So Smart!-Volume 1: Shapes (1998)

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Released 11-Feb-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Childrens Main Menu Audio
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1998
Running Time 31:00
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Alexandra Tornek
Scott Tornek
Studio
Distributor
The Baby School Co.
Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Cecil The Circle
Suzie The Square
Traci The Triangle
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $19.95 Music J.S. Bach
W.A. Mozart
Rossini


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Any DVD conscious new parent will know that when it comes to quality entertainment there is little on the market for very small children. Most of what you see in kid's categories revolves around the sale of merchandise or cramming some kind of moral down the viewer's throat, commonly disguised as a furry character. I've found a few exceptions in entertaining shows such as Lil' Horrors and Bambaloo but although these are mildly entertaining for parents who like to view the program with their kids, any child under two years of age will find it hard to be attentive for longer periods. So, what is out there on the shelves for babies and small toddlers?

    So Smart! - Shapes caught my attention because of the slew of awards it has collected from assorted parenting groups around the world, and rightly so. The half hour program is squarely aimed at babies aged from 6 to 36 months and is comprised of the most simple, colourful animation and classical music backing - designed to viewed by the parent and child together. As the program progresses through different shapes and related day-to-day objects, words appear on the screen for the parent to read aloud so that a word association is made in the child's mind with what is present on screen. There are no voices or sound effects in the program, just playful and active classical music.

    The real test of this DVD came when I sat down with my 14 month old toddler, who will watch almost anything (like her Dad). From the start of the program, she was enthralled by the animation and I presume the synchronisation between the pictures and music must play a part also. This may sound weird, but the shapes on screen grow legs and walk about, apparently because children pay special attention to biomechanical movements. When it came time for me to say my words she would turn and give me a glace afterwards, then re-focus on the screen. There is a distinct pattern to the learning process of this show, and it seems to work very well. My toddler is now familiar with the cover of this DVD and hands it to me when she wants to watch it, so I'd say with some certainty that it has her thumbs-up.

    My other half is in full agreement that this is an outstanding DVD learning tool for babies, and is highly recommended for new parents. Next time you want to buy a gift for a friend with a new baby, instead of getting bath products or lame clothes buy them this DVD - they'll thank you later.

    If you would like to learn more about the So Smart Production Company and their range of products, their website is a very well presented resource for parents and details all the theories behind their programs.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This video transfer is presented in 1.33:1, and appears to have been sourced from videotape. As a whole, this is an average transfer for an animated program.

    The animation is presented with a fair degree of detail, but suffers from many jagged edges and aliasing due to the limited resolution of the source material. The presentation also isn't as bright as it could be - some backgrounds that are intended to be white have an almost grey appearance, which in turn effects the overall brightness of the colour palette. I didn't notice any low level noise during the transfer.

    The black bordering on this animation makes some motion trails which are very noticeable at times, though I doubt that your average toddler would have an issue with it. I noted a couple of minor examples of colour bleeding, usually reds, but these instances were only very brief.

    There are no subtitles on this single layered disc.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The classical score that accompanies this program is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 and encoded at 224Kb/s.

    The score seems to be roughly placed in sync with the video movement and obviously accuracy isn't a big issue here. Although it isn't presented in CD quality, the score has enough brightness and depth to make it more than adequate for this purpose.

    A distinct audio dropout exists at 22:10, which to me is highly disruptive and noticeable. My co-reviewer was not as concerned.

    The soundtrack includes well known pieces of music by Handel, Rossini, Bach, Mozart and Tchaikovsky. All of the melodies suit the pace of the animation and succeed in maintaining the child's focus.

    There was obviously no surround activity or subwoofer response in this soundtrack.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    None.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    There are several titles available on DVD in the So Smart! series, however Shapes is not yet listed on the official website. Other titles in the series such as Colours include some interactive games, but I would presume that until more details come to light Region 4 is the way to go.

Summary

    So Smart! - Shapes is the most outstanding DVD for babies and toddlers I have seen. The concept is simple and effective, making it a highly valuable learning tool for parents.

    The video transfer is a little disappointing, but good enough for children.

    The audio transfer brings across the classical score well, but is let down by a highly noticeable dropout at one point.

    There are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Rob Giles (readen de bio, bork, bork, bork.)
Tuesday, March 23, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-525, using Component output
DisplayPanasonic TX76PW10A 76cm Widescreen 100Hz. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVR-2802 Dolby EX/DTS ES Discrete
SpeakersOrpheus Aurora lll Mains (bi-wired), Rears, Centre Rear. Orpheus Centaurus .5 Front Centre. Mirage 10 inch sub.

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