Why is the sky
Color is a interesting thing. While I don't have the scientific chops to recite how our eyes interpret it---after all, I was too busy staring at the clouds to pay attention in science class---it's always been an interesting (and often overlooked) part of life. Color can affect moods, from the calmness of blue to the attention-grabbing qualities of red. It has the ability to relax and revive, and it's something we shouldn't take for granted. To be honest, I can't fathom how films ever got along without them (although I appreciate the simplicity of black and white, of course).
As a natural born lover of art, I was introduced to the visual power of color from an early age. I knew all about the color wheel, "muted" colors, and how specific combinations would produce certain results. I enjoyed adding color to my artwork almost more than the drawing itself (and just for the record, I frequently colored outside the lines). Even today, recent advancements in computer-aided art programs give anyone the ability to see just how many colors actually exist. Without going into too much detail, it's safe to say there's virtually millions of colors out there.
Yes, even the hideous "burnt umber".
To get straight to the point, Colorcalm is an ongoing series of DVDs that celebrate color. With a unique presentation combining basic colors with various selections of music, Colorcalm is a unique breed of DVD that aims to relax and refresh your eyes and mind. This first volume, Skies, naturally allows the viewer to gaze at a series of cloud formations, which have been digitally altered to take the form of various colors (you choose the colors, of course). I can't really compare it to anything else I've seen, but it's pretty much like Koyaanisqatsi without the land. And with more color.
Additionally, there's a series of four different audio tracks (ambient, classical, natural, and silence) that you can play as the clouds roll by. Created and produced with the help of Pantone (a renowned color-matching company), this first volume of Colorcalm is certainly one of the most unique discs I've had the pleasure of viewing. I couldn't really find any complaints with the presentation, either: even with the admitted lack of variety in the given audio tracks, the viewer could easily substitute their favorite musical selection (hint: Black Sabbath doesn't work).
In all honesty, though---and as much as I love color---Skies is not for everyone. If your first thought after reading this is "Why should I pay $20 to look at some stinkin' clouds!?", you probably won't appreciate what this disc has to offer. Sure, it's a simple idea; but it's a simple idea that works, and the kind of idea you wished you'd thought of already. It's the rare DVD that actually aims to put the viewer to sleep. Heck, if nothing else, if even makes for a cool screen saver.
To be fair, though, the simplicity of this project is something of a double-edged sword: despite the many combinations of music and sound you can make, it's still something of a one-trick pony. Still, it's a great first effort from Atmos and a really unique viewing experience, and that makes this DVD a winner in my book. As if it isn't obvious by now, Colorcalm: Skies one of the year's most interesting releases and worth checking out. As far as a I know, the disc is only available through the Atmos website, so it's not something you can just run out and get (or rent, unfortunately). However, if you really love color and you're looking for something a little different, this just might be something you'll enjoy. In any case, let's see how this disc stacks up, shall we?
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality:
Skies is a DVD that aims to stimulate the senses, so it's a good thing that it delivers in the visual department. The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer looked great, free of dirt and (obviously) bursting with color. Image contrast was good, and---for the first time ever---I don't believe there were any black levels to speak of. Although there's a bit of grain present in the image, this was intentional and doesn't distract from the viewing experience at all. Overall, a fantastic-looking disc.
Likewise, the audio treatment was excellent. Presented in Dolby 2.0 Surround, the ambience could have been a touch stronger but still got the job done. As there was no dialogue present, the music came through clearly and really provided a great atmosphere. Just for the record, the four audio tracks listed above are fairly self-explanatory, but the "natural" track consists of a light wind.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging:
With unique packaging and menus, Skies stands out in more ways than one. The simple menus are smartly designed and easy to use, featuring smooth animation and subtle sound effects. Although I wish there were a way to alternate colors and audio tracks during the presentation, I guess the style format made it impossible. In light of traditional chapters, each color gets its own section, while there was no layer change detected during playback. The actual running time is arguable, as each color and audio track features varying duration (although the packaging claims it to be about 180 minutes total). Speaking of the packaging, the sharp-looking digipak really captured the feel of Colorcalm nicely. There was also a nice booklet included, which will be covered shortly.
Since this is anything but a typical DVD release, traditional bonus features have not been included. In light of this, the previously mentioned Booklet provides a number of short essays by producer Robert Norton. He offers some personal thoughts on the lasting impact of color, including the unique role that Pantone played in this project. It's a nice conpanion piece. While I'll still have to give this release below-average marks on principle, that shouldn't turn off any interested parties.
No plot, no character development, no script. No, it's not the latest Hollywood blockbuster...it's one of 2004's most unique DVD releases! While there's no doubt that this disc might not be up everyone's alley, it was definitely a welcome change from the norm. If you're a fan of color as much as I am, I'm sure you'll enjoy Colorcalm: Skies. The DVD itself offers a great technical presentation, and that's all this release really needs. Above all else, Skies makes for a nice, relaxing experience that might just brighten up your day...especially if you doze off in the middle. Highly Recommended.
Roy G. Biv Randy Miller III is an ordinary art instructor hailing from Harrisburg, PA. To fund his DVD viewing habits, he also works on freelance graphic design and illustration projects. In his free time, Randy enjoys slacking off, general debauchery, and writing things in third person.