In 1991 an amazing fossilized skeleton was uncovered in Wyoming in the U.S.A. What was remarkable about this skeleton was its completeness. Upon examination it was determined that this was the skeleton of a male Allosaurus, a carnivorous dinosaur that lived about 145 million years ago. Using modern forensic techniques, comparisons with modern relatives and scientific analysis a possible life story for Big Al has been created and put to film for us to see.
There are really two programs on this disc. One, The Ballad Of BIG AL is the story of the Allosaurus named Al. This program chronicles his life from birth to his untimely death some six years later. We watch Al as he grows, learns to hunt increasingly larger animals and survive in this violent time. The second program shows us what research was done and how the information gathered was used to come up with a possible life story for Big Al.
This disc is excellent viewing, interesting and exciting throughout. It is never dry as a good deal of action and humour is used in both programs to keep things moving. This disc would be a worthy inclusion for anyone even remotely interested in dinosaurs or quality documentaries.
Both of the programs on this disc feature 16x9 enhanced, 1.78:1 video transfers that are of excellent quality. With the exception of some archival footage used in The Science Of BIG AL, the sharpness and detail levels revealed in both transfers is excellent. Both have natural looking colour palettes and in the few dark scenes, exhibit excellent shadow detail. Artefacts are limited to some minor aliasing and a handful of tiny film artefacts.
The sole audio track on this disc is Dolby Digital 2.0 encoded at a bit rate of 192 kb/s. It is a very good soundtrack although it could have been a lot more dynamic. The narration by Kenneth Branagh is always clear as are any segments that feature interviews with one of the research scientists. Split channels effects do occur across the front 3 speakers although they are not frequent while the surround channels carry the score and some ambient sounds. The level of the surrounds is quite low and so their effect isn't all that noticeable. The subwoofer did get some work to do but its role could have been greater especially when a herd of huge Diplodocus walks across the screen. Oh well, better luck next time!
There is a small collection of extras available on this disc.
In this section there are about 56 16x9 enhanced images each with a short caption describing the scene.
This 5 odd minute Featurette shows finished footage from The Ballad Of BIG AL with story board drawings shown as small images at the top of the screen.
This inclusion is a severely cut down version of the Walking With Dinosaurs CD-ROM. It features 8 video clips, some PC wallpaper images and a collection of icons and sounds for your PC. It is also supposed to include a screen saver but I couldn't get it to work. It kept asking for the Walking With Dinosaurs CD. Doh!