If you’re going to convince people to start conserving, showing them what they could lose in the best and brightest format possible is the sternest warning that could possibly be given. Southern Africa takes part in an annual migration, harvesting millions of sardines each year, but also interrupting a part of nature, where those same sardines are taken by predators, including whales, sharks, and birds.
Wild Oceans takes viewers to both the coast and under the ocean, producing some dazzling sights on both ends. It portrays the natural beauty, using the immensity of the IMAX format, better than could be expected. It’s a mystery how some of these scenes were captured, one pan over the ocean leading into a waterfall dizzying in its majesty, and incredible in its power.
Under it all, the footage reigns supreme, dolphins speeding to their feast as the light streams down. In the air, birds circle and dive furiously into the water below. The sight of a sardine “bait ball” is staggering, with thousands of the fish naturally gathered together in a perfect formation to confuse predators, but shattering like a window when one becomes brazen enough to zip through for a catch.
Earth’s oceans have taken center stage in a number of recent, high profile documentaries, from BBC’s Planet Earth and the aptly titled Disney’s Oceans. Neither use the IMAX format, a large-scale 70 mm stock that gives added vibrancy to these images, and the solitary focus on this event is more informational and engaging. This is 40-minutes of film beauty.
Note: This disc contains both 2D and 3D versions of the film. DoBlu is not equipped with 3D-ready tech, so this review only concerns the 2D edition.
Wild Oceans AVC encode is generally brilliant, the 70 mm source striking from the opening frames. In fact, this disc may contain one of the sharpest, cleanest shots of any hi-def disc so far, the coastline of South Africa at 13:05 dripping with hi-def eye candy in the most natural way. All of the land-based photography looks the same, the staggering views of the sea cliffs resolving every crevice and crack, and the few shots of grasslands stunning in their ability to render individual blades without fault. The opening, focused on sand sculptures, reveals individual grain with seemingly no effort, and waves as the camera pans are visible for miles.
Colors are elevated, yet still natural. A sunset at 25:28 reproducing some vivid oranges and reds, generating some tremendous pop and a visual aura. Colorful clothing worn by the South African people is tremendously bright, aided by a healthy contrast and deep black levels.
Underwater is of course a different story, the simple fact of shooting in this location rendering anywhere near the same variety of colors impossible. That said, it is rarely any less impressive because of the conditions. The rich blues of the water are striking, and those same black levels hold regardless. There is some banding visible here, the compression becoming evident. This 2D version is saddled with the 3D version on a BD-25, although their short length should negate any thoughts about the encode struggling based on space.
Still, it’s hard not to see some of the notable compression, sometimes in the sky, or that banding. The light grain in the water that becomes visible is a tad noisy, while the frantic action of it all makes a small breakdown visible. The “bait ball,” the sardines swimming in speedy circles, can cause a light layer of compression, although given how fast it is, spotting it is difficult. A bit of haloing, almost assuredly because of the down conversion, is spotted across the horizon at times too.
The appropriately heavy score that accompanies the film is preserved beautifully by this DTS-HD mix (in English, Spanish, and French, all uncompressed), catching powerfully on the low-end from the opening frames, aiding in the majesty of the images. Surround bleed is strong, and the forceful front end is weighted heavily.
Narration by John Kani is fine, never forced to go up against the score full bore. The same goes for any of the action as the predators make their move, the sound effects the only element that’s needed.
Underwater scenes are loaded in the surrounds as dolphins swim about, their calls heard as they spin about the frame. General underwater effects can be made out in all channels, liquid being pushed about and around the soundfield with startling realism. Much the same can be said for the birds, diving for their prey, cawing as they spin about in the air. It’s impressive material.
An interview with co-directors Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas runs for nearly 16-minutes, discussing their background along with their styles. A traditional African dance is showcased, followed by a behind-the-scenes look at the shooting of the film, the latter lasting eight minutes. A featurette on scoring the movie is followed by another on the still photography, both combined running around nine minutes. Trailers and BD-Live access, the latter not yet active, rounding off the bonus features.
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