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WWII in HD: Collector’s Edition Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1:78:1
  • Video Codec: VC-1; AVC/MPEG-4 (Battle for Iwo Jima & The Air War)
  • Resolution: 1080i/60; 1080p/24 (Battle for Iwo Jima & The Air War)
  • Audio Codec: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
  • Subtitles: English SDH (Battle for Iwo Jima & The Air War) only
  • Region: ABC (Region-Free)
  • Rating: PG
  • Run Time: 605 Mins.
  • Discs: 4 (4 x Blu-ray)
  • Studio: A&E Entertainment
  • Blu-ray Release Date: November 15, 2011
  • List Price: $69.95

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BestBuy.com:
Wwii In Hd (4 Disc) - Collector's
Purchase WWII in HD: Collector’s Edition on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Series
[Rating:4/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:3/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(Screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG  thus are meant as a general representation of the content and do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Series

[Rating:4/5]

Given the scope of the impact on the history of the world this war had and continues to have on human history, there should be no surprise at the fascination World War II continues to garner. Whether it be films like Saving Private Ryan, Flags of Our Fathers, and Letters from Iwo Jima, docudrama television mini-series like Band of Brothers and The Pacific, or full scale documentaries, such as The World at War or this, WWII in HD, I don’t believe there will ever be too many angles from which to examine this devastating period of history.

WWII in HD put its own unique twist on the genre of World War II documentaries, firstly by using almost exclusively footage originally captured in color that took the producers two-years scouring the globe to acquire. At the time of its original broadcast on The History Channel, it was the first time ever that the majority of this footage had ever been aired.

Secondly, the series tells the story of World War II through the firsthand accounts of twelve veterans whose stories are told in voice over by several actors in the first person. Voicing roles in the series are Josh Lucas as Bert Stiles, LL Cool J as Shelby Westbrook, Justin Bartha as Jack Werner, Steve Zahn as Nolen Marbrey, Jason Ritter as Jack Yusen, Rob Corddry as Rockie Blunt, Mark Hefti as Archie Sweeney, Tim Dekay as Richard Tregaskis, Ron Livingston as Charles Scheffel, James Kyson Lee as Jimmie Kanaya, Amy Smart as June Wandrey, and Rob Lowe as Robert Sherrod. Gary Sinise takes on duties as narrator and does a commanding job.

Video Quality

[Rating:4/5]

WWII in HD is assembled from mostly old archival footage originally captured on color film, in what one would assume was 8 and 16mm. This couldn’t and wouldn’t be the best possible source for high definition material to begin with, and when bringing into consideration the conditions under which it was captured, one can certainly understand how and why it would look as it does. Still, some of the footage looks incredible, given these caveats. My only real issue here is why A&E has chosen to transfer this at 1080i rather than 1080p/24. If you look at the bonus feature episodes, The Air War and The Battle for Iwo Jima, transferred at 1080p/24 AVC/MPEG-4, there is a slight improvement in smoothness of motion, at the very least, whereas the 1080i/60 VC-1 transfer of the main series looks occasionally juddery. The interview segments with the veterans are all originally captured in HD, apparently on RED One (at 4K) and Sony PMW-EX3 (B Camera) cameras and look quite strong with good flesh tones.

Audio Quality

[Rating:4.5/5]

Two lossless options are given in DTS-HD Master Audio, a 2.0 Stereo mix and a 5.1 mix. I say go for the 5.1 mix, because its foley effects are brilliant. It may not be on the level of Saving Private Ryan or Letters from Iwo Jima, but the numerous explosions, sounds of gunfire, mortar, flak spraying, engines roaring, and footsteps are enthralling in surround. The low frequency extension packs the right amount of punch and the surround channels are put to good use, but not too aggressively. Narration is also clean and intelligible, never getting buried in the sound effects. If you must listen to the stereo mix, it’s no slouch either. It provided a nice wide stereo image with equally impressive depth and clean narration.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:3/5]

The WWII in HD: Collector’s Edition comes packed snugly in a sturdy military-green canvas covered box that will look nice on someone’s shelf. On-disc extras include a few brief featurettes in high definition that cover the restoration and procurement of the footage featured in the series and the veterans whose stories make up the running narratives. Discs 2 and 3 is where you will find two full-length features that cover more specific aspects of World War II, The Battle for Iwo Jima, and The Air War.

The supplements provided with this release:

Disc 2:

  • Character Profiles (1.78:1; 1080i/60; 00:14:56)
  • Finding the Footage (1.78:1; 1080i/60; 00:02:28)
  • Preserving the Footage (1.78:1; 1080i/60; 00:01:56)

Discs 3 & 4:

  • WWII in HD Bonus Features – Nearly two-and-a-half-hours are covered in these two additional features. The Battle for Iwo Jima scuttles the first person stories for a straight narrative of the grueling war in the Pacific and the battle to take the island of Iwo Jima from the Japanese. The Air War continues the format of the series, bringing in the stories of different veterans, including the recently departed Andy Rooney, to tell of the crucial and deathly battle for air supremacy against the infamous and dread German Luftwaffe. :
  • The Battle for Iwo Jima
  • The Air War

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4/5]

I found WWII in HD to be one of the most interesting documentaries on the war since The World at War, which still ranks in my book as the greatest World War II documentary ever made. This one is still a distant second, but is far more engaging and personal than many others I have seen.

Additional Screen Captures

[amazon-product]B005ELVCY8[/amazon-product]

BestBuy.com:
Wwii In Hd (4 Disc) - Collector's
Purchase WWII in HD: Collector’s Edition on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Series
[Rating:4/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:3/5]

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