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National Parks Adventure (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

Shout! Factory has returned with a couple more acclaimed short documentary films of the sort of IMAX-type variety to show off their 4K display skills. Get ready to explore our world in Ultra-high-definition when two critically acclaimed films National Parks Adventure (narrated by Robert Redford), and Dream Big: Engineering Our World (narrated by Jeff Bridges), are each released in a 4K Blu-ray + 3D Blu-ray + Blu-ray + Digital copy set by Shout! Factory. Originally filmed for and seen in IMAX and Giant Screen theaters, these stunning films will now be available in living rooms across the country. You’ll be able to wow your friends with your sweet new 4K Ultra-HD home theater set up when these come to the format on July 24th. This review will focus on the Robert Redford narrated National Parks Adventure. Pre-order yourself a copy below using the Amazon link.

Film 

The power of America’s national parks is undeniable. Millions have packed up the family to hike through impossibly lush forests, to gaze upon towering cliffs and deep-plunging canyons, to witness the breathtaking arcs of natural history, and, most of all, to share moments of wonder amid the protected treasures of this land.

A MacGillivray Freeman film produced in association with Brand USA and narrated by Academy Award® winner* Robert Redford, National Parks Adventure is acclaimed filmmaker Greg MacGillivray’s most visually ambitious giant-screen film to date — a film that offers not only a sweeping overview of the national parks’ history, but is equal parts adrenaline-pumping odyssey and soulful reflection on what the wilderness means to us all.

National Parks Adventure catalogs a lot of wonderful and beautiful natural landscapes in the United States that will even get the most indoor cat-type people pulling out a pad and pen, making a checklist of things to see. With breathtaking photography and a infectiously enthusiastic group exploring, you’ll see some national treasures like you’ve never seen them and also get to witness some little seen occurrences in nature. There’s some heartfelt narration by Robert Redford to accompany the group, but honestly this could have been just video and music with natural sounds and I’d have been glued for 40 minutes.

There isn’t a whole lot of stuff to really go in depth on here as the history lessons speak for themselves and the visuals need to be seen rather than described. I went into this thing thinking “Sure, this’ll look nice, lets just get this done with” and found myself amazing. My wife got tired of me constantly yelling for her to come see how fantastic something looked on the screen. She agreed and was taken with it as well, but she didn’t need me calling every time a new shot came up. If you have the appropriate set up with video and Atmos, you really should think about picking this one up to see all that your television can do.

Video 

Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Layers: BD-66

Clarity/Detail:  Like the other title (Dream Big), National Parks Adventure asks if you’d like to watch in SDR or HDR. I feel like I should have watched this one first, because HOLY SHIT! does this one have some of the most fantastic video you’ll ever see. This thing takes that HDR and explodes it all over your screen. The image is sharp, crisp and full of details and textures to the touch. Its a vivid, rustic and bursting image with amazing colors that help the breathtaking photography become incredibly effective.

Depth:  Right from the first shot, you’ll immediately see how breathtaking and three dimensional this image is without even the aid of 3D. Movements from the camera feel incredibly natural and well orchestrated, flowing smoothly and if its your own wandering eyes doing the moving.

Black Levels:  Blacks are natural and well saturated. No crushing at all and details and shading look incredibly lovely.

Color Reproduction:  Colors range from natural to the most incredibly vivid, bursting visual eye candy you’ve ever seen. There are clothing articles that roar off of the screen as well as some things in nature that will just have your jaw by real estate on the floor. You won’t believe how damn lovely the mountains look. There are also various lights and skies that just emit some power HDR material.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are natural and consistent for the whole thing. Facial features and textures are like looking through a window at a person from any reasonable distance.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos, English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, French 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Spanish 5.1 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics:  Be careful, this disc defaults to 5.1 instead of Atmos.

Height: This one definitely accurately portrays the sounds coming from above, but my favorite moment was when the group was climbing the frozen waterfalls. You feel the snow falls from above and feet and ice picks striking into the snow and ice up top with such a lifelike quality.

Low Frequency Extension: Music bumps, an old time camera and climbing can have some light touches and other little natural sounds make a good pulse on the subwoofer.

Surround Sound Presentation: This Atmos track fully encompasses every environment. Its incredibly impressive as it will fully realize a vast national park or the interior of a cramped car. Every speaker has its little intricacies while also contribution to the wave of pushing a big sound across a room.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals, from narration to live dialogue, are all crisp and clear with good attention to diction and depth.

Extras 

Natural Parks Adventure comes with the 3-D Blu-ray/Standard Blu-ray combo disc and a digital copy of the film.

Bears Catching Salmon in Alaska (HD, 1:24) – Behind the scenes video of filming the bears trying to catch fish.

The Most Important Camping Trip in US History (HD, 1:50) – Behind the scenes of filming the Teddy Roosevelt/John Muir dramatization scenes.

Biking in Moab (HD, 2:55) – Some interviews and footage of shooting the biking down the rocks that also goes over the difficulty of doing it.

Climbing Penguins (HD, 3:09) – Goes over the set up and safety precautions and preparations when it came to shooting one of the signature climbing sequences in the film. 

Filming with Greg MacGilivray (HD, 2:17) – The film’s director goes over his passions for nature and the significance of telling the history and showing the importance of these parks.

Making of Featurette (HD, 3:56) – A brief overview of what the film’s about, the individuals we follow in it and the overall goals making it.

Pictured Rocks Michigan (HD, 4:11) – This featurette tells how the production had to pivot from their plan of shooting in Yellowstone during winter to Michigan. This chronicles their struggles with the IMAX camera and crew toughing it through the 20 below weather.

Robert Redford on the Parks (HD, 1:53) – The legendary actor talks his love and appreciation for our national parks and dives into preserving their importance.

GoUSA TV Trailer (HD, :31) 

National Parks Adventure Trailer (HD, 1:59) 

4K Trailers (HD, 10:53) 

Summary 

National Parks Adventure is a nice travelogue on the parks of the United States and a little group exploring them in their various conditions. But…honestly, didn’t need to have that, just the footage. Because – WOW! This image and Atmos sound design/presentation are FAN-FREAKING-TASTIC! Your eyes are going to be glued and in nirvana as you watch in wonder. There are some solid extras that accompany this that should have all been edited into one sweeping featurette, but it is what it is. This is a MUST have if you’re a demo junkie wanting to show your friends in denial why 4K is a significant upgrade.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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