Coming Soon: Virtual Aquarium as "Video Wallpaper"

Years ago, Brian Eno pushed the artistic envelope with "sonic wallpaper," or background music as art. Artists working in film and video have exploited the concept too, using their cameras to record campfires, roaring surf, sleeping people and animals, stationary buildings, and other excruciatingly boring subjects. In playback, such fare tests viewers' patience and challenges their assumptions about art.

On September 28, DVD International will debut a 20-hour production of swimming tropical fish, titled, predictably, Aquaria. Presumably produced without the standard ironic intent of late-20th-century art, the $24.98 DVD from video producer The Richard Diercks Company is said to be "peaceful video wallpaper" with four different soundtracks, including two in 5.1 surround. According to a company press release, Aquaria is the first "DVD-18 dual layer" DVD production available to consumers.

Although Aquaria isn't the first fish video, it may be the first one shot on Digital Betacam. The disc features five separate sets of images: one freshwater tank and four saltwater tanks, each with its own unique collection of rocks, reefs, flora, and fish. Viewers can choose any of three standard aspect ratios: 4:3 standard TV, anamorphic, or letterbox. User-selectable audio tracks offer the sounds of gentle surf, aquarium bubbles, music for relaxation, or music for meditation.

Fish fans can enjoy Aquaria on their computers as well as in their home-theater systems. The disc is what its distributor calls "a DVD-hybrid"—in DVD-ROM mode, it offers "fishographies" of all the fish on screen, which can be downloaded and printed from the computer. The announcement of the dawning age of Aquaria mentions the DVD-ROM's fish screen savers, "full-function calendar," and "Web links to related fish-oriented sites."

Mac users, sadly, are left out of the aquatic loop; the special features work only on Windows machines. You'll never have to feed those fish or clean that tank again.

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