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Artek Images presents
Illuminated Manuscripts (2002)

Review By: Dan Lopez   
Published: September 13, 2002

Director: John S. Banks

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing offensive)
Run Time: 01h:24m:00s
Release Date: June 21, 2002
UPC: 824366234790
Genre: special interest

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ B+A-B C+

DVD Review

Computer animation videos have been a fairly regular genre on DVD, with many of them designed as a sort of ambient experience with spacey music and weird visuals. Illuminated Manuscripts fits into that mold, but is a much classier product; the result of the work of John S. Banks as part of his Artek Images studio. Artek's goal seems to be to the creation of art and music generally focused on the ethereal and organic. If ever the term "moving painting" had a literal example, it would be the works contained within this disc. Not so much three-dimensional animation as two-dimensional stills with animated elements; the works presented here are beautiful meditations on natural landscapes as slightly altered through the eye of a computer; just enough to create an air of surrealism and unearthly charm.

Accompanying these pieces is the music of Fritz Heede; a combination of many elements, including Asian and Mediterranean styles. The collaboration of exquisitely crafted visuals and this inspired musical score is impressive, and sets Illuminated Manuscripts apart from similar "relaxation" discs I've seen. A mystical, otherworldly feel is obtained almost effortlessly, although I realize the application of special effects and subtle animation probably took long hours. The end result of all this are works that can be watched in a sit-down atmosphere, or simply played in the background as accompaniment to life, like any good ambient presentation.

There's no doubt that Illuminated Manuscripts comes across as a more sincere attempt at thought-provoking animation than, say, the somewhat pretentious Planetary Traveller. Though there are messages and intents behind the semi-spiritual work here, it doesn't bash you over the head with them. This gives a quiet dignity to the whole affair, making sure to allow the style to sink in gradually rather than assault the viewer.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

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

Image Transfer Review: Image quality is quite good if not virtually perfect in the digital sense. As the source was computer generated, the footage itself it completely free of any source issues effecting the transfer. This means the blacks are sharp and solid, allowing the dark and atmospheric animation to really come alive with no issues of any kind.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: The stereo audio is very good when turned up to high volumes and allowed to really embrace the room the film is played in. As solely music, the track is completely what one would hope to have with good high-end and low-end response and no signs of distortion, hiss, or other distracting problems.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 22 cues and remote access
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Animated Loops and Still Photos
Extras Review: While there are no straightforward extras per se, the disc repeats it's programming in with a different soundtrack, in what is entitled an "Ambient" remix of the original material, even though the original songs are pretty laid-back to begin with. In addition to this, there are photos in a slideshow format as well as six, very well made loops. The loops contain a simple animated screen with atmospheric audio (usually nature sounds) and are designed in such a way that the repeat points are very seamless.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

Illuminated Manuscripts should appeal to the obvious fans of computer animation and sound collaborations. A bit more meditative than the usual faire, it still has great impact just where it needs it. Here's looking forward to the next Artek disc.


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