- Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
- Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
- Resolution: 1080p/24
- Audio Codec: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Dolby Digital 2.0
- Subtitles: English SDH
- Region: ABC (region-free)
- Discs: 1
- Studio: BBC Warner
- Blu-ray Disc Release Date: September 29, 2009
- List Price: $24.99
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Established on March 1, 1892 as a national park, Yellowstone became the first national park in the world, thus solidifying its place in the world and the importance of the natural wonders within its borders. Located primarily in the U.S. state of Wyoming, the park reaches all the way into the states of Montana and Idaho, occupying some 3,468.420 square miles. Blessed with an abundance of wildlife ranging from the nation’s last wild herd of bison, cougars, moose and the re-introduced endangered grey wolf to elk, grizzly bear and bighorn sheep, Yellowstone is most famous for its geothermal activities — the geysers. Most famous of all the geysers is Old Faithful. Old Faithful, probably more than all the wildlife put together, brings the tourists flocking in at a rate of two million a year.
Now, the BBC’s renowned nature unit turn their attentions to this ecological treasure that is a gift not to one nation, but to the planet on the whole, in this three-part documentary series, Yellowstone: Fight for Life. The series examines the struggle to survive through the harsh conditions of Yellowstone during the difficult changing of the seasons.
Beginning in November, the first episode, “Winter,” traces the six-month long winter in Yellowstone, with temperatures dropping to 60℉ and below. All the underground heat helps make the Yellowstone winter one of the coldest in the country. The filmmakers follow the park’s Druid wolf pack as they are at their strongest when the elk weaken over the barren winter landscape and the last wild bison herds in the country tough it out on the bitter cold plains.
As winter recedes to spring in Yellowstone, grizzly bears arise from their winter slumber and the park’s gray wolves’ dominance gives way to another predator. The teaming wildlife are now giving birth, just in time for the park to give up its abundance of food long trapped under the icy coat of winter. Spring turns into summer and the sunlight strengthens, releasing a rush of water, increasing the flow of the Yellowstone river and luring new migrant creatures, such as humming birds and bluebirds, too weak to last through the unforgiving Yellowstone winter.
Alas, the all too short summer must give way to autumn, and the white bark pines bloom enticing pine cones filled with irresistible pine nuts high in fat and protein that grizzlies and pine squirrels alike gorge themselves on, fulfilling their nutritional needs whilst ensuring the trees seeds are spread far and wide before the winter frost comes. And the cycle continues. The heat of the summer has taken its toll on the flora and fauna of Yellowstone and now it is time for these creatures, adjusted to the harsh climates, to renew themselves with another long winter.
Yellowstone: Fight for Life is filled to the brim with classic BBC camerawork. There are beautiful aerial shots of the park, macrophotography that places the viewer up close and personal with the subjects, and spectacular colors. The narration is also informative, educational and interesting. This is another quality effort that ranks right up there alongside previous releases such as Wild China and Galapagos. Excellent!
Yellowstone’s 1080i AVC/MPEG-4 encoding is inconsistent at best. There are moments when it looks absolutely breathtaking and spellbinding, full of detail and perfect clarity, but other moments Yellowstone suffers from several visual maladies. There are moments of noticeable color banding, a few spots of posterization, a little inconsistent video noise and some haloing around objects. The picture also never looks as sharp as it possibly could, suffering from a thin veil of softness. To its credit, colors look sublime, absolutely popping from the screen and there are strong amounts of shadow detail.
Yellowstone: Fight for Life shows up on Blu-ray with a solid lossless, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/16-bit) mix. The dialogue is presented full and cleanly in the center channel with no sign of clipping or harshness to speak of. Although the overall mix is not nearly as immersive as one would like, the mix does present some amount of sound effects in the surround channels that occasionally rise to a more noticeable level and low frequencies are abundant, extended, and quite resounding during many scenes such as when a waterfall is rushing or the camera zooms in on the flowing rapids of Yellowstone River.
Yellowstone: Fight for Life has been provided with a few featurettes focusing on the people that help to make Yellowstone an interesting place and also helped to make the BBC film crew’s task of documenting the national park easier.
The supplements available on this release are:
- Jeff Henry: The Snowman (1.77:1; 480i/60; 0:10.03) — Ex-park ranger and photographer Jeff Henry is profiled in this featurette. Henry spends his winters in the park tending to the roofs on the park’s structures, shoveling the snow to ensure they neither collapse under the weight nor cause a dangerous avalanche of snow burying any rare passersby.
- Geyser Gazers (1.77:1; 480i/60; 0:10.49) — This featurette focuses on a group of dedicated Yellowstone geyser enthusiasts that spend much of their time following, monitoring, and watching the geysers, predicting when they will erupt.
- Mike Kasic: The Fishman (1.77:1; 480i/60; 0:10.26) — Sound recordist Mike Kasic likes to spend his time swimming in the Yellowstone River and has become familiar with the wildlife that rely on the river to make their homes and for sustenance.
The Definitive Word
The BBC have done another marvelous job documenting our planet in Yellowstone: Fight for Life, proving once again that they are the preeminent nature documentarians in the world. Their unparalleled ability to capture our world in images and to teach us why we must learn to respect the ecosystems we are so closely tied to is without question enlightening, heartening, and thought provoking. This Blu-ray release may not be the strongest from the BBC, but it is still wonderful to watch and will definitely be the best version of this three-part series available today. Delightful!