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Visions of Scotland
Visions of Scotland is basically a video tour book. Imagine a helicopter tour of Scotland, minus the vibration and noise of the rotors, and with an affable local guide describing the sights as you pass over them, and you'll have Visions of Scotland to a T.
The main program, which runs 56 minutes, is an entirely aerial tour of the bonny country of Scotland. While at first I was unsure how well a birds'-eye view would work without on-the-ground camera support, by the end I was convinced that the Visions filmmakers know what they're doing. In addition to broad overviews of the Scottish landscape, we also get fairly close views of important buildings and landmarks, with the helicopter-mounted camera skimming close to the ground or near the buildings. The overhead view offers a delightful sense of grasping the "big picture", showing off aspects of town layout and building design that would be impossible to appreciate fully from the ground.
The program tends to emphasize the towns and cities of Scotland, showing off its streets, monuments, and famous buildings; however, the rural landscapes and beautiful countryside are not neglected. The Scottish Highlands are given particular attention, and their beauty comes across very well here.
Appropriately enough, the voiceover narration is delivered by a narrator with a delicious Scottish accent. The narration provides an interesting commentary of facts about the places that Visions of Scotland visits, so that viewers learn a bit about Scottish history, culture, and geography along the way. It's not an information-packed narration, as it's just a loosely linked series of miscellaneous facts with stretches of music-only footage interspersed, but the viewer will still emerge from Visions of Scotland knowing a bit more about Scotland than when he or she started (as well as appreciating it more). The one thing that I wish had been included at some point is a map: it would have been nice to see where the different cities, towns, rivers, and lakes mentioned in the program are in relation to each other.
Visions of Scotland appears in anamorphic widescreen, at the 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The image quality is good in the large scale, with natural-looking colors and good contrast. It's very pixellated, though, and there are noticeable artifacts when the camera pans quickly over data-heavy images like forests or fields of grass.
The stereo soundtrack is good, providing a clear platform for the voiceover narration. The music is handled well, and everything sounds clean and pleasant.
There's a 24-minute segment of bonus footage. It's more of the same lovely camerawork, skimming over beautiful Scottish scenery, with mellow music in the background. Unfortunately, there's no voiceover narration, so while we're given the names of the places on the screen, we don't get to learn anything about them.
Visions of Scotland is a mellow and relaxing look at the beautiful sights of Scotland. The hour-long program goes by quickly, full of interesting things to look at and lovely landscapes to appreciate. It's not really a documentary, since its informative content is fairly low-key (along the lines of what you'll find in a travel guide), but it's a nice introduction to a lovely country. It's enjoyable to watch, but probably not something that has a lot of repeat viewing value, so I'll give it a positive "rent it" suggestion for prospective virtual travelers.