4K UltraHD Review: Humpback Whales

Recently I had a chance to experience a demo of the HTC-Vive virtual reality headgear. During one of the programs, they had me standing on the deck of a sunken ship. Schools of fish were all over the place. The little fish parted and a humpback whale swam up behind me. His huge eye stared at me. I turned my head saw its huge tail coming towards me. I ducked out of fear of being slapped even though it was completely a CGI experience. After the headgear came off, I wanted to know more about them. Humpback Whales is an IMAX documentary that gives enlightening details about them.

A short history of the humpback whales points out how the whales were nearly hunted into extinction because of its oil. The turning point came when the U.S. Navy recorded the music of the humpback whales. The spacey songs helped make the whales a big conservation cause. Who could feel detached from a water-based mammal that could bring beauty into the oceans? The IMAX crew follows a mother and child whale in the South Pacific. There’s a discussion about how the whales are now a great reason why people visit Tonga. Next on the travel agenda is Alaska where the whales feed well on herring. There’s an interview with a scientist about the whales’ amazing group hunting technique. These scenes are illustrated with CGI since it’s hard to capture all the action below the waves. But the whales become real to reveal the surface feeding frenzy. The last location on the journey is Hawaii where the whales have a bit of competition to find a mate.

Humpback Whales has been playing at science and nature museums around the country and deserves to be taken home. The boxset contains quite a few ways to watch the whales in the deep blue sea. There’s the 4K UltraHD version that really allows the details of the whales to dazzle. If you want to get a little closer, the Blu-ray contains the 3-D and 2-D versions of the film at 1080p. The 3-D work gives a sense of depth to the 55 foot long whales. Finally there’s access to a digital copy of the film so you can watch it on your smartphone while waiting for your whale watching cruise to depart. Ewan McGregor (Trainspotting) narrates the journey of the whales with a tenor that shows he’s enjoying the whale footage. Humpback Whales allows you to get closer to the magnificent aquatic animals without worrying about the tail slapping you.

The video is 1.78:1 anamoprhic. Your screen will be filled with humpback whales. The audio is English Dolby ATMOS. The sound mix has mostly McGregor, the soft soundtrack and the songs of the whales. There’s also French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. The movie is subtitled.

Making of (17:07) goes into how the production crew were able to capture the humpback whales in IMAX. They followed the whales from Alaska to Hawaii and finally Tonga. Things were tough trying to catch the whales doing things such as the bubble netting feeding practice.

Trailers feature previews for the six IMAX films that have been released by Shout! Factory as part of the 4K UltraHD & 3-D Blu-ray series.

Shout! Factory presents Humpback Whales. Directed by: Greg MacGillivray. Screenplay by: Stephen Judson. Starring: Ewan McGregor. Running Time: 39 minutes. Rated: Unrated. Released: August 2, 2016.

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