metamorphmuses | 07/10/1999
(2 out of 5 stars)
"I thought that because of Stephen Hawking, this was going to be great (I wish I could see more of his direct work on the film). It was pretty bad. First it looked as if it was filmed through a very dark blue filter. It was very hard to see. I thought my tv was broken. Also, the same graphic of an exploding star is used from everything to supernovas and blackholes, it is quite irritating. The information is poor at best, it covered 1/100 of the infomation in A Brief History of Time, a very good book (I never saw the video). Don't buy this, it is not worth it, try to catch it on PBS if you are interested, or rent it from your library."
Lack of Visual Aids
metamorphmuses | Berkeley, CA United States | 05/10/2001
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Stephen Hawking's Universe covers all the important points in Cosmology, but when one buys a video documentary on the subject, one expects more than just lucid explanations by talking heads (or even a head that uses a computer to talk). I was disappointed that for all the good work put into the making of SHU, the visual component was so poor; why not just make it into an audio book instead? Most of the time, throughout the entire series, the same set of bland, information-free starfield images and lame optical tricks (we're not even talking cheap computer animation!) accompany narration of (relatively) deep, conceptual scientific ideas. The rare instances in which camera footage is included -- say, to show a scene at an earth-based telescope -- quench the viewer's thirst for visual aid only long enough to underscore the series' basic dearth of such resources. Better luck next time, Stephen."
Good Narration, Shame About the Visuals
metamorphmuses | 06/21/2001
(2 out of 5 stars)
"This video series covers all the basic ideas of cosmology in an interesting and easy to understand manner, with a strong historical focus. The narration, describing this, is very interesting and well thought out. However, the visual aspect is appalling. Most of it consists of out of fucus shots of things that have nothing to do with the program, irrelvant images of star fields, shots of people walking around, shots of empty rooms and other irrelevances. When people are interviewed, they are often shown in very dim surroundings, making their faces hard to see. All in all, the visual elements are just hopeless and add nothing to the video. Towards the end, I didn't even bother looking at the screen but just listened to the audio. I lost nothing by doing this. All in all, Professor Hawking might as well have written another book."
Informative and entertaining - a well produced series!
James Weber | Adelaide, SA, Australia. | 04/24/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I must admit that I was a bit apprehensive about the quality of this DVD collection before even seeing it. Being an owner of Carl Sagan's Cosmos series on DVD, and a great admirer of the man and his series, I must admit I had an inherent bias and felt that I would be hard-pressed finding anything else that was in the same league.I was mistaken. This DVD collection presents the main points anyone should know about the universe. I say "main" due simply to the fact that this collection does not go into great detail on several topics, as does Sagan's Cosmos. It focuses on a limited field of topics (which is understandable, since it is only three discs) and explains them thoroughly. It is not brief, yet Hawking does not waste our time with "waffle". It is concise and does not err in explaining details correctly. Being of a science-trained background, I would like to take the opportunity of adding that I did not find anything questionable or dubious in the subject matter. (It was, after all, written and edited by Stephen Hawking.) Viewers with no physics, or even basic science education, may find this collection slightly hard to understand in certain sections. That's not to say that the episodes need a Degree in Physics to be able to understand them either! A high-school level of Physics would allow you to comfortably understand everything that is said. Nevertheless, if you have no training in this area, do not fear... you might misunderstand one or two terms or concepts, but whole episodes do not focus on just one point, so you will not find any episode completely bewildering. (I would find this as a positive. The collection then serves as an educational set and may even influence the viewer to take-on personal study or research the topic more thoroughly. This in my opinion, can never be a bad thing, and thus the set becomes a more valuable item in one's DVD collection.)There are times during the episodes when Hawking attempts to be witty. These are effective attempts and often "soften" the show's theory-based nature. At times, one might even say Hawking takes the opportunity to "brag" about his many achievements and accomplishments, which in my opinion all adds to the enjoyment of the show. The presenter of such a show needs a bit of personality, or else, dare I say, it becomes boring.There are SHORT role-plays and interesting interviews mainly from American intelligentsia. Do not expect long and entertaining role-plays though. The episodes consist mainly of interviews and people (or Hawking) presenting facts or their opinions. (Those of you who have seen Sagan's Cosmos will know what I mean by "entertaining role-plays".)Perhaps I AM a little biased when it comes to this type of show. It is always in my mind to keep comparing shows of this nature to Sagan's Cosmos. In this case, if I do, it does little harm. This is a well-produced series and I would give it a high recommendation. This series is best suited to people with a keen interest in the topic, those wishing to "brush-up" on their universal knowledge, or simply those shopping for an interesting (and educational) present to give their friends or relatives."