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IMAX: Humpback Whales (Blu-ray Review)

Humpback-WhalesNarrated by two-time Golden Globe nominee Ewan McGregor (Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical: 2002: Moulin Rouge; 2013: Salmon Fishing in The Yemen), Humpback Whales is an extraordinary journey into the mysterious world of one of nature’s most awe-inspiring marine mammals.  The Boston Globe praises it for having “Stunning shots that are both intimate and intense.”

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Film 

Set in the spectacular waters of Alaska, Hawaii and the remote islands of Tonga, this ocean adventure offers audiences an up-close look at how these whales communicate, sing, feed, play and take care of their young. Captured for the first time with IMAX® 3D cameras, and found on every ocean on Earth, humpbacks were nearly driven to extinction 50 years ago, but today are making a slow but remarkable recovery. Join a team of researchers as they unlock the secrets of the humpback and find out why humpbacks are the most acrobatic of all whales, why they sing their haunting songs, and why these intelligent, 55-foot, 50-ton animals migrate up to 10,000 miles round-trip every year.

I don’t know what much more to add to what the synopsis of the film brings.  This is a 40 minute adventure in educating about the history and current situation of the humpback whales while following those who follow and study them.  Its interspersed with a Ewan McGregor narration to go along with some other voice overs from the people studying them.

The thing is, it doesn’t need any of the biologists or McGregor.  This footage use here is mesmerizing to the degree that you won’t believe your eyes.  You’ll think you’re watching CGI.  But you’re not, this is legit stuff.  The amount of detail and close shots of the whales is wow’ing.  There is a glow to the look of the underwater stuff in this film.  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen the depths of an ocean captured so beautifully.  This must have been an absolute trip to see in IMAX.  99% of the time, IMAX films contain great cinematography and completely captivating footage, this one takes it to a whole other level.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Clarity/Detail:  Wow, I’m honestly stunned at the beautiful underwater sequences that dominate this film.  Water has always been a tricky thing to transfer and a reason why Blu-ray was a massive leap from DVD.  It looks beautiful here.  I’ll echo what was in my review, but this photography is AMAZING, and you won’t believe what you are looking at with underwater whale sequences is real.  Its beautiful.  This is window-level quality detail and texture here.

Depth:  The film was shot for a 3D IMAX release, and while I am reviewing the Blu-ray, it still shows how great the depth is when it comes to spacing and foreground background relations.  Movements are smooth as silk and lifelike in appearance.

Black Levels:  Blacks are nice and deep.  Great shading and shadow work here.  No details lost, no crushing was witnessed.

Color Reproduction:  Every shade of blue is gorgeous and looks quite bold here.  Greens and all sorts of tropical colors pop on this transfer.  

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are natural and consistent.  When you do get to see people, facial details are crisp and very discernible from any given distance.  Wrinkles, makeup, stubble, scars, you name it, you can see it with good clarity.

Noise/Artifacts:  Clean

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos, English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English Closed Caption

Dynamics:  Humpback Whales features a very clear, crisp and terrific audio presentation.  Underwater is a very immersive and dynamic experience. The sounds of waves, people, boats, whales and such are all expertly layered and woven together to balance with a narration and score/songs.

Low Frequency Extension:  Water motions, deep songs from the whales and music beats and such get bump from the subwoofer.

Surround Sound Presentation:  Waves roar and crash throughout the 7 channels in this terrific mix.  Motions of the oceans float around your viewing area with purpose.  

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is crisp, loud and clear.  Noticeably the other voice over people are just a hair below McGregor’s volume.

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Extras 

Humpback Whales comes with 4K UHD copy, a 3D Blu-ray copy and a Digital Copy.

Making Of (HD, 17:07) – In a multiple part piece, the filmmakers go over their adventure and goals with shooting the film.

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Summary 

Shout! Factory releases yet another gorgeous looking and sounding IMAX movie home.  This one just has some incredible imagery that you won’t believe your eyes you’re seeing.  Once again, this is one of those wicked awesome bonus discs to showcase home theater setups.  I’m not sure what having it past one more watch will get you, unless you’re an educational institution.  I suppose there are some collectors who just like stuff with incredible picture quality and that’s the only requirement.  No matter which you are, you’re getting a top notch product.

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a 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. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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