The notion of reviewing what is essentially a screen saver for a publication like Audiophilereview may seem odd at first. However, given that program comes to you in high resolution form on Blu-ray, has a multitude of audio visual options and also benefits a fantastic organization, I figured some of you might appreciate it.
And besides, its fun!
Now with The Art of Nature: Jellies, you can have twelve spectacular species of Jellyfish captured in 4K "Ultra High Definition" (according to packaging notes) swimming and bobbing around on your big screen TV. I purchased this recently on a visit to the ever-wonderful Monterey Bay Aquarium out here in Northern California, where they have an ongoing and always spectacular exhibit of many different types of Jellyfish.
While this sort of screen saver product may seem silly for those of you who have LCD TVs (or those of you who view on your computer), a program like this makes some good sense for those of us with Plasma TVs to help clear the screen of any image burn. Or, simply to turn the big ugly black box that is your big screen TV into a piece of living breathing (if you will) art work.
Its a good idea.
I find this a handy disc to have around and will no doubt be using it next time I have people over for dinner. The visuals are jaw-dropping gorgeous (probably 1080p) and the audio -- even though only stereo -- is just ducky for background music purposes. On the disc are more than two hours of visuals which automatically loop creating a seamless display of your Jellies of choice.
Or if you go into the bonus features, in addition to some cool Jellyfish options, you can pick the "Anemone World" mode which shows wonderful images of mesmerizing creatures and their symbiotic Clown Fish friends (the only fish that can go in and around and anemone without getting stung). If you don't want to see fish moving around your screen, there is a slide show mode as well which is pleasant enough too.
All of the video options give you the choice of three types of music: "Chill Out," "Classical "and "New Age." Of the three, the Classical music fares surprising poorly, not matching the surreal flavor of the floating jellyfish. its really the choice of music that fails here, as it seems to fall to the more cliche and dainty side of classical music (string quartets ala Mozart and Vivaldi, piano sonatas, etc.). I think if they had chosen some more dynamic music that fit the images better it would be better -- music by modern composers like Philip Glass perhaps or even some ballet music that would sync with the gently flowing sea creatures a bit bitter than the sometimes hyper, note-filled selections presented here.
As it stands, the "Chill Out" mode features the sort of generic instrumental hip hop flavored music you sometimes hear in stylish hipster hotels in LA and the like. The "New Age" music, while adequate falls more on the mainstream side of things... Personally, I would love to hear some of Brian Eno's ambient works with these images; however, don't go into this expecting to hear the sort of grandiose ambiance of Eno's Apollo" Atmospheres and Soundtracks (1983) or "Wind on Water" (from Evening Star, his collaboration with Robert Fripp from 1975) on Jellies.
No, this is more of the kind of new age-y kind of stuff you hear in gift shops or while getting a massage at a resort in the wine country... Its not bad, but it is what it is.
That said, this all sounds respectable fidelity-wisely and is probably (I would guess) CD quality audio. Pleasant and effective enough for the sort of background role it would play in most households. Nothing harsh sounding and all very well balanced and pretty. I mean this in a good way.
The company that makes this blu-ray disc is called Artcast and they have a lot of different screen saver programs you can chose from, some designed to stream via Roku boxes and GoogleTV. You can check them out at www.artcast.tv.
But back to the real stars of this program and the reason I bought the disc in the first place: The Monterey Bay Aquarium. I can't say enough about this place. It is one of the great aquariums of the world and simply breathtaking in its scope and presentation. If you are coming to California, you really need to make time to visit this place (and the whole Monterey Bay Area for that matter -- Carmel, Point Lobos, Big Sur, etc.). More than just a big fish tank, the aquarium features (from their website) "more than 35,000 creatures representing over 550 species... With nearly 200 exhibits in all, the Aquarium is a window to the wonders of the ocean." The Monterey Bay Aquarium is an invaluable resource to educate the world on how our ecosystem works, and how mankind has been impacting it with pollution and other ills and offering ways we can all help the preserve our planet on a day to day basis.
I can't say enough about The Monterey Bay Aquarium.
You need to see it. And until you get there, the Jellies Blu-ray may well be your best introduction to some of the magic to be found in their hallowed walls.
Mark Smotroff is a freelance writer and avid music collector who has worked for many years in marketing communications for the consumer electronics, pro audio and video games industries, serving clients including DTS, Sega, Sony, Sharp, AT&T and many others. www.smotroff.com Mark has written for EQ Magazine, Mix Magazine, Goldmine/DISCoveries Magazine, BigPictureBigSound.com, Sound+Vision Magazine and HomeTechTell.com. He is also a musician / composer whose songs have been used in TV shows such as Smallville and Men In Trees as well as films and documentaries. www.ingdom.com Mark is currently rolling out a new musical he's written: www.dialthemusical.com.