THE AMBIENT SERIES of DVDs
Jumby Bay Studios is a small studio very effectively filling in the need for productions on DVD other than feature films and concerts. They have produced series on Education: Accidental Inventions, The 14th Amendment, Public Speaking; on Good Golf, Boating Tips, Learn the Hula, and Art for Kids. Their new Ambient Series takes the already-produced idea of the continuous fireplace and the TV aquarium and runs with it. All the DVDs are beautifully photographed – shot in hi-def and transferred with excellent resolution, with a great variety of scenes to choose from on each DVD and many different combinations of music and sound effects to go with the delightful images. Each DVD is optimized for either widescreen 16:9 or standard 4:3 format to exactly fit your display, and the sound is all Dolby Digital 5.1 surround. Here’s a quick run-down of the seven DVDs which were provided to us:
Ambient Water – The Ultimate Video Aquarium: I recall seeing at a computer show a fantastically realistic pseudo aquarium software application which featured individual exotic fish which you could purchase and install. And if you failed to feed them daily (electronically of course), when you went into your office first thing in the morning you would find them floating on the top of the aquarium on your monitor. Ambient Water is not like that; plus it’s a lot cheaper. Instead, it provides you 11 different underwater scenes running from ten to 30 minutes each. I especially liked the one following what looked like a giant crawfish around on his rounds of the undersea neighborhood. You can loop them for continuous play if you wish, and choose from various water sounds, other sound effects, or music, or a mix. The scenes include freshwater, saltwater and coral reefs. You can build your own custom playlists of both the visuals and the audio accompaniment. There is a bonus of dozens of desktop wallpapers which you can transfer to your PC if you don’t mind your word processing files and spreadsheets getting all wet…
Ambient Calm – Scenes of Serenity: This was one of my personal favorites of the series – 14 different scenes to display on your TV and take you into a more calm and relaxing place. My choices were the two cloud sequences – one in daytime and the other at sunset – absolutely gorgeous. There are also waterfalls, fluttering butterflies, sunrises on the beach, rain falling, grain blowing in the wind, a flight over sand dunes. I once spent a great deal of time shooting a long sequence on my 35mm camera of a sunset in Tahiti. Then carefully programming it to “Sunset” by Delius, with very slow dissolves between two slide projectors. What a lot of work! This DVD’s sunset thru the palm trees on the beach wipes it out. The music on most of these DVDs offers choices between jazz and classical, with and without sound effects mixed in. There are also over 70 PC wallpapers provided for calming backgrounds to your daily work.
Ambient Sleep – The Sights and Sounds That Help You Sleep:
Well, once you’re really calm you should be able to get to sleep, right? Some of us – many actually – have serious sleep deprivation problems, and have tried everything to get a proper night’s rest. This DVD could be a most functional resource for such folks; it has been for my wife. Don’t laugh at the cover art of the little cute sheep jumping the fence – that’s one of the 19 sleep-inducing choices on this DVD! And over the fence hovers a little over with numbers displayed in it – actually counting from 1 to whatever! The idea is to chose a suitable subject to knock you out for the night, setting your equipment with a timer to turn off after a certain time. The choices include Space, Clouds, Fields, Rain forest, Autumn, Sheep, Fish Ponds, Sunset, Bubbles, Lava, Abstract patterns, Lava-lamp like patterns, and more. The provided sounds include desert, campfire, rain, waterfalls, harbor, fields, forest, beach, traffic (traffic??) and more. You can pair up any of the 19 scenes with any of the 16 different audio combinations and end up with an unending series of sleepscapes.
Ambient Art – Impressionism – The World’s Greatest Paintings; In Your Living Room:
This DVD is a bit different from the others. It features over 340 paintings from 1 Impressionist painters, making your video display an exclusive art gallery. The artists are Van Gogh, Renoir, Pissarro, Sisley and Seurat. You can select to display all of them for a given time on the screen, or you can select your favorite artist and just display his paintings. The Top Menu gives you choice between a slide show or movie. The slide show displays the entire painting, with letterboxing of course for all those which are not of a 16:9 ratio dimension. The movie option zooms in and out on each painting for more interest and excitement, but in the process sometimes loses a portion of some paintings. With this option you can select an audio commentary on each artist, recorded by an art expert, very similar to the recorded commentaries top art galleries provide you for a price. Or you can just relax and have some great music of Mozart or Rossini accompany your own perusal of the great paintings. The highest 9Mbit encoding was used to provide the best resolution achievable on NTSC DVDs today. If you have a large screen (32″ or larger) display, you will wig out at the impressive display of this great art on your screen! What would Van Gough have thought of this?
Ambient Flowers – Ultimate Video Garden & Reference DVD:
Over 300 different flowers are sent in closeup in this dream garden DVD, which runs over two hours. The clarity and detail in the blossoms is amazing; even those with black thumbs and no interest in the horticultural will be mesmerized by these images. OVer 150 reference documents are included – you can select with just the pristine display of the images or under them a detailed explanation of the species, family, genus etc. By a simple click on your remote you can instantly access ID and details of growing characteristics of the particular flower. These images seem to go with almost any of the music better than almost any of the others. Plus there are over 350 desktop wallpapers which you can easily transfer to your PC or Mac.
Ambient Orchids – Ultimate Photo Gallery: Let’s get specific about flowers now: Here’s just orchids – only orchids! 380 hi-res shots of 240 different orchids of every type in their natural habitat, to be exact. They are displayed without any captions, but if you just tap your remote control at any time you will see their names. There is interactive zooming in on all the orchids whenever you want it, plus a looping mode and custom playlists. An Orchids Overview provides details about the whole history of orchids and more. The music selections are all by Chopin, which somehow seems very appropriate for the orchid images – spectacular, virtuosic, but with plenty of obsessive frilly stuff here and there. The DVD-ROM bonus features over 375 different desktop wallpapers – that’s an awful lot of orchid images!
Ambient Fire – The Ultimate Video Fireplace: The local TV stations which used to air for hours live shots of a roaring fireplace at Christmastime were probably the originators of this idea. This DVD is not the first fireplace DVD but it has to be the best to date. It runs over three hours with every sort of lovely wood-burning fireplace, plus closeups of just candles and just the flames themselves. Nine of the selections will burn endlessly on a loop and there are customizable playlists allowing you to mix and match both images and sounds. The music choices span not just classical and jazz but also Christmas music plus the expected crackling sounds of the actual fires, and it’s all in surround sound DD 5.1. The Holiday Fire has some Christmas ornaments and toys nearby to get the viewer in the holiday mood with appropriate music selected for the soundtrack.
Dunno what ‘ya wanna watch on TV? Slip in one of these Ambient DVDs and free yourself of bad acting, dumb stories, commercials, you name it. Meditate on the great images and relax. [www.Vat19.com]
– John Sunier