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Music Video Distributors presents
Flash Frames (2002)

"Beer good!! Fire bad!! Napster Bad!!!"
- (the fake) James Hetfield from Napster Bad!

Review By: Dan Lopez   
Published: August 05, 2002

Director: Various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (strong language, nudity, sexual themes, violence)
Run Time: 02h:10m:00s
Release Date: August 06, 2002
UPC: 022891433590
Genre: animation

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

I've been a computer user for as long as I can remember, which means I've also seen a lot of fads come and go in the computer vein, though some have stuck around. When the 'Web' was on its newborn legs, I remember when almost every homemade website blasted at you with flashing text—it was the amazing multimedia experience of the day; the day being when 9600 baud modems were blazingly fast, bulletin board systems were all the rage and flashing COLOR text was lobbed at you. Things have steadily evolved from those stages with everything and everything being thrown onto people's websites. It seems it has become instant human nature with technology to use it for some kind of artistic, manipulated purpose, which I suppose is a good thing overall. When Macromedia Flash technology burst on the scene (a form of software allowing elaborate animations to run via web pages, while remaining relatively small for efficient downloads in the process), I'll admit, I hated it. It became the new "shiny object" that everyone had to play with, and the result were hundreds of unreadable and unwieldy spots on the World Wide Web. Of course, underneath all that were people who had learned to use the technology for impressive works of art, whether they be homemade animated shorts, or stylish, reasonably sized elements of a quality website. So, I began to respect what could be done with the technology and realized that it would unleash a whole new form of homebrew artist onto the world.

Flash has since gone on to become a part of the Internet that is now irreplaceable. The technology is used for all sorts of things—some good and some bad. But in the process, artists have utilized the tool in all sorts of weird and wacky ways. Flash Frames is best described as a "best of" compilation of the Flash world so far. It features dozens of works by dozens of animators, most of whom went on to careers developing animations for hire or a new found fanbase. There's a wide variety of stuff to see, but most of it falls into 3 distinct categories: Web-produced music videos, cartoon shorts, or website design and advertising material. If watched from beginning to end, the viewer may very well overload on Flash animation, but maybe that's a good thing to some people. The sheer number of things to see almost ensures that everyone will find something to like here. While 'name' artists pop up here and there (like musician/animator Todd Rundgren), many of the shorts are by folks who earned their reputations from the early works presented here.

The highlights of the disc include: two of Camp Chaos' early shorts (including the legendary "Napster Bad!"/Metallica satire work), early works by Goonland and Joe Cartoon, a 'Muchman & Fatty' cartoon, Pixelwurld music videos for Supreme Beings Of Leisure, and a quick toon (Poker Dogs) featuring the participation of ex-MST3K alumni Bill Corbett and Mike Nelson. The whole disc is a lot of fun, but I found these to be the most entertaining in the crop. If I had any complaints, it would be that the disc tends to lean towards work that's more active and upbeat, seeming to omit more subtle work available. If the idea was to make a collection that was more explosive and exciting, then this is understandable.

The disc has certainly proved one thing, though: Flash is has a role in the future of animation. I mean, I wouldn't want to see feature films everywhere use the technology, but certainly it's assisting a lot of people break their way into creating their own work with a far less resources. In a sense, I feel almost sorry for those who had to work their way into animation the hard way, only to come to a point where it seems anyone can do it. Thankfully, Flash has received a lot of support from 'big name' artists, especially Stan Lee (Marvel writer/illustrator who was at the genesis of comics like The Amazing Spider-Man and The Uncanny X-Men), and it seems that it has been mostly accepted as the next evolution in shared multimedia.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The shorts vary in their aspect ratios, as well as quality. Most seem to have been recorded directly from their digital broadcast, which leads to perfect image quality, just as good as on a high-end monitor attached to a PC running the Flash animations. A few of them are a little lower in quality, with some slight artifacts and non-intentional fuzziness. One or two shorts use live video in their work, which is typically of high-compression and extremely artifacted and grainy (much like typical, 56k quality, streaming video). Despite the wide variety of source material, most of them are very high quality. My only complaint is that many of the animations were formatted a little strange, so some of the image (and sometimes text) goes off the screen.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The entire disc features a Dolby Digital 5.0 audio track, but it would seem the audio was not actually engineered for 5.0. Therefore, some of the shorts have expanded immersion by having sound information come out of all speakers, but since most Flash animation is mono (stereo at best) there's no directional effects; it's more like a sound filter, really. A few of the shorts have very tinny, highly compressed sound (just as they might on the Internet), but it adds a little to the charm of watching Flash animations on TV.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 65 cues and remote access
Weblink/DVD-ROM Material
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Additional Audio Interviews with Stan Lee, Russ Heath, Stuart S. Shapiro.
  2. Interactive Flash animations
Extras Review: Additional features include 3 audio-only interviews with comic book artist and writer Stan Lee, Russ Heath (a collaborator on Stan Lee's online projects), and Stuart S. Shapiro, the editor and producer of the Flash Frames book, which is the accompaniment to the DVD. All three interviews (although Stuart Shapiro's is more of a no-visuals commentary track) provide some opinions and insight on the evolution of Flash technology as a serious artistic tool for creative expression.

If you have a DVD-ROM drive, there are additional Flash animations on the disc that have interactive elements, and although I was unable to try them out myself, I'm sure they're basically like most of the Flash games and animations you'll find around the Internet. The disc itself has three ways of being played: you can either watch the music videos in a reel, the animated shorts in a reel, or select each one by studio/creator through a series of menus. On a technical level, the disc has some annoying problems. Firstly, the Menu key doesn't work, so the only way to leave a playing animation and get back to the menu, is to use the Title function, then go back to the chapter selection. Also, a few of the chapter stops in those menus don't actually lead to the shorts they're supposed to. The shorts are actually on the disc, they just have to be accessed manually by fast-forwarding tracks and figuring out where they are. Another minor complaint is that there is no booklet telling you what chapters represent which animation—frustrating, given the 60+ tracks on the disc. The keepcase is standard but clear, so the reverse side of the cover art has more artwork on it, leading to an interesting visual design for the packaging.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

Flash Frames is worth checking out for general animation buffs and people who enjoy discs with lots of humorous little shorts. Hopefully, it also marks the beginning of a series of what could potentially be amazing discs, say every year or so, showcasing the best of the Web. Some more details are at Flash Frames.Org, including a whole host of Flash-related links to all sorts of stuff. Of course, we can't forget Macromedia themselves: go to their main Flash site for the scoop on the software.


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