Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Titanic At 100: Mystery Solved DVD Review

Reviewed by Sean Ferguson
As the 100th anniversary of Titanic’s sinking approached, a team of scientists, engineers and imaging experts joined forces to answer one of the most haunting questions surrounding the legendary disaster: Just how did the “unsinkable” ship break apart and plunge into the icy waters of the North Atlantic on April 15, 1912?  Two years ago, HISTORY took part alongside the world’s top underwater experts in the most thorough and exhaustive study of the wreck ever made.  Titanic At 100: Mystery Solved  documents this mission, captures the high-tech map-making process, unveils astonishing pieces of never-before-seen wreckage and presents the expedition’s unexpected findings.  Unprecedented new technology and expertise was used to create a precisely detailed portrait of the entire fifteen-square-mile patch of ocean floor where Titanic came to rest.  The undertaking yielded unprecedented new discoveries and the first comprehensive map of Titanic’s watery grave, helping specialists solve the century-old puzzle of what went wrong — and determine who or what was responsible.

Film (4 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

The History Channel along with a lot of others honored the centennial of the sinking of the RMS Titanic with a slew of specials that detailed the luxury liners final voyage.  I watched a lot of them and all of them were very good, but only one of them had taken the time  to map the entire 15 square miles of debris using high definition 3D and 2D cameras along with high definition sonar.  Others had tried to map the area but even with all of the previous efforts combined they hadn’t even surveyed 60% of the total site.  It was almost impossible do thank to the ever-changing weather, the depth of the wreck,  and the rarity and expense of the ship and equipment to mount such an expedition. This time however the expedition was funded by RMS Titanic Inc., the company that has legal custody of the Titanic’s remains and they assembled a team of experts from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and elsewhere, to map every inch of the fifteen mile debris field.
Another addition to this expedition was the the robot surveyors (called autonomous underwater vehicles) from the Waitt Institute which allowed them to scan the whole area with a high resolution side-scan sonar. We see the results from the scan and the researchers focus on the areas with the most debris as a starting point.  Those areas are then investigated further by remote operated vehicles and filmed with high definition cameras.  Once all of the scanning was done and all of the images collected, the team of experts that includes engineers, scientists, imaging experts, and naval historians examined it all to determine just what happened that night, how did the ship break apart, and who was at fault.
I love these kind of programs because it not only offers some a look back into the past but it also brings it forward to today with all of their new discoveries.  During their search, they discovered new parts of the ship that hadn’t been found before and because they spent two years scanning the entire debris field, they knew where every piece was located.  In one of the really cool features of this anniversary show, they have recreated the Titanic in CGI in  a huge hangar to give the viewers an idea of the size and of the ship as the experts walked alongside it.
Later, once all of the pieces were scanned, we see them reassemble the ship like a jigsaw puzzle which is incredibly cool to see.  Then we get to see just what happened to the ship piece by piece as it came apart structurally after taking on too much water to stay afloat.  It ended up taking over 130,000 individual images to get the full scope of the debris field and two years to do it which gives this show an edge over the others.  Because of all of that detail, this show offers a lot of new information about the tragedy and a lot of compelling arguments for why it happened, and how it happened.  This is one of the best (if not they best) investigations into the mystery of the Titanic that I’ve seen and the most comprehensive.

Video (4 out of 5 stars) 

This transfer (1.78:1) looks very good for a DVD.  The CGI animation looks especially sharp, but the overall picture looks crisp and clean.  The level of detail is pretty good and colors are accurate and well defined.  Black levels are solid and inky and I didn't notice any digital defects or other blemishes that detracted from the picture’s quality.

Audio (3 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

Titanic At 100: Mystery Solved’s Dolby Digital Surround 2.0 mix does the job nicely even though there really isn’t much surround activity.  The front channels deliver clear and intelligible dialogue as well as crisp sound effects and music too.  For this kind of a program, there really doesn't need to be a full DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix as this is sufficient.

Extras (0 out of 5 stars) 

There are no extras on this disc which will bring down the final score.

Summary (3 out of 5 stars) 

If you’re interested in the Titanic and would like to see exactly how the ship broke apart and sank then this is the program for you.  I really enjoyed the effort that was put into this and it’s hard to argue their points when they've managed to reassemble the ship because of their exhaustive and comprehensive scanning of every piece of the ship in the debris field.  The final sequence, where they show step by step exactly what happened that night is worth the cost of this DVD alone.  I wish there had been some extra features included but this is still an excellent release and the price more than fair.

Order your copy today!

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