you, the well informed consumer to flip the switch or say screw you Mr. distributor leech. Everyone's economics and shelf space run the gamut to savvy your rations, like those must have fan boys. Still not sure?, here a logical final decision making:
-If you have both the dvd and original 2007 BD versions, no real need to upgrade unless you really need the bonus of Elephant Nomads.
-If you only have the Discovery US version of Sigourney Weaver narrating and want the original David Attenborough, then go for it.
-If you don't have the dvd version but only have original 2007 BD version, your upgrade will be solely for all those bonus extras, but keep in mind those extras are in standard def.
-If you don't have any copies of PE, this is a must own in every household for all ages. Starting with this Special Edition 6-disc version, you'd be skipping all other previous wasted versions.
-When it comes to double dipping, price of course is always an issue. Currently as of this writing, the price on Amazon for PE 6-disc Spec Edition is as follows: Amaz $35; MarketPlace $33; used $26.
To top it off, a globe limited edition (gift version) is also available. Contains the same materials, just the hardware/ packaging is different, here: Planet Earth: Limited Edition [Blu-ray]
Good luck PE fans. Hope this helps. Note: this updated PE review is written on 01/21/12. Also maybe of interest to you, The BBC High-Definition Natural History Collection 2 (Life / Nature's Most Amazing Events / South Pacific / Yellowstone) [Blu-ray]. For Galapagos [Blu-ray] (also 5 star), do read my review there.
The Ganges, which we had not seen before, was good. Planet Earth we knew was a good series. Galapagos was nice, but having seen it in person I was not blown away by it. The Wild China series was the star of the set. The photography was amazing. My husband is a biologist and usually nit-picks the narration of the nature series. He could find nothing to criticize on the Wild China series.
I highly recommend this to anyone with the video equipment to do it justice and an interest in nature series.
Finally, you MUST own the blu-ray version if you have the hardware to make use of it. As far as I'm concerned, visuals such as these are the very reason to buy a blu-ray player and HDTV in the first place. It is a feast for the senses.
About 10 days ago I ordered the same product again. This time it is even worse: only two of the 19 chapters on the Disc 1 of Wild China can be played. The rest of 17 chapters simply could not loaded up. The other seven discs again are all fine. One thing I noticed is that these discs do not seem to be new since none of the plastic cases was sealed. In contrast, back in March 2011 all plastic cases were sealed. So I have to return the package for the second time.
Based on what I have encountered, or should I say endured, so far I suspect that a fairly high percentage of Disc 1 of Wild China is defective. Anyway, because of its great contents, which definitely deserve a 5-star rating, I'll try my luck for the third time.
I'll tentatively rate the item as 2-star for its poor quality control.
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