In 10 Words or Less
Watch fish on your TV...yup
Loves: My big-ass TV
Dislikes: Taking care of fish
Hates: Bad "low-budget" design
A while back, I reviewed a DVD called Naked Fish, which was a big disappointment, as it failed to be the virtual fish tank it was promoted as. Instead of converting your television into a tank, it just presented a Cousteau-style video of fish. So I was leery about wasting my time in approaching "Ambient Water." Once popping the disc in my DVD player and hitting play though, I found my fears were unfounded, as Vat19 did a nice job in bringing fish to my living room.
This is apparently the latest in a series of "Ambient Water" DVDs, thought there's no volume number to tell you so. This one has 10 scenes of fish doing their thing, which include freshwater and saltwater tanks, as well as one with ocean footage that doesn't quite fit with the rest of the video. Eight of the tanks are exactly what you'd want from a virtual fish tank, with a static camera and little fishies swimming around. The ninth is a plant/coral focused segment. This apparently would have been too boring to the producer, as it's cut together with footage of some crustaceans. There's about 190 minutes of footage in all, so ditching this scene, and the "briny bottom" scene, which are 40 minutes combined, isn't the end of the world.
Of the remaining tanks, the content was essentially the same, though the one featuring clown fish (like the famous Nemo), was particularly colorful. There's not much else I can tell you about this DVD, as I don't really know what kinds of fish these are, and I don't have a big background in tanks. What I can tell you is that this DVD is exactly what I was looking for when I reviewed "Naked Fish," something to display on my big-ass TV when I'm not reviewing DVDs.
Packed in a standard keepcase with a Vat19 catalog, the disc looks pretty low-rent from the cover art. The DVD has an animated main menu, with a play-all option, scene selections, set-up and special features. Audio options include a saltwater sound track, a freshwater sound track, coral reef sounds or music, while you can loop your video selection endlessly or just once. One of the best features is the option to create your own playlist of the scenes, with up to six slots. You can also select to play the whole disc randomly, watch the saltwater tanks or watch the freshwater tanks. These discs certainly do a lot with user options to make an individual experience.
The disc makes a big deal out of the fact that it was shot on HD video, but looking at the anamorphic widescreen footage doesn't leave me very impressed. Yes, the color is nice and the detail is good, but there's a bit of softness to the overall image and fine detail isn't easy to spot. If it wasn't for the HD hype, you would be tempted to say this video is pretty nice, as there's no obvious digital artifacts (aside from some light pixelization along thin lines) and no dirt or damage. You just wish it was sharper.
The audio tracks are presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 on the sound effects, and 2.0 on the music. While the use of the side and rear speakers is nice in presenting the bubbling water, it felt too artificial, like a produced clip instead of natural sound. The music bed is standard light instrumental, and doesn't distract or annoy in its center-focused presentation.
There's 10 minutes of bonus footage of water-related scenes (which oddly can only be watched with the fish tank sounds, but no natural sound), a credits screen, and a selection of commercials for other Vat19 DVDs, which should probably win some sort of award for cheesy marketing excellence. In addition, there's a pretty nice help featurette, which explains just how to use all the options on the DVD.
Pop this disc in your DVD-ROM drive, and you can access wallpapers for your computer.
The Bottom Line
If you like fish, but can't be bothered to take care of them, this is probably the next best thing. This is the kind of disc you can just turn on and enjoy like digital wallpaper. The disc, though not perfect, shows a lot of thought toward the user experience, and included enough footage and options to kill a good amount of time. Check it out at night with the room dark for the best effect.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or his convention blog called Conning Fellow
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.