(Pocket-lint) - BBC Worldwide decided that Planet Earth II would be its first 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray release and for good reason. It was originally shot and rendered in 4K so it should look stunning in the native format.
In addition, the Ultra HD BD release of the nature documentary series is in HDR (high dynamic range), presenting the content in the very best possible way. It also has a 5.1 DTS-HD soundtrack.
That's why we've had a look at the series in the format to give you a brief run down of what you get and just how much better it is than the existing DVD, Blu-ray or broadcast editions.
When will the Planet Earth II 4K Blu-ray be available and how much does it cost?
It's coming on Monday 13 March, with a retail price of £39.99. However, you can get the set for £29.99 on Amazon.co.uk now (just click on this link). The set also includes the standard Blu-ray edition.
Is this the first time you can see Planet Earth II in 4K?
The Beeb added a short clip of Planet Earth II in 4K as a trial on BBC iPlayer, but this is the first time you'll be able to see entire episodes. In addition, only very few TVs were able to display the content in HDR (using HLG tech). The 4K Blu-ray, therefore, will represent the first time the vast majority will be able to view it with HDR.
How can I watch the Planet Earth II 4K Blu-ray?
You will need a dedicated 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player or Xbox One S games console to view the series in 4K. It does not work in a conventional Blu-ray player.
Panasonic and Samsung both have UHD decks on the market at present, while other manufacturers, including Sony and LG, will soon follow suit. The Xbox One S is capable of playing 4K Blu-rays in HDR too, but the original Xbox One is not.
What is the Planet Earth II 4K Blu-ray set like?
For your money, you get the original Blu-ray release of Planet Earth II, which usually costs £19 on Amazon. The Blu-rays include the entire run of Planet Earth II Diaries - the short documentary features that appeared at the end of each of the broadcast episodes. These were not shot in 4K so only appear on the standard Blu-ray discs.
There are two 4K Blu-ray discs in the box, each containing three episodes in 3840 x 2160 pixel resolutions. All episodes have HDR encoding, as do the menus on both discs.
Disc one contains Islands, Mountains and Jungles. Disc two contains Deserts, Grasslands and Cities.
The shows are exactly the same as those broadcast, save for the higher resolution, better contrast and wider colour gamut. The footage was originally shot in the HLG standard, so BBC Worldwide employed the expertise of Sony to convert the colourfield to HDR10. They did an expert job.
We won't spoil it for you as these things need to be seen to be fully appreciated, but the Grasslands episode specifically benefits from the higher resolution. The detail in the grassy landscapes is superb rendered and, at times, looks tangible enough to be viewing through a window.
We watched the series on an LG 65E6V OLED TV, which was a truly incredible experience considering the size and quality of the panel. However, we do advise you not to watch it in HDR Vivid or HDR Bright modes, even with customised calibration tweaks. They both make the colours pop too much. A standard HDR mode is perfect for realism. HDR Bright made a lion attack on a bufallo one of the most gruesome experiences, we don't mind telling you.
Perhaps the best episode to really show off HDR - which will be one of our test sequences in future - is Cities. The vibrant saturation of Singapore is a true sight to behold.
Audio is excellent, with a 5.1 DTS-HD mix adding a little more oomph to the soundtrack originally broadcast, but it would have been even more special had it been in Dolby Atmos.
Still, this is an incredible 4K Blu-ray release and the most significant for the format yet.