Most Aussies know that our continent is a very large piece of real estate and the landscape and ecosystems vary dramatically from one end to the other, as well as from bottom to top, and the top is what this 55-minute documentary is all about.
The Top End (not an official name) has a unique climate; for six months it is oppressively dry and scorching, while for the next six months it gets rain dumped on it in such extreme amounts that widespread flooding is often the result. At least the timing is pretty much predictable. From April to September comes the heat, then - well you can work out the other bit, I'm sure.
This DVD, The Big Wet, focuses on that second half of the year from roughly September to April, from the end of the dry season when the area is characterised by cracked, sun-baked mud flats, shimmering horizons, dry and brittle vegetation, and relatively barren grassy plains. Flora is dry and nutritious greenery is hard to come by, frogs are buried seep in the mud, and even salt-water crocodiles are often trapped in small mud pools awaiting the rains that will bring them freedom to roam, the chance to hunt and, like most other fauna, a chance to breed.
With the coming of the rains, all that changes and both flora and fauna take advantage of the wet to fatten up, breed and, in some cases around April, prepare for the following six months. The amount of rain that falls is, of course, unpredictable, but when this film was shot it turned out to be a very wet season, following on from a relatively poor wet season the year before. The ensuing floods ensured disastrous consequences and the film crew sure timed it well.
The camera work is as good as you will see in documentaries, is narrated by the easy-on-the-ear John Waters and is presented chronologically, which is not always the case.
At just 55 minutes, as mentioned, it is not a drag to sit through, and as interesting and educational as it is, it doesn't show anything radically different or new that you won't have seen before in other worthy documentaries that feature the 'big wet'. Price, too, could be a factor in determining how many copies will find their way into the DVD-buying public's homes.
It is safe to assume that this was made for television, judging by its length and the full-frame aspect ratio; as good as it is. Colouring is natural and strong and consistent with little evidence of noise or bleeding. Artefacts are negligible as is grain, and even things like shimmer and aliasing are virtually non-evident, as they should be on this single layer, single-sided disc. Generally, the image has relatively decent sharpness and clarity especially in the close up shots.
Black levels are good, although shadow detail (the night scenes) are a little dark to make out the smallest of details, but this should not be considered a major hindrance.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo is pretty bog-standard, with only the relaxing background music and various woodland and escarpment creatures and all their chirps, calls and other noises displaying any stereo tendencies. Bass frequency is quite pedestrian even in the more threatening sounds such as pouring rain and cracking thunder. However, the narration is loud, clear and placed in both front channels.
Audio synchronisation is a little hard to judge, but nothing amiss is obvious. The levels are constant even when some of the music gets a little rousing in the big rainy bits. A solid all-round audio track is the result.