I picked Galapagos up last night and am extremely impressed after my first viewing. I had not seen this documentary before and I found it, on that level, to be very interesting and informative. The Galapagos islands provide a profound subject and here they are discussed with focus and a seemly reverent demeanor. Animals from blue-footed boobies to giant tortoises are given their moments on screen. Often times the script seems to pause allowing the focus of the video to tell it's story. Tilda Swinton's voice is pleasant and her cadence makes her easy to understand but is a bit slow for my taste. Overall, Galapagos is a great documentary on an amazing subject.
The video quality on this disc is mind-blowing. It had me staring unblinkingly at my screen, oohing and aahing at each scene. Colors are vibrant and natural, and all the variety in nature is on full display. Detail is among the best I've seen. You can see every scale on a iguana, every feather on a hawk, and each grain of sand on the gorgeous beaches. Contrast is strong with shadows falling naturally to black and clouds not feeling hot. This adds up to more "picture-window" and 3D moments per minute then any other HD DVD I've seen. The underwater scenes appeared to me on screen about identical as they do through a mask when I'm snorkeling. Thats a pretty big statement but I was really that impressed.
My only complaints come from the sources. This is another documentary that uses a variety of cameras to capture the video and not all of them are HD. The scaled SD shots can be jarring but occur infrequently. And camera noise varies but never became as bad as those particularly noisy shots from Planet Earth, another amazing BBC documentary. There is also banding in some of the sky's hues. It didn't bother me but I know some here are real sticklers about it.
On the audio side, things are documentary as usual. Nature sounds are rendered with clarity and the narration is mixed for clarity. The score is quite grand and swells nicely at special moments. Its entirely front heavy. I'll have to go through again, which I'll gladly do, to locate a discrete surround effect. I missed them if they were there, of course the video was distracting, but I think thats telling of the mix. I would have liked more surround bleed of the score but keep in mind this was made for TV.
Galapagos stimulates your mind and grabs a hold of your eyes for its entire runtime. This is a disc that should be in every HD collection. We all live in a marvelous time where the most magical places on earth can be freely experienced in our homes. I wonder how the great thinkers of decades gone-by would react to what is now available to us all.
Edit: It's been brought to my attention that this disc only contains a stereo audio track. It says it on the back of the box but I didn't notice. This explains why I didn't notice any surround use.