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Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Review: Blue Planet II

BBC's Natural History unit has a well deserved reputation for being the best in the business. I'd go so far as to say that their documentaries look better than most of the multi-million dollar fictional TV series you can find, which is surprising because those TV series have the benefit of controlled studio lighting and don't have to spend multiple years hunting down footage in the wild.

Blue Planet II is part of this tradition, and is the most amazing TV series I've ever seen. When Amazon had a $10 sale on it and I had a few slow shipping credits to use, I jumped on it, and it was worth every penny. The image quality is nothing less than superb, even over streaming video, and the details are amazing, both on a 70" 4K TV and on a 42" 1080p screen.

The sequences are amazing, ranging from the grouper spawning scene to the one where the film unit caught a cuttlefish pretending to be female to sneak into a dominant alpha male's lair, and cuckolded him right before his eyes. My jaw dropped in scene after scene, which made me watch even the "making of" video that came as part of the set.

There, I continued to be blown away. For instance, the first time they tried to shoot the grouper spawning scene they failed, missing the spawning by a few hours. So they returned a year later with a big enough scuba team to get 24 hour coverage of the grouper in order to get the shot. For the "boiling seas" sequence, they first tried Australia but got unlucky to start filming at the start of El Nino. They waited 18 months before approaching the shoot by using chase helicopters and following a pod of dolphins. The TV show took 4 years to make and the results more than speak for itself.

There are several sequences where the camera got so close to the action that I thought to myself: "This must have been shot by an underwater drone. There's no way the fish let them get that close." Then you see the "making of" video and in some cases not only was it a person shooting it, in some cases the guy was free diving, not even wearing scuba gear! The skill and dedication of the unit is nothing short of amazing.

Needless to say, this TV series comes highly recommended. If you watch nothing else this year, watch this one.

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