8 Apr 2024

Tune in to TV that calms the farm

From Widescreen, 3:09 pm on 8 April 2024

We live in overstimulated times. There’s so much entertainment on offer – from terrestrial TV, to streamers, cinemas, radio talkback. Even news is now designed to get an emotional reaction from you: ‘engagement’, clicks and likes.

But sometimes you want to just get off that treadmill, don’t you? Stare into space for a while and get that heart rate down a bit.

Here are three options for home viewing that provide an easeful experience instead of a excitable one.

Apple TV screensavers

Frame from Apple screensaver showing the island of Manhattan

Photo: Apple

If our favourite seems a bit exclusive, I’m afraid that’s because it is. You have to have an Apple device (either a Mac or an Apple TV streaming box) to access them but Apple screensavers are so relaxing we sometimes forget to actually watch a show.

There are over 100 available now, with a variety of topics. Flying slowly over urban landscapes like the River Thames in London or directly above the planes queued up at Los Angeles Airport. Or you can visit spectacular natural environments in the Caribbean, Chile, Hawaii, Iceland and – befitting Apple’s home base – California.

Frame from an Apple screensaver showing a satellite view of Earth

Photo: Apple

You can even go into space and become a satellite over the Sahara desert heading towards the Arabian peninsula or crossing the Pacific coast of the US towards the distant lights of Las Vegas, surrounded by the empty blackness of Nevada. Those satellite flights are really something – as the earth curves in the distance, you can sometimes see lightning strikes in electrical storm clouds or tiny aircraft glinting down below as they head off in the opposite direction to the one you are traveling in.

If you are curious about where or what you are looking at, a quick tap of the remote brings up a caption without concluding your journey. Each little film is between four and 12 minutes long and they just keep appearing for as long as you want.

Apple being Apple, they use a video format that non-Apple devices don’t decode which means that this page with all of the screensavers available for preview is only useful on the Safari browser (Mac or iPhone/iPad).

Some people have managed to upload files to YouTube, though, and this is one of my favourites. Flying over Central Park in New York towards, and then along, Broadway. It’s typically sedate, the traffic down below is certainly not moving in real time.

YouTube walking tours

I tend to steer clear of YouTube as the excitability of most of it is not to my taste. (I certainly don’t browse while logged in  and identifiable because I just don’t trust that algorithm.)

A recent article in the Washington Post reported that many YouTube videos now use a theory called ‘retention editing’ which essentially means hyper-stimulated visuals and very quick edits to keep you interested and less likely to click away to something else. It’s all our own fault, you see, our attention spans just can’t cope with anything longer than a couple of seconds.

But YouTube is a broad church (it is the biggest video streaming site in the universe after all) and with a little perseverance you can find something to relax you. Me? I love armchair travel.

There is a genre of YouTube video that is focused on walking tours of the great cities of the world and one of my favourites is this one, Buenos Aires the capital of Argentina.

The first ten minutes is a trailer for the rest of it (which doesn’t do the relaxation job at all) but once you’ve made it through that section you can just sit back and ‘walk’ around for nearly three hours, getting to know the city at street level. There’s no commentary, no guide telling you where you are, and no music either, but the camera operator does pan around occasionally to take in locations of interest and the sounds of the city are as informative as the visuals.

New Zealand art on Parliament TV

My dentist has a big screen above his chair, so you have something to look at that isn’t his hand in your mouth. He has a rotating selection of art and photographs from the Google screensaver collection which is all very good but not local.

For a soothing selection of New Zealand art from various public and private collections, you need to go to Sky channel 86 (or Freeview channel 31).

The Urban Art Foundation has curated an entire channel dedicated to New Zealand art, but it is shared with Parliament TV. That means that if you pick the wrong time to tune in your blood pressure is more likely to go up rather than down.

Parliament doesn’t sit all day, every day though – estimates are that over 275 days are not dedicated to politics – which means that there is a very good chance that when you get home from a hard day you can sit and unwind, quietly appreciating some of the best of what Aotearoa has to offer rather than the worst.