From Earth, the Sun cannot be looked at with human eyes. Narrated by Al Roker, 3D SUN gives audiences a chance to see the Sun up close in startling 3D. Stand above the arctic circle and witness the most brilliant auroras on Earth; take a ride on a solar blast from Sun's surface to Earth's Magnetosphere, and come to a deeper understanding of what this vast sea of fire means to life here on Earth. In October 2006, NASA launched twin spacecraft from a single rocket in Florida — a spacecraft that would, for the first time in the history of space exploration, capture space-born, high-definition 3D images of the Sun. In 3D SUN, the leading NASA scientists from the mission unveil these images and take us behind the scenes to tell the story of the Sun and why it is of crucial importance to all of us.
Mars 3D takes viewers behind the scenes of the Mars Exploration Rover Mission revealing daily dramas, mind-boggling physics and compelling science behind the $820 million dollar NASA project. Behold this celebration of space exploration and the human stories behind the mission, how engineers plunged the depths of gravity and physics to ensure a successful launch an landing and how two 380 pound rovers will bring scientists closer than ever before to solving the mysteries of Mars.
Space is still the final frontier, and although most audiences like to take their exploration of the endless expanse outside our atmosphere in bites of science fiction that include interstellar space travel, blasters, and mingling with various types of extraterrestrial life forms (friendly and otherwise), there are those among us who crave the hard science that is still so fantastical it's difficult to believe it's not fiction.
For those with that particular need, the options seem to be getting fewer and fewer. Channels like Science exist – but even that is airing less and less science-y things, and becoming more and more like Syfy's little brother – and tickets to a natural history museum can be expensive, especially if you want to check out an IMAX that's not being used to show the latest 3D blockbuster needlessly converted to the gigantic format. So that's where things like the 'Galactic Adventures Double Feature: 3D Sun & Mars 3D' come in. This double feature offers a quick, short dose of science fact that not only gives those craving some knowledge on space a unique 3D viewing experience, but it also demonstrates just why the space program is so important, and why discovering things about celestial bodies neighboring Earth helps us understand more about our planet and its future.Unfortunately, as fascinating and potentially educational as these two features are, using, the word "feature" is a bit of a misnomer: these two brief, momentary glimpses into two admittedly interesting NASA projects are no more features than, say, a local newscast. Sure, they have slightly better production values, and their aim is to educate, rather than terrify, but the value they offer as a learning tool is cursory at best. Yes, it's captivating stuff, sending unmanned probes to encircle the Sun in an attempt to unlock the secrets of things like solar blasts and their impact on Earth's magnetosphere, or experiencing what it's like to be in mission control, awaiting news on whether or not the rover that was sent to Mars landed successfully, is terrific, but with both "features" under 30 minutes each, the information they have to offer is nominal.
Narrated by Al Roker, this brief 3D adventure takes viewers on a CGI look at the STEREO (Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory) project from NASA intended to give scientists a better understanding of the corona, while also shedding new light (sorry) on the physics of space weather like coronal mass ejections, solar flares, and solar particles. For those who have experienced adverse technological affects of solar flares and the like, this project is intended to give a better understanding of how these things happen and, better yet, when.
With not much time to spare, '3D Sun' quickly looks into the purpose of exploring the Sun and the science behind STEREO. It's biggest selling point, however, is the use of CGI animation to make the 3D effects of watching the twin satellites orbiting the sun, with a mixture of actual 3D models created from the information gained by the STEREO probes. As mentioned above, it's fascinating stuff, but it would be hard to think anyone could be satiated by this hurried glimpse into the project.
The longer of the two "features" is 'Mars 3D,' which takes a closer look at the actual team responsible for putting the rovers on the Red Planet. There's an interesting look at the team inside mission control while they wait what must've seemed like days for confirmation from the device that it had landed safely. From there, the program utilizes a mixture of CGI and rover-cam footage to create a unique 3D experience that shows what the surface of Mars really looks like. Similarly brief as '3D Sun,' 'Mars 3D' could have benefited from throwing in more information, but also like the aforementioned program, it's interesting enough that perhaps those who are truly captivated will go out and investigate further.
And that's likely the hope of these short programs: to pique viewers' interest enough that they seek out more information on their own. There's plenty to go on at solarsystem.nasa.gov, so if anyone sees this 'Double Feature' and wants to know more, that's a terrific starting place. In the end, if 'Galactic Adventures Double Feature: 3D Sun/Mars 3D' can encourage a single person to explore something new, or to access the wealth of information available to them via the Internet or a library, then it's probably okay to look at these two programs as at least moderately successful.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Galactic Adventures Double Feature: 3D Sun/Mars 3D' comes as a single 25GB 3D Blu-ray disc in the standard keepcase. There are no previews before hitting the top menu, so that's a plus. Otherwise, aside from trailers for other Image releases, this thing is bare bones.
'3D Sun' comes with a 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 encoded transfer, while 'Mars 3D' comes in a 720p transfer. The image on both is good – sometimes flat, but good. These programs are visually the equivalent of watching a computer animator's sophomore demo reel. There are lots of stark black backgrounds with shots of objects or celestial bodies moving across them. And then there are some diagrams intended to show how things like the magnetosphere works. That's not to say all of this doesn't look good; it does. It's just that if you're not watching it in 3D, then there's not a lot of depth in the image.
The 3D does a tremendous job in bringing out the images here – though it does look a little better on '3D Sun' than on 'Mars 3D,' but for the most part, this is a top-notch 3D image that makes these programs worth a visit, even though they're both so short (the actual 3D on '3D Sun' being even shorter than the already short program). There's no ghosting to be found anywhere, and save for a little banding here and there, the image is very clean and detailed.
Overall, there's not a whole lot to expect from either of these programs aside from a fun and somewhat educational 3D image. In that regard, both programs deliver.
Both programs here have been given a DTS-HD 5.1 mix that sounds good, but not great, which is likely due to the fact neither has been given much to do. Both mixes generally utilize the front speakers more than anything, as the sound consists primarily of voiceover narration. There are a few times when the rear channels kick in with a good bit of atmospheric sound or a special effect or two. Additionally, there is some nice LFE to round the sound out a bit, and that generates a more dynamic sound field than one might expect.
For the most part, the sound here needs to focus primarily on being clear and distinct when it comes to delivering the voiceover, and they do a terrific job in that sense. There's just not enough for them to be doing, so the whole package, while nice sounding, tends to feel a little flat.
There's nothing to complain about here, really, other than the brevity of the whole thing. You're essentially paying for less than an hour of entertainment that is hard to imagine anyone watching more than once – unless they suddenly have a school paper on the Sun or Mars, and NASA's exploration of both. Still, if you have a science or space junkie in the family and a 3D television, this might make a decent stocking stuffer. With good picture and decent audio 'Galactic Adventures Double Feature: 3D Sun/Mars 3D is worth a look for space and science nuts.