Acorn Media’s Visions of Europe is a six-disc Blu-ray set of the popular PBS series. This set includes Visions of Italy, Visions of Germany, Visions of France, Visions of Greece, and Visions of Austria & Europe. This set is all about the visual aspects of Europe. Ruins, mountains, churches, and the seaside are all shown in stunning aerial shots. While not an in-depth look at the culture, these programs give a unique perspective both for people who have never traveled in Europe and for those who have.
Visions of Europe is like a virtual helicopter tour of the region. Each disc contains over two hours of footage, which is broken down into one-hour sections. For example the Germany disc’s two features are “Visions of Germany: Bavaria,” and “Visions of Germany: Along the Rhine.” Each country in the set is shown in great detail with major cities and landmarks being covered. Narration accompanies the visual presentation giving interesting facts and historical tidbits about what is being shown. The scenery is all quite breathtaking and the narration provides a good, albeit brief, background about each country.
The standout disc on the set is Visions of Italy. It is the only country in the set to have two discs. There are four programs covering the northern and southern regions along with a full program on Sicily, and another program covering Italy’s great cities, such as Rome and Naples. Visions of Italy is the most in depth and complete in its coverage. It is quite fascinating to see well known landmarks like Saint Peter’s Square, the Coliseum, and the Pantheon, and crowds of visitors, from the air. Along with ancient ruins there is also coverage of nature settings like the Italian Alps, the coastline beaches, and serene lakes.
The aerial presentation of each of these countries and their different regions gives a sense of their deep history. What these sets do not provide is much of a sense of culture. We do not get to know the people, their customs, the food they eat, or anything about their daily lives. The one exception is in Visions of the Great Cities of Europe where the camera gets down on the ground and there is some brief interaction with people. These discs literally are “visions” of the countries. In that sense they are quite stunning and very pleasant to watch. They should not be taken as a travel guide, except to get an idea of where one might like to visit. These discs give a tour of the landscape and offer glimpses that are not easily seen by most people.
The video for Visions of Europe is presented in 1080i-AVC MPEG-4 transfer. Overall the picture looks pretty good. Greece is the most stunning with vibrant colors and excellent detail. The others look good, but there is a lack of detail and some color washout on occasion. The beauty of the scenery always shines through nonetheless. The audio is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. There are no sound problems at all. The narration is clear and easy to understand. The score is comprised of various classical pieces that fit the region. The music is vibrant and provides a pleasant background. Each disc contains approximately 20 minutes of bonus footage for each region covered.