ART FOR ART'S SAKE: Philadelphia-based and steered by second-generation entertainment entrepreneur Stephen Spivak, Screen Dreams has been leading the "fine arts images for everyone" revolution for several years.
Spivak's first foray was a free streaming "app" for Internet-connected Sharp and Philips televisions, serving up great paintings and landscape photography, plus kinetic views of blazing fireplaces and fish swimming around your flat-panel aquarium.
Recently, Screen Dreams launched a paid ($2.99) variation for Yahoo-widget-streaming TVs, appearing on Toshiba sets first. Now Vizio, Sony and Samsung products are warming up in the wings.
But to my mind, those apps pale next to the offering Spivak has swung with New York's Museum of Modern Art, earning the right to share 50 of the institution's greatest masterworks (think Cezanne, Van Gogh, Gaughin and more) via an interactive videodisc.
With images automatically flipping every 30 seconds or so, as tasteful, new-age jazz tinkles on the soundtrack, this art exhibit shows off your HDTV to advantage, lends a touch of culture and offers an interesting alternative when friends come by.
Plus, this kinetic museum is yours to own and enjoy forever for just $16.95 in high-def Blue-ray form, $14.95 in standard DVD. Both are available at amazon.com and screendreamsdvd.com.
BEST OF THE BUNCH: MoMA curators selected the art "based on their knowledge of the images that sell best in other products, through posters, calenders and postcards," said Spivak. The museum team also supplied the digitized images and suggested how the art should be cropped for a 16:9 widescreen.
With a wall-filling work like Monet's "Water Lilies," the full-screen TV image focuses in on just one of the work's four panels. But if you click on the "credit play" option, an alternating info screen shares a smaller image of the full work, plus background data, often with a quote from the painter.
Niftier still is a third viewing option, play list, where you can narrow the viewing cycle to just the images you love the most. For a kids party, I'd program Henri Rousseau's painting of a friendly lion watching over "The Sleeping Gypsy," Paul Klee's "Cat and Bird," and Vincent van Gogh's "The Starry Night."
GABRIEL BLOWS OUR MIND: British art popster Peter Gabriel has always been a most theatrical showman (harking back to his Genesis days) and a major gadget geek. Most of his solo albums have been remixed for SACD surround-sound discs. And as a 3-D buff from his "sci-fi movie-loving childhood," he's happily leaped head-first into the third dimension with "New Blood: Live in London in 3Dimensions," a two-hour-plus mega-concert as thrilling to view as it is to hear in 3-D Blu-ray form.
For starters, Gabriel's working with a robust, 48-piece orchestra (and backup singers, including his daughter) doing ultra-dramatic reinterpretations of classics like "Biko," "Mercy Street" and "Solsbury Hill," plus a few cunning covers. Unlike most high-striving rock productions that lay "symph" instruments atop a core electric group, John Metcalf's vibrant arrangements find all the dynamic and coloration in the strings, brass and woodwinds. No guitars! No drums!
Beautifully captured (especially in the multichannel DTS-HD Master soundtrack), the mix tickles, teases, envelops and enthralls from all sides. These sensational sonics also come through loud and clear on the conventional 2-D Blu-ray and DVD versions likewise contained in the $34.98 list set.
But trust me, once you've enjoyed this London soiree on a 3-D TV, via the specially encoded 3-D Blu-ray disc version also in the bundle, there's no turning back. Wise to the art of angling shots for maximum depth sensation, director Blue Leach enhances every number with distinct and magical 3-D effects. Each piece could stand alone. And the artist never wears out his welcome. As 3-D video goes, Gabriel's "New Blood" is the new gold standard.