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Water Life: Water's Journey(2008)
Water's Journey includes these five programs: The Wandering Water, The Quiet Flow, Protective Water, Fleeting Water, and Jungle Water. Witness the power of the water cycle in all its phases, and its vital role in creating and perpetuating ecosystems that astound the imagination. Tropical rainforests are home to plants and animals still unknown to us. Rivers are alive with the hubbub of little colonies. In the desert, only the toughest and most adaptable creatures survive.
For more about Water Life: Water's Journey and the Water Life: Water's Journey Blu-ray release, see Water Life: Water's Journey Blu-ray Review published by Dustin Somner on September 9, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Water Life: Water's Journey Blu-ray Review
Disc 2 of the Water Life series tones down the moral lessons of its predecessor.
Reviewed by Dustin Somner, September 9, 2009
Spanning five continents and running 26 episodes in length, "Water Life" is the latest nature series to bring viewers a first hand look at the beauty that's evident in the world around us. The footage on display throughout the series was captured over a 16-month period by three separate teams consisting of the world's top nature cinematographers, naturalists, and divers, who's goal was to capture various aquatic ecosystems using innovative camera techniques to create a fascinating perspective. After filming ended, the 100+ hours of footage was edited into a thirteen hour runtime and divided up to meet the individual theme of each episode. Broadcast internationally on Discovery HD, "Water Life" was originally produced by Spain's CIN. TV in conjunction with the World Wildlife Federation and the United Nations Water for Life Decade of Action Committee, which explains the conservationist theme that underlies part of the production.
Broken down into five episodes on each disc, this Water's Journey release contains an interesting mix of thematic elements that collectively run a wide emotional gamut. I'll break down each episode individually in the next few paragraphs and then summarize the overall experience afterwards.
The Wandering Water: As the disc opens, we're introduced to an educational analysis of various shapes generated by water. From gas in the atmosphere to the expansive oceans that cover the planet, water molecules are constantly changing, yet always there (next time you drink a glass of water, consider the chance you're drinking a molecule that nourished a dinosaur).
The Quiet Flow: This episode delves into an analysis of the animals that populate pools and banks of slow moving rivers. Compared with prior episodes, there's a greater focus on the land-dwelling creatures that build their homes along the shores of the rivers, feasting on the abundant plantlife and providing necessary food and nutrients to the creatures that live within the waters.
Protective Water: Snowfall and ice build-up are the subject of this episode, which analyzes the formation of glaciers and the effect seasonal snow has on the wildlife in mountainous regions. In addition, we're shown the positive and negative attributes of ice covered rivers or streams on the creatures that live below the water. It's usually not a good thing to say I sat and watched ice melt, but that's exactly what you'll do during this episode (using time-lapse photography).
Fleeting Water: As the title implies, this episode focuses on the arid climates of the world and the effect the scarce resource has on the landscape. Naturally, the plants and animals of the Sahara and other desert terrain are on display throughout this segment, which shows the unique adaptations life has undergone in order to survive in a climate most would deem unfit to sustain life.
Jungle Water: Continuing with the theme of analyzing different forms of life that populate varying climates across the world, the animals and plants of the rainforests are the subject of this section. As most of us are aware, the rainforest is the most complex ecosystem on the planet, housing a diverse population of undiscovered species. Throughout this episode, you'll be introduced to a collection of plants and land-dwelling animals that call the jungle canopy their home.
In a welcomed move, the series shifted away from the doom and gloom episodes that encompassed nearly half of the first disc, making this release much easier to recommend. Each episode has a clear structure that's outlined in a cohesive fashion without unnecessary filler to drag it off track (which was one minor complaint I raised about the Planet Water release). Even the narration appears to hit its stride, delivering a slightly more cerebral analysis of the way water impacts the world around us. It's still not as good as it could be, but it has to be hard to come up with different ways of saying the same thing over and over again (since the focus on water is a somewhat limited topic).
From a visual standpoint, this is another excellent collection of episodes. The variety of locations on display coupled with the professionalism shown in the cinematography is a recipe for jaw-dropping visuals, and that's exactly the area where "Water Life" never disappoints. If you go into a viewing of the series simply looking for amazing high-definition shots, I doubt you'll leave feeling unsatisfied.
Water Life: Water's Journey Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in 1080i utilizing the AVC codec (at an average bitrate of 28Mbps) Water Life: Water's Journey suffers from a more pronounced version of the same problem that plagued the first disc in the series. The problem I'm referring to is some readily apparent ringing around edges, which don't maintain the stability we've come to expect on Blu-ray. For an example, look for the geyser sequence early in the first episode, paying close attention to the outline of the rocks that immediately surround the light colored pools. Rather than a consistent line, you'll notice the lines shimmering as if the transfer is incapable of clearly identifying where the line should be. Out of the entire disc, I noticed this the most during episode one, which also happens to contain the most static landscape shots. On the positive side, the level of detail on the disc is very impressive, with crisp textures and well-defined inner edges. The color spectrum is equally proficient, with bright, naturalistic tones creating a lovely 3-dimensional pop that will make you feel as if you're right there with the camera crew. Likewise, black levels offer excellent depth, and contrast never demonstrated a shred of wavering differentiation.
Aside from the disappointing byproduct (ringing) of choosing 1080i for the transfer, I was still quite pleased with the visuals on the disc and firmly believe most viewers will be happy with quality on display.
Water Life: Water's Journey Blu-ray, Audio Quality
My expectations were already tempered going into this release, since I was aware from the first Water Life disc that all we'd receive is a Dolby Digital 2.0 track with English narration. Similar to the first disc, the clarity, volume balance, and incorporation of environmental audio effects are all excellent for a front-heavy lossy mix, but I still feel a lossless mix could have sounded a bit more robust. The one thing I did notice this time around, is the incorporation of a select number of musical choices that appear time and time again throughout the episodes. It probably isn't noticeable if you choose to watch the series one episode at a time, but since I'm rolling through them in a relatively brief period of time, it became slightly tedious hearing the same music repeatedly (the best example would be watching the intro to a television episode fifteen times during a twenty-four hour period). As it stands, the audio track is serviceable (or even a little above average) for a television documentary, but doesn't seem to be a fitting inclusion considering the capabilities of the Blu-ray format.
In an odd move, there are zero subtitles included on the disc, and English is the only language choice for the narration. I'd assume there's adequate space on the disc to include additional Dolby Digital audio tracks or subtitles for non-English speaking viewers, so it's a bit puzzling to have such a lack of options. Especially when you consider the production is aimed at international distribution and carries a message that should be heard globally.
Water Life: Water's Journey Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
There are zero extras on the disc
Water Life: Water's Journey Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Water Life: Water's Journey demonstrates a clear improvement over the first disc in the "Water Life" series. Most of you are likely curious how this compares with "Planet Earth" (which currently holds the gold medal for high-definition nature series), and I have to admit that "Water Life" still registers a little lower in the quality scale. However, if you possess an appreciation for the wonders of nature and an interest in educating yourself on Earth's most abundant resource, this series should fit the bill nicely. From a technical standpoint, I wish the disc utilized full-resolution 1080p rather than 1080i, since we need the visuals to look as pristine as possible to enhance the entertainment value of the production. The noticeable ringing around edges mars an otherwise beautiful presentation, causing a degree of lost integrity in the source material. Having said that, I'm still of the opinion that "Water Life" is shaping up to be a great series that is well worth your time on Blu-ray.
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