The Universe in 3D: A Whole New Dimension is more evidence that the History Channel’s astronomy documentary franchise just won’t stop. Of course, hardcore science fans might find some of it all too “pop science”, but it obviously has its fans. This release picks out three episodes from the series and presents them in 3D (a 2D option is available on the same disc as well). While it is called The Universe much of it is very Earth- or solar system-bound.
The first episode, Crash Landing on Mars examines the life threatening problems the first human expedition to the Red Planet might face, such as the titular crash landing, running out of oxygen, dealing with solar flares, and losing their habitation unit. In the second episode, Worst Days on Planet Earth counts down the seven biggest disasters in Earth’s history, such as Snowball Earth and the Theia collision that formed the moon. Lastly, The Universe in 3D: A Whole New Dimension finally gets, well, Universal, and philosophical at the same time with God and the Universe, which explores arguments by physicists and theologians for and against the existence of God. They ponder how the “creation” of the Universe can possibly be explained without the need of a higher being through the laws of physics or, conversely, how the laws of physics could not exist without a transcendent being to set them into motion to begin with.
The most thought provoking episode of this three episode set is, without a doubt, the last one, which also happens to be one of the two that works the best in 3D. The other that looks the best and is the most interesting is Worst Days on Planet Earth. Crash Landing on Mars doesn’t lend itself too well to the 3D format given its red dessert-like setting and nearly monochromatic CGI work. It’s also such a worn subject, in both science and science fiction, that one can hardly get very excited about it anymore.
3D Effect: [Rating:3.5/5]
2D HD: [Rating:3.5/5]
The 3D effect encoded at 1080p in MVC is fine, less gimmicky than one might expect from a series like this. There’s subtle pop-out with the CGI effects and a natural sense of depth, but I did notice a higher than usual amount of crosstalk in the image on my display. As far as the overall high definition image and 2D transfer (in AVC/MPEG-4 1080p) is concerned, there is a high amount of video noise and softness in some of the CG imagery, much less crisp and detailed than one might have expected. The live high definition segments look the best, but are still full of motion artifacts and less than natural flesh tones.
We get a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/24-bit) mix as the sole option on this Blu-ray 3D release. While it has clear dialogue and narration as you want from documentary material like this, the sound effects and atmospherics are very subtle, mixed rather low in the mix. While this works, especially cross the front speakers, the rear channels could have been a bit more active to make the experience more engulfing.
There are no supplements.
The Definitive Word
These three episodes from History from their popular The Universe franchise offer up a decent amount of 3D eye candy, though hardly the greatest. The content will please some astronomy geeks and sci-fi fans alike, though hardcore science fans might balk at the dumbing down of some subject matter.
Additional Screen Captures