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Frozen Planet(TV) (2011)
The seven-part series will focus on life in the Arctic and Antarctic. The production team were keen to film a comprehensive record of the natural history of the polar regions, because climate change is affecting landforms such as glaciers, ice shelves, and the extent of sea ice.
For more about Frozen Planet and the Frozen Planet Blu-ray release, see Frozen Planet Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on April 20, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Narrator: David Attenborough
» See full cast & crew
Frozen Planet Blu-ray Review
A wondrous trek into the cold courtesy of the BBC Natural History Unit...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, April 20, 2012
It never ceases to amaze me how relatively little we as a civilization know about the natural world. Lest we forget, there are places on this planet we haven't fully explored, extreme conditions we aren't equipped to survive, species that haven't been thoroughly studied or even discovered, animal behaviors we haven't deciphered, ecosystems and changes that aren't entirely understood, and countless other things that will remain the mysteries they are for generations to come. And it's these same mysteries and undiscovered frontiers that make each BBC Earth documentary series as fascinating as the last. Earth and its wonders are truly inexhaustible, and that daunting fact drives the BBC Natural History Unit to push farther, dig deeper, tackle even greater challenges, and deliver more astonishing footage with each passing production. Frozen Planet doesn't depart from the now six-year-old Planet Earth formula, I'll admit. But it also doesn't need to. Each episode is a breathtaking reminder of why we continue to return to the BBC Earth well time and time again, and I was as engrossed as the credits rolled at the end of its final episode as I was when I slid the 3-disc set's first disc into my Blu-ray player.
Over the course of seven episodes, the series explores the Arctic and the Antarctic regions, capturing footage of startling events that have never been filmed and weaving a story of two vast environments in the throes of rapid, dramatic and, as is often the case, alarming upheaval. But Frozen Planet never presents itself as An Inconvenient Truth: The Sequel. While narrator David Attenborough and the documentary producers are clearly concerned with global climate change and its pole-to-pole effects, they're also captivated by the manner in which the wildlife and ecosystems are adapting to those effects. As it stands, climate change only takes center stage in one episode ("On Thin Ice") and, even then, the resolve and resiliency of the natural world is given as much attention as its fragility. And it's that precise balance -- between observing the planet as it is and noting what it's been and what it's becoming -- that adds tremendous tension to the drama unfolding between predator and prey on the ice and snow.
The journey begins with "To the Ends of the Earth" as the sun rises on the Arctic for the first time in six months. With light comes a polar bear, eager to court its mate; waterfalls in Greenland, erupting from a melting ice cap; and Humpback whales, feeding in the waters surrounding Alaska. Light comes to Antarctica as well, only six months later. Penguins and sea lions resume an old feud, killer whales use ingenuity and skill to knock seals off icy perches, and explorers descend into the depths of the planet, searching for answers and clues to the past hidden in ancient ice. From there, Frozen Planet charts the polar regions' warmer seasons with "Spring" and "Summer," as temperatures rise, ice recedes, and life ventures out into the open. King penguins lament the heat, woolly bear caterpillars have mere days to find a mate before dying (after maturing for more than a decade), polar bears raise their young, elephant seals battle it out, musk oxen fend off hungry wolves, orcas hunt big game, narwhals feast, Arctic wolves teach their pups how to survive the coming winter, and adelie penguins build nests, compete for attention and, eventually, tend to the innumerable chicks that hatch as summer winds down.
As "Autumn" comes, the polar animals, some of the hardiest on the planet, take the necessary steps to ensure they'll return with the sun. Emperor penguins head inland, leopard seals take advantage of young penguins, caribou form rivalries, polar bears wait and watch for the coming ice, musk oxen clash, adelie penguin chicks mature, and the sun sets on a world that's sad to see it go. Dangerously low as temperatures fall, though, a few species stick around and tough out the polar "Winter." Polar bears give birth to their cubs in the confines of the mountains, emperor penguins race to keep their eggs safe, desperate wolves prowl on bison, spectacled eider ducks somehow make due in the icy waters, grey owls rule the skies, weasels trap voles beneath the snow, and a pair of surprising allies work together to make it through the deep freeze. Next, in "The Last Frontier," Frozen Planet devotes an entire episode to the Arctic and Antarctic regions' most unlikely of inhabitants: man. While humans have been living in the Arctic for thousands of years, their presence in Antarctica is a very recent development. Even so, both regions have offered their own chilly receptions to those willing to endure the cold, making man's stories of survival as interesting as any other creature's.
Through it all, Frozen Planet invites, involves and invests nature enthusiasts in two of the most inhospitable places on the planet, and does so with the same jaw-dropping photography, mesmerizing observations and information, and previously unfilmed marvels that continue to earn anything with the BBC Earth label instant blind-buy status. (The time-lapse sequences alone are worth the cost of admission.) Even when I began thinking polar bear and penguin malaise would surely start setting in, the exact opposite happened. The only thing I was left wanting was more: more time, more episodes, more footage of our frozen planet.
Frozen Planet Blu-ray, Video Quality
Frozen Planet impresses on the whole with a 1080i/AVC MPEG-4 encode that's comparable to other 1080i BBC Earth Blu-ray presentations. Yes, the extreme conditions of the polar regions cause some trouble -- six months of darkness wreaks poorly lit havoc on some of the NHU photography, underground and underwater scenes present problems all their own, and several long-distance shots are relatively soft and noisy -- but the majority of the issues are inherited from the footage itself and very few can be traced back to the encode. That said, you won't spend much time wincing. Colors are bright and striking against the crisp, white snow; the spring and summer months are awash with vivid primaries, gorgeous blues and lush greens; black levels, though muted from time to time, are generally deep and earthy throughout; and contrast remains consistent and strong, even when the sun sets on the Arctic and Antarctic wildernesses. Detail wavers a bit, but ice crystals, pebbles, fur, feathers and fine skin textures are nicely resolved, edges are clean and natural (so long as you ignore the occasional ringing), and there aren't any severe instances of macroblocking or aliasing (as has sometimes been the case with BBC nature releases). Minor banding appears here and there (mainly when the cameras plunge beneath the seas) and noise spikes now and again, but I didn't see anything that was cause for serious alarm. Ultimately, while I wouldn't call the encode the best BBC Earth presentation on the planet, videophiles will be satisfied, nature enthusiasts will be ecstatic, and everyone in between will find their money has been well spent.
Frozen Planet Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Like Human Planet before it, Frozen Planet boasts a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track, and the results are as engaging as the stunning photography it accompanies. David Attenborough's narration hovers over both the still and storms of the soundscape with affecting ease, remaining perfectly prioritized no matter the sound or the fury. The rear speakers, in turn, take advantage of his pauses to expand the natural world and allow the animals and environments to speak for themselves. Winds howl and swirl, wolves circle and snarl, penguins warble and waddle, waves surge and relent, birds squawk and chatter, sea lions huff and snort, blizzards thunder and ice crackles; all from every direction, all with with precision and finesse. The LFE channel makes its presence known too, conveying the full, terrifying force of the forces of nature on display. All the while, the series' music ebbs and flows beautifully, respecting the soundfield and the narration without sacrificing its own integrity. There are moments when the music fades too quickly and dramatically, but it's a negligible distraction, and the sort of thing you only notice when evaluating a scene for its sound design alone. Otherwise, I can't imagine Frozen Planet sounding much better than it does here.
(Note: the optional music-only track on each episode is presented with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo mix. The fact that it's lossless is a definite plus; the fact that it's a flat, two-channel experience is most definitely not. As the music-only option is a special feature, though, I chose to deduct the set's extras score rather than its audio score.)
Frozen Planet Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Frozen Planet Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Frozen Planet makes for yet another terrific companion to Planet Earth and yet another fantastic BBC Earth production. Its 3-disc Blu-ray release doesn't disappoint either thanks to a lovely video presentation, an enveloping DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track, and several hours of worthwhile extras. There's room for improvement -- 1080p video, a lossless 5.1 music-only track, and perhaps a commentary or two would have tipped the set over the top -- but I'm confident those who purchase Frozen Planet will be too busy gawking at their screens and re-attaching their dropped jaws to complain.
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Frozen Planet Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Frozen Planet Blu-ray - January 19, 2012
In April, BBC and 2Entertain Home Entertainment will bring Frozen Planet to Blu-ray. Executive Producer Alastair Fothergill's new documentary miniseries takes a vivid look at the disappearing Arctic and Antarctic wildernesses. Frozen Planet is expected to street ...
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