Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Universe – 7 Wonders of the Solar System 2D & 3D Blu-ray Review

If you are a fan of The History Channel’s series “The Universe,” you may have seen this segment during Season 5′s run.  The difference between the episode on this disc and the one on the Season 5 set is that this one is in both 2D and 3D whereas the season set only offers the 2D version. For those of you that aren’t aware of the show, it’s a documentary series that premiered in 2007 on The History Channel that explains astronomical concepts and objects through the use of computer generated graphics and a group of experts whose expertise includes astronomy, cosmology, and astrophysics.

Film (4 out of 5 stars) 

This spin off from the Season 5 set, primarily exists as fodder for science geeks that want to see the show in 3D.  I want to make it clear that the only thing on this disc is the single 47 minute episode so if you are expecting more than that, you have been forewarned.  This episode covers what The History Channel has deemed the seven wonders of the universe: Enceladus, the Rings of Saturn,Jupiter’s Great Red SpotThe Asteroid BeltOlympus Mons, the Surface of the Sun, and of course our home planet of Earth.
A lot of the information contained in this episode has been covered by earlier installments but they made an effort to update the information by adding new information discovered since they first aired.  A good example of that would be the Mars segment that had a lot of updated information that included new discoveries that provided a better argument of the possibility of some form of life on Mars.
There’s a lot of good info crammed into a single episode which makes the episode move quickly.  The graphics are pretty good, and add a nice visual flair to the show.  I also liked how the experts explained things in a non-technical ways which makes some of the concepts a lot easier to understand for the average person.  The use of a space ship to transport viewers across the universe is a cool idea as well.

Video (3 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

This disc has both the 2D and the 3D versions on it and to watch the 3D version you must have a 3D glasses, 3D Blu-ray player, and a 3D TV. (If you are missing one of those components, the disc will default to the 2D version).  This 1080p (1.78:1) transfer looks very nice and detailed.  Colors are especially vivid especially during the segment on the Sun and the Earth and the black levels are suitably dark and inky.  I wasn’t as impressed with the live action parts with the experts superimposed on an image that isn’t as seamless as it should be.  The space parts are where the image quality shines and they look fantastic.
The 3D on this disc is pretty good but does suffer somewhat from ghosting. There are some really cool 3D sequences where it’s used well and there’s a nice sense of depth to the vistas.  Colors aren’t diluted by the 3D and the picture doesn’t lose any of it’s brightness either.  If you have a complete 3D setup and the money to buy this disc for only one episode, then I would recommend buying this 3D edition.

Audio (4 out of 5 stars) 

The DTS-HD Master Audio  5.1 surround track is better than I thought it would be. While the dialogue and music mostly come from the front speakers, the satellite speakers are used as well and there’s some nice panning effects with the spaceship and effects.  The narration from Erik Thompson comes across clearly despite the music and effects.

Special Features (0 out of 5 stars) 

There are no special features on this disc.

Final Thoughts (3 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

This is a very informative show and I learned a lot from this episode.  The 3D adds a lot of fun and immersion to the presentation despite the ghosting issues but the lack of extras for a disc that only contains one episode is disappointing.  If you are a fan of the show or if you are just interested in astronomy and/or cosmology, then you will most likely enjoy this show.
Pre-order your copy today!
This 3D isn’t as good as what’s on the disc, but it will give you an idea of how it looks. Get your red/blue 3D glasses on!

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