In 10 Words or Less
Pretty pictures on your TV...the non-moving kind
Loves: Art, my big-ass TV
Dislikes: Black bars on my TV
Hates: Bad, "low-budget" design
I'd love to hang some beautiful classic art on my walls, but as I am not a millionaire, I have to settle for the nice watercolor print up in my living room. I can supplement the print though, with "Ambient Art," a DVD presentation of classic art. Much like those digital frames that flip your pictures for you, this disc turns your TV into a digital museum, flipping through some very well-known (and some more obscure) works of art by some very well-known impressionist painters, including Cezanne, Degas, Gauguin, Manet, Monet, Morisot, Pissarro, Renoir, Sisley, Seurat and Van Gogh.
The disc provides two viewing modes, a movie mode and a slideshow mode. The movie mode is an animated presentation, which zooms in and moves around the piece, scoring the whole thing with classical music. The individual segments run between four and eight minutes each, for a total of almost 70 minutes of art, which can be watched in a continuous loop.
If you want to see more of the art, the slideshow mode presents all the paintings from the movie mode, plus some additional work, which can be flipped through with your remote or timed to change. Each painting also includes an informative overlay that can be toggled on or off. If you want to really get a good look at a piece, this is the way to do it.
If you enjoy impressionist art, and don't want to hang a print on your wall, this disc gives you a decent way to display some art in your house, though the inflexible orientation of your TV will decrease the effect of the presentation.
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 two play options, an instructions link, set-up and previews. There are two audio options on this disc,and plenty of ways to watch the disc, including artist selections and user-selected playlists. The set-up option allows you to choose between a full-frame and anamorphic widescreen presentation.
The paintings on this DVD are in nice shape, with quality color and decent detail. It's unlikely any DVD could present these paintings in a way to truly display the brushwork, but to just see the paintings, the presentation here will do. It's a bit annoying that the paintings can't fill your screen, allowing it to act like a frame, but as someone who preaches original aspect ratio only, I appreciate the effort to present these paintings correctly.
The audio tracks are presented in Dolby Digital 2.0, which works fine, creating a center-channel soundfield that's strong and clear.
The main extra on this DVD is a commentary track that's available for each artist in movie mode. Though it doesn't run the length of the segment, the anonymous female commentator provides a good background to the art.
There's also an instructional segment that explains how to use the DVD, and previews of other Vat19 DVDs, which are oddly interesting in a cheesy way.
The Bottom Line
Though the prime purpose for this DVD would be to use a flat-panel monitor as a digital art frame, the fact that the art doesn't always go horizontal makes that a limited option. Instead, the nicely delivered art and informative commentary might appeal more to art students and enthusiasts interested in learning more about the impressionists. Either way, the amount of options and art makes this a good educational and aesthetic DVD.
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 follow him on Twitter
*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.