HD DVD: Worth a Look
3 Stars out of 5
Sale Price 7.37
Buy Now
3rd Party 3.39
In Stock.
Release Date: June 12th, 2007
Movie Release Year: 2006
Release Country: United States
COLLAPSE INFO -

Living Landscapes: The World's Most Beautiful Places

Review Date June 12th, 2007 by
Overview - The Living Landscapes Collection is a series of High Definition programs designed to create sensory-immersive experiences of the world's most beautiful natural environments. This HD DVD is a 75 minute compilation featuring High Definition experiences of the world's most stunning natural environments. Experience the peace and tranquility of the Tetons reflected in pristine mountain lakes. Descend into the mists of Costa Rica's cloud forest as hummingbirds and macaws fly across your home theatre sound space. Feel the warm rays of the sunrise peaking through golden clouds on Maui's famed Haleakala Crater. These are a few of the many magical moments you will have as you peek into the window of nine of the World's Most Beautiful Places. These mesmerizing programs use High Definition video to bring your home theatre or computer screen to life. Transform your living room into a Living Landscape. Replace the static pictures on your wall with more lifelike imagery. Living Landscapes Video Collection will forever change your experience of television!
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  • TECH SPECS & RELEASE DETAILS
    Technical Specs: HD DVD
    HD-15 Single-Layer Disc
    Video Resolution/Codec: 1080p/MPEG-2
    Length:75
    Release Country:United States
    Aspect Ratio(s):1.78:1
    English Descriptive Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (640kbps)
    Subtitles/Captions: None
    Special Features: None
    Movie Studio: HD Environments
    Release Date: June 12th, 2007

Story Review Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

3 Stars out of 5

"Nature porn" in the high-def world is the equivalent of what the first Nickelodeons to motion pictures in the early part of the 20th century -- endless loops of beautiful waterfalls, leaves blowing gently in the wind and hummingbirds pollinating flowers, all solely for the benefit of dazzling the eye and exciting the senses. No, it's not "about" anything, but who needs plot when all you want to do is show off that new high-def TV you just paid six grand for?

Produced by Global Village Productions, the 'Living Landscapes' series falls squarely into this category of nature programming. So far, the company has released nine entries in the franchise, each a 60-minute travelogue of a specific exotic place. Shot with high-definition cameras, the series was first released on DVD in both standard-def and the Windows Media high-definition (WMV) format, and now it has been re-released in its full 1080p glory to both Blu-ray and HD DVD.

Since I was completely unfamiliar with the series, I decided to tip-toe gingerly into the world of 'Living Landscapes' by experiencing this stand-alone "greatest hits" compilation first. Dubbed 'The Most Beautiful Places in the World,' this 75-minute assemblage is essentially a series of high-def trailers for the franchise, compiling a series of samples from each of the nine current 'Living Landscape' titles, including 'Bali,' 'California Redwoods,' 'Costa Rica,' 'Fall in New England,' 'Hawaii,' 'Olympic Rainforest,' 'Pacific Coast,' 'Rocky Mountains' and 'Sacred Canyons.'

With a title like 'Living Landscapes,' it should come as no surprise that this disc offers no story and no narration -- instead, it's simply one breathtaking shot after another, all set to the sort of standard-issue muzak you might find in your local grocery store. But as bland as that may sound on paper, to its credit, the series is quite beautifully photographed -- perhaps not at the absolute peak level of a 'Planet Earth,' but still you'll be hard-pressed to find a single shot in 'The Most Beautiful Places in the World' that doesn't tickle the eye.

The rest of the 'Living Landscapes' package, however, leaves something to be desired. There are no extras here of any kind -- not even any simple text documentation. And as released by distributor HD Environments via Amazon's Customflix DVD publishing arm, the HD DVD case also has a rather cheap feel -- the cover looks like it was done in 20 minutes with Photoshop, and even the paper looks like a color Xerox made at Kinko's.

Still, if it's nature porn you desire (and as early adopters, most of us are pre-disposed to be amorous of such things), 'The Most Beautiful Places in the World' certainly delivers on the bottom line.

  • TECH SPECS & RELEASE DETAILS
    Technical Specs:
    HD DVD
    HD-15 Single-Layer Disc
    Video Resolution/Codec:
    1080p/MPEG-2
    Length:75
    Release Country:United States
    Aspect Ratio(s):
    1.78:1
    Audio Formats:
    English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (640kbps)
    Subtitles/Captions:
    None
    Special Features:
    None
    Movie Studio: HD Environments
    Release Date: June 12th, 2007

Video Review

4.5 Stars out of 5

While their packaging may leave something to be desired, Customflix has done a fine job with 'The World's Most Beautiful Places' where it really matters. This is a very pleasant, good-looking 1080p/MPEG-2 encode (identical to its Blu-ray counterpart), featuring truly you-are-there style picture quality.

I was partucularly impressed with the cleanliness of the source -- it's crystal clear, with excellent blacks and very natural contrast. Colors are vibrant, yet very clean -- and they're refreshingly free from oversaturation. Detail is often exquisite, and the sense of depth is often akin to looking out of a freshly-scrubbed window. And while 'The World's Most Beautiful Places' gets only only a HD-15 single-layer disc to move around in, it would seem the program's short 75-minute runtime and the lack of any supplemental features save it from any noticeable compression deficiencies.

Alas, in one downside to this presentation, there is an edgy look to the transfer that's readily apparent throughout, with all the slow pans across vast vistas resulting in noticeable jaggies. Otherwise, this is a very supple, attractive high-def presentation.

(Note that in one major annoyance, the "HDEnvironments.com" logo has been burned into the image, appearing at regular intervals over the bottom-right corner of the screen. This can be distracting, and only adds to the occasional sense that the 'Living Landscapes' series is a bit too reminiscent of those cheesy, late-night montages you see right before a TV station goes off the air for the evening. Hopefully, future releases in the series will drop this annoying "feature.")

Audio Review

3 Stars out of 5

The audio department is where 'The World's Most Beautiful Places' starts to slip, although not fatally. Customflix offers only a meager 448kbps Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track, and a higher-resolution encode certainly would have resulted in a presentation of better fidelity and realism.

That said, the soundtrack is perfectly listenable. The nature sounds and breathy lite-jazz offer little low end to speak of -- any percussive sounds never have much impact. High-end is smooth, however, and there is a decent amount of spaciousness and warmth to the wind instruments. Surround use is relatively meager, with only select ambient nature sounds directed to the rears, and at a fairly low volume to boot. Score bleed is also present but lacking in true heft behind the listener. Again, a decent mix but nothing more.

Special Features

0 Stars out of 5

There are no supplements included. In fact, adding to the somewhat chintzy feel of the package, there isn't even basic HD DVD pop-up menu-style navigation -- instead, all we get is a static main menu, providing scene access.

Final Thoughts

While some may be put off by endless montages of pretty scenery accompanied by bland muzak fit for an elevator, as high-def eye candy goes, you could certainly do worse than 'The World's Most Beautiful Places.' This "greatest hits" compilation of the 'Living Landscapes' series is perhaps as straightforward an HD DVD release as is possible, delivering very fine video and good-enough audio, but nary a single supplement in the package. If nature compendiums are your thing, this one's defintely worth a shot .

Sale Price 7.37
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3rd Party 3.39
In Stock.
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  • Editors Note

    Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.

  • TECH SPECS & RELEASE DETAILS
    Technical Specs:
    HD DVD
    HD-15 Single-Layer Disc
    Video Resolution/Codec:
    1080p/MPEG-2
    Length:75
    Release Country:United States
    Aspect Ratio(s):
    1.78:1
    Audio Formats:
    English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (640kbps)
    Subtitles/Captions:
    None
    Special Features:
    None
    Movie Studio: HD Environments
    Release Date: June 12th, 2007