of DVDs Demise
Have Been Greatly Exaggerated
me of all people)
it's been a very loooooooong week of reading your thoughts on
last column. And now that I'm done, I'm finding myself
dumbstruck. Why? Well, because that's how I live my life these days.
No, seriously. It's because, surprisingly, a majority of you out
there actually agreed with my rant. And here I was, figuring this
was going to be my last column for The
Digital Bits. I keep looking for a way out... but you
keep pulling me back IN!
Anyway, I figured that you guys have put my thoughts into better
perspective by telling me your own. So I'm going to take some of my
favorite comments, statements and pseudo-questions that you've sent
me, and highlight them here for everyone to enjoy.
First up, is Mark. He was the first to write, and his ended up
being one of my all-time favorite emails. Here's what he had to say:
I hear ya brother. It's all because of those
goddamn Soccer Moms. They control the world. What they say goes, and
they say: "Keep my children occupied while I figure out how to
get a bigger SUV." I remember when you could buy a cup of
coffee and not be bombarded with warnings that it was hot. Of course
it's hot - it's fucking coffee! SM's screwed up a nice mindless cup
o' joe. That's why LD's rock; because you had to get up and lift the
disk every 30 min. The SM's didn't like that because it meant they
actually had to pay attention to what their kids were doing so they
could flip the disk. Yes, in the end it's the very capacity of the
DVD that made it great and that's (what) will bring about its
demise. Then the SM's will blame it all on the blind referees.
See! It's a conspiracy we never considered! We're through the
looking glass people. Black is white, white is black. And both
colors make a soccer ball. Just think about it.
Next up is Lloyd from London. Or is that, Lloyds of London? Anyway,
Lloyd loves movies. And he buys DVDs to get great movies - nothing
more. Special editions add to the fun of DVD, but aren't the only
reason he loves the format. That's a sentiment echoed by most of you
out there - that more time and energy should be put into the quality
of the film on DVD video and sound-wise. That's why Lloyd's a big
fan of Columbia's SuperBit collection. He does support my thinking
though, when he says:
I bought The Grinch and enjoyed the film but
was disappointed with the extras - they were aimed at the wrong
audience. Is The Grinch a children's film? The book has been around
a long time - I'm probably not wrong to think that a lot of the
parents, who saw the film, saw taking their children along as a
rather good excuse.
Still, you can't aim a DVD at children - they don't have the
disposable income to buy it. The answer comes, "Yes, but the
parents buy for the children." This may be the case at
Christmas - an obvious reason why the DVD sold so well, but the rest
of the year (excluding birthdays)?
I don't know American parents that well but British parents
In direct opposition is Tom, who says this:
I tend to disagree with you about what you
Both Harry Potter and The Grinch were more aimed at kids and are
kids movies, and I think that's why the DVD's have the special
features they do. They figure kids will want Mom to buy it, and then
the kids will watch it over and over. Think about, they know adults
will not be playing those games. I personally love the Grinch DVD,
but understand your point, but I just chalk it up to them going
after the young audience. Harry Potter however, I have no interest
in. Never have, never will.
Fair enough. BUT... I think if we bend on this, and "let"
the studios hand out sub par DVDs, then they'll eventually start
trying to steamroll consumers.
Listen, I know DVD is A) about the movie, and we should consider
ourselves lucky that we even get the films on DVD, and B) the
studios control things and who are we to demand and dictate what WE
think we should get? The point is this: DVD was created so we could
get extra stuff. If the sheep out there (that want nothing but the
film) are happy with movie-only editions, then they should really
like D-VHS, because that's all you'll get. And I say let 'em have
it. I want nothing to do with D-VHS. Ultimately, I'm fine with DVD's
that just have the movie on them. But if you're going to put out a
SPECIAL EDITION, then please make it special. That's all I'm saying,
Now, this next email makes a point that I should have been clearer
on. When I said DVD was dying, I meant the special edition as we
know and love it. I thought it was clear from the opening
paragraph, but a lot of you felt that I was ringing the death bell
on the format. That's not true. DVD is alive and well, and will be
for a long time to come:
Dear Mr. Doogan,
I read with interest, your article on the demise of the DVD format.
While you made some valid points, I find that the text of your
article does not support your thesis. You made arguments about how
the quality of material we receive via the DVD format are eroding
under some circumstances. However, you leave it to the reader to
infer that these changes will kill the format. The fact is, people
love movies and will continue to buy them in the highest definition,
most convenient, best supported package at the lowest price. DVD
scores very well in all of these categories. There may be
alternative formats in our future, but nothing has yet appeared on
the horizon to displace the champ.
And now, some well thought out and insightful comedy:
Listen -- I could really give a shit about garbage like Grinch and
(to a lesser degree) Harry Potter. They're studio produced pabulum
meant for kids in the first place. Same reason I haven't even SEEN a
Disney film, other then Pixar fare, in more then a decade.
Regardless of what I think, however, keep in mind that the studio's
job is to maximize shareholder value. If that means releasing crap,
at little cost to them, they'll release crap. If they know they have
to spend some development $$$ on a disc, they do.
Last but not least ... I would venture to guess that Harry Potter
was one of the most documented shoots in the "DVD era."
This series very much has the probability to be Warner's' Crown
Jewel. Do you think, even for one second, that they are going to
release the end-all be-all SE as their first run? NOT! Just watch
... by 2010 or so, when all the movies have been released (and
popped to DVD, or whatever else is the new consumer medium then)
they will have released, at minimum, 2 versions of every film, and
they will then release the "SUPER DUPER ARCH DELUXE VERSION!"
of the series for the low low price of a child's education.
Have a day,
He's right, under the sarcasm. I am high. No, wait... that's not
what I meant. What I mean is that Warner will most likely release
the Harry Potter DVD that I
was asking for in the first place... but only much, much later.
Isn't that a cheat? Shouldn't they be up front if that's what they
plan to do? Do you really want to drop 30 or so bucks in a couple of
months, only to read Bill's announcement that Warner is releasing an
elaborate, multi-disc box set next year of the first two films? I
just saw Harry Potter a few
months ago. I can wait 'til next year if that's the case.
And here's Michael, who says that fluffy films deserve fluffy
extras. I disagree. But I do agree with another of his points. I
never said every film that comes out on DVD MUST and SHOULD have
extra features. But I do think that if you're going to call
something "added value material", it should at least
actually add some value. I'd be fine with a movie only edition of
Harry Potter, instead of a
much-heralded special edition with nothing but fluff. Anyway, here's
In theory I agree with you except that I think you miss an
important point - fluff movies deserve fluff extras...or none at
all. Now I'll be accused of being a snob here but bear with me. It
seems to me that most folks don't go to see a film with the
expectation they are going to watch a work of art that comprises
great cinematography, direction, script and acting. Rather, they go
to be "entertained", and there is nothing wrong with that,
but then one shouldn't be surprised by the "entertaining"
extras on DVD. I imagine that few people bought the "Theodore
Dreyer" box set from Criterion and those that did, in part,
bought it for the extras. I also imagine those who plan to buy the
Pearl Harbor limited edition monster box will buy it for - well I'm
not sure why anybody would buy it.... Anyway, who on earth would
want to listen to the cinematographer of the Grinch talk about his
craft? The guy or gal who wrote the script? Never mind that the
whole premise of filming an animation classic speaks to the lack of
anything truly original coming out of Hollywood. Films that stand
the test of time such as the films of Bergman, Kurosawa, Hitchcock
or Lean are works of art
usually collaborative efforts of
master craftsman that invite some analysis of their genesis and
execution, they also invite DVD extras that are not so much "entertaining"
as "informative". Potter and The Grinch are just "entertaining"
blips on the radar screen.
I like this next email, not because Neil waxes our car so very
nicely, but rather because he lists some great DVDs that came out
this year that epitomize the format.
After about two years of being an avid fan of
the Digital Bits, including it's rarely flawed reviews and excellent
DVD coverage, as well as reading some insightful articles, I can
without a doubt in my mind say that your madness does in fact have
method and that your opinions achieve merit.
I would firstly like to agree with you upon the subject of recent
DVD's being little (more than) advertising vehicles, which are in no
way informative or insightful.
Instead the studio would rather create a pretty little making of
featurette that is nothing but clips from the movies and irrelevant
commentary. DVD's are certainly going through some sort of
metamorphosis that does not impress. One would just want to get one
of those D-VHS players without the joys of extra features, because
who would want that marketing crap in their features anyways.
On the other hand, there have been some quite remarkable films,
which are quite impressive. These DVD's include Dogma, Citizen Kane,
8 1/2, Do the Right Thing, Evil Dead trilogy... The list is endless.
Who would have thought that I'd someday own a limited edition tin
Heathers with a goddamn ruler and yearbook! These extras are just
Jason here makes a good point - one that I think you filmmakers who
read The Bits should keep in
mind. It's your film and, as Bay, Soderbergh and Anderson have
shown, if you want your films done right on DVD, make the studios
take the film to an outside party, like Criterion.
What you are complaining about is that "Special
Editions" aren't special anymore, which is true to a certain
extent. It is just marketing right now. But I don't see filmmakers
who really like to indulge in special editions stopping because "They'd
sell anyways". There are a lot of directors out there who do
care how their product appears in the public and want to do the best
for the fans. (Kevin Smith is a good example.) Personally, I'd be
more worried about movies that aren't presented in their correct
aspect ratios, like what WB does with their "family"
titles than the "maybe" death of the SE.
Oh, oh! This next one is great. It's pure art. Dig this - at first
you think the reader is slightly agreeing with me. Then it shifts to
a slight disagreement over the point about DVDs being about the film
(which I already stated, DVDs are about the film) and then it
finally spirals out of control with jagged thoughts and ends with
the reader quitting The Bits
because we've lost our edge. Read on:
I partially agree with what you are saying.
There was a time when the first thing I would do after watching a
DVD movie was sit through ALL the extras in one sitting. Those times
have passed. Maybe its because I buy too many. Maybe its because I
found something better to do with my time. I'm pissed about all the
versions of Army of Darkness that still haven't gotten it right. But
shouldn't the DVD be about the movie? Extras are the icing on the
cake. Shouldn't the 5.1 channel audio and anamorphic widescreen be
the main discussion about the DVD? It was pretty obvious from the
rising sales every month that DVD was gonna blow up big. Did you
think all the supplements would remain original and fresh forever?
Now, everybody wants a special edition DVD of everything. You can't
blame the studios for cashing in. Not everyone can make a Criterion
quality DVD or a New Line one at that. And who gives a shit if
Arnold was paid $75,000 for a commentary? I liked the Total Recall
commentary. No DVD supplement is free.
And laserdisc only stayed completely faithful to their fan base
because laserdisc never really hit it big and they did whatever they
could to keep it going. And at $100 a pop, it better fuckin' be a
damn good laser.
Oh and D-VHS is a slap in the face joke like DIVX.
You seem to over bash too many DVDs, sure they aren't as good as
they used to be, but there are still some great ones out there.
Supplements aren't meant to be seen as works of art like they're
actual film content. What you really need to start bashing is
multiple versions of the same film on DVD. And Disney and Fox for
their shitty release schedule and Blockbuster for carrying full
frame only versions relatively no widescreen releases and unrated
versions which is why I didn't see the Grinch or Requiem For a
Dream. Kids movies will have kids supplements.
Besides you guys have lost your edge, you don't review a lot the
new stuff and I'm probably gonna move over to the DVDFile as my sole
source for DVD info. And for the Kevin Smith thing, I haven't seen
Drawing Flies and probably wont, but Dogma sounded stupid on paper
too and it ended up pretty good.
He didn't give a name, only a handle.
I'd like to comment. I bash because that's what Bill pays me to do.
I love movies. But, I'm supposed to critique these things.
Ultimately, I say read us for our thoughts... but go out and buy
your favorite films regardless what we say. You know what you like -
you're the best judge of your own taste. What sucks for me, may be
fine enough for you. All I can do is build a trust with you, and
hopefully you'll discover some films that you may not have heard
I'm very lucky to have a forum to discuss my passion with people
who share the same. And judging from many of your comments, you all
generally like what The Bits
has to say. As for the edge thing: yes, we've slumped in our review
content. We're fixing that this year by getting new reviewers who
can help us get more stuff covered for you guys. But keep this in
mind - Bill and I have been covering DVD from the VERY beginning.
Together, we've helped the format - I've no doubt about that. And
even thought we don't have the time to read other DVD websites, we
honestly do appreciate what DVD File
offers you. They do some great work. But I'm a bit confused about
how someone could forsake two lonely ol' guys like Bill and I (who
do nothing but love the DVD format so much that we've dedicated a
large portion of their lives to it), for a site owned and operated
by the same people who make the DVD-ROM content for your DVDs
(Interactual/PC Friendly). There's really no comparison - both sites
are good, but it's apples and oranges. If you want to stop reading
us, and only read them, go for it. I don't take it as a threat. I
just want to have fun with DVD and hopefully help you out in the
process. If that's not edgy enough for you... hey, it's your time.
Use it wisely.
And in that vein, here's a strong point from Peter:
I was lucky enough not to have bought the
Grinch DVD (although I own the original cartoon version which does
have meaningful extras). Not buying junk is our only defense against
receiving more junk. How do we, the consumers, avoid buying junk?
One way is by reading reviews from those we trust (Such as The
Digital Bits and DVD Review) and acting accordingly.
Critics should help form a large movement for quality by not only
reviewing the movie, but also recommending how we consumers should
react to your own review. A great movie with crappy extras is a good
rental, but not a good purchase. A crappy movie and crappy extras
does not even merit a rental. A crappy movie with great extras is an
oddity and maybe worth buying at half-price. Your reviews and those
of other critics should help guide us in keeping the DVD extras
meaningful by forming large buying blocks of opinion. You might even
want to start suggesting what to pay for a given DVD (rather than
just give it a letter rating (A, B, C). If all critics did this,
than the free market values might be influenced to reflect quality,
and producers of DVD would have incentive to produce DVD of better
quality knowing it would command higher prices.
The only problem with this issue is the building of trust. I said a
little bit about it above, but ultimately you guys know better than
any of us so-called "critics". Yes, Bill and I have
studied film. We know what works and what doesn't. But big-whoop!
There's often a connection factor that supersedes all of what we
know. There may be some of you out there that loved
Snow Dogs. I can't fault you
on that, but I may personally hate the film. Will you trust my
opinion if you disagree with me on that? That's why so many people
Also a lot of you said that I picked the wrong fight with the
studios. Of course special edition stuff is fluffy. But what about
full frame versus anamorphic? Bill and I have said this many times.
It's up to you to educate your friends about the black bars. We
think the studios should start their own education efforts on the
subject. But either way, free for studio use (as well as your own)
Guide to Anamorphic Widescreen DVD (for Dummies), always
available by clicking the anamorphic logo on the top of every page
of The Bits. Click it and
print it out for your friends and relatives to enjoy. We've been
banging the anamorphic drum longer and louder than anyone.
Here's Sinople on that subject, as well another - concern for the
foreign film market on American DVD:
You're absolutely right. But I think things
are far worse for DVD than you think. As the format goes more
mainstream, we're going to see more pan and scan/full frame
releases. Joe Six Pack loves extras (more bang for the buck, even if
it's superficial) but he doesn't want black bars on his brand new 36"
Sony Trinitron. Hollywood studios are scoffing up the rights to
foreign films and trimming them like the White House X-mas Tree. If
you want most of Jet Li's or Jackie Chan's movies OAR anamorphic you
going to have to hassle with overseas mail order and multi-region
DVD players or settle for cut dubbed US versions. And DVD didn't
just kill laser disc, it's killing VCDs as well. Sure they were
never popular in the states and they have the unjust rep of being a
pirate format, but there were lots of cool movies released on them
over the years. Many that probably will never see a DVD release due
to source materials being lost, or not enough demand to be
profitable on DVD, etc.
But not all hope is lost. I never ever thought I'd ever own copies
of Gumnaam or Nagin with English subtitles! Or tell the WB blow it
out their collective ass and buy a legit DVD of Eyes Wide Shut as
Kubrick intended it to be seen. Ditto for many HK movies (pity
non-anamorphic, but I guess one can't have everything)
As a huge fan of foreign movies, I find it disheartening that many
films I want to see on DVD I never will... at least without an
all-region DVD player and PAL converter (which I don't own). Part of
that is the foreign distributors, who have inflated prices for the
rights for their films. And the other part is the Hollywood studios
mangling them when they do get the U.S. rights to them. Why
Dimension did what it did to City on Fire,
I will never know.
Phil here has a philosophical thought that I actually considered
Do you remember when you liked a band that
wasn't mainstream? They were cool, the right people knew who they
were, and you felt personally attuned to their music and their
attitude...then they get a big huge hit. Now EVERYONE is singing the
songs you (and only you and maybe a couple of friends) were singing,
and the concerts are now in sold out stadiums with $50 T-shirts, and
parents, even my GOD *#&@ing parents, are bringing their
children, and it's all changed, and it can never go back.
DVD is that band.
DVD was for the film geeks, with the sharper picture, better sound,
and the extras, oh those beautiful extras...sigh.
It's a great thought. Phil, of course, went on to alleviate my
worries and gave me new hope for the future by reminding me of some
great DVDs that came out last year.
Following that thread is Geoff:
Just read your article on where you think DVD
is going, and have to say I totally agree with you. Any current
release of a contemporary film is buggered. The studio still has an
investment in the film - the overall profit/loss from that film has
not been tallied, and the studio may have a chance to top up the
coffers if the video (read: DVD) release sells well. Hence the
fluffy, crappy, EPK style empty "special" features.
However, all is not lost. If we look at older films either making
their way to DVD for the first time, or being revisited as special
editions, the picture looks a little rosier. Films like "Alien",
"Legend", "Carrie", "Dressed to Kill",
"Suspiria", "Halloween", "The Fog"
(OK, so I'm a horror freak, but you get the point...) have been, or
in some cases will be, released with informative documentaries and
other extras. Part of me thinks that this is perhaps how it should
be. Let me explain...
The dust has not cleared on any recently released film. We have no
perspective on them. Take "Harry Potter" for instance. A
huge hit at the moment, and on every kid's wish list. But this film
is yet to percolate through the different levels of popular culture.
We have yet to see how much impact it will have on the works
following it. And everyone who worked on it is now working on the
sequel and is still under contract to WB, which basically means
they'll never say anything other than how much fun they've had and
how great the film is anyway.
Compare this to "Dressed to Kill". It is twenty years
later. We can see what an important film it was to De Palma's
career. We can appreciate how it became the poster film for the
feminist backlash against the genre that was happening at the time,
and contextualize that in terms of the other garbage the genre was
producing. And Angie Dickinson can feel free to talk about how
horrible shooting the shower scenes was without some executive
having it cut from the doc, concerned with how such a statement
might affect the sales of the film. Could such a fantastic making of
doc been made for a DVD release in 1981, when the film was just six
months old? No. Absolutely not.
Another good example is Carpenter's "The Thing".
Carpenter, Russell, Lancaster, Cundey, Bottin, et all would have
been too depressed over the film's critical panning and
disappointing box office to wax eloquent about it's superb ensemble
cast and masterfully paranoid atmosphere for the film's first video
release. Now, they can all look back - the initial disappointment of
the film's reception dulled by time, it's reputation as a genre
masterpiece secured - and discuss their pride in the film with some
I'm not making excuses for studios producing lackluster discs of
current releases. But I am saying that perhaps "Harry Potter"
and "Rush Hour 2" will not be looked back on in twenty
years time as important or memorable films worthy of discussion. Or
maybe they will, but we can't know that yet. Can a film like "Blade
Runner" or "Vertigo" be fully appreciated without
acknowledgment of their impact on pop culture and cinema? Maybe we
are entering into an age of having crappy EPK packages for the big
hits; with more informative discs emerging after history has weighed
in with a verdict. The best special features are always the ones
where there has been a passage of time, and the participants can
look back with fondness - or not, as the case may be - and that
freedom will never happen with this month's big DVD release. And
that's my two bits.
Excellent points, all. The historical special features I want
really only become worth something a year later. That doesn't
exactly explain why so many new films that came out on laserdisc and
DVD had great special editions. But there are certain films that
really should be set aside for a few years and only then be revisted
with a historical eye. I mean... Brazil
needed some time to heal in order to get that great Criterion DVD
trashing Universal, with Universal's name stamped all over it. Great
I'd like you all to meet George. George proves several things. He
knows what he wants and he knows what he's talking about. But he
also shows that everyone wants something, and his or her needs trump
everyone else's. See if you spot what I mean:
A counterpoint for your commentary on the
future of DVD. While I may disagree with some of you views, you're
not an idiot. When DVD first came out, many old laserdisc people
(such as me) hoped it would scrap laserdisc. Why? Because laserdiscs
aren't durable -- despite Pioneer's claims. When you lose 20 discs
to laser rot (at 30 to 40 dollars a disc) which I did, and you look
at the underlying technology, it was clear that they had a duration
life of 30 years at most, and much less if extremely stringent
manufacturing controls were not maintained. Japanese laserdiscs that
I bought in the early 80's are slowly rotting away. And they are
So I jumped to DVD, which is based on CD technology, which has
shown to be much more durable. CD's from the 80's generally show no
deterioration after nearly the same length of time as laserdiscs. My
expectation is that my DVD library will outlast me. That may make me
appear to be an archival freak, but my goal is simple - buy a movie
ONCE not over and over again. Hollywood still found a way to get in
on the act, as I occasionally upgrade non-16x9 enhanced movies with
enhances versions when they come out. (Oh for a DVD player that will
properly handle a letterbox DVD in 3:2 pull down on a 16x9 HDTV).
Why did DVD take off while Laserdisc was always a niche product?
Simple - money! Warner was right, at below $20 people buy video,
rather than rent it (I'm talking average aggregate demand - some
will rent no matter what, and some will buy no matter what). Since
DVD was parasitic on CD technology, the cost of manufacture was
peanuts compared to laserdisc. So they could be priced much cheaper.
Much of Hollywood hates this, because they think that demand is
inelastic, so they are pricing their product too cheaply. Besides,
all they can understand is selling tickets (pay per view) and are
incensed at any model that isn't a pay per view model (renting
videos is also a pay per view).
So why do people buy DVD? For the movie! Most people who are buying
movies have no opinion about extras. I only care about one extra
consistently, the trailer. I like to watch the trailer as a warm-up
to the main feature - the movie. I may look at some of the extras -
or not. I get bored with hour after hour of extras, and annoyed that
I have to keep extra shelf space for all these extra discs, because
nowadays every one is putting the trailers on the second disc, so
you have to hang on to it (and swap discs) in order to watch the
trailer/movie pattern. Sheer accident, of course.
I understand that students of movie making want all the extra
information they can get, and I respect that. But remember, DVD is a
mass-market product now, not an expensive niche product like
laserdisc. The amazing thing is that there are any extras at all.
The mass market really does not demand it. It's been more for the
egos of the people who made the movies. Yes, Hollywood has been
cutting corners. And the talent is now trying to have their ego
strokes and get paid for it too . . . good work if you can get it.
But this does not mean the end of DVD, just the current overstuffed
packages. What will kill DVD will be the next generation of HDTV
disc, whatever that will be - maybe. Remember - SACD and DVD-audio
aren't killing CD's, and enhanced 16x9 DVD with 3:2 pull down on a
HDTV is not quite as good as HDTV itself (which I've seen off
special purpose laser and hard drive at Bjorn's in San Antonio), but
it's not that far away, and it's already an entrenched technology .
. . and durable! Warner has it right, price DVD at the cost of a
movie ticket, and make it an impulse item at the grocery store.
Thanks, George. I guess by that thinking, the minute something
becomes mass market, I should just shrug and walk away. I think
that's a silly thought. I'd like special edition DVDs to be like
research books. They have the film... and then they have the study
of that film. Remember, I was only criticizing good DVD special
editions going the way of the Dodo. At the rate Hollywood is going,
they really should just call everything a DVD unless it's a real
tried and true special edition. Harry
Potter is a DVD, not a special edition DVD. Like I said
(and will keep saying), I enjoy the films... but I enjoy learning
about the films just as much. I will buy movie only discs. But I'd
gladly pay more for special edition discs that let me dig deeper
into the film.
This is a fun email:
I agree completely with your editorial, but it should come as no
surprise that the commercialization of DVD has turned the format
into what it is today. Let's face it, in this wonderful market
economy we live in, the entire process of making money is always
centered around one major concept. "Find out what people will
pay money for and then find ways to give it to them as cheaply as
possible while making them believe that they're getting the greatest
thing on earth." There are simply countless examples of million
dollar marketing selling total pieces of crap and people just line
up and beg for more. "MMMMMM. More crap. Yummy. Yummy."
(Or) "John got a blue piece of crap, I need one too. Wow! Blue
You get the picture. The wonderful thing about Laserdisc was the
simple fact that it never was a mainstream format. It catered
specifically to the white-collar wine drinking (not necessarily
French) man that had the same tastes in movies as he did in wine. So
seeing a plethora of Dom Perignons come out on Laserdisc was no
shocker. People spending $50-$150 for one movie will pretty much
demand the best. The average idiot purchasing Harry Potter on DVD
simply could care less. A great majority of them will probably never
even visit thedigitalbits.com to find out what they didn't get on
Maybe we've just come to expect too much in the way of extras. Sure
it would be nice to see more discs come out that looked like SEVEN
or Moulin Rouge in the extras department, but DVD has always been
hit or miss. If Moulin Rouge or SEVEN were the Dom Perignons of DVD,
I guess I'll have to go out and buy myself a good bottle of Mad Dog
20-20 or maybe I'll just settle with a six back of Bud to go with my
Harry Potter DVD (which I'll stand in line to buy with all the other
Have a great day!
There are people don't read The Bits?
Bill, were you aware of this? [Editor's Note:
Hhmmm - I'll have to have my people look into this. Disturbing...]
Tom awakens a point in my mind. Are people willing to pay extra for
a "real" special edition? If Warner made a movie only DVD
in full frame (with DD 5.1 sound and a bunch of games for the people
out there who want that sort of thing), an anamorphic widescreen
edition with a trailer, DD 5.1 and nothing else (and charged 20
bucks for it), then at the same time (or a while later) put out a "super
arch deluxe edition" for 70 or so bucks - would people buy it?
It's an interesting thought.
I think this e-mail stands all by itself:
Boy, I debated whether or not to respond to
your latest tirade about DVD and just can't help myself. Here goes:
Damn, you're an idiot! You along with what I believe is a minority
of DVD fans (though not necessarily a minority of the fans that
access your site) has apparently forgotten what DVDs are: a medium
to deliver movies into our homes. I have been collecting movies in
various forms for many years. First, VHS tape. In retrospect, an
awful medium due to what has proven to be poor picture quality and
lack of widescreen presentations but when nothing else was available
at the time very thankful to have them.
Second, Laser Disc. Better picture quality and widescreen too. Over
several years I collected about 800 discs including many of those
high dollar special editions (which I still have). But after
becoming disenchanted with the format due to purchasing too many
defective discs (discs poorly pressed, warped, etc.) and discs that
deteriorated over time (my copy of the Special Edition of The Abyss
and Ace Ventura look like they were filmed in snowstorms) I gave up
on that format and refused to purchase any more discs. This was
before I was even aware that DVD was coming.
Now DVD. My hometown was not a test market for DVD but on a trip to
Phoenix I found them available. I purchased twenty, returned home
and on the next day purchased a DVD player. (You could buy players
here but no one had DVDs). I was an early adopter. I compared the
picture quality of these DVDs to my laser discs and knew laser disc
was doomed. I have since collected over 3800 DVDs. With this size of
a collection it is not surprising that my wife and I no longer go to
theaters to put up with rude crowds who talk during the film. I
would rather pay 15-25 dollars to watch a movie in the comfort of my
own home even if I only watch that movie once. I do not rent, I
realize I am an exception. DVD has afforded me the opportunity to
see movies I could never see in any other way. Things that are not
available for rent nor are shown on television such as Italian
horror and Spaghetti westerns, tons of foreign movies, British
television series, and concerts. And believe it or not I have never
purchased a DVD because of the "bonus material". I have
repurchased DVDs when one with better picture quality or sound has
been issued. But first and foremost the format was designed to give
us a better and more convenient technology to view movies. I do
enjoy some of the special features incorporated in DVDs such as
deleted scenes, mainly because I like to debate whether or not their
inclusion would have resulted in a better picture. Commentaries -
nice, essential - no. To suggest that the Harry Potter disc will be
unworthy of our collections because the special features are fluff
is stupid. If it had no extras I would still purchase it. I would
rather spend my time watching another movie. Again, I realize I may
be an exception.
Regarding commentators being paid for their contributions, it
should not raise the price of the disc significantly. I believe that
the commentators (actors, not necessarily directors) may perceive
that contributing in this way to a disc may contribute to the sales
of the disc and just may be insisting on their share of the pie.
After all, if the price of the disc is increased for this feature
the artists should be paid.
Unrelated but pertinent:
I think that releasing DVDs with inferior video and audio and then
releasing another improved version later is a crime. At this time
there is no excuse for not releasing all DVDs in anamorphic
versions. We do not need any more $7.99 pieces of crap on dealer's
shelves. If it is worthy of releasing do it properly and at a fair
price (Disney included. Universal, $32.99 list for "The Curse
Of the Jade Scorpion"? I don't care if you think it has limited
appeal, that's gouging)
No, I don't loan out my discs. As you can imagine my collection is
a considerable investment and they do not leave my house. You may
however come over to enjoy a movie with me.
I believe the biggest threat to DVD for movie fans is the impending
release of pan and scan versions of movies already released as
widescreen only editions. I avoid p&s like the plague.
Television DVDs excepted. If some chains are insisting that
companies release pan and scan versions for their customers and do
not stock the widescreen version also (Wal-Mart), I suggest you
consider shopping somewhere else in protest of their and their
customer's ignorance. The Internet is a wonderful store.
Now, quit worrying about extra features, throw a DVD in the player,
dim the lights, crank it up, and enjoy.
It's amazing to me, that this person considers me an idiot... yet
he sounds so much like me in my collective reviews over the years. I
make one point about special editions beginning to suck and BOOM!
Somehow, I'd like to think that if I lived in Thomas' neck of the
woods we'd be great friends.
Here's a reiteration of most of what's been said, but Tom puts it
too nicely to simply drop.
I enjoyed your comments and will give the
article some thought, but I do have some comments of my own:
1) I think the problem is not in the format, but in the content
providers. If an actor won't make a commentary because they think
they got screwed by the studio or were not offered enough dough,
does it really matter if the studio is putting out a laserdisc, DVD,
book signing promotion, whatever? Does it matter if Criterion
approaches them or the original studio ("Oh, that dumb movie
where they ripped me off and gave me a bad image - sorry, Criterion,
I want to have nothing to do with the flick ever again")? I
don't think the format is to blame for an actor's lack of appearance
for promotional or retrospective material/media. That is a choice
made by a person based on an issue or event that has nothing to do
with the format. It's just something that happens when a spoiled
brat doesn't get his bottle. Spielberg doesn't do commentaries
because he thinks it reveals too much of the magic behind the movie.
With that kind of an attitude, you're not going to get deleted
scenes, making of (of any meaning other than promotional EPK),
commentaries, or anything. I am surprised he included the
animatronics in Jurassic Park - I thought that gave away too much of
how a movie is made (personally, I think he's an insecure dick, but
it's his decision). But that has little to do with the format
itself. If he won't do that stuff, he wouldn't do it for laserdisc,
VHS, TV special, a book someone is writing, or any other format of
2) I think the studio probably doesn't care about you or me; they
just want to make money. What exactly do you expect from a big
Western capitalistic corporation? As I take another sip of my diet
Coke, I notice that the bottle is 591 ml. What happened to the other
9? These things used to be 600 ml. The bottle looks exactly the
same, costs exactly the same, but at some point in time, they
decided to chince you on the amount. I always liked Pepsi better
anyway. I am currently reading Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser
(amazing, fantastic book, by the way). I am at the part where he is
exposing that McDonald's, Taco Bell, and the like all make major
campaign donations to congressmen who "don't support"
raising the minimum wage so that the restaurants can keep chincing
their employees by paying them crap money. Apparently, the REAL wage
(that's a fancy way of saying if you account for inflation) of the
average US McDonald's employee has decreased 40% in the last like 20
years (that's a fancy way of saying inflation has gone up more than
their pay in the last 20 years at a rate of 150%). Welcome to the
Western world of capitalism. In some ways it sucks, but could you
expect anything else?
So, in conclusion, you can't blame civilization for being itself.
It's not the format; it's the people behind the content and the
general population it's marketing to. If we're lucky, most studios
will continue to put out great detailed meaningful stuff for the
enthusiasts every once in a while. May DVD live on!
His first point: Why is there bad blood between the studios and the
actors? Isn't that part of the history? If a studio did the disc,
there'd be no mention. But if an outside company produced the disc,
we'd have a chance. As for Spielberg and Rob Reiner (who's said the
same thing about lost magic in special edition discs, but still did
his own commentary), filmmakers aren't magicians anymore. We know
too much now, so breaking the walls between us is philosophical at
this point. I don't think Spielberg's an insecure dick, but I do
think he's being lazy. He could give us a commentary and talk about
his thoughts on film in general. I mean, how cool would that be? He
doesn't have to ruin the film - there are no rules to a commentary.
I think it would be great to hear him, Harrison Ford and Lucas just
talking on a Raiders disc.
They wouldn't have to talk a second about the film itself. Just
hearing them would be worth the price of the disc (yes, yes... let
alone finally getting the film on DVD.)
His second point: Well, I just bought some Klondike bars from the
store (sugar free, thank you) and there's this 7th bar for FREE at
the top. I thought, "Wow!" It's pretty cool to get
something for free, right? Well, when I got home and broke one out,
I noticed that the bars are really, really thin now. It's like with
McDonalds - a point he brings up - whenever they do a buy one-get
one free promo for a Big Mac, don't you notice that the burgers are
really small and getting smaller? They fool you into thinking that
you're getting something, but in the end, they cut away a little
more and hope you don't notice. Well, I'm here to say we notice. And
if we allow the studios to give us ads for their theme parks as an
advertised extra, then we allow them to cut the size of our burgers.
I'm not saying the studio can't put an ad on their disc - hell, it's
their disc. What I'm saying is, don't get a star to talk before it
so you figure you can now advertise it.
Tom went on to make a third and forth point, but we've covered them
previously, so we're moving on. And, yes... I'd also like DVD to
Many of you were quick to remind me of The
Lord of the Rings coming soon and being the perfect
representation of what I want in DVD. But there are plenty of DVDs
that fulfill my wants. I just want consistency in my consumerism.
Plus, Jackson is a Criterion filmmaker in my mind and, with that, he
knows what a DVD should be and has the power to make it so.
I'll wait until after I see the second
(November) edition of The Fellowship of the Ring. That, IMHO, will
determine the future of movies on DVD with features.
I don't think anything is hinged on any one film on DVD, but I
share your enthusiasm. I can't wait for LOTR
David piped in with a real concern that no one knows the answers
Hi. I was wondering if you have heard of
anything about the so-called blue laser DVD. I have been hearing
lots about it, and how it could put an end to the present DVDs.
After reading your article about special edition DVDs and how they
might be coming to an end, I am becoming worried that DVDs might not
be around for to long. Please email me about any information you
have on this matter. Thanks!
Bill and I are taking this issue very seriously. So far, only one
manufacturer (Panasonic) said that their eventual Blu-Ray disc
players will be backwards compatible with standard DVD and CD.
Still, that means it's possible for all manufacturers to do the
same. You better believe Bill and I will do everything in our power
to make all manufacturers follow Panasonic's. I didn't invest so
much in DVD to just do it all over again.
This next one is a shame. I'm sorry about the DVD industry failing
to provide quality all over the world, but it's tough for us to do
anything on this score. It's hard enough for us to deal with the
Hollywood studios on some of these issues, much less their
international divisions (which often operate completely separately).
Anyone outside the U.S. who wants to fight the good fight on this,
we're right there for moral support. But hey... you guys are getting
Harry Potter is being released in Australia
(region 4) by Warner in pan and scan only. Hell, I don't even want
extras if the film has been butchered.
The writing is on the wall...
Mind you, some of the FOX special editions have been pretty
impressive, so it's not complete misery.
And finally Charlotte is here to bludgeon us all with her two
Your points are well taken; there are plenty
of crappy 'Special' Editions out there.
There are also a lot of bloated 'Special Editions'.
I wonder why The Fast and the Furious has the movie AND features on
one disc and Pearl Harbor can't even put the movie on one disc!
Anyway, as for the 'Dodo' Dilemma, there are two solutions.
1) Negotiate all DVD rights up front. If Arnold makes another movie
(and, to be honest, if he keeps up like his last few, that is a BIG
if), his DVD participation would be included. Obviously this doesn't
help DVDs of old movies (like Total Recall), but perhaps the next
Actor's Guild contract could cover this.
2) Sometimes I don't CARE about extra features. You paid for the
fluff on 'Grinch', yet you could care less about it. I bought the
Full Screen version of The Mummy when I bought the Ultimate Edition,
I haven't watched it. I'd like to see more movies go the route of
'Matrix/Matrix Revisited'. You buy one disc with the movie, and
then, if you want, you buy the Bonus disc.
Heck, link this up with Columbia's 'Superbits' programme. If you
never have to worry about features except for commentary, gimme the
This has the added effect of seeing who REALLY wants to see the
special features. I enjoy them, but rarely watch them more than
once. (Of course, many aren't worth rewatching, are they?)
Also, the bonus material can be farmed out, or worked on without
having to have it done the same time the movie is released (Hear
that George? Put a commentary on Empire, and release the bonus disc
in 3 years!)
If videophiles end up getting screwed, then that's free market
economics for you. If you don't like it, move to Afghanistan.
But I don't wanna live in Afghanistan. I like her point about the
studios negotiating SE stuff up front. I wonder if they do that
already? And I don't think every movie should be a special edition.
There are some flicks out there, that have some great special
editions, that I wouldn't have wanted in the first place. But you
never know about some movies until you've gone through the extras.
David Cronenberg's Crash for
example. It's a pretty inaccessible film, unless you've read the
book it's based on. If you have, it's brilliant. But with his
commentary on the laserdisc/DVD, you understand the film better and
walk away really appreciating the film that much more. It's a
dynamic you don't understand or care about until you see it for
Anyway, I got over 350 e-mails on my last column by Tuesday alone.
There were a lot of great thoughts, and everyone was incredibly
professional and well mannered. I was proud to know you guys read
us. Many of the sentiments were the same, and I hope I pulled a good
cross-section to illustrate the way you guys feel. Thanks for taking
the time to let me know what you think.
So to end the whole thing: I'm glad I had something to say that
peaked everyone's interest. I'm just as surprised to find that this
is an issue many of you have thought about. Essentially, it boils
down like this for me. DVD was made to replace laserdisc, and
instead it replaced VHS. That was a great stroke of luck for the
studios, but they shouldn't forget the fans that made the format
work in the first place.
I chose two "kiddie" films to pick on - The
Grinch and Harry Potter.
That may not have been a wise decision, but I think it was an
illustrative point that made sense to most of you, so I don't regret
it too much. Many of you pointed out the same thing I've said behind
the scenes for years: that a really good DVD special edition can't
be made for a film under a year old. But I think now that maybe
that's wrong - especially when you look at some of the great discs
put out by Criterion back in the LD days (released soon after the
film's release): English Patient,
Se7en and others. And then
there are amazing DVDs like Fox's Fight
Club, which came out soon after the film's release.
What it boils down to is this - a film has to be of substance for
the DVD to have substance. And for me, Harry
Potter has substance. Sure, it was filmed as fluff and
released as fluff, and now we have a fluffy DVD. But the Harry
Potter phonemenon isn't as big as it is worldwide because
it's fluff. And this DVD could have been a better, more worthwhile
treat for the fans. I mean, look - we're all kids. We spend most of
our time collecting memories and dedicating ourselves to colorful
lies. We all want to believe these stories exist, even if only while
we're watching and reading them. But we're not all 10-year-olds, so
to write the DVD off as something for only the youngest members of
the audience is a big mistake.
As for The Grinch, Universal
had it right. But they still got it wrong. Everything on the
Universal disc should have been exclusive to that 8" x 8"
Playset version for kids. That playset tells me: don't buy this
unless you're a kid or have kids. Then they could have put some of
the fluffy "making-of" stuff, trailers and movie-based
extras on the standard discs in keep cases. That would have been
nice and probably would have gone under the radar for most critics
It's not hard to please people. All you have to do is try. More
specifically, you have to want to try. That's really it. You won't
please everyone all the time. The same people who support my views
this week, may condemn me next week. I just think we spend too much
money collectively to allow ourselves to be shorted. As a consumer -
not as a critic or fan of DVD but just as a consumer - I would be
happy just getting the film in optimal form and a trailer. That
would make me happy. But I'm standing in front of the consumer
masses. I have a direct line to the studios, and so I have to pick
and choose my battles. As a member of The
Digital Bits (the oldest and longest running independent
website dedicated to DVD on the Internet - don't forget that), I can
tell you that we've fought many battles for DVD on behalf of
consumers... and won. Some of these battles you've seen, while
others happened behind the scenes. The point is, we're there for
you... because we ARE you.
The solution to this problem of deteriorating special editions,
which I promised all of you last week, is a simple one. And I think
it would make everyone happy - it would make the studios richer and
give cache to the old laserdisc heroes. Here goes - the major
studios should release whatever they want on DVD, like they used to
with VHS. All the titles they want, any format the want, with all
the supplemental bells and whistles they can pile on that will get
the Soccer Moms out of their SUVs and into Blockbuster. But at the
same time, they should license out the special edition rights to
third parties who have the time to make these special editions truly
special again. I'd much rather Criterion revisit the RKO library
(which includes King Kong, the
Val Lewton films and The Thing From
Another World) than seeing Warner do it. I'd like to see
what Synapse could do with some of Paramount's horror titles, like
the Friday the 13th series,
Danger Diabolik and
My Bloody Valentine. Let Image
work with Lucasfilm on the original Star
Wars Trilogy on DVD - their first two attempts (with
laserdisc) came out really nice and even featured some special
edition stuff no one thought they'd get. I think you see the point.
All of these independent producers (who work with the studios now)
could set up their own shops and we'd have six or seven third party
companies that we've never heard of, but who are immediately capable
of stellar work. The idea is, they wouldn't be tied down by studio
politics, in-fighting and other internal affairs. And maybe... just
maybe... we'd get another release like Criterion's
Brazil. Wouldn't that be cool?
I know, it's an anti-climatic idea, but the studios aren't really
licensing their product right now. It's a situation where, if the
director wants it and has enough clout, the studios occasionally do
it. But if the studios were to swing open the doors and allow for
bidding wars on some of these titles, we'd see some great things.
AND the people who don't give a rat's ass would still have their
previous studio editions, just like in the days of VHS. That's what
it all boils down to, doesn't it? Laserdisc is dead. Now we have to
kill VHS. Special editions aren't all that special, because for
every 20 films you guys cite to me as having great SEs on DVD, I can
cite 20 more that needed to be better... or needed to be SEs in the
You don't need to e-mail me your thoughts anymore. Just know that I
love DVD, and I'm not ringing the death knell for the format. The
death knell I hear is for those truly special special editions.
Sure, we're getting lots of added value material now, but it's all
being created by the studios' marketing departments. And they're
getting away with it because of consumers who are happy to buy
whatever they're given and who think it's not their place to ask for
I'm Doogan, these are my views. Now, I'm going to watch some DVDs
so I can sing their praises next week, instead of standing on this
damned uncomfortable soapbox.
Love, peace and anamorphic widescreen...