Thursday, July 9, 2009

Seeing In The Dark a Review

I have a copy of the PBS video titled "Seeing In The Dark" by Timothy Ferris. It is based on a book Ferris penned with the same title. The video was given to me a while ago by a fellow member of the San Antonio Astronomical Association.

The PBS website store described the video as such, "Seeing in the Dark aims to redefine the standards of quality in nonfiction science programming for television, and is meant to introduce viewers to the wonders of the night sky, making casual stargazing or serious amateur astronomy a part of their lives."

I have watched this video a number of times and I do feel that the video is top quality with one flaw. It is clearly apparent that the videographer paid much attention to composition, detail, and lighting. I can easily say that this video is rather pleasing to the eyes as it is visually pleasing.

The sound track on the other hand can at times become annoying. There is a scene when Mr. Ferris is recalling his youth when some friends are at the beach and listening to blues from a far off station. After this semi-cheesy 1950's themed scene the video seemed to lose focus at times like a junior high student hopped up on sugar and soda. Timothy Ferris seems to go on a few tangents, or rabbit trails if you will, about musicians and music throughout the rest of the film. Some of these trails were fitting like mention of the famous astronomer Friedrich Wilhelm Herschel's musical connection and an interview with Prince's former recording engineer and amateur astronomer Michael Koppelman who produces the podcast Slacker Astronomy. Slide guitar is used almost exclusively on the sound track of this video and at times, at least to this viewer, is not as pleasing as the visuals the film presents. Some might disagree, but I found the music chosen for this film at times very distracting.

Again according to the write up on the PBS store's webpage for this film the film is "meant to introduce viewers to the wonders of the night sky" and I feel this film fails to live up to that claim. If does offer some statistics and shows some fancy Hubble images... but it really is not an educational introduction to the night sky. It comes closer to being an introduction to various types of astronomers. It isn't a film that will teach you constellations, or have you star hopping after watching it, but I don't think it was meant to be that film either. With that said I rather enjoyed learning about various astronomers around the country.

As a Christian I found this video offensive when Ferris, while talking about Galileo's telescope, alluded to the bible as "some allegedly infallable book". Granted the "Priests and Professors" of long ago and astronomers haven't had the best past... but it seems Ferris wanted to take one more hit at Christianity and religion.

Over all despite my knit picking, annoying music and some hidden agenda slapped in there at the end. I enjoyed the video and I would recommend it to fellow astronomers to watch, the videography is top notch. It is available on blue-ray and highly recommended if you have a blue-ray player.

Here is a preview: