The golden age of piracy collides with encroaching civilization in four action-packed seasons of Black Sails, taking audiences from New Providence Island in 1715 all the way to an iconic confrontation on Skeleton Island. Which you probably know by its fictionalized name... Treasure Island. Black Sails The Complete Collection battles its way onto Blu-ray with the same terrific a/v presentations as the previous standalone releases along with digital copies for every episode. If you've never seen Black Sails or you're a fan who never bought it on home video, this set is Highly Recommended.
While the much of the world was becoming obsessed with Game of Thrones, HDD's own Shannon Nutt found himself among a smaller niche audience, falling for a different premium cable drama. Black Sails begins as a prequel of sorts, depicting the events leading up to and featured in Robert Louis Stevenson's iconic novel, Treasure Island. But rather than adapting the famous characters created for that book, the show's creatives mix in a series of real-world historical figures and events, making for some smart, gripping TV entertainment.
If you've never seen a minute of Black Sails, you've been missing out, and this boxed set is the perfect chance to catch up. Here are links to Shannon's coverage of all four seasons:
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-rays
Black Sails The Complete Collection avenges itself on Blu-ray as a 12-disc BD50 collection. The whole set comes in a paper slipcover, which holds two 6-disc cases. The first case houses Seasons One & Two, while the second case contains Seasons Three & Four. Also, inside the second case, you'll find a Complete Collection Digital Copy, which needs to be redeemed via moviesredeem.com by the year 2020.
Overall, this is a handsome package, which is nice because the previous releases evolved over time, so if you like to have a clean layout on your shelves, this one's for you. But, outside of Season One being included on the Digital Copy (it's the only standalone release that did not include one), there's no new material or features. Unfortunately for our international readers, the Blu-rays are Region A locked and the Digital Copy only works here in the US.
Black Sails: The Complete Collection features identical AVC-MPEG 4 1080p HD transfers as the previous standalone releases. Below you'll find our previous, in-depth coverage of each season:
Black Sails is shot digitally using both sound stages and actual locales in and around Cape Town, South Africa. This gives the series a look and feel that matches very few other series on television right now. Making use of some well-designed sets as well as a number of beautiful locales, the combination of digital imagery and South African location make each episode of Black Sails look wonderful on Blu-ray. The only real downside is that the series has chosen to make use of the notorious 'shaky cam' look in every scene – no doubt making viewers (myself being one) wish they'd just lock those cameras down so we can enjoy the beautiful scenery.
The series primarily makes use of natural lighting (or at least the illusion of such), which means that most nighttime scenes are lit only by use of candles and/or surrounding fires. This sometimes leads to less than ideal black levels, but for the most part, noise and any murkiness in the image is kept to a minimum. The daytime shots are simply glorious to behold, with the bright blues of the waters, lush greens of the tropics, and overall sharp detail really adds to the enjoyment of each episode. There are no noticeable issues with banding, aliasing, or other frequently seen problems.
Black Sails is shot digitally using Arri Alexa digital cameras, and each episode on this set is presented in its original television aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The picture quality here is quite stunning when the scenes are outside and in the daylight: full of detail, color, and depth. It's when the show goes indoors or does nighttime footage that it suffers a bit. As I mentioned in my Season One review of the video, the filmmakers appear to take advantage of as much natural lighting as possible, so scenes shot on sets and or at night come across as a bit flat, with black levels suffering just a tad as a result. Season Two also continues the 'shaky cam' style of Season One, which I suppose adds some realism to those shots at sea, but can become a distraction on dry land.
Overall though, these episodes look quite good in HD, and don't suffer from any major glitches such as obvious aliasing, banding, or excessive noise.
Black Sails is shot digitally using Arri Alexa digital cameras, and the episodes are presented in their original television aspect ratio of 1.78:1. Season 3 continues the trend of Anchor Bay providing colorful and detailed transfers of each episode. Black levels, which have suffered a tad in prior seasons actually look a touch better this time around, and frequently seen issues like aliasing, banding, and the like are all but non-existent on this release.
If there's a downside, it has to do with the cinematography and not the actual transfer. The show continues to make frequent use of the "shaky" cam style throughout, and with such beautiful scenery (the show is shot in and around Cape Town, South Africa), you'd wish they'd hold the camera steady a little more often so viewers could enjoy the surroundings. Still, the level of detail here at times is quite amazing and among the best you'll see of any TV show on Blu-ray. Fans won't feel short-changed.
Each episode of Black Sails was shot digitally on Arri Alexa equipment and is presented in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Like the Blu-ray releases of the previous seasons of this series, the video quality here is pretty impressive – with detail, depth, and well-defined facial features that allow viewers to see every crack and wrinkle (where applicable) of the actors/pirates weather-beaten faces.
The scenes in Black Sails go from sunny island environments to the darkened shadows of below deck on the ships, and everything here shows remarkable clarity, with impressive black levels and only the slightest hint of noise here and there. The bottom line is that this is one of the best presentations of a TV show you'll find on home video, and fans of the series should be quite pleased with the quality found here.
Black Sails returns to Blu-ray with the exact same 7.1 Dolby TrueHD mixes as the standalone releases:
It doesn't take long to find out just how great the 7.1 Dolby TrueHD track is on this series set. The first episode opens with a sea battle between two ships, and it's one of the most immersive experiences I've had the pleasure to enjoy since becoming a Blu-ray watcher. In short, this isn't just reference-quality audio, it's among the best of the best that I own.
The tracks for each episode contain just about everything one could hope for in an aural experience: fantastic directionality and imaging, as cannons fired will swoop from front to back or vice versa; great use of LFE, as explosions rock and rumble one's sound system; and a wonderful balance, as none of those explosions or big action sequences ever drown out the spoken word. There's zilch in terms of glitches as well, which makes this track perhaps the best reference-quality one Blu-ray aficionados may get their hands on all year. The audio here is quite impressive, to say the least.
In addition to the 7.1 Dolby TrueHD lossless track, 2.0 Dolby Surround tracks are available in Spanish and French. Subtitles in English SDH and Spanish are also included
The featured audio for each episode is an English Dolby TrueHD 7.1 track that comes across as absolutely stunning in its performance. For starters, while the dialogue is primarily all up-front, it's delivered cleanly and distinctly and properly balanced with the sounds (both soundtrack and ambient) around it. However, it's the immersive quality that makes these episodes so much fun to hear. Whether it’s the noises of the waves splashing up against the ship, the boom of cannon fire, or just the murmuring of people in a crowded bar or on one of the town streets, the lossless tracks make you feel like you're surrounded by and involved in the world presented on screen. Directionality is present as well, and really fun to hear during some of the ship battles and bigger action sequences that take place during the course of these 10 episodes. As far as any glitches, I didn't notice a single dropout or hint of muddiness to this reference-quality audio. It's easily the most appealing part of this release.
In addition to the lossless track, 2.0 Dolby Digital tracks are available for each episode in Spanish and French. Subtitles are available in English SDH and Spanish.
The featured audio for each of the 10 episodes is an English Dolby TrueHD 7.1 track that is engaging, immersive, and all-around fantastic. The audio isn't just background noise for most of these episodes, it's almost a character itself – case in point, the second show of this season, where Captain Flint makes the decision to take his ship and his crew into a deadly storm. Not only will viewers/listeners hear the water rushing up onto the deck in waves, but there's a few instances of actual submersion into the water that will almost make one feel as if they are drowning.
Dialogue is primarily up-front (aside from ambient sounds of people murmuring in crowded sequences), and completely clear and distinct. LFE is frequently used and has a wonderful deep and booming feel to it. I have no hesitation in giving another reference-quality score to Black Sails audio (something I did on the prior two releases). This is not only the best-sounding TV show on Blu-ray...it's among the best-sounding of any release you'll find out there right now.
In addition to the lossless track, 2.0 Dolby Digital tracks are available for each episode in Spanish and French. Subtitles are an option in both English SDH and Spanish.
The featured audio for each episode is an English 7.1 Dolby True HD track. From the booming sound of canons to being submerged deep in the ocean, you won't find many TV series that sound better than Black Sails on Blu-ray, as this final season set presents a collection of episodes with reference-quality audio – many sections sounding better (or at least comparable) to big budget action movies.
This is the kind of audio that really will bring one's home theater set-up to life. Not only do we get low rumbling LFE use when the ships in this series do battle, but there's an overall immersive feel to the presentation – as even quieter conversations between the actors are often surrounded with the sounds of weather and wildlife. Dialogue throughout (primarily front and center) is crisp and clear, and the mix here is properly done – so one need never worry about the musical soundtrack or ambient noises drowning out the spoken word. This is about as good as 7.1 audio gets on Blu-ray, and I have no hesitation in giving this final season yet another reference-quality score in terms of the audio presentation.
In addition to the 7.1 lossless track, 2.0 Dolby Surround tracks are available for each episode in Spanish and French. Subtitles are an option in English SDH and Spanish.
While it would have been nice to get an exclusive or added bonus feature, Lionsgate has included all of the special features from the previous Blu-ray releases:
Season One, Disc Three
Season Two, Disc Three
Season Three, Disc Three
Season Four, Disc Three
Black Sails was a historical adventure TV series on Starz that not nearly enough people watched. This Complete Collection Blu-ray set features the same terrific HD video presentations, reference-quality 7.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtracks, and meager bonus features as the standalone Blu-ray sets, but is now housed in cleaner packaging and includes a Digital Copy for every single season. Overall, it's highly recommended for fans who don't own any of the previous seasons or for anyone who's looking for a solid adventure series to hold them over until the final season of Game of Thrones. Remember, TV on Blu-ray is a HUGE step up, quality-wise, over watching broadcasts. However, if you already own the previous sets, there's no reason to double-dip unless you're looking to tidy up your media shelf.