Insomniacs may find this disc the greatest boon to their existence since Sominex. Judge Bill Gibron will tell you this and more, just as soon as we can wake him up.
New Age Ambient Relax-acizer? Or Sominex-related claptrap? You decide.
The advent of digital versatile disc technology—DVD for those of you so abbreviationally inclined—has meant a great many innovations for aficionados of media multiples. Where else but on this small slab of aluminum and plastic could you find your favorite cult TV show, complete with an angles feature offering script pages, rehearsal footage, and a collection of bloopers, all viewable as an alternative soundtrack allows the actors and creators to pontificate on the production while another element spouts out text-based trivia across the bottom of the screen? VHS never allowed you to freeze-frame, in pristine, perfect clarity, on a well-remembered mini-moment of celebrity nudity, so that via the push of a keyboard button, you could upload a JPEG file to your hard drive and instantly add the scandalous segment to your latest blog entry. Laserdisc dropped the ball, being too bulky and basic to offer anything of real value except a better sound and video experience. And when we eventually move on to the newest innovation, it will certainly trade some of DVD's better qualities for a geek-freak desire for more lines of resolution or pixels per pound.
Still, for every improvement championed by this portable, powerful format, there are those willing to use a throwback mentality for their product concepts. Take Atmos Pictures, for example. Their initial foray into the DVD market is a strange yet serene home theater screen saver advertised as a combination mood enhancer and health provider. Colorcalm—Skies is an interesting idea, but like most outsider inspirations, it's kind of hard to envision the demographic dying for something this somber. Featuring 20-minute loops of very evocative cloudy sky shots (no horizons or other land markers, just air and water vapor), and utilizing a creative color shading process, you can watch a continuous pigmentation of the atmosphere as background sounds (electronic mood music, classical orchestrations, nature noises, and absolute silence) soothe you into snoozeville. On the company's Web site, www.colorcam.com, there is a very potent piece of propaganda about how Colorcalm, in association with tint titan Pantone (whose rainbow brightness we will, naturally, have to take their word for), is setting the pace for environmental and interior ambience, all in an effort to make the world a better place. And to think of all those organizations out there trying to wipe out poverty, injustice, and human rights violations. All they need is an old Christmas tree color wheel and a copy of Brian Eno's Music for Airports.
All kidding aside, the scientific and professional plaudits for this product are a little hard to believe. Smacking of those old medicine show shills, Colorcalm—Skies claims to be experimentally proven (with lots of context-less quotes to back up these assertions and assumptions) to work as an exercise in relaxation, a stimulant for tired minds, a comforting respite from the real world, and a great way to set the mood at parties. But from a purely pedestrian viewpoint, this seems like a Rube Goldberg response to the simplest of ideas. After working your way through a menu that gives a choice of six color schemes (everything from multihued to plain purple) and four sound settings, you press a "begin" button and the languid lulling presentation begins. Puffy marshmallow clouds form fun, fluid shapes. The tint-specific sky peeks and pokes through the foggy whiteness, as magnificent music fills the air (the soundtrack is one of the very best aspects of the entire presentation). If you choose a specific color, the gradations of said shade are slowly revealed. Yellows move from the brightest lemons to the palest pastels. Reds radiate from fire engine to plush pinks. Greens are verdant and jade, while blues blend in various cobalt combinations. After about 20 minutes, a layer change occurs and the whole schmegegge starts over again.
Is it relaxing? You bet. It is very easy to catch 20 to 25 of the 40 winks one requires looking at this high-priced stratospheric lava lamp. Muscles do indeed melt, and worries flutter and fly away like gnats near a summertime cornfield. Since the disc was originally developed as a mercantile atmosphere enhancer for high-end retailers like the Conran Shop in Manhattan (where you can buy an Aspen sofa for $2850, or a stainless steel oyster glove for $290) and SHOW, the "lifestyle store" in Los Angeles (where the prices are so persnickety they won't even show them to you online), there is a definite "set it and forget it" ideal to its form and function. Colorcalm likes to call this a "non-traditional way" to use your TV setup. Individuals without disposable income flying out of their floopus may simply consider it a royal waste of time.
This really is nothing more than a heavenly test pattern for your television set—a concept that, at its core, seems a tad daft. You could imagine it as a mood enhancer or sentiment amplifier, but after about 10 minutes sans party or partner, the only emotion that will be generated is frustration. Individuals with ADD, a hatred of meteorology, or a desire to save power and picture tube will find this frivolity the cutting edge of conspicuous consumption. But in a marketplace that's never gone broke underestimating the gullibility of the consumer, it is easy to see this digital diversion becoming a fashionable accessory in the holistic households in those far-off fame palaces of Aspen and Hollywood.
Technically, you couldn't ask for better sound or picture quality. The sky-based scenario offers up a prosaic palette of wonders, each amazing tint and hue captured in pristine 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen glory. The balance between the pigment and the starkness of the white is perfectly balanced, and there is just enough contrast to keep everything from merging into a foggy blur. The Dolby Digital Stereo sound is also exceptional, providing a near-immersive experience throughout all the aural choices. The best auditory element is the "natural noises" track, utilizing negative space and a good amount of separation to really pull off the outdoors motif. Of the two musical choices, the nod goes to "ambient," only because it doesn't drag out the same old formulaic orchestral pieces we've heard far too many times before. While the silence option is interesting—especially if you intend to program your own mega-mix behind the cirrus circulations—you'll definitely enjoy the varying sonic situations present on this DVD.
Colorcalm believes that colorful lives are a right, not a privilege. It's part of their corporate mantra and marketing. They even promise more titles in the future, centering on water (good choice) and places (hmmm…). All cynicism aside, this DVD is nothing more than a nutritionally conscious piece of eye and ear candy, guaranteed to leave no lasting impression on your intelligence or your aesthetic. Colorcalm—Skies is a nice idea, nominally achieved.
Atmos Pictures may be onto something. It is conceivable that, sometime in the future, when people are sick and tired of using their DVD players to watch films, view their own homemade discs, and listen to music, they'll want a tepid time waster like this. Until then, approach this digital doze-inducer with caution. Any product that can provoke this much drowsiness without a prescription is just looking to get banned by the FDA.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Atmos Pictures
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