There have been a ton of specials to come out over the last few years dealing with some of the planet’s extraordinary places and life. From The BBC to National Geographic, these specials have populated the science networks, and have even begun to shine in beautiful high definition. In just this last year I feel like I have been transported to some of the most spectacular sites on Earth and witnessed many of the most extraordinary creatures that inhabit this planet. Few of these places compare to the Great Barrier Reef that lies off the coast of Australia.
The Great Barrier Reef contains some of the most diverse collection of species on the entire planet, from the largest sharks currently roaming the seas to the tiniest micro-organisms which make up the coral, providing the superstructure of the reef itself. We’ve been there many times before, often in glorious high definition. That’s what makes this Smithsonian special somewhat mundane, even if the subject is anything but. While the forty-some minutes do provide some great photography, it’s nothing new. To make matters a bit more ordinary, it’s all in rather unspectacular standard definition. The narration is one of the most bland that I can remember. Twenty years ago, this might have been quite a show. Today it is rather underwhelming.
The most interesting segment allows you to see what the reef environment looks like in the visual spectrum of the fish that inhabit the reef. There is a pretty good attempt at education here. The film explores the uses and purposes of color on the reef. There is an attempt to provide a more macro look at the reef and how it all fits together. Yes, there are certainly some fine moments. There just aren’t enough of them to make this one worth spending more than a couple of bucks to own.
Secrets Of The Great Barrier Reef is presented in its original broadcast aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The picture is non-anamorphic. I’m not sure why some of these science cable shows are reluctant to modernize their image presentations. The image is colorful, to be sure. There are some compression issues to deal with, and black levels are about average. This looks like a normal television broadcast from 10 years ago. It just doesn’t hold up to even a modern broadcast.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 is strictly narration.
I’m usually a big fan of these nature shows, but it’s hard not to be jaded today. My expectations are much more than they were ten years ago when any trip to these exotic locations was cause for celebration. It’s not that this is a bad documentary at all. It’s just that most of us have evolved beyond the point when all we want out of our nature shows is to “eat, avoid being eaten, and reproduce”.