UPDATE - 7/22/99 - 5:15 PM PDT)
We've got some great news for you, disc-fans! The Bits
has been able to officially confirm some very exciting news: Buena Vista
Home Entertainment has finally relented, and is allowing Miramax to
release its first DVD title in anamorphic widescreen! And that first
anamorphic title will be none other than the most recent Best Picture
winner - Shakespeare in Love! The
disc, which streets on August 10th, will be a fairly basic movie-only
edition, but WILL be enhanced for widescreen TVs. Miramax has assured me
that a special edition DVD version of the film is also in the works, but
was delayed due to legal issues (a problem that has delayed many special
edition titles, not just from Buena Vista and Miramax).
Miramax has further informed me that they plan to push vigorously for
anamorphic widescreen on future titles, and that they would like to
start supporting DTS on some future releases as well (particularly their
Dimension horror line). Other special edition DVDs that they currently
have in the works, are Life is Beautiful
(which will include a half-hour special on director Roberto Benigni, as
well as both the English dubbed and original Italian audio tracks), From
Dusk Til Dawn (with a making-of documentary), Switchblade
Sisters, Il Postino,
Chasing Amy, and Scream
2. Down the line, other titles that will likely receive
special edition treatment, are Scream 3,
Teaching Mrs. Tingle (likely with
a Kevin Williamson commentary track), and eventually The
English Patient. Their Halloween
H20: SE has finally been rescheduled for 9/28.
I'm told that the biggest constraints on Miramax doing special editions
faster on DVD, are all of the myriad of legal rights issues that arise
over special edition material (which is becoming more of a problem as
the format gains popularity), and just the sheer amount of work that is
involved in pulling everything together. But rest assured - they are
adding staffers, and plan to start really doing lots of great special
edition DVDs as soon as they can.
As for their recent She's All That
DVD, which was mistakenly released with only Dolby Digital 2.0 audio,
the disc is now being repressed by Buena Vista with the correct Dolby
Digital 5.1 soundtrack. Anyone who purchased it should return it to the
store where they bought it. You will be able to exchange them for the
corrected discs, as soon as they are ready, and are sent to retailers.
We will post information on how to spot the corrected discs, and when
they will be available, as soon as the details are finalized.
As if that wasn't good enough news,
Entertainment has once again updated their
News page, and look what's coming to DVD in September: A
Christmas Story (widescreen), Deliverance,
Without a Cause: Special Edition, and Sommersby...
ALL in anamorphic widescreen! The street dates for all are 9/21, except
Christmas Story (which streets on
9/28). Muppets from Space is also
coming from Columbia TriStar on 10/26. I gotta tell ya - I am a very
happy camper at the moment. After the disappointing Kubrick
Collection, I definitely needed a DVD shot in the arm from
Warner, and it looks like they're getting ready to deliver one. Very
(EARLY UPDATE - 7/22/99 - 3 AM PDT)
Ahhh yes... it's time for some housekeeping work around the Bits
today. To start with, we've updated our mirror copy of Jim Taylor's Official
DVD FAQ, to Jim's latest revision (July 12th). We've also
modified how the page appears when you view it (by removing the sidebar,
and other unnecessary graphics) to help it load much faster. Still, the
FAQ has grown to over 300K in
size, so it will take several minutes to load. That said, Jim has shaped
it into an absolutely invaluable resource, for virtually every question
you may have on DVD. In the unlikely event the answer you seek isn't in
there, the FAQ should at least
point you in the right direction. We've also done some much needed
archiving, so you'll discover that the Rumor
Mill, and our
Cents column archive should now load much faster as well.
In case you missed it, we posted our in-depth look at The
Films of Stanley Kubrick on DVD last night, with reviews of
nearly all of the films by the director that are currently available on
the format (the last two reviews, Paths of
Glory and Barry Lyndon,
will be up soon).
Our Star Wars digital projection
story should be up by mid-afternoon, and we've finally started the
Trivia Contest for July (yeah!). We're
giving away another Sony DVD player this month, so do be sure to get in
on the fun! And if you've got a moment, please take the time to visit
our sponsor for the contest, DVD
City. Remember - if you mention the Bits
when ordering from them, you'll get 2% off your order (and 5% off when
you order from their Cableland
site)! They've been very good to our readers, so if you're in the market
for players and accessories, we'd appreciate it if you would consider
giving them a try. Many thanks! ;-)
Have a great day, folks!
Well, we've gotten literally dozens of e-mails here at the Bits,
asking us, "Are you going to review the Kubrick
Collection? When are you gonna review the Kubrick
Collection...?" Yes, we are. And we have. I have just
posted our complete look at The
Films of Stanley Kubrick on DVD. There you will find links to
reviews of all of the director's films that are available on the DVD
format. Five new reviews were posted today, as part of this effort,
including Lolita, The
Shining, Full Metal Jacket,
Spartacus, and A
Clockwork Orange. We've already posted (and updated if
necessary) our reviews of 2001,
Dr. Strangelove, The
Killing, and Killer's Kiss.
And Paths of Glory and Barry
Lyndon will be added in the next couple of days. You can jump
to all of these reviews by clicking to our
main Review page,
or by going through our
films start page as I just mentioned (where you'll also find
detailed comments on the Warner Stanley
Kubrick Collection as a whole, from both Todd and I). Whew -
that ought to keep you busy for a little while!
In the meantime, DVD
the finalists for this year's Discus Awards, so do check them out.
As one of the judges this year, I can tell you that the competition was
fierce, and there were lots of good titles in the running. Well done to
all of you who worked on the titles that were entered - the entries were
impressive in all categories.
Online has an interesting story on DVD up at the moment, which
basically urges you not to throw out your VCR just yet. The
Times Dispatch is reporting that the layoffs have begun over
at Divx HQ (slide about halfway down the page for the story) - ouch! And
those of you who are just dying to get The
Final Countdown on DVD, should e-mail
Tim Cook over at Pacific Family Entertainment. Seems they own the
home video rights to the film, and weren't aware that there was anyone
who wanted it on DVD. You remember The Final
Countdown right? It's that film where the modern-day US Navy
aircraft carrier Nimitz goes back in time, and has a chance to prevent
the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor? Martin Sheen and Kirk Douglas
star... very cool! In fact, it was just on TBS last night. Let's give
good old Tim a holler and get this flick spinning in our DVD players
ASAP. You can also write to Tim at the following address:
c/o Pacific Family Entertainment
642 South B Street
Tustin, CA 92780
We'll see you back here tomorrow (with any luck, a little earlier in
Our plans today at the Bits have
changed just a little bit, to accommodate a massive flood of upcoming
DVD release information I received last night. In today's update of the
Mill, you will find new DVD title information through the end
of the year, including street dates for Columbia TriStar and Fox titles,
as well as updates on MGM, Paramount and Universal. There are a TON of
titles listed here, including many new ones, so you will definitely not
want to miss it.
Columbia TriStar announced a DVD version of their classic Lost
Horizon, which will be released on August 31st. The disc will
include a restoration audio commentary, an alternate ending, three
deleted scenes, and more (SRP is $27.95).
Entertainment updated their
News page over the weekend, to include another big bunch of
titles. Among those included are: The
Nightmare on Elm Street set, South
Park: Volumes 4-6, The Wizard of
OZ: SE, Dark Crystal,
the aspect ratio corrected Silverado,
Days, Wallace & Gromit,
Halloween H20: SE, Who
Framed Roger Rabbit, all those Avengers
'65 and '66 DVDs, and lots more. There are just a TON of good
discs in the works at the moment - very cool.
By the way, I updated the Nimbus DVD titles Released
or Announced stat - we're now up to 3,756 titles.
We'll be back tomorrow with those reviews (just FYI, they're Kubrick
titles), the Trivia Contest for
July, and the digital projection story. See you then!
Well, I think I speak for everyone when I say that this has been a sad
weekend. The news of the apparent death of John F. Kennedy, Jr., and his
wife and sister-in-law, seems to have given most of the people I've
spoken with reason for pause. How ironic that it should happen on the
anniversary of Chappaquiddick. Like them or not, you have to admire a
family that has given so much to their country, and sacrificed so much
in the process.
In brighter news, this week also marks the 30th anniversary of the
Apollo 11 moon landing (July 20th, 1969) - an event that occurred, as it
so happens, as a result of President Kennedy's challenge to the nation
less than a decade before. Just think - 30 years ago, we were walking on
the moon, and now, we've lost the ability to do that. Kinda makes you
think. Rest easy space fans - those who follow such things know that the
space shuttle Discovery is expected to launch tonight, with the first
female commander in charge of the mission. Godspeed.
All right - the news I've received this weekend hasn't been all bad. On
the DVD side of things, we've heard some VERY interesting information
about a big change over at Fox Home Video. It's in today's
Mill post, and trust me, you don't want to miss it. We've also
DVD Sales chart today, to include the 42,154 players that sold in
the first week of July. And our own Todd Doogan has weighed in with his
look at both the Universal and new Criterion DVD versions of Terry
No doubt by now, you've all heard the latest mish-mash of conflicting
reports on the Star Wars DVDs. Our
fellow IGN affiliate The
Force.net, reported last week that one of their sources had
asked Lucas about the DVDs at a European press junket, and was told, "soon".
No sooner do we hear that, comes
from Cinescape, that Lucas was asked about the DVDs on a
British morning show called The Big Breakfast,
and again said that he wants to wait until all 6 films are done.
is reporting that all 19 of the Bond films will get special
edition treatment on DVD before the end of next year, a la the Tomorrow
Never Dies: SE. The first titles to be so treated are Goldeneye,
Live and Let Die, Thunderball,
For Your Eyes Only, Goldfinger,
and License to Kill on October
Those of you who check out Consumer Reports
magazine, will no doubt have seen the ringing endorsement the
publication gave Divx in their July issue, calling the pay-per-view
format a viable option for some consumers, "worth considering as a
DVD add-on, especially if having movies on hand for impulse viewing
appeals to you". Not days after the issue went to press, Divx went
belly-up. In fact, by the time I got my copy in the mail, Divx was
already 6 feet under. Naturally, this month's issue features a hurried
Product Update on the Divx situation, saying that Divx's demise, "eliminates
a movie-watching option that some people found to be convenient."
All this gives me reason to laugh a little. At least now we know what
kind of "finger-on-the-pulse" Consumer
Reports had on the whole situation. I do generally like the
magazine, but you gotta laugh... ;-)
We'll be back tomorrow with more reviews, and that digital projection
feature. See you then!
At long last, the transcript of the VSDA DVD
and the Filmmaker panel is online! And I'm wiped out. Gods
that was tough to transcribe. Bad audiotape recordings, difficult
accents, and people talking away from their microphones - not to mention
that I think my ears now have permanent dents from the pair of cheap
headphones I've been using. ;-)
Anyway, now that that's done, we've got lots of other stuff coming,
from both Todd and I. We'll be posting some new reviews, and I should
have a report on the digital projection of Star
Wars: Episode I as well. I happened take in one of the final
screenings of it in Burbank on Wednesday night, and it was really quite
surprising. Just moments after the opening credits appeared on screen, a
buddy of mine and I just quickly glanced at each other in amazement for
a moment - the picture was that stunning. The kind folks from Texas
Instruments invited us back into the projection booth after the show,
and even let us take a few pictures, so we'll be able to show you
exactly what the equipment itself looks like, as compared to a standard
35mm film projector.
By the way, the L.A. Times has a
good story online now, about DVD and the extras you find on the format.
You'll find that by
here. The article contains some very interesting comments from
spokespersons for the various studios, including another dubious one
from Fox, so do check it out.
Anyway, thanks for your patience over the last couple of days. Enjoy
the panel discussion transcript, and have a great day!
Just a quick note to say that I'm working hard, even as you read this,
to wrap up the panel discussion transcript. This one is really a bear -
much more difficult than what we did for CES. Both of the tapes Peter
and I recorded are of really lousy quality, and it's been incredibly
difficult to try to compare one to the other, and attempt to discern the
dialog from them, especially when people lowered their voices, or spoke
away from their microphones. Still, slow but sure, it's coming along.
And I think the end result will be well worth your attention - it was a
So hang in there, thanks for you patience, and I'll absolutely get it
up as soon as possible today. And a suggestion to VSDA - next time you
get such a terrific group of talent together to discuss DVD... MAKE AN
So is there a conspiracy in the industry to keep teasing Star
Wars fans with the idea of a DVD this X-Mas? Well, if Fox had
their way, I suspect we'd never see the Trilogy
on DVD, or we'd get bare-bones, non-anamorphic widescreen versions of
them (or even worse - I can hear it now, "No DVD version, but
Digital VHS is on the way..."). Still, when
File reported early this morning that a Lucasfilm
representative had told him Star Wars
was coming on DVD this holiday season, people began going nuts. I think
I've personally received a good hundred e-mails from hopeful fans.
Alas, Lucasfilm has worked quickly to squash the rumor, an official
spokesperson saying to me this morning, "Unfortunately the rumor
isn't true. We're not saying that it won't happen, just that there have
been no plans made yet." When asked if a DVD was even under
consideration, she replied, "Well, it's always been a
consideration, but no decisions have been reached."
So what does all this mean for you? Well, we've known for a long time
that a DVD was being planned, and that some elements have been prepared
for such a release... eventually. But keep in mind, all the elements for
a Men in Black DVD were completed
by Columbia TriStar as much as a year and a half ago, and the disc was
ready to be replicated. But the studio has been forced to sit on the
title. We know the Phantom Menace
will be released to home video (at least VHS) in the 1st or 2nd Qtr of
next year, and it would be logical to re-release the original Trilogy
in the months leading up to that. And this Christmas WOULD be the
perfect time to do it... despite Lucas' claims of wanting to wait until
all six films are done (click
here to listen to the .wav format audio clip). Bottom line - I'd
be willing to bet that we'll see at least the original Trilogy
on DVD by the time Episode I
reaches video. But until we have something more to go on, all we can do
is speculate. You can bet everyone in the world will stay on top of this
story however, so stay tuned...
We'll be back later this afternoon with the director's panel transcript
- see you then!
Well, the transcript of the VSDA director's panel on DVD is slow going,
but I should have it ready for you all to read in tomorrow's post. We'll
be back with more new DVD reviews then as well. Today's post is going to
be brief, so that I can wrap up the transcript. I was also recently
asked to be a judge for this year's DVD
Pro Discus awards, and the judging must be wrapped up today as
well, so I'm definitely up to my eyeballs in DVD at the moment.
In the meantime, there are a number of post-VSDA press releases
available on the Net today. There's a
newswire story on the director's panel available, with some brief
comments. And there are a pair of brief news releases on how DVD took
center stage at VSDA (click
to read them). Even
is getting onto the DVD bandwagon after the show.
On the game system front, there's a
release on the first DVD-ROM title being designed by Japanese game
maker Koei, for Sony's new PlayStation 2 system. And speaking of new
DVD-based game systems, Nintendo had revealed that their forthcoming $99
Dolphin game system WILL NOT play DVD movies or Audio CDs, however a
version of the system from partner Panasonic (likely more expensive)
WILL be able to do so (read
the scoop at
Generation Online). You can read
take on this story, over at N64.IGN.com.
Finally, we've updated the
DVD player sales chart with the complete sales data for July,
which includes 5 weeks. And it looks like July was another record month
for player sales, in a normally very soft consumer electronics buying
We'd like to send out a special hello today, to all of our Minnesota
and North Dakota readers, who we hear are BIG DVD fans. And with that,
we'll see you back here tomorrow!
'99 Picture Gallery is now up, with some 50 pictures taken on
the show floor. I'm working very hard on the transcript of the DVD panel
discussion, "DVD and the Filmmaker", but it's extremely slow
going. Both Peter Bracke (of DVD
File) and I taped the panel, but given the poor acoustics of
the room (the hall was cavernous), neither one of our tapes came out
very well. Still, Pete gave me his tape to use as a back-up to my copy,
and between the two of them, I should be able to piece the discussion
together. I will post the complete transcript here as soon as I'm able
to finish it.
By the way, while I was at the show, I had the great pleasure to bump
into Guido Henkel, editor of the fine
web site, in addition to Pete. I must say, it's nice to bump into my
fellow webmasters at these functions - they're good people all. Anyway,
the discussion transcript is coming soon. In the meantime, enjoy the
Gallery, and have a great weekend!
And, by the way, congrats to the U.S. Woman's Soccer Team, who just won
the Woman's World Cup finals against China. Nicely done, ladies!
The first of our reports from
'99 is now up! You can read my in-depth look at lots of the
upcoming new DVDs, that are the talk of the show thus far, in
Buzz. There are a few surprises in there, like more Avengers
and Monty Python's Flying Circus
DVDs. You'll also see TONS of new DVD artwork, for titles like those
just mentioned, as well as Star Trek: The
Original Series, The Mummy,
Stand, Stargate: SE,
Wallace & Gromit, Bruce
Lee Collection, EDtv
and many more. You do not want to miss it.
All in all, however, I have to say that VSDA this year is rather
low-key. In fact, it's downright lame - very little is going on at the
show, and neither Fox, MGM, Buena Vista or Columbia TriStar is present
on the show floor (although Fox and Columbia have smaller meeting room
exhibits off the floor). Even compared to last year, the show this time
around is smaller, and there's far less happening. Heck, the Adult Video
News convention room (also happening as part of VSDA) is almost as big
(it's also far more interesting - sorry, no pictures!). Could the annual
VSDA show eventually become extinct? Several retailers I spoke with felt
that way. It certainly makes for an interesting environment to talk
shop, in any case.
That aside, we will have our VSDA Picture Gallery, and a full
transcript of tomorrow's DVD and the Filmmaker panel discussion,
up here at the Bits by sometime
tomorrow evening (or very early Saturday morning at the latest). So do
keep checking back.
Around the Net today, our sponsor Netflix has some big news to share: a
$30 million dollar investment from Group Arnault (see
press release), a very aggressive growth plan, and two new
high-level executive appointments (press
release). Also, Image
News page has been updated with some good titles, including
DreamWorks' Prince of Egypt.
Finally, those goofy kids at 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment are at
it again. Here's another oddball DVD quote from the studio, this time
from Mike Dunn (executive VP of sales and marketing), which appeared in
yesterday's issue of The Hollywood Reporter,
"Our philosophy is to look at the digital consumer. So for us it is
not the DVD business, it is the digital business. Our company is not
sure it is going to be DVD in the end game. The industry is going to
have a rude awakening come August or September. For those studios that
dumped their catalog and shipped numbers they shouldn't have, there's
going to be a big return situation."
You've gotta just scratch your heads at the studio guys who claim that,
"digital tape is the future". I'm sure they'd LOVE for digital
VCRs to take over instead of DVD - digital or not, tape crinkles, gets
stuck, breaks and otherwise wears out, and must be replaced. Can you
say, "continuously repackaging the catalog for maximum profit"
everyone? Ggrrrr...! >:-(
Stay tuned, folks...
Well, as we gear up, around The Digital Bits,
for what looks to be a pretty lame-duck VSDA meeting this year, I can
finally tell you about the little adventure I had yesterday. Last week I
got a call from the DVD Video Group, asking me if I would be interested
in being a guest speaker at their July meeting (which took place
yesterday afternoon, in Beverly Hills). The chance to have the ears of
several of the head executives from the major studios' home video
departments and DVD player manufacturers? I'm no great orator, but this
was an opportunity I couldn't refuse.
Among those in attendance, were chief executives from Warner, Columbia,
Universal, DreamWorks, Paramount, and New Line. Sadly, Fox and Buena
Vista were not in attendance (I particularly wanted them to hear my
message - oh, well). After routine meeting business was conducted, and
reports were given by the various committees, I used my 15 minutes to
talk about the critical role that the Internet has played in the growth
of DVD, and the important role it will continue to play in the format's
future. And I spoke about all of you - the "avid DVD consumers"
- and my views on your concerns about DVD, now that Divx is dead and
gone. I use the term "avid DVD consumers," because far too
often, the industry likes to dismiss you folks as "early adopters",
and we all know that DVD has grown far beyond the early adopter stage.
Based on two years of e-mails that I've received from many of you, I
discussed the three most common concerns I've heard from you: that you
want to the studios to listen to what you have to say about DVD (you
want the opportunity to give them feedback), the importance of
anamorphic widescreen (naturally), and the need for standardized and
accurate labeling of DVD packaging (particularly audio and video
technical features). The audience was surprisingly responsive, and I saw
numerous heads nod as I covered these points.
On the subject of anamorphic, I was straight to the point. I reminded
those gathered, that the single most used argument I hear from the
studios against anamorphic enhancement is that, "few people have
widescreen TVs right now, and consumers just aren't asking us for it, so
why should we give it to them." My argument was simple: "Few
people have Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound systems right now either -
most people are lucky if they have their DVD player hooked up to a
stereo TV, much less even a Pro-Logic surround sound set-up. But you
would never think to release a film like Armageddon,
or The Matrix, or Titanic
in anything less than full 5.1 surround sound, because you know that as
the prices drop, people will start buying better sound equipment, and
they'll be able to enjoy that added quality. To give consumers less than
5.1 sound on DVD would be to short-change them on audio. So why would
you want to short-change them on the video side? Just like with Dolby
Digital, people are going to start buying widescreen TVs in the next few
years. To deny them anamorphic widescreen on DVDs, is to give them less
value and quality than they deserve." I think few of those gathered
had ever heard the point argued quite that way before, and they seemed
to get the message. At least, a few important heads were nodding.
Judging by the conversations I had with many of them afterward, I think
they at least considered my argument a valid one. We can only hope.
You will, at least, be very happy to know that the DVD Video Group is
immediately addressing your concerns over the current, haphazard
labeling of DVD technical features on the packaging. In one of their
committee presentations, it was revealed that all of the studio members
have tentatively agreed upon a standardized labeling scheme for denoting
the audio and video features on their discs. With a little luck, they
will all begin using this new labeling on their packaging before the end
of the year, on ALL DVD releases. I made the point in my presentation,
that the Universal and DreamWorks-style technical grid should be the
model they follow. We should get a look at exactly what they've all
decided upon soon. We will present the new labeling standard here for
all of you to see as soon as possible.
In terms of other news from the Group meeting yesterday, each of the
studios present gave a report on their upcoming DVD activities. I was
able to confirm that all of the films in New Line's forthcoming Nightmare
on Elm Street boxed set WILL be in full anamorphic
widescreen. Their Austin Powers: The Spy Who
Shagged Me DVD will street in November, as expected, and it
will be packed with features (including a commentary track). New Line
expects to begin releasing 1 day-and-date title, and 3 catalog titles
each month. Look for more John Waters films on DVD from them next year.
Paramount's non-anamorphic Titanic
DVD will have full-motion menus, which is more than they've done in the
past (I choose not to comment about my feelings on the disc beyond
that). They do expect to release lots of Star
Trek, and Star Trek: The Next
Generation episodes on DVD, at a rate of a new set of each
every other month or so. The studio is working closely with director
Francis Ford Coppola on an Apocalypse Now
DVD, and The General's Daughter
should have a director's commentary track. Sony Music is hard at work on
their ultra-cool DVD of Pink Floyd's The Wall,
and they will be releasing MTV Celebrity
Death Match and VH1 Pop-up Video
DVDs later in the year. Columbia TriStar discussed their many DVD
projects (most of which we've covered here), but an interesting title of
note is a Cirque Du Soleil DVD for
later this year. Warner discussed The Matrix
briefly, Universal revealed dual collector's editions of The
Mummy (one in full frame, and one in anamorphic widescreen),
and DreamWorks is just starting to begin thinking about a DVD version of
The Haunting, after Prince
of Egypt and Forces of Nature.
In manufacturer news, Sony will be introducing a new 5-DVD carousel
player, and a 200-DVD changer this fall.
Looking ahead to VSDA, which starts tomorrow here in Los Angeles, we
will be doing our usual coverage here at the Bits.
Sarah and I will attending meetings with the studios, and covering the
show floor tomorrow, so you can look for our usual gallery of pictures.
We'll also try to keep you posted on the major announcements (if any)
and other developments. And Friday morning, we'll be attending the DVD
Video Group's "DVD and the Filmmaker" panel, moderated by
Leonard Maltin, where Brett Ratner (Rush Hour),
Robert Altman (Cookie's Fortune),
Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters),
and Eric Darnell (ANTZ) will be
discussing the way DVD is changing the way we enjoy movies. You can
expect to see a full transcript of that panel discussion up here on the
site as soon as we can transcribe it. Updates will NOT be live - that's
just too difficult to do, but we'll get them up as soon as we can,
either that night or the following morning. And if you check the
newswires, you'll have access to all of the press releases immediately
So stay tuned, and well see you at VSDA!
So are all you American readers out there enjoying your long 4th of
July weekend? Here's to hoping that you all ate lots of good food, and
watched plenty of fireworks this weekend.
I will not be posting an update tomorrow, but I'll be back on
Wednesday, with a full report on exactly WHY I'm not posting tomorrow.
Confused? Don't worry, it will all be clear soon. In the meantime, we've
got a surprising new piece of information for you in today's
that I think you'll all find worth a read. If true, it's absolutely
fascinating. And the sources on this one are pretty good, so do check it
See you Wednesday!
We've got a bunch of new DVD reviews for you today. You'll get my take
on a pair of recent Buena Vista DVDs,
of the State, and one of my recent favorites,
Mighty. And Todd weighs in with a lengthy, combined look at
DVD versions of a trio of films by Japanese director Shinya Tsukamoto:
The Iron Man, Tetsuo II: Body Hammer, and Tokyo Fist.
Tsukamoto is a visionary director (a la David Lynch), whose cyberpunk
celluloid visions have quickly become modern classics. Do check it out.
Also today, we've updated our
DVD Artwork section, with 13 new cover scans, including Heat,
Blast from the Past, There's
Something About Mary, and Shakespeare
Columbia TriStar yesterday announced its new, special edition DVD
version of Sense and Sensibility,
which is expected to street on August 17th ($27.95 SRP). The disc will
include a new high-definition, anamorphic widescreen transfer of the
film, as well as multiple audio commentary tracks, two deleted scenes,
and Emma Thompson's Golden Globe acceptance speech. Among those speaking
on the commentaries, are Emma Thompson, director Ang Lee, producer
Lindsay Doran, and co-producer James Schamus.
Finally today, I've been doing a bit of detective work on the subject
of anamorphic widescreen, and darned if I'm not finding out exactly what
I've suspected all along: doing anamorphic widescreen on DVD costs
little to no more than a regular, letterboxed transfer. Issues of new
high-definition transfers aside, doing anamorphic simply requires asking
for an anamorphic telecine (if the appropriate film element is
available), and then specifying it in the authoring stage, which usually
involves nothing more than the clicking of a couple of buttons in the
authoring software. So what does this mean to you? The decision not to
do anamorphic is often clearly a deliberate one by the studios, based on
the feeling that consumers just don't care about it yet (since only a
few people have anamorphic capable TVs), and the desire to repackage the
title again in a few years. In other words, the desire to make you
repurchase the title again, to maximize profit opportunities. Does that
make you mad? It should.
Releasing most new films in anamorphic widescreen on DVD is just a
matter of deciding to do so. Catalog titles are more problematic, as
making an anamorphic DVD would require a new transfer of the film. But
for the bigger, marquee titles, again, if you're going back to restore
the film anyway, the money would be well spent on new, high-definition,
anamorphic archival master. This is what Columbia TriStar is doing on
all of its films, and Warner, New Line and others are close behind.
So that non-anamorphic DVD of Titanic
that Paramount is serving up in August should stick in your craw. A
high-definition anamorphic master DOES exist for the film... but it's
being saved for a DVD-18 special edition next year. How do you like them
And on that happy note, have a good weekend. ;-)
Wow... July's here already? Funny how time flies sometimes. We've got
some interesting new release information for you today. This is all
official, so read and enjoy with confidence.
First of all, we have some details on A&E's forthcoming DVD release
of the premiere season of Monty Python's
Flying Circus (note that there were 4 seasons altogether).
The release is being made in honor of Monty
Python's 30th Anniversary, and if it's half as cool as the A&E
Avengers '67set, it should be a
thrill. There will be 2 sets of 2 DVDs each, with each disc holding 3
episodes. The expected street date is September 28th, and each set SRPs
for $44.99. Set 1 will contain the following episodes from the first
half of season one (representative sketch included):
1. Whither Canada (contains the "Funniest Joke in the World")
2. Sex and Violence ("A Scottsman on a Horse")
3. How to Recognize Different Types of Trees from Quite a Long Way
Away (contains "The Bicycle Repair Man" and "Nudge
4. Owl Stretching Time ("Secret Service Dentists")
5. Man's Crisis of Identity in the Latter Half of the Twentieth
Century (contains the sketch "Silly Job Interview")
6. It's the Arts (contains "Crunchy Frog")
Set 2 of the DVDs includes the second half of the first season, with
the following episodes (and sketches, among others):
7. You're No Fun Anymore (contains the sketch "Camel
8. Full Frontal Nudity ("Dead Parrot" and Hell's
9. The Ant, an Introduction ("Lumberjack Song" and "A
Man with a Tape Recorder Up His Nose")
10. Untitled ("Gorilla Librarian")
11. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Goes to the Bathroom ("Literary
12. The Naked Ant ("Falling from Building" and "Upperclass
Twit of the Year")
13. Intermission ("Stonehenge" and "Mr. Atilla
The DVDs will also include the following extras: MontyKaraoke, Useless
Tidbits, Gilliam's Attic, and Pythonisms and Digital Delights. As a HUGE
fan of the Python boys, you can bet I find this news very exciting.
Python fans should also know, that Columbia TriStar is also releasing
And Now For Something Completely Different
(on 8/3). The Holy Grail is still
expected sometime this year as well.
In other news, New Line has revealed more details on their A
Nightmare On Elm Street Platinum Series boxed set, which
streets on September 9th ($129.98 SRP). You will get all SEVEN films in
the boxed set, and a specially created 8th DVD disc, called The
Nightmare Series Encyclopedia. You will even get 2 pairs of
3D glasses, to use in the 3D sequence of Freddy's
Dead. The set also includes a slipcase for the entire
collection, and a 36-page booklet with production notes, photos and
essays. The original Nightmare
will also be available separately for $24.98, but the rest of the series
will only be available in the set until sometime next year.
Each DVD in the series features "Jump to a Nightmare" scene
selections, fully animated menu screens with music, trailers, and cast
and crew bios taken from the original theatrical press kits. All are in
widescreen (no word on anamorphic). The original Nightmare
and Wes Craven's New Nightmare
also feature full-length commentaries with Craven and others, a 3D
sequence, and the two pairs of 3D glasses. DVD-ROM contents on each disc
include the original screenplay (you can watch the film, while scrolling
through the script text), trivia, updated bios, web links, and a Dream
World Trivia Game. The Encyclopedia
disc is packed with extras too numerous to list completely here, but
including a documentary, games, interviews with all of the directors in
the series, music videos, footage of Freddy's stint as a guest VJ on
MTV, and tons more.
Finally, there's an
article in the LA Times today, about the Kubrick
Collection DVD boxed set. Spokespersons for Warner, MGM and
Universal talk about their respective Kubrick discs, and Warner reveals
that the studio had plans to work more closely with the director on
special editions of these films at a later date. According to Warner,
Kubrick personally viewed and approved the master prints that were used
in making the DVDs. Interesting. We will have a review of the complete
set sometime in the next week or so.
We will also have a few more new DVD reviews up later today, and don't
miss Doogan's look at the forthcoming
CE, which we posted yesterday. Stay tuned...
(LATE UPDATE - 6/30/99 - 2 PM PDT)
What up, film-fans? Doogan has just checked in with a cool new disc
review, and we think you're gonna like it in spades. Trust us - you
Askew types can all just start going nuts right now over Universal's
Collector's Edition DVD. The disc streets July 20th, and if it
isn't already on your want list, it will be when you hear what Todd has
to say about it. Enjoy!
(EARLY UPDATE - 6/30/99 - 11:30 AM PDT)
We've updated the
Mill today, to include Buena Vista's recently revised DVD
release schedule through September. You'll find some very good titles,
and some ho-hum ones, all non-anamorphic. Buena Vista keeps hinting to
me that anamorphic widescreen is coming down the pike from the studio,
and to hang in there. Having spoken with their chief spokesperson just
very recently, I am confident that they, at last, fully understand the
benefits of anamorphic enhancement on DVD. I've been told that they ARE
reading arguments in favor of it here at the Bits,
and elsewhere on the Net, so they are at least doing their homework. I'm
told, however, not to expect anything major out of VSDA in the way of
announcements from the studio, which will not have a booth at the show.
VSDA seems to be brewing up to be a fairly low-key affair this year.
The Bits will be there regardless,
and you'll get the full report of the event, with pictures.
In other news, several members of the DVD Video Group (including Buena
Vista), are gearing up for a record marketing and advertising push for
the holidays this year. The goal of this push is nothing short of
reaching 4 million DVD players sold by the end of the year. Group
members involved include Artisan, Buena Vista, Columbia TriStar, New
Line, and Warner, along with Sony, Toshiba, Panasonic, Pioneer, RCA,
Philips, and Samsung from the hardware side. The push will kick off on
August 22nd, and will involve 5 free DVD movies with the purchase of
many models of DVD player: Stargate,
Six Days, Seven Nights, Stepmom,
Lost in Space, and Lethal
Weapon 4. You will see the advertising everywhere on
television and in print.
Are VHS-like rental windows in store for DVD, now that rental-biased
Divx is gone? I've been hearing rumblings that this is, in fact, what
you can expect from at least one studio: 20th Century Fox.
a recent interview with Fox Home Video chief Bill Mechanic, over
Hot Button column at TNT's
Rough Cut site, Mechanic was quoted as follows:
On DVD And Why Fox Has Taken So Long To Get In: "Studios did two
things which were completely detrimental to their own health. One was
revenue sharing and the other was DVD, in an inappropriate basis as
opposed to a sensible basis and have now jeopardized that revenue stream
which is beyond my comprehension. There's a digital future out there. Is
it going to happen on disc or is it going to happen on tape? Who cares?
As long as your revenue is stable and not growing, you would do that.
But right now, DVD has launched and caught a foothold. It's now maybe 5
percent of the revenue inside video. But now they are selling discs at
$19 with the revenue coming back to the studio of about $12, as compared
to $60 if you were selling the tape. You'll see in the next year, the
launch of digital video tape, which will allow dual formats."
Finally today, the
Times business section has a brief wrap-up of the various
studio's DVD market share (year-to-date), along with each studio's best
selling DVD title, so do check it out.
We'll be back with more tomorrow, and we'll try to get those reviews up
as soon as we can. Have a great day!
All right... to start with, we'd like to wish a big happy birthday to
the Bits' own Todd Doogan, who
turns 28 this very day. Todd will, of course, be engaging in the
appropriate birthday shenanigans this evening, and we'll have a full
report (with pictures) tomorrow. Just kidding. The day will not come
when we air out our own laundry here at the Bits
(dirty or not) - it's just best way. Be sure to give Todd an
e-mail and send him
your best wishes or condolences - whichever you feel appropriate. Happy
Birthday, Doogan! You the man, baby!
Down to business - just to let everyone know, the winners of the June
Trivia Contest have been
announced. Congratulations to Joseph Onorato,
our Grand Prize winner, who takes home the Sony DVD player, and
to our 9 Runners-up, who win the Paris
Concert for Amnesty International DVD! And thanks to all
1,173 of you who sent in entries. We'll get the next contest started
early in July, so check back for it then.
Just in case you missed them, we posted a couple of new DVD reviews
late yesterday. Doogan gives you his two pennies' worth on Trimark's
nifty new Storm
of the Century disc, and I chime in with a look at one of my
favorite little thrillers, HBO's The
Hitcher, starring Rutger Hauer. We'll have a couple more later
today as well.
You will also notice today, as you peruse our DVD reviews, that we've
added a new stamp on many of our reviews. Specifically, we've created a
new logo that will inform our readers, at a glance, that a particular
DVD we've reviewed is in anamorphic widescreen. We also indicate, in
small print underneath, that the disc is "enhanced for 16x9 TVs",
which is terminology that some studios use to indicate anamorphic
widescreen on their packaging. The use of this logo is similar to our
current THX and DTS review stamps. Anytime you see this logo in our
reviews, you'll know that the studio responsible for that particular
disc has exhibited some foresight, and is providing an important feature
(with future value and quality in mind), in the best interest of its
consumers. If the review doesn't have this logo, check to see if the
film's original aspect ratio was full frame (somewhere around 1.33:1).
Full frame films do not require anamorphic enhancement for widescreen
TVs. Anyway, here's the logo:
While its presence in a review doesn't always indicate a good-looking
disc (there are lots of other issues at play concerning picture
quality), any disc whose review bears this logo is probably worth a
There's one last new thing here at the Bits
today, that we should point out. At the suggestion of one of our
readers, and with the kind permission of Nimbus CD International, Inc.,
we've added a new DVD statistic to the home page (which Nimbus tracks),
that we will continue to update on a regular basis: the number of DVD
Titles Released/Announced. This is just what it sounds like - the total
number of DVD Video titles currently in release (or officially announced
by the studios) in Region 1. The number is net, meaning that as titles
are discontinued, they're subtracted from the total. And neither adult
DVD titles or Divx titles are included in this number. Thanks for the
good idea, Robert!
Regarding those Circuit City flyers that continue to circulate, a good
many readers pointed out correctly that retailers routinely have their
advertising printed a month or more in advance. So the ads that have
been appearing in Sunday newspapers for the last two weeks were
obviously printed prior to Divx going the way of the dodo. Guess I'm
just eager to erase the scurge of Divx from my memory. You know what
they say... out of sight, out of mind.
Finally today, Gabe from Penny
Arcade e-mailed me last night, to let me know that their
loud-mouthed "Divx player" character is going to be a regular
on the comic strip. I must say... that's probably the best use anyone
has EVER put a Divx player to - a study model for a cartoon character!
And you don't even need to hook up the modem, or establish an account.
You guys crack me up over there - keep up the good work!
By the way, a dodo is an extinct bird. Just making sure... ;-)
Have a great day!
OK, so did it bother anyone else that Circuit City is still advertising
their Divx software and hardware in Sunday newspaper circulars, without
a single mention that the format is kaput? For the last two weekends,
despite the announcement of the format's demise, Circuit City ads are
still touting Divx as the format of choice. If that doesn't quality as
misleading advertising practices, I don't know what does...
We've updated our
DVD player sales chart to include the newest numbers. Week 24
of 1999 (ending June 18), saw 37,576 players sold, bringing the monthly
total up to 89,286 with a week of reporting to go, and the running total
thus far to 2,400,947 players sold into retail in the U.S. (see
Around the Net, the
are reporting that Buena Vista is revamping their home video unit,
including both domestic and international tape and video disc sales.
Richard Cook, a 28 year veteran of the studio, takes over for Michael
Johnson, and is tasked with boosting sagging sales. Hey Richard... wanna
sell more DVDs? Here's a hint - drop prices a hair and/or add more
features like ANAMORPHIC WIDESCREEN. Let's all cross our fingers. In
addition to the reorganization, there's some cost-cutting going on at
Buena Vista, as well as MGM and other studios. Check
link over at the excellent
Guide to Home Theater site for more on that.
There's another videodisc retailer in town (well, on the Net anyway -
release), and it's a new one on me. Stop on by
and have a look see. They claim to have been the world's first video
movie web site, but I must say, I hadn't heard of them before. Has
anyone else tried them?
Remember all those Fox stories from last week, about their lack of 16x9
support, and their claim that "Ridley Scott's people were the
reason for 16x9 enhancement of the Alien
Legacy set"? This sounds fishy to me.
our interview with Scott's appointed supervisor of the project,
Charles de Lauzirika - at one point we discuss the subject of
anamorphic, and how important it was (and is) to Ridley, and he mentions
that anamorphic was already at the top of Fox's list when they first met
about the project. I'm hearing whispers that anamorphic widescreen is
something of a hotly debated issue over at Fox. Let's hope smarter heads
prevail. It would be a shame for the studio to backpedal on the
anamorphic issue, after having just demonstrated how well they CAN do
anamorphic on DVD.
Have you heard that The Matrix
will not be available for purchase on VHS, but exclusively on DVD, when
it hits stores on October 5th? The disc promises to be one of the
snazziest special edition titles yet, but concerns over recent outbreaks
of teen violence have prompted Warner Home Video to delay VHS sales
indefinitely (although the title will be available for rental on VHS).
All right, we'll be posting DVD reviews throughout the day today, so do
check back later. And remember, the
ends at 6 PM tonight, so get those last minute entries in quick!
OK, we've got a couple of things to mention today, before I go off on
another anamorphic rant. First of all, we're having a little bit of
trouble with the Trivia
Contest e-mail today - people have been getting their entries
bounced back at them. We are correcting the problem, and are extending
the entry deadline until Monday the 28th (6 PM PDT) to accommodate
those who have had problems. If your entry was bounced back, wait a few
hours and try again - it should go through. Remember, we're going to
have 10 winners this month, who will each receive a copy of the
Concert for Amnesty International DVD. And one of the 10 will
also win a brand new Sony DVD player too. So get them entries in!
Second, we posted the first two of those stockpiled DVD reviews late
yesterday - Doogan's looks at MGM's
Behavior, and Criterion's excellent
Trilogy. More are coming tonight and over the weekend.
Entertainment has updated their
News page with a bunch of additional new DVD titles. Included are
announcements for several long-awaited films, including There's
Something About Mary, Monty
Python's And Now For Something Completely Different, Raising
Arizona, Christine and
more. Also comes news that Buena Vista's forthcoming Shakespeare
In Love DVD has been reduced to a bare-bones disc, from a
collector's edition, due to legal issues over the supplemental content.
And you can bet that neither edition will be anamorphic.
That brings me to the final issue I'd like to discuss today - the
aforementioned anamorphic rant. We've gotten lots of e-mail here at The
Digital Bits, about all of the reports of Fox's apparent lack
of anamorphic enhancement for their forthcoming DVD releases. In fact,
we've been hearing similar such reports ourselves from industry
insiders. While it IS important to remind everyone not to read too much
into this yet, the news is, nonetheless, disturbing. That Fox would
choose such a course, either deliberately or by simple ignorance of the
benefits of anamorphic DVD, particularly after releasing their
impressive Alien Legacy set (in
which all four discs are enhanced for widescreen displays), is hard to
understand. But there are a couple of likely factors at play here, I
To start with, I would be willing to bet a good sum of money, that very
few of those executives in charge of DVD at Fox and Buena Vista fully
understand the benefits of anamorphic widescreen. I'd bet that few of
them could explain anamorphic to a layman, and I'd further bet that few
of them actually own widescreen anamorphic-capable displays themselves,
so as to fully appreciate the difference anamorphic makes on DVD in
their own homes. And since few consumers are even aware of the feature
(and therefore not asking for it), they figure it isn't a big deal. I
have, frankly, been stunned at the lack of understanding about
anamorphic enhancement among most of the studio executives I've spoken
too, not just at Fox and Buena Vista, but throughout the industry in
general. And the few that do have some understanding of it, are under
the misconception that anamorphic introduces detrimental artifacts into
the picture on regular 4x3 TVs.
Let me make this plain - it is true that SOME early model (1st and 2nd
generation) DVD players introduced slight artifacts into the picture,
when down-converting anamorphic to letterbox on standard 4x3 TVs. These
artifacts are most noticeable as a slight shimmering or crawling effect
during scenes of vertical motion - the credit roll at the end of a
movie, for example. HOWEVER, the vast majority of consumers, even
highly-savvy DVD users, have a hard time spotting the effect. Most would
never notice it on their own, unless it was pointed out to them.
Further, this was only really a problem on earlier players - newer ones
are much better at the conversion process. This is NOT a software issue
- has the hardware has gotten better, this problem has largely
Let me make this plain: transferring and encoding a film on DVD for
anamorphic widescreen (16x9) DOES NOT add artifacts into the picture.
However, it DOES add as much as a 33% increase in vertical picture
resolution. And it adds years to the life of your DVDs. It ensures that
they'll still look good on those new digital, high-definition TVs that
you'll all have to buy sometime in the next 10 years or so. A majority
of the leading home theater writers and reviewers have endorsed
anamorphic enhancement, as the SOLE significant quality improvement DVD
boasts over laserdisc. You need only read any of of the major home
theater enthusiast magazines to see this. And I'm not kidding you here -
if you see an actual comparison between anamorphic and non-anamorphic
DVD, the difference is astounding. In the next few years, you WILL be
faced with the prospect of buying a new widescreen TV. And trust me, you
WILL one day regret that not all of the studios had the foresight to
encode their discs for anamorphic widescreen displays.
And don't think for a moment that HD-DVD is going to make this
anamorphic issue moot, either. HD-DVD is currently in the laboratory and
technology demonstrator stages (think the Thomson/HD-Divx demo at the
recent CES). It will be at least 3 to 5 years before consumers begin to
see HD-DVD players for sale, and much longer for the technology to
become affordable. And just having the capability doesn't mean it will
be used - remember progressive-scan DVD players? Hollywood killed the
prospect of seeing them anytime soon, over concerns about copyright and
piracy. Don't wager your money that they'll be willing to release their
films on disc in HD-DVD quality in the foreseeable future. And even if
they could, when I spoke with Thomson about their HD-Divx demo, I was
told that compressing good-looking HD-DVD video is a much more time
consuming and elaborate process than is required for current MPEG-2
compression work on regular DVD. Even when the technology comes of age,
the quantity of HD-DVD titles produced will be little more than a
trickle. You won't see each studio releasing 20 HD-DVD discs a month,
trust me. You'll be lucky to get 1 or 2. And keep in mind, most new
high-definition digital TVs will have built-in line-doublers, which will
ensure that anamorphic, standard-definition DVDs will still look
terrific on them - certainly not as good as hi-def video, but much
better than we see them on today's TVs.
Bottom line: anamorphic enhancement is extremely important to the
future viability of DVD. Whether you have a widescreen TV today or not,
as consumers, you should all absolutely be demanding anamorphic
enhancement of widescreen DVDs from the studios, to ensure that your
investment in DVD has as much value in 10 years as it does today.
Enough said for now, but we'll be back with much more on this issue
soon. In the meantime, have a great weekend!
Yes, it's true... the rumors of my demise have been greatly
exaggerated. After spending two full days in bed, I am officially back.
And to be honest, I've got more energy than I know what to do with -
I've been crawling the walls to give you all your daily DVD fix for a
few days now! ;-)
So let's get things started. First of all today, I'd like to thank
Brian York, from the
Theater Online Community. Brian took our new anamorphic DVD logo,
and gave it some life with animation. Here's Brian's take on the logo,
along with our original version (sans button bar) for you all to steal
and spread widely on the Net. We aren't kidding about this anamorphic
issue... the Bits will not let it
drop, I promise you.
All right - now then... Tycho and Gabe, the good creators of the online
Arcade, have kindly let me know that they've got
follow-up strip to their previous anti-Divx jab from earlier this
it here, along with the original, so you can check them both out,
in case the Penny site is too
busy. We've also got a link to their page - be sure to drop on by, give
'em your praise, and tell 'em the Bits
sent you. Thanks guys - very funny!
article on the demise of Divx over at Pilot
Online. Columnist Billy Kelly III gives his two cents on the
death of our least favorite format, and he's coined a nifty new term as
the cause: digital "Darwinism" - you go, Bill!
got another article as well on Divx, and they're right - consumer
anger WAS the cause of Divx's downfall, not just a lack of retailer and
studio support. Who does Divx think scared off all those would-be
partners, anyway? Divx has become the first bad idea foisted upon
unsuspecting consumers by an indifferent industry, to be taken to task
by those same consumers via the power of the Internet. How do you like
them apples, Mr. Sharp?
In other news, Universal has announced their DVD version of The
Mummy... and it's anamorphic, baby! You can read their
release here. And it looks as if the DVD Forum has finalized the
physical format of their DVD-RAM standard (see
Finally, here at the Bits, we
want to remind everyone that our
ends tomorrow, so be sure to get your entries in quick. And I'll be
working throughout the day today, to post some of those stockpiled DVD
reviews, starting with a pair from Doogan. Now that I don't feel like
keeling over in exhaustion every five minutes, you'll be seeing a lot
more review work in the coming days. So thanks again for your patience,
and check back later for more!