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STARGAZE: HUBBLE'S VIEW OF THE UNIVERSE ($25) is one of the coolest image and music titles to be released on DVD because this disc offers viewers more than beautiful pictures and impressive sound. This program also takes advantage of the multi soundtrack capabilities of the DVD format to provide narration for the awe-inspiring visuals in four separate languages… but I am getting ahead of myself.

STARGAZE is an hour-long collection of actual images that were taken by the Hubble space telescope. This look at the heavens shows only a small portion of the universe, yet this glimpse is filled with endless wonder. People tend to think of space as an empty void, but with its unhindered view of the universe, the Hubble telescope shows that space is filled with unimaginable beauty. In addition to the wondrous images, STARGAZE also includes soothing musical accompaniment by 2002 in a choice of Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 6 channel and Dolby Digital stereo surround. The music is melodious in that classical/electronic/new age bent and is perfectly married to the visuals. In Dolby Digital 5.1, the music has a rich, full sound and is mixed in a very enveloping fashion. Listening to the music, while watching the disc’s visuals proved to be very relaxing experience and STARGAZE is a program that could be used to relieve stress. Being generated in the digital realm, the DVD’s musical track is free from all forms of distortion.

As for the DVD's visuals, STARGAZE is presented in 16:9 enhanced wide screen and the image is very impressive. All of the high-resolution images were digitally generated from the data collected by Hubble's various sensors, many of which operate outside the visible spectrum. Further digital manipulation creates simulated camera movement, which prevents the still images from appearing stagnant. The resulting digital video is sharp and well defined, with impressive color production, pure blacks and no signs of imperfection. Digital compression artifacts do not mar this fine presentation.

As much as I enjoyed STARGAZE as an image and music program, I have to say I enjoyed the DVD's narration track even more. The narration track runs the entire length of the program and gives detailed information on the Hubble space telescope, as well as describing the various celestial bodies that appear on the screen. One will find a lot fascinating information about the universe in the narration, much of which has come into focus because of the Hubble's unobstructed view of the heavens. In addition to English, the narration is also provided in French, German and Spanish. Subtitles are provided with the text of the narration, giving the viewer the ability to read all the information, while listening to the musical accompaniment. Less complex subtitles are also provided for the purpose of identifying the astronomical objects on the screen. All subtitles are presented in English, French, German and Spanish. Additionally, the DVD isn't region encoded, so it can be viewed around the world.

The interactive menus provide access to the standard scene selection and language set up features, as well as a few extras. There are two TV screen savers are comprised of numerous Hubble images. STARGAZE is also DVD-ROM enabled, which gives one access to the screen savers for their PC, plus web links.

All in all, STARGAZE is a great little disc that will certainly appeal to science buffs, Discovery Channel addicts and anybody who wants something cool to feed their home theater system.






DVD reviews are Copyright © 2000THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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