Diving into the oceans, specifically the reef filled layers surrounding the islands of Palau, IMAX cameras peer into the underwater and surface life embedded in salt water. With blips offered from Coast Guard rescue, surfers, and natives from Palau, Living Sea splits its focus unusually to chart more than life below the waves.
Cue up a nature documentary detailing water, and it’s almost certain cameras fetch images of varied sea life. With an interest in aerial cinematography, Living Sea brushes off expectations; details of the tides, gravity, and movement of water bodies are explored as Meryl Streep narrates.
While these images of surfers are gorgeous and clips of Coast Guard boat skipping dangerous waves are thrilling, the reactionary images remain clustered under surface layers. Schools of fish, vivid coral, whales, and crystalline, untampered waters create a visually stunning IMAX venue piece. Before its closing credits, Living Sea proves jaw dropping as camera slink into a smack of jellyfish, centered into a migratory pattern. These images are nothing less than a marvel.
Also included, and unique for IMAX, is time lapse. To sell the visuals of ocean tides, boats are shown roped to piers as they lower to the surface during nightfall. The technique is used later to show bustling beaches as the sea slinks onto shore. It’s an unusual use of large scale film formats.
Living Sea survives entirely on its visual scope as Streep’s narration is snooze inducing and Sting’s contribution to the musical landscape has a calming zen effect. You could meditate to much of this feature as its low key demeanor has little interest in excitability outside of its surf sections. That makes it no less of a splashy, naturalistic technical marvel.
Qualifying for catalog designation, Living Sea debuted in 1995, slung onto Blu-ray in 2008. Image Entertainment graces the feature with a stable AVC encode and what would appear to be a master dating around the time of the Blu-ray release. Resolution does not feel peaked with slim signs of filtering, although fidelity and image density are sublime.
Graced with heightened color courtesy of the locations, Living Sea is bustling with nature’s palette. Varied waters each hold their own hues, from dazzling blueish greens to chilly grays. Sea life swarms with primaries, and land-based footage is swooning for greens.
Fine detail can be drained by exhibited sharpening and the murkiness of lower resolution source scanning. Palau’s foliage-covered islands are denied the zip they should have in 65mm, downgraded to 1080p or otherwise. Some aliasing on tubing is another warning shot sent toward this offering.
Source damage is menial if persistent. Grain is bumped up a touch due to digital processing, if handled wonderfully by the codec. There is enough energy to carry the source material to a striking – if notably imperfect – finish.
Living Sea carries a reference sequence as a Coast Guard boat is slammed into choppy waters, lifted over incoming waves before slamming back down. In a first-person view, rushing water creates a flawlessly done surround effect with oomph added to the low-end. While not up to action film norms, LFE activity is naturally seated into the balance.
Water performs the same for this brief documentary, always a natural presence. Dubbed dialog is obvious and typical of IMAX features. Musically, Living Sea struts to a capable finish with fluidity into the rears. Mixing splits specific instruments to clear distinction in each channel for an “almost live” type of spread.
A 37-minute making of is an active and informative offering, detailing not only a typically complex shoot, but the people featured. A trivia quiz, trailers, and promo for MacGillivray Films are left.
Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For more information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.
Note: This disc is part of the MacGillivary Freeman Limited Edition Gift Set, containing 10 of the IMAX features from their library. The Amazing Caves disc in the set is identical to the stand-alone retail release.