Mill Reef // 1998 // 80 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Norman Short (Retired) // May 9th, 2001
The most beautiful planet in the universe.
Earthlight is another in a series of discs meant to show beautiful images accompanied by meditation music, in the same genre (for lack of a better term) as Coral Sea Dreaming and Aquaria. This time it is the planet Earth that is featured, as seen from hundreds of miles up. Over 80 minutes of footage shot from the Space Shuttle looks at Earth from space, with subtitles telling you what you're seeing. I get pretty much the same thing from NASA television on my satellite, but the images here are more pristine and there is that trance music to add to the value of the disc. The disc looks and sounds great, but this isn't everyone's cup of tea.
We've all seen images of Earth from space, at least on camera. Certainly it is a beautiful planet as seen from orbit, and one could wax philosophical about the lack of geographical boundaries that we artificially apply. I know I'm hardly alone in wishing I could have made a trip up there myself; and I have to say that I applaud the recent Russian launch of a wealthy American who paid his own way to the International Space Station. NASA may be up in arms about it, but we can offset the costs of the space program somewhat and offer at least the hope of a real visit to space for those who wouldn't otherwise get a chance. One of my biggest hopes is we find a way to make low-cost launches into orbit, greatly expanding the opportunities for such travel. But until now we have to get our space fix second hand.
Earthlight goes a long way toward providing that fix. The images are absolutely gorgeous; the image quality is excellent. The deep blues of the South Pacific are then met by the deep browns and golds of the Saharan desert. Over the 80-minute presentation most of the Earth is covered by a pass.
For those who like to meditate or just sit in reverie, the light classical music will provide a nice background to sit back and forget about the day. It's nicely played, the sound quality is likewise excellent, and the music is eminently forgettable. This is background noise, but done well.
There are several options for viewing. You can put any one scene or all of them in continuous loop, or you can view the tracking maps that show where the Shuttle was when it shot each one. You can get the subtitled locations in eight languages as well. If you have a DVD-ROM drive you get even more out of the disc; you can use the scenes as video screensavers on your computer, and even download new ones from their website, for which I've provided a link.
All that said, there are aspects of the disc I didn't care for, and I prefer the other discs I've had a chance to review like Aquaria. The real problem is the lack of a common frame of reference; often it is hard to actually see just what the subtitles tell you is below the camera. North is a constantly changing direction for each shot, and I found myself twisting my head trying to see the land masses as I would know them from a globe. Cloud cover is beautiful to look at, but all too often it totally obscures the land below, making Madagascar look no different from South America. I would have liked more shots from clear days where you could actually see the continents below. The shots are from pretty high up, but sometimes not high enough; I'd have like to be able to see the whole continents instead of only portions of them.
Space junkies will likely enjoy the disc, at least for a one time perusal. Some will want to purchase the disc, but I found it not quite as compelling for repeat viewings as the others of its kind I've reviewed in the past.
I don't believe I have the jurisdiction to bring charges against the planet itself, so that case is moot. Mill Reef Entertainment is acquitted for doing a top-notch technical job in bringing these images and sounds to our living room.
Review content copyright © 2001 Norman Short; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Mill Reef
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Music Only)
Running Time: 80 Minutes
Release Year: 1998
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Tracking Maps
* Various Loop and Selective Viewing Options
* Official Site