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Acclaimed nature filmmaker Jacques Perrin captures the beauty and wonder of bird migration around the world in this new panoramic documentary. Five film crews travel from the Amazon to the Arctic, crossing 40 countries and all seven continents, to observe flying patterns over a three-year period.
For more about Winged Migration and the Winged Migration Blu-ray release, see Winged Migration Blu-ray Review published by Greg Maltz on April 10, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Narrator: Jacques Perrin
Director: Jacques Perrin
» See full cast & crew
Winged Migration Blu-ray Review
A delight for bird-watchers, naturalists and documentary fans boasts gorgeous picture quality in 1080p.
Reviewed by Greg Maltz, April 10, 2009
Even if you have no real interest in birds, Winged Migration just might make you a fair-weather friend of fowl. The documentary puts you in the middle of avian habitats and behaviors in the air, on sea and land. With an emphasis on migratory patterns that cover astonishingly large parts of the globe, the documentary offers a window into remote regions where species both rare and common exhibit their behaviors captured unlike any bird documentary you have seen before. You may never see anything quite like it again. That's partially because the birds were conditioned to allow the filmmakers special access, and in many cases the birds were moved to be filmed at the various locales showcased in the documentary. While Planet Earth covers some similar content, it was not focused as intently on our diverse winged friends. Sony releases the Blu-ray edition of Winged Migration simultaneous to the studio's Blu-ray version of Fly Away Home, a touching story of a young girl who rescues a flock of goslings and teaches them to fly south for the winter. Both the movie and the documentary come highly recommended, especially for family viewing, delivering stunning visuals, solid picture quality and a way to escape from the ground--if only for a couple of hours.
Winged Migration begins its journey in France, with footage of a flock of geese flying south for the winter. The birds and their migration appear not totally dissimilar to the geese featured in Fly Away Home. Just as in that movie, the filmmakers of Winged Migration used light aircraft to fly among the birds, delivering astonishing footage. Often we reviewers describe a film as "putting you in the middle of the action", but this documentary really does give you a pair of wings and puts you amidst various species of birds in flight. From France, Winged Migration takes us to North America, Asia, Africa and beyond. Jacques Perrin, Jacques Cluzaud and Michel Debats spent years raising chicks to accept humans, so that the avian subjects and remote scenery could be captured without scaring away the birds or altering their behavior in the presence of the cameras, humans and aircraft needed for filming. In addition to geese, the documentary focuses on several other types of water fowl and other birds, including penguins, terns, finches, parrots, cranes, swans, pelicans, storks, gannets and a solitary bald eagle flying majestically in America's southwest. Bird-watchers will have to pick their jaws off the floor in each scene. After this, it may be hard to go back to a pair of binoculars.
As documentaries go, Winged Migration is not terribly informative in terms of narration or hard facts. Those are kept to a minimum compared to most nature shows, such as National Geographic or Discovery channel specials, or even Nature on PBS. Here, the narration and subtitles are used infrequently with a blurb at the beginning of each chapter describing migratory patterns to clue in the viewer. I like this approach. The real appeal of Winged Migration is the eye of the camera, its vantage and the avian subjects. The birds' chirps and calls are all you really need. No sense in distracting from it with too much "blah blah". Besides, in raising the birds from the time they hatched from their eggs, the filmmakers significantly altered the action seen in the documentary to make it as much man-made as a document of the birds' natural existence. Of course no wild birds would allow Perrin's team to get close to them. In this respect, Winged Migration cheats a bit in its view of the natural avian world. As with many documentaries, it digresses into demonizing mankind for hunting and encroaching on bird habitats, but the preaching is kept to a minimum. It is certainly no more bothersome than in Planet Earth when Sir David Attenborough blames the plight of polar bears on humans who are responsible for global warming (nevermind that the Earth has been warming since the last ice age).
Winged Migration Blu-ray, Video Quality
The subject matter of Winged Migration makes for inescapable comparisons with Planet Earth. The phenomenal picture quality of that Blu-ray set owed heavily to Cineflex, a technology to float the camera lens and a sensor inside a gyro-stabilized, immobile ball. Not to mention the $90,000 high-definition camera with a telephoto lens capable of 84 times magnification used in Planet Earth. The producers of Winged Migration didn't have those kinds of resources. Understandably, some footage of Winged Migration is nowhere near as crisp as the Cineflex footage. Other images appear to be cleaned up digitally and suffer from excessive windborne vibration. These problems are certainly not the fault of the Blu-ray. Overall, the picture quality is exemplary. The camerawork is very impressive and so is the transfer to 1080p. Detail, presence and depth are good, without rising to the Cineflex level that wards off nearly all signs of motion artifacts. A few of these signs are visible in Winged Migration, but they are easily ignored in favor of the rich landscapes and fascinating birds reproduced with good definition.
The colorful plumage and textured wings of our fine-feathered friends is rendered often with fantastic detail. Watch the scene where rockhopper penguins crowd the screen. Their characteristic yellow headfeathers that make them look like mad scientists are shown with Sony's traditionally strong yellow. The color balance is only slightly weighted to yellow, however, and other primary colors are equally rich, unlike many Sony Blu-rays that are heavier in the blues. The real balance is in the greyscale and black level. This accuracy allows for extraordinary depth and texture. Watch the back of the penguin's coat as it stands erect. Its course coat of feathers is rendered with exceptional detail, showing it is not as smooth as portrayed in most images. The definition provided by Winged Migration lets you see many species of birds up close and personal in a way you have never seen them before. Terrific presence.
Winged Migration Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Like the video, the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix of Winged Migration is not perfect but shows good clarity and presence. While there is little doubt that some type of noise reduction was applied during production, the transfer to True HD and mixing to 5.1 is done tastefully. Ambient sounds and the occasional bird chatter are assigned to the rear channels with the lion's share of content anchored in the center. High bird calls in the treble range sound piercing with good extention of the treble. In fact the sheer diversity of bird sounds is presented in dramatic fashion, with a variety of cacophonous and euphonious chatter and screeching. Even some midbass rumble is presented from the surrounding environs on occasion. The high register material is a touch rolled-off, but not encroaching on the overall realism or enjoyment of the sounds.
The soaring score by Bruno Coulais sounds lush and doesn't crowd the birds' noises or the occasional narration. You can learn from the bonus content that some thought was put into this musical accompaniment. One sign that the audio had been digitally processed is the surprisingly high level at which the TrueHD track is mastered. Prior to sliding the documentary in my PS3, I had watched The Matrix, which is mastered at a low level--lower than most Blu-ray audio content--and the bird calls on Winged Migration nearly blew me out of my sweet spot before I turned down the audio. Be forewarned.
Winged Migration Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
In its first appearance on Sony Home Classics DVD, Winged Migration included a couple of informative documentaries. These have been ported over in standard definition along with Producer/Director Jacques Perrin's audio commentary. The Frenchman addresses some technical details of the filming of Winged Migration, but mostly focuses on his feelings about natural phenomena, birds and nature in general. The more he talks about the actual filming, though, the more one realizes how absolutely nothing in this "documentary" is really documenting anything natural. If Robert De Niro was allowed as little room to improvise as some of these birds were, he could have never turned in performances like his Travis Bickle character in Taxi Driver. Well, maybe that's a stretch, but you get my point. The bonus material includes the following documentaries:
The Making of Winged Migration--If you want to learn in 52 minutes how to stage birds to make a documentary, don't miss this standard definition featurette. Perrin describes how they shot footage from light aircraft and powered parasails. They also explain how the birds were transported around the world to set up the various shoots in different countries. Nothing natural about that!
Filmmaker Interviews--Clocking in at 24 minutes, this featurette offers more insight into the documentary's production in interviews with Jacques Cluzaud and Michel Debats, the two co-directors who lived with the birds in some cases for years to prepare them for filming. They address specific sequences in the documentary.
Creating the Music--Another standard definition featurette ported over from the 2003 DVD release, this 17-minute interview showcases composer Bruno Coulais discussing his approach for scoring Winged Migration.
Rounding out the bonus content is a 13-minute photo gallery featuring shots on location, with narration to indicate the locale and species of birds photographed. Unfortunately, it's a standard def port from the DVD.
Winged Migration Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
On its surface, Winged Migration is a stunning documentary, offering soaring views, exotic locales and of course unending glimpses into all manner of avian species and behaviors. Only in digging deeper does one notice any flaws in the video, audio, content or conception of the documentary. Not unlike a natural history museum that uses stuffed animals to portray creatures in their habitats, Winged Migration is staged artificially--albeit with live animals in their habitat. The dedication of the filmmakers to exert the level of control and management of the birds displayed is actually quite phenomenal. It all allows the real stars of Winged Migration--the birds--to shine as never before. Sony did a tremendous job with the transfer, and as wholesome family entertainment with some educational value, it serves as a sort of companion piece to the simultaneously released Fly Away Home. I recommend picking up both to show children. As documentaries go, however, Winged Migration doesn't achieve the stunning visual clarity and wow factor of Planet Earth, the four-disc set by which all 1080p documentaries will be judged.
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Winged Migration Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Today on Blu-ray - April 7th - April 7, 2009
When making a film about a controversial subject, it is often difficult to represent the subject matter in a way that will appeal to general audiences. Tread too lightly on the subject, and the message can be lost or misunderstood; tread too heavy, and the message ...
• Winged Migration; Fly Away Home Announced for Blu-ray - January 26, 2009
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has announced that they will bring the two avian-inspired films 'Winged Migration' and 'Fly Away Home' to Blu-ray on April 7th. 'Winged Migration' was initially announced to retailers some time ago, but this time it gets an official ...
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