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    Sea Symphony
    ABC/Roadshow Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 59 mins . G . PAL


    Sometimes you don’t want to watch a movie. Sometimes you don’t want to watch anything with a plot at all. You want to relax, but the latest Corrs disc isn’t the answer. What to do? You know what you want. You want new age music. And you want fish, and plenty of ‘em.

    If the above paragraph has you thinking “hey, that’s me” then this is the DVD you’ve been waiting for. Sea Symphony is not a documentary, nor is it any kind of attempt at pushing boundaries visually or aurally. It is, essentially, 59 minutes of fish set to music. The latest in a sort-of-series from ABC Video that also includes Rainforest Rhapsody and the infamous Bird Suite, Sea Symphony isn’t actually a symphony at all, nor does it contain any symphonic music. It does, however, contain plenty of sea. Shot and directed by underwater photographer Lin Sutherland, the disc takes us on a journey under the sea to meet some of its inhabitants. The mundane, the exotic and the downright strange are all represented - and are all soundtracked by some rather inoffensive (oh, okay, downright bland) new age “relaxation music” that features both original compositions by Robert Chomicz and some “reinterpretations” of classical piano pieces courtesy of Mr Vic Caspar. Those latter moments sound more like the MIDI files you get with every copy of Windows than anything else, but at least Chomicz’s music is a little more adventurous. The music does serve its intended purpose well - to provide inoffensive atmosphere without a hint of distraction. Just don’t expect the classical music heard on some of the other discs in this series.

    It’s a very polite ocean, this one. You won’t see any of the stars of this program going around killing and eating each other - if it’s the harsh realities of ocean life you’re after, you won’t find much to excite you here. The creatures depicted in Sea Symphony are happy to just swim around for the cameras - and if you’re having trouble figuring out what some of them are, fear not, because the producers have helpfully added on-screen titles for each sequence. “Turtle” says the screen helpfully as a turtle swims past. Later a large cod approaches. “Cod” says the on-screen title. And isn’t that a couple of big whales we see? “Whales”, says the disc, proving us right yet again.

    Some of the best footage here is also the scarcest - when Sutherland places her camera so we can see the water’s surface from underneath. One such moment depicts a huge wave breaking - from under the wave. It looks great, but that’s about as amped-up as this one gets. If you like both sea life and new age music, this disc will thrill you (gently, of course); otherwise it may serve as a potential cure for insomnia. Still, it’s not often you get to see an octopus running on the ocean floor as though it were a cartoon character, a sight that almost makes the entire hour worthwhile.


    Presented in its 4:3 production aspect ratio and of course not 16:9 enhanced, Sea Symphony looks reasonable on DVD with ever really crossing the line into the realm of “spectacular”. There’s just a little too much video noise throughout, and that noise gets seriously out of control in the “Hammerhead Shark” section. Of course, this also makes for a difficult video compression job, and even though a very high average bitrate has been used here some serious compression problems do turn up in the form of blockiness and loss of background detail (the encoder used, interestingly, has produced a constantly see-sawing bitrate count that peaks exactly 5 times per minute - it never follows the actual program material).

    Audio, meanwhile, is provided in Dolby Digital 5.0 and 2.0 - but it’s worth noting that none of the music here was actually mixed for surround sound. The 5.0 track places the stereo mix (with the channels reversed) in the front left and right speakers and the same stereo mix again in the rear channels, the centre channel only used occasionally for what appears to be the sound of a toilet flushing. As a result, there’s no real surround sound on offer here.

    There are no extras here, unless you count the interminable and annoying ABC Video promo trailer that appears at the top of every one of their DVDs to be an “extra”.

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  •   And I quote...
    "It’s a very polite ocean, this one."
    - Anthony Horan
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Sony DVP-NS300
    • Receiver:
          Sony STR-AV1020
    • Speakers:
          Klipsch Tangent 500
    • Surrounds:
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Monster s-video
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