The World at War
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More than 35 years after its initial broadcast, THE WORLD AT WAR remains the definitive visual history of World War II. Unsurpassed in depth and scope, its 26 hour-long programs feature an extraordinary collection of newsreel, propaganda, and home-movie footage drawn from the archives of 18 nations, including color close-ups of Adolf Hitler taken by his mistress, that present an unvarnished perspective of the war s pivotal events. Penetrating interviews with eyewitness participants from Hitler s secretary to Alger Hiss to ordinary citizens who stood outside the battle lines add spine-tingling, first-hand accounts to an already unforgettable viewing experience.
Informative and unbiased, THE WORLD AT WAR is the recipient of numerous accolades, including an International Emmy Award, The National Television Critics' Award for Best Documentary, and knighthood for its creator, Sir Jeremy Isaacs. Narrated by Academy Award winner Sir Laurence Olivier and painstakingly restored in 1080p high-definition (with newly-created 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio tracks), this is epic history at its absolute best.
Bonus Documentaries: The Making of the Series, Secretary to Hitler, The Two Deaths of Adolf Hitler, Warrior, Hitler s Germany: The People s Community 1933-1939, Hitler's Germany: Total War 1939-1945, The Final Solution: Parts 1 and 2, and From War to Peace
Making the Series A 30th Anniversary Feature-Length Retrospective
The Restoring of THE WORLD AT WAR a brand-new feature detailing the meticulous restoration process
The Making of THE WORLD AT WAR
Gallery of Photos from the Imperial War Museum Collection
Famous Songs, Speeches, Quotes and Maps
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I watched the first episode this evening. Putting to one side the quality of the work itself (and it is very high), the technical quality of the production is outstanding. There are absolutely no problems with the sound. There are, as well, no problems with the picture (screen-size or anything else). In short, this is an excellent production about which I have absolutely no complaints.
Perhaps others who have bought this documentary purchased it in a format other than the 9 disc Blu-ray that I ordered. So I would say to anybody who's thinking about buying it to get the Blu-ray version (provided, of course, you have a Blu-ray disc player). I seriously doubt you'll be dissatisfied if you're a history buff or just want to learn about WWII.
Much has been said about what has been lost in the move from 4:3 to 16:9 but its best to see it than describe it, and I've enclosed some photos to illustrate the issue, as a picture is worth 1000 words. I am not a purist, but W@W suffers more through this process than others such as Stanley Kubrick's The Shining or Barry Lyndon. I surmise its because the esthetic of 4:3 is well established in the voluminous library of video about WWII, not to mention the loss of imagery cropped by the conversion. It would difficult to imagine a Charlie Chaplin movie in 16:9 but if one wished too, zooming, as a viewer's choice, provides a near identical effect while preserving the original material in the recording.
A photo I've enclosed is a clear example: the UfA German newsreels are always opened by a title frame, but almost half of title page is cropped away, including its labels 'Ton Woche'. In a massive parade by Hitler, the original newsreels includes a drive through the Brandenburg gate viewed from the ground through to the top sculpture, which is now cropped away leaving only the massive pillars, and detracts from the massiveness of the work; this is like looking at the pyramids of Eygpt with the top most half cut off.
The remastering has substantially cleaned the original video and sound, and it marked improvement, but it also magnifies faults in the older media. The blurriness of DVD hid blemishes well, and any up-converting DVD player looked closer to the state, color and clarity of period newsreels I've seen in the National Archives. The bluray version shows more film grain and damage that was blurred out on DVD, and I had to substantially reduce sharpness to make it more appealing, likewise the old soundtracks limits are more evident in the clearer bluray format.
The effect of remastering depend on the original material, it does very little for the older or damaged material such as WWII footage, but makes a substantial improvement in material taken in later years. The interviews from the 1970s are universally improved.
One unique annoyance of 16:9 conversion is that the imagry moves at a faster pace because its magnified. I developed a headache watching the bluray version after 3+ hours, which I've never had before with other material.
The menu system is far better than the DVD, and there are more extras and side notes in the bluray version than any prior version of W@W, and I've seen them all from VHS, beta, laserdisc, DVD and now bluray.
I think new viewers of W@W will not miss the original if they've never seen it. New viewers also shouldn't compare the aged but restored material to modern recordings, as they won't be aware of how much worse it originally was. Fans of W@W and other WWII documentaries or films, however, will have to consider the bluray version as a re-imagining of the original series rather than a preservation of a classic, so I've downgraded my rating from 5 to 4 stars. If you own the DVD version, the bluray version is not something I'd rush out and buy.