I am about to recommend some DVD's that I bet you will play over and over, but that I doubt you will watch all the way through.
The videos I am talking about are not designed to entertain, at least no in the way that a movie or music video is. Their closest analogues are the ambient music of Brian Enco, and the compositions of master minimalist Steve Reich. They are created not to dominate your attention, but to wash over you, to keep your sensory organs lightly stimulated as you go about your activities.

David Goodman, president of DVD International, a leading distributor of these videos, calls them "ambient video" or "plasma art." The videos are designed to spread spectacular imagery through you home by playing over you TVs when they are not in use. There is nothing beautiful about a blank TV screen. But when the screen fills with exotic reef fish or scenes of Bavarian forest, it adds visual interest to even the most sterile interior.
Of course, these videos are not made just for plasma TVs, but plasma seems the perfect technology to convey their images. Its picture does not wash out in normal room light, and its slim, flat chassis has more in common aesthetically with picture frames than it does with big-box rear-projection TV set.

Many of these discs have menu buttons that make it easy to loop them, so you can play them indefinitely without fussing with the "chapter repeat " function on your DVD player. The discs also provide light music soundtracks to compliment the onscreen images.
DVD International takes extra steps to make these discs extra -appealing. All of them have 5.1-channel Dolby digital and DTS soundtracks: in Goodman's words, "You can listen to them without watching, or watch without listening." Some are produced in 480-line progressive-scan video at 30 frames per second, which looks a little better than typical movie DVDs produced at 24 frames per second.

I recently went through DVD International's "plasma art" discs and picked out several favorites, which I will explain in detail. Did I watch any of them intently all the way through? No. But I enjoyed having the images on screen while I was writing this article, in the same way I love having a few '70s CTI jazz CDs in the changer when I am cooking.
Here are my favorites, the best listed first. Check out the complete catalog at www.dvdintenational.com

THE COMPLETE AQUARIUM COLLECTION: T his is the Sgt. Pepper's of plasma art videos, the most must-have title of the bunch. This two-disc set offers five different tanks. You can choose a static shot of an entire tank, to male your TV look like a real fish tank: or close-ups of the fish. The fish are beautiful- no neon tetras here. You can choose from two relaxing music soundtracks, surf (waves crashing, not Beach Boys tunes) or bubble sounds (bubbles in water, not InSync's latest hits). It is as soothing as a real fish tank- minus any cleaning chores.

NIGHT MUSIC VOL. 1 No high concept behind this one- just beautiful shot after beautiful shot of forest, mountains, and seascapes, set to classical music. The look and sound conform to a European theme, making the disc perfect plasma art for traditional homes. For my taste, Night Music Vol. 1 is the best-looking, best-sounding disc in this catalog.

AUSTRALIAN OUTBACK: Some of the music on ambient video DVDs reminds me of my last trio t a crystal shop, but the drone of the Aboriginal didgeridoo quickly banishes any thoughts of driftwood art and stringy-haired proprietresses. This disc's title does not do it justice- besides the forest, deserts, and mountains of the Outback, you also get stunning images of oceans, plus Aboriginal rock paintings and gorgeous shots of gorgeous Sidney.

PLANET EARTH- OCEANIA: These geographic coastal images shot from space will have your guests gaping at how great your plasma TV looks. (That is assuming, of course, that your plasma TV looks great in the first place.) The detail of the images makes them seem more like photographs than like video. You will be proud to play this music through your in-walls; the Celtic harp music of Lisa Lynne relaxation without the banality of typical New Age fare.

FIREPLACE: If The Complete Aquarium Collection is the Sgt.Pepper's of plasma art, Fireplace is the Meet The Beatles- still a classic but less entertaining. As expected, this video makes your TV resemble a fireplace with only slightly varying shots of burning logs. Choose from classical music or Christmas music. For that fireplace kind of holiday, Fireplace is sure to set the perfect mood.

STARGAZE: I am not the type to ponder events in the other 99,999,999,999 galaxies, but I know a lot of people who are. If that description fits you, you will love StarGaze, a collection of still images taken through the Hubble Space Telescope. This video focuses mainly on swirly nebulae that look more like something out of Salvador Dali's imagination rather than like real gaseous clouds tat actually exist. StarGaze is sure to compliment many modern interior, but the ethereal New Age music is not my thing. Where did I put that Lisa Lynne disc?

NATURAL SPLENDORS (VOLUME 1-3) Simple and satisfying, this three-disc set serves up still images of the American outdoors and European gardens. The images (especially the garden shots) will complement any home, and the vaguely New Agey soundtrack will not make your music -snob friends sneer.

Source: Robb Report, Home Entertainment & Design - Winter 2002 www.hedmag.com