On April 22nd 1996 with compliments of Philips Australia, I received a CDi titled TITANIC An Interactive Exploration. As a Titanic enthusiast and a CDi author, I was thrilled at this disk for both private and professional reasons.
It was very comforting to note who had done the narration. Through my life I have heard 3 male voices that really move me when narrating. I beleive it is a combination of the fine quality of their voice and the emotion they put into the narration and probably combined with their acting skills. The four voices belong to Richard Burton, Martin Sheen and Patrick Stewart. I now own two documentaries on the Titanic one done by Martin Sheen and the other, this CDi, by Patrick Stewart. This immediately made it a hit for me as I knew the quality and content would be there. For those readers who do not know who Patrick Stewart is, he is probably better known as Captain Picard from the Television series Star Trek The Next Generation.
For those people not familiar with the term CDi, it stands for Compact Disc Interactive. This is Philips invention that is used on a piece of equipment that essentially looks like an ordinary CD player, but differs in respect that it is connected to your television and gives full motion video in the form of MPEG 1, full stereo CD quality sound and full interactivity via a small hand held remote joypad like remote control. Total playing time of each CD is about 74 minutes.
It is difficult to be objective with this product because I just love it. Although technically I believe the production team that I personally work with making CDi's could have done a far better job technically. I wonder if there were any Titanic enthusiasts on the production team, this may have prevented the small technical accuracy errors that crept in to the disc. For example, there is a small section on the Britannic and the narration states that it is lying on its port side. Navigation of the disc is a little cumbersome and I picked up one or two errors in the destination content of the interactivity. I must state here though that this is really only picking fault for the sake of it.
The content is fairly accurate with known written reports, although this is most likely because this is where most content was sourced from. Video and graphic content comes from the books and videos that are readily available and there is little original work. The disk lacks a 'play all' function. Interactivity is nice, but sometimes you just want to sit back and watch everything while relaxing. You cannot do this with this disk, you are forced via many menus to navigate the disk bit at time in any order you feel like. As there is no logical sequence to it, it is easy to get lost and forget where you have been or what you have yet to play. Some of the content is either repeated in parts or these may be bugs in the code is was difficult to tell in some places.
The quality of graphics and sound is good and the quality of MPEG encoding is reasonable. I did detect differences in the level of some audio sections to others. While this is probably due to level differences in MPEG audio versus WAV audio, technically there is no excuse for it, and it should have been corrected in production.
My recommendation is if you already own a CDi player, grab a copy. I would not purchase a CDi player soley because this disk exists.
I am currently trying to contact Philips to get permission to convert their assets to a PC CD-ROM. If this does not happen then I may still do a Titanic CD of my own as time permits. Stay tuned to these pages, and one day I might surprise you.