Planet Earth II Ultra HD Blu-ray Review

Experience the beauty, wonder, and extraordinary magic of animal behaviors – so elusive that they were considered almost impossible to capture.

The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )

Film:

Extras:

Audio/UHD Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )

93

Details:

Studio and Year: BBC – 2016
MPAA Rating: NR
Feature running time: 300 minutes
Genre: Documentary

Disc Format: BD-66
Encoding: HEVC
Video Aspect: 1.78:1
Resolution: 2160p/24

Audio Format(s): DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio
Subtitles: English SDH
Starring: David Attenborough
Directed by: Various
Music by: Hans Zimmer
Region Code: A,B,C

Release Date: March 28, 2017

“A New World Revealed”



My Take:

Captured in stunning 4K Ultra HD detail, Planet Earth II is an immersive exploration of the islands, mountains, jungles, grasslands, deserts, and cities of the world. Journey to the four corners of the globe to discover the extreme forces that shape life in each of these iconic landscapes, and the remarkable ways animals manage to overcome the challenges of surviving in the wildest places on Earth. The highest-rated U.S. nature show among adults 25-54 in five years and the most watched unscripted telecast ever in total viewers on BBC AMERICA, Planet Earth II’s remarkable footage follows some of our planet’s animals/creatures to places human beings rarely see, capturing unique worlds populated by Snow Leopards, mountain based Flamingos, predatory Peregrine Falcons residing in the Big Apple, Marine Iguanas, a new species of Dolphin, as well as a host of land crawlers, ranger rovers, and jungle dwellers, as they encounter the struggles associated with both its changing environment and the circle of life. Filled with surprising facts and extraordinary images, Planet Earth II is a dazzling portrait of life on our planet.

A decade after the groundbreaking, Emmy Award-winning natural history series Planet Earth Blu-ray was released—which is still the number one selling non-theatrical home video release to date with over five million copies sold worldwide—Planet Earth II goes further, gets closer, and captures behavior and places that would have been impossible 10 years ago. Over three years in the making, filmed in 40 different countries on 117 filming trips and a total of 2089 shooting days, Planet Earth II is a visual spectacle that makes for a compelling, informative, and thought provoking documentary experience. I absolutely loved it.

Replay Value:

Parental Guide:

This film is appropriate for all audiences.

AUDIO/VIDEO – By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100/EXCELLENT = 83-91/GOOD = 74-82/AVERAGE = 65-73/BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**

Audio: 86
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

 

  • Dynamics:
  • Low frequency effects:
  • Surround Sound presentation:
  • Clarity/Detail:
  • Dialog Reproduction:
  • DSU/DTS Neural:X Rating * (non-rated element):

 

UHD Presentation: 100
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

 

  • HDR: Dark Highlights:
  • HDR: Bright Highlights:
  • HDR: Expanded Color:
  • Resolution:
  • Visual Impact:

 

Ultra HD Blu-ray has finally been released and eager enthusiasts are ready and willing to see what it has to offer. For those not familiar with the details regarding Ultra HD Blu-ray you can refer to my article that includes some pertinent data on the subject. Here is the link:

Ultra HD Blu-ray Has Come to AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Planet Earth II comes to Ultra HD Blu-ray from BBC Worldwide featuring 2160pHEVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 55 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 2.3 Mbps.

For its presentation in Ultra HD, Planet Earth II (filmed entirely in 4K/2160p) was rendered from a 4K DI. This is a reference-quality high-definition presentation that boasts brilliant color, superlative depth, and an abundance of high-level detail. The nature-defined color palette is alluring as the deep, vivid, greens and resplendent earth-toned hues leap from the 1.78:1 framed video. Contrast balance is spot on and blacks are delineated, deep, and rich. Resolution is impeccable as the vastness and scope of the recorded elements offers lucid, three-dimensional acuity that is extraordinary. These beautifully captured images of our planet can be captivating as the richness of color, transparently rendered detail, and near infinite sense of depth and dimension are assuredly conveyed in Ultra HD. Those looking for a reference quality title to show off their new 4K/HDR display need not look any further. Wow.

The lossless DTS-HD MA soundtrack deliver the elements contained within this documentary film with aplomb. David Attenborough’s running narration was clearly rendered with fine articulation and smooth intonation. I felt that it could have been a bit more forward within the front soundstage but otherwise presented very well. The front three channels are integrated nicely and combine high-level detail/clarity with pinpoint imaging. Han Zimmer’s music has appreciable top-end air, smoothly rendered instrumentation, and discerning focus as its primary elements are delivered through the front speakers with low-level rear-channel ambience used to broaden the soundstage. The surrounds are effectively used to generate an enveloping soundscape filled with the various animal sounds of the jungle/plains, nearfield panning effects, and blowing winds. LFE presence is notable as bass response extends deep enough to engage the room when called upon. This isn’t an aggressive surround mix but this audio presentation mates perfectly with the source and sound great.

Bonus Features:

  • Disc 1: Planet Earth II Ultra HD Episodes 1-3
    Disc 2: Planet Earth II Ultra HD Episodes 4-6
    Disc 3: Bonus Material (54 Minutes)• Marine iguanas and racer snakes – For the first time, the PLANET EARTH II team filmed marine iguanas and their frantic dash for safety across their hatching beaches while being pursued by huge numbers of racer snakes.

    • Birds of paradise – The bright and beautiful colors of birds of paradise in West Papua have been filmed before, but recently scientists realized that they had been looking at the displays in the wrong way. For the first time the crew filmed the display of the tiny Wilson’s bird of paradise, not from the ground but looking down on him from above, up in a tree – the same way a female would see him.

    • Araguaia dolphin – This new species of dolphin was discovered in the Amazon River in 2014, over 930 miles from the ocean and found nowhere else on Earth; almost nothing is known about them. The production team tracked them through the flooded forest to get the first glimpse of these dolphins in the wild. Using stabilized cameras mounted on boats and drones, the crew filmed them from both the water and the air.

    • Bat hunting scorpions on the ground – Dubbed “the hardest bat in the world,” the desert long-eared bat takes on the death stalker scorpion, one of the most poisonous scorpions on Earth. Thanks to some immunity to their stings, the long-eared bat comes out on top. Collaborating with scientists in Bristol and Israel, this is the first time this behavior has been filmed.

    • Glowing fungi – These are the brightest fungi in the world, and while previously a mystery, scientists have now discovered the fungi may glow in order to trick beetles that use bioluminescence to attract mates. For the first time, new low-light cameras allowed the team to film the amorous beetles attracted to the glowing mushrooms.

    • Snow leopards – The crew embarked on three trips in successive years to film snow leopards in Ladakh. In total the crew was on location for 16 weeks, and the camera traps were in the field for 15 months deployed along trails and scenting rocks used by the leopards. In PLANET EARTH II they’re shown brushing right up against the camera! This is the first time four snow leopards have been filmed at one time as they mate, hunt, and fight, making it the most complete film of snow leopard behavior.

    • Zavodovski penguin commute – In what was probably the most intrepid shoot of the entire series, the “Islands” team set off on a seven-day journey by sailboat across the planet’s roughest ocean to get to the remote island of Zavodovski in the middle of the Antarctic sea. Very few people have ever visited this island and no one has ever managed to capture the amazing endeavor of the chinstrap penguins. Every day they have to face fierce stormy seas that batter them against the rocky cliffs as they try to get on and off the island to go out on their vital daily fishing trips.

    • Bee-eaters catching insects flushed out by elephants – Carmine bee-eaters in Botswana follow elephants and other large animals that walk through the grass hoping to catch any flying insects they stir up into the air as they push through the vegetation. The team noticed that the birds were following their vehicle as it stirred insects, similar to how they would with elephants. So they sat a cameraman on the front corner of the jeep, strapped on a harness that supported a stabilized camera rig and filmed incredible shots tracking with the birds as they hunted in the air.

    • Bobcats hunting in the Rockies in winter – Cameraman John Shier spent five weeks in the freezing conditions in the Rockies during winter, waiting to capture elusive bobcat hunting behavior. This is the first time ever these cats have been filmed hunting ducks and squirrels.

    • Railroad worms hunting millipedes – Railroad worms are actually bioluminescent beetles that use two different lights on their bodies – greenish yellow ones to deter predators and a red glowing head to use as a “night vision” hunting light.

    • Catfish hunting pigeons – This is a relatively recently described behavior where, much like killer whales hunting seals by rushing up onto beaches, these catfish wait in ambush at the edge of a river for pigeons to come and bathe. When the birds gather at the water’s edge, the fish thrust themselves at the pigeons, grab them in their mouths, and then drag them underwater.

    • Goshawks predating on sand grouse – The “Deserts” team set off to the South African desert to film sand grouse visiting water holes to collect water for their young. But what they stumbled across was far more dramatic: a pair of resident goshawks that had learned to wait around the waterholes and grab the grouse as they land. The goshawks know that, even though the grouse are aware that these predators are there, they can’t afford not to drink in the extreme desert heat. Never filmed before, this a compelling story of the grouse risking death to bring back water to quench their chick’s thirst.

    • Lions hunting giraffe – The PLANET EARTH II team joined forces with camera operator Lianne Steenkamp, who has been following the same pride of desert lions in Namibia for the past few years. Combining specially shot material with some incredible footage captured over the years allowed the crew to showcase the most dramatic giraffe and lion hunt ever filmed in the “Deserts” episode.

    • Locusts – For one month the team headed out to the arid regions of Madagascar to try to find and film a locust swarm. After some initial success the crew’s luck completely ran out. Up until the last few days it looked like they would come back empty handed, but finally the team caught up with a swarm of biblical proportions. New technology such as MoVi’s and drones allowed the crew to get right into the heart of the swarm, as well as film it from the air.

    • Leopards hunting pigs in Mumbai – Mumbai has the highest concentration of leopards in the world. This is the most complete sequence of urban leopard behavior to date, and the first time anyone has filmed a successful hunt. The team used a military grade thermal camera to spy on the leopards.

    • Hyperlapse – Within the “Cities” episode the crew used hyperlapse technique to immerse the audience in the urban environment. Rob Whitworth is the most accomplished hyperlapse cameraman of our day. He collaborated with the “Cities” team to create jaw-dropping seamless journeys through some of the most iconic cities of the world.

    • Peregrines hunting in New York – New York City has the highest concentration of nesting peregrines in the world. This is the first time that the wild behavior of these urban birds has been filmed, capturing aerials of the fastest bird in the world dropping from a height at speeds of up to 200 mph.

Final Thoughts:

Captured in stunning 4K Ultra HD detail, Planet Earth II is an immersive exploration of the islands, mountains, jungles, grasslands, deserts, and cities of the world, as seen through remarkable footage that follows some of our planet’s animals/creatures to places human beings rarely see. This spectacular documentary film comes to Ultra HD Blu-ray from BBC Worldwide featuring sparkling, reference quality video, excellent lossless surround sound and a complimentary supplemental offering. I thoroughly enjoyed Planet Earth II, and found it to be a wholly gratifying documentary/viewing experience. I can’t recommend it enough for genre fans. Enjoy!

 

Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Reference Review System:

JVC DLA-RS500 3D/4K Ready High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman 5 & C6-HDR Meter from Spectracal)
Stewart Filmscreen – Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16×9 Screen
Carada Masquerade Electronic Horizontal Masking System
Marantz AV8802A 13.2 Channel Audio/Video Processor
Sherbourn Technologies – 7/200 Seven Channel Amplifier
B&K Reference 200.7 Series 2 Seven Channel Amplifier
Oppo UDP-203 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray disc Player
System Controller: Apple iPad/iRule Pro HD Universal Remote Control
Canton “Ergo” and Canton In-Ceiling Series Speakers
SVS Ultra Surrounds (Gloss Finish in Bipolar Configuration)
SVS PB-13 Ultra (Rosenut finish)
SVS SB-13 Ultra (Piano Gloss finish)
Panamax M5400-PM Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) – Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
Cool Components – CP-CP102 cooling package