“Yellowstone. Volcanic wonderland. Two million acres in the heart of North America, Yellowstone is deep in the Rocky Mountains, an isolated high plateau defended by rugged peaks; in the middle is the National Park. The park and the surrounding mountains form one of the most important and spectacular wilderness areas on Earth.”
There have been a lot of these nature shows coming to Blu-ray high definition lately. No less than two of them cover the beauty that is Yellowstone National Park. While there is a lot to learn about the natural treasure, more in fact than I suspected, it’s not going to be the facts that will drive you to watching this particular three part feature. It’s the absolutely stunning images that make this all that you could want in a travelogue documentary. You’ll soon find yourself completely mesmerized by images that look almost impossibly brilliant in color and sharpness to be real. If you’ve been to the park, this might serve as the ultimate way to recapture such a personal experience. If, like me, you’ve never witnessed the place with your own eyes, now you have. Everyone knows about Old Faithful, but Yellowstone National Park is about so much more.
Yellowstone was not only the first National Park in the United States, but in the world. It is one of the most unique ecosystems on the planet and is far more a complex place than you could have imagined. It’s one of the most remote of our National Parks and is most often inaccessible to human traffic, until now. This was the home of Yogi Bear. Yes, I know that was Jellystone, but think about it.
The feature is divided into three separate 50 minute segments. Each piece deals with a season in Yellowstone. There’s Winter, Summer, and Autumn. What about Spring, you might ask. Either Spring is an illusion in this harsh environment, or they just wanted to break the feature up, likely for television broadcasts, and Spring was the least interesting. Not to worry; the feature takes you through an entire year, so you’ll see all that the seasons have to offer here.
Winter here lasts about 6 months starting in early November. There’s actually a very interesting dynamic going on here. I would have expected the winters to be mild. Yellowstone is, after all, sitting on top of one of the world’s largest inactive volcanoes. There’s a ton of molten rock flowing closer to the surface than anywhere else in the world outside of a full out eruption. You would think that would keep the surface warm. You’d be wrong. The feature goes on to explain the various unique elements that conspire to make this a frozen wasteland in winter, considerably more so than anywhere else in the same vicinity. There’s a focus on how the various animals deal, or in some cases don’t deal, with the harsh conditions. The wolves are king during the winter, and there’s plenty of footage.
Surprisingly, there really isn’t much of a summer season at Yellowstone. It is harkened by the great grizzly bears coming out of hibernation. Rivers and lakes begin to thaw, and life at the plateau is at its most diverse. See some stunning hummingbird footage. With the opening of the waterways come the trout attempting to spawn, bringing with them the many animals who like to eat them. If you like those baby animals at play moments, you’ll find plenty of them here.
Colors like you’ve never seen before explode from your screen, heralding the approach of winter. But for the briefest of moments, Yellowstone is in perfect balance and is perhaps her most visually exciting. This segment looks at how these various animals prepare for that long hard winter. Beavers are busy building dams, and some animals begin the long migration to escape the harshness to come. Finally there is some human interaction as these migration patterns spill out to the farms below. We’re brought full circle as the snows begin to cover the ground and ice starts to close the waterways. Another year in Yellowstone National Park comes to a close.
Yellowstone is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC/Mpeg-4 codec. The images here are often breathtakingly beautiful. They are hands down the best nature images I’ve seen on a release to date. Colors are stunning. The level of detail makes it hard to remember that you’re not staring out of the window of a plane or vehicle. You could do worse to show off your monitor. Whites are crisp and clear, while blacks are deep and rich in shadow definition. The image is sharp enough to come with a warning that you could cut yourself.
The DTS-HD Master Audio track delivers more than I expected. Certainly, there’s a lot of narration, and that’s where most of the presentation resides. But it’s the subtle stuff that shines so well here. Things like crunching on the snow or the soft whimper of a baby animal only help to create the most realistic experience any of these shows has yet provided. The audio won’t really show off your system like the image does, but it does everything you need it to do and more.
Jeff Henry, The Snowman: (10:03) Someone’s got to look over the park in those cruel winter months. Jeff Henry used to be that man. This is a nice profile of the ex-ranger and Winter Wonderland photographer.
Geyser Gazers: (10:49) The natural phenomenon has many avid admirers, as you’ll see here.
Mike Kasic – The Fisherman: (10:26) The feature’s sound man has a penchant for swimming the waters at Yellowstone.
What I am thankful for here most is the lack of political propaganda. I’ve almost begun to dread these nature shows, as much as I love to see these kinds of images, because of the need for so many filmmakers today to further their own political religions. This feature does none of that. It presents the images and conditions accurately and leaves the spin on the editing room floor. You can watch this one with your kids without fear that some clever filmmaker will inundate them with images of dying animals and plead with them to get their parents to turn off the lights and stop the slaughter. This is how it’s supposed to be done. Bravo. “The true value of this remarkable space has become ever clearer.”