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Site created 12/15/97.




page updated: 9/3/98



My Two Cents
(Archived Posts 8/13/98 - 7/26/98)


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LATE UPDATE (8/13/98 - 4:15 PM PST)

For those of you who haven't yet heard, Lucasfilm has announced the release date for Star Wars: Episode I. Look for it to hit theaters on May 21st, 1999. Note that it WILL NOT be opened in a record number of theaters. Lucas is only allowing theaters with the highest quality sound and projection equipment to show the film. Can you say THX? Just imagine how may theaters will be scrambling to get certified...

In other Star Wars news, be sure to check out the official Star Wars web site, for lots of cool behind-the-scenes information on the making of the prequel. I've been particularly fascinated by Lynne Hale's behind the scenes diary on the making of the prequel. She works at Lucasfilm, and has complete access to the materials and personnel over there. Her first installment, which is available on the Internet via Real Video, was an interview with George Lucas himself, taped the very day he began writing Episode I. Really interesting, and first rate stuff - don't miss it.

FYI - Lucasfilm has told me that there is no truth to the rumor that the Star Wars Trilogy: Special Edition will be rereleased on laserdisc and VHS prior to the release of Episode I. No word yet on a DVD version...

Paramount today faxed me the disc specs for their upcoming DVD titles. You'll find the details here.

Several people have asked me if Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was originally filmed in a 1.66:1 aspect ratio, thus justifying a pan & scan release. The original theatrical aspect ration (according to the Internet Movie Data Base) was 2.20:1. Also, Gone With the Wind's original aspect ratio was 1.37:1, however a number of 70mm prints were released in a 2.20:1 ratio.

Finally, some of those DVD reviews are ready. Check out Todd's 2 cents on some offbeat titles: The Asphyx, Rabid Dogs and Ganja and Hess.

Whew... that's enough writing for today! More tomorrow...

EARLY UPDATE (8/13/98 - 11AM PST)

Well, Laserviews has made a whole series of new DVD announcements from MGM, Columbia and Warner for the next few months. Among the titles coming from MGM are:

Bridge Too Far - 10/20 - 16x9, LBX, RSDL, DD 4.0
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang - 10/20 - P&S, THX, RSDL, DD 5.1
Gone With the Wind - 10/27 - flipper, DD 5.1
Last Tango in Paris - 10/20 - 16x9, LBX, DD 1.0
Species 2 - 10/20 - 16x9, LBX, RSDL, DD 5.1
West Side Story - 10/20 - 16x9, LBX, RSDL, DD 5.1

Some great titles, but some major disappointments here. First of all, Gone With the Wind does not indicate 16x9 enhancement. The fact that it will be a flipper, however, doesn't bother me. This is a film that was shown in theaters with a natural intermission, so a side break is not inappropriate. Also, for a film this long, breaking over two sides allows the highest possible bit rate to be used for the video, thus maintaining quality. What is more disturbing to me, is that Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is listed as a THX pan & scan title! Note to MGM - NO MORE PAN & SCAN ONLY TITLES! What are you thinking?

Columbia TriStar is weighing in this fall with:

The Big Hit: SE - 10/20 - 16x9, LBX, P&S, DD 5.1
Midnight Express - 10/20 - 16x9, LBX, P&S, DD 1.0
The Opposite of Sex: SE - 10/20 - 16x9, LBX, P&S, DD 4.0

Let's talk Warner Bros. Titles upcoming from them are:

A Perfect Murder: SE - 10/27 - 16x9, LBX, P&S, DD 5.1
Quest for Camelot: SE - 16x9, LBX, DD 5.1

I'm very happy to see Warner and Columbia continuing their commitment to 16x9 enhancement of their titles. I continue to believe that 16x9 enhancement is critically important for widescreen movies on DVD. I get a lot of people asking me why I'm so fervent in this position, despite not having a 16x9 capable display. Here's the biggest reason - doing 16x9 on DVD ALWAYS requires a brand new transfer. And new transfers, done specifically for DVD, are almost always better than existing ones. More care is being taken today when doing transfers. And more importantly, many of the transfers done for laserdisc are several years old, and may very likely have an analog master. A new transfer is far more likely to use all-digital elements, which will always produce a better looking DVD. One need only view a Columbia TriStar DVD to see how much we ALL benefit from new, digital 16x9 transfers. And then in 5 to 10 years, as we starting converting to Digital TV (with its 16x9 aspect ratio), you'll very much appreciate the 16x9 enhanced DVDs in your collection...

By the way, Laserviews also confirms that HBO is recalling and remanufacturing it's defective No Escape DVD.

The San Francisco Chronicle has a new article on the Latest Video War between DVD and Divx. You can read the article here.

In other news that may have significant ramifications for DVD and Divx, the U.S. House of Representatives has finally passed (on 8/4) their version of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which defines for the first time the crime of "circumvention" or deliberate removal of copy protection mechanisms from software, hardware and other digital media (see article). The Senate approved its version of the legislation in May (see article). Now begins the long process of reconciling the two versions for ratification. No doubt this move has a lot to do with the holdout studios feeling a bit more comfortable with DVD. Movie industry champion Jack Valenti (chief exec of the Motion Picture Association of America) has long been active in the political arena on this very issue (see article).

Finally... you'll find lots more exciting inside info on upcoming DVD titles from the studios in today's Rumor Mill. I'll be revealing more in the next day or two. And later this afternoon, I'll be posting some of those new DVD reviews I mentioned yesterday... stay tuned!

8/12/98

Today is a major review day here at the Bits. I'm working on Wag the Dog, Dark City and Oliver! among other titles. Todd is working fervently on a series of some of the more off-beat DVD titles available, including Toxic Avenger, The Asphyx and Ganja and Hess. Somewhere in the next week, I'm also going to weigh in with Ran, while Todd antes up with Seven Samurai (we're both big Kurosawa fans).

In the meantime, you can read Paramount's press release at the Viacom site, and I see NetFlix has announced that you can preorder the Fox DVDs from them. I'm sure lots of retailers are doing the same.

Finally, I'm sure you all read the news that Ultimate Electronics (which also owns Soundtrack stores) will be carrying Divx when the fall roll-out happens. The president of Ultimate Electronics is Dave Workman. I'd encourage you all to POLITELY AND COURTEOUSLY direct your comments and feelings about Divx (and Ultimate's carrying it) to Mr. Workman at the following address:

Dave Workman C/O Soundtrack
321A West 84th Ave.
Thornton, CO. 80221
(303) 412-2500

Remember... be POLITE AND COURTEOUS! Stay tuned...

8/11/98

Well, after all of yesterday's excitement, there's some new information I've received on DreamWorks, Divx and possible Fox DVD titles. You can find it in today's Rumor Mill update.

Also, it looks as though another retailer (although a minor one) has decided to carry Divx players when the nationwide rollout happens this fall. You can read the announcement here.

Finally, I received Paramount's DVD press kit yesterday, just a couple of hours after the press release went out over the wires. The kit is an Amaray DVD keep case, containing the official press release and a 35mm slide of Paramount's new DVD logo. The insert of the keep case also has the logo all over it. It features Paramount's 'mountain' symbol, laid over the reflective surface of a DVD. Rather cool. In fact, cool enough that I though you'd all get a kick out of it, so here it is...



Finally, I know a lot of you have expressed concern over the high price of Fox's initial DVDs, the lackluster mix of titles and the lack of announced disc features. Remember that Universal's DVD plans were a mess when they first introduced titles (lack of features, pan & scan only releases, that silly jewel case)... now they're releasing tons of titles, including some of the best DVDs available (hey - even Half Baked was in anamorphic widescreen). And the features on their Collector's Edition series are fantastic. So as far as Fox... let's just wait and see what happens in the next few months. Stay tuned...

LATE UPDATE (8/10/98 - 3 PM - PST)

And then there was one...

Today's flurry of DVD announcements by Fox and Paramount have left DreamWorks SKG (and wunderkind Steven Spielberg) as the sole remaining studio holdout from the DVD format. It's been a rather exciting day for DVD fans all in all.

I've decided to take a moment to chime in here with my comments on today's news. First of all, let's talk Paramount. Finally (!)... they got around to announcing their titles. The tension on the Internet the last few weeks has certainly been at an all time high, awaiting this press release. I'm very pleased to look back through the information my contacts forwarded me about Paramount's DVD plans. Nearly all of it was proven correct, from specific titles to disc features, pricing and even release dates. Of all the titles mentioned, only Grease was postponed - but that's to be expected in this business. The announcement itself was delayed from a couple of weeks ago, when it was originally expected, but that too is not uncommon. The important thing to keep in mind is, that this announcement reveals that Paramount is truly committed to DVD.

To the folks at Paramount Home Video, I'd like to say... bravo! You're jumping into the DVD market feet-first, and at full speed. I know that you folks have had your work cut out for you, what with preparing to release Titanic to video, not to mention getting your DVD plans lined up. This announcement is, I think, among the most exciting for the DVD format yet.

Just consider this... Paramount's first month of releases will contain the latest Star Trek film (First Contact - rightly called their most requested DVD title), one of their bigger recent hits in Face/Off, their latest Tom Clancy film (Clear and Present Danger) and one of their all time biggest hits, Top Gun. And there are six other titles coming in October alone, and some fifteen others by the end of the year, including more Trek films. That is a very impressive start!

I'm sure there are already people complaining about the premium price (SRP $29.99) but at LEAST these DVDs will be full featured, which is more than I can say for some other studios charging a similar price. Almost all will have theatrical trailers. All will be in widescreen (and I'm told most will be anamorphic to boot). Top Gun will also have pan & scan (this flick should make a fantastic DVD!). The Saint will have a commentary track. All in all, I'd say Paramount's commitment to DVD looks terrific. And the studio is a very welcome addition to the DVD bandwagon (at least in my opinion). Note to Paramount: if you can get Braveheart and Titanic out by the holidays (RSDL and 16x9 enhanced of course), you will definitely have won me over big...

Fox on the other hand, has me a bit worried. The announcement didn't really come as anything other than a mildly pleasant surprise. Those who have read the Bits for any length of time, will know that I've felt they were close to announcing for a few weeks now. I know that it It nearly happened at VSDA, and then when those Region 2 discs were announced... well, they certainly couldn't keep saying that they "weren't in the DVD business" anymore.

What really worries me is the initial line-up. It's lackluster at best. Not that I won't be happy with The Abyss, but compared to Paramount's announcement, Fox's line-up is rather pathetic. I certainly hope it doesn't reflect upon the seriousness of their commitment to the DVD format. Then there's the price. $29.98 SRP is not too cool for titles like Porky's and Jingle All the Way. I think Fox made a bit of a mistake announcing the price now, while saying nothing about features (except that they'll be announced later). Fox is going to take quite a bit of heat for it I'm sure. When they finally are announced, the features had better be impressive to say the least (expect my irritation to be LOUD if there's no 16x9 enhancement on these discs). Now, granted Home Alone 3 and Hope Floats look to be released on DVD right around the same time as the VHS versions, but at $34.98? Who in their right mind will pay that kind of cash for Home Alone 3?!

So what does Fox have to do to win over DVD fans (me included)? Two things: release VERY FULL-FEATURED discs (not the plain-jane Buena Vista variety - I'm talking Universal's Collector's Edition caliber here), and get 3 or 4 good hits out before Christmas. How about X-Files: Fight the Future? Maybe the first of the Alien or Die Hard pix?

Of course, DVD fans are already talking about that Star Wars Trilogy: Special Edition DVD boxed set (at this rate, I can see the $150 price tag already). Well, don't hold your breath. I'm told that it will definitely not happen this year, and probably not until summer next year at the earliest. But at least now it's possible, so there's always hope.

But, mixed though these announcements are, they're still very good for DVD fans in general. Now if we could just get Spielberg to allow that new Close Encounters: Collector's Edition to be released on DVD, I'd be a real happy camper...

LATE UPDATE (8/10/98 - 11:30 AM PST)

Another quick update - Paramount has finally announced their DVD titles today as well. Check out their press release here. I'll have my comments on both of today's announcements later this afternoon, so stay tuned...

EARLY UPDATE (8/10/98 - 10:30 AM PST)

Well, the day we've all waited for is here. Twentieth Century Fox this morning officially announced DVD support. The releases will start in November, and are not exactly top-of-the-line-titles, but at least it's a commitment. You can read the official press release here. Now let's just hope that they 16x9 enhance their discs... more on all this very soon.

8/9/98

Just to let you all know, the reason for my silence this weekend is that I did in fact buy the Mitsubishi TV. I'm now working hard to get my living room back to some semblance of normality! I have to say that it looks great - I'm very happy with it. After a quick session with the ever-indispensable Video Essentials DVD, I'm really impressed with the color, contrast and resolution. Component video is really impressive. I've done side-by-side comparisons with S-Video, and I do see a slight difference. It's almost shocking the depth of picture I see now in a well-mastered DVD, that was missing on my old Sony (to be fair, it was like an 8 year old TV). The Toshiba came really close to swaying me, but I got a good deal on the Mitsu, and when I do buy a 16x9 capable TV, I want to buy one bigger than 40". And one that's digital-ready. So thanks for all the advice and opinions again.

Also, thanks to everyone who is participating in this month's Trivia Contest! We've already got more entries this month than last month, and the contest has only been up for a few days.

For those of you with cable or satellite, Sci-Fi Channel's C-Net has a short feature on Divx this week. You can also check out a companion article on the C-Net site (it's been up for a few weeks, but it's cool if you missed it).

Now that I've got a decent-sized TV, can't wait for NFL football (for those of you who are not football fans, please forgive me this particular personality quirk). I'm originally from the Midwest (NFC Central "black and blue" territory). Back there, there starts to be a chill in the air when football season rolls around. Of course, here in California, we don't get that same change in the weather. But every year about this time, I start getting the urge to grab the old football and beat the crap out of a bunch of my best friends in a muddy field somewhere. Call it the caveman in me. Every year about this time, I also start saying things I'd never say in my right mind. Like... "Hey, Denver shook off the curse of those four lost Superbowls last year - maybe THIS year it's the Vikings' turn!" Some of you can understand this, some maybe not. It's like this - some fans choose their favorite team, others are born into it. I fall decidedly in the latter category. My blood runs purple, and I have no doubt I'll die a Vikings fan. Ah well.

Before this last comment, know that I mean it in the most noble spirit of friendly competition, with the greatest mutual respect for all those of you who are (like me) die-hard fans of an NFC Central team... Bears, Lions, Bucs and Packers SUCK!!

LATE UPDATE (8/7/98 - 12:30 PM PST)

This just in... CEMA DVD player sales numbers for the week ending July 31st are in - a whopping 40,057 players sold to dealers in one week! This makes July the single biggest month for DVD player sales ever, with a total of 84,709 sold to retail (beating June's 63,000). This is very unusual, since the summer months are usually very soft for consumer electronics purchases.

It also means that the number of players sold to retail in the U.S. since the format's launch is now 710,033. Not bad at all, me thinks...

EARLY UPDATE (8/7/98 - 10 AM PST)

Thanks for everyone's recommendations and comments on the new TV. I've gotten dozens of e-mails with advice, and it's much appreciated. I'll let you all know what I've decided in a few days.

As promised, the Trivia Contest for August is now on, giving five lucky readers the chance to win a DVD copy of MGM's upcoming 2001: A Space Odyssey! And as always, one of the five will win the Grand Prize and take home a CDPlayRight Trio for DVD care kit in addition to the DVD (you can read my review here). Not to shabby, eh?

Todd has weighed in with a trio of his own... a trio of reviews that is. Be sure to read his take on MGM's Thief, and comparative reviews of the Image and Criterion editions of Silence of the Lambs.

Finally, I've had a lot of people ask me about Preview magazine. You may recall that I mentioned a few days ago, that The Digital Bits got a nice mention in this month's issue. Preview is just what it sounds like - a magazine published by Image Entertainment, which previews the DVD and laserdisc releases that will be available from Image in the coming months. You can usually get it for free at your local DVD and laserdisc specialty store. In each issue, Image's Director of Marketing Garrett Lee writes a regular column. This month, he discusses DVD and the Internet. You can read his column on-line here. Also, be sure to visit the main Image web site, where you'll find most of the information contained in the magazine.

Well, that's about all for now. Enjoy the contest and reviews, and have a great weekend everyone!

8/6/98

After a few hours of intense TV research yesterday, I believe I've settled upon the choice for me: Mitsubishi's new VS-50603 50" rear projection TV. For the price (under $2000) you get user adjustable convergence and (better still) component video inputs. Anyone out there have reviews or interesting information on this unit? On the other hand, I hear tell that the Toshiba TW40F80 16x9 TV is also quite cool. Any opinions?

I've had a few people asking me for details on which receiver and decoders I'm using in my sound system. For the record, I'm using the new Technics SA-AX920 DD ready receiver, the Technics SH-AC300 Dolby Digital decoder, and the Millennium 2.4.6 DTS decoder. Monster Cable is the interconnect of choice here at the Bits. All driven by my trusty Toshiba SD-3006 DVD player.

Speaking of DVD players, anyone else looking forward to Sony's new 7700? It's expected to replace the 7000 as their 1999 reference player. It will feature the new DTS-output (now if DTS would just ante up with the software...). I'm thinking it may be the new Official DVD Player of The Digital Bits.

Speaking of Sony, I'd like to say a big hello to all the guys and gals over there, who I'm told are big Bits readers. Your support (and hard work) is much appreciated. Drop me a line and say hello when you get a chance!

There are some interesting DVD goings-on around the Net today. First of all, Laserviews is finally back from their hiatus, having relocated to the West coast (You're gonna dig it here folks - just try to ignore the fact that your vote doesn't count at election time). From ZDnet comes word that DES encryption has been cracked in a mere 56 hours - can't tell me that plenty of folks out there aren't working on Triple DES (so watch out Divx)... check the article out here. Hollywood Online has a report up today on DVD software market share. No sooner do I say that Troma is making the first DVD-ready movie, I learn of an article from the The Salt Lake Tribune about Planet Theory's I'm Your Man, an interactive movie-game for DVD. I've also just found Jeff Phillips' DVD Release List - it's well organized and maintained, listing all the movies available and coming to DVD. It's a bit slow loading, but it's definitely worth the wait. Finally, I hear that a number of on-line retailers are already taking preorders on those as-yet-unannounced Paramount DVD titles...

For those who prefer print magazines, check the September 1998 issue of Stereo Review for another close-up look at the Zenith Divx player. If you're a masochistic industry-type and want to read more of my writing, you'll find my capsule reviews of new DVD titles (and other occasional reports) starting in this week's issue of Video Store magazine. I'm also going to be a new regular columnist in another publication starting in September. This one is available on newsstands everywhere, so I'll be sure to tell you more when the time is right.

Unfortunately, Video Business has asked me to remove the transcript of their Star Trek to hit DVD article for copyright reasons. I have a lot of respect for the folks over there, so I'm happy to comply. But hey - if you folks would just get yourselves on-line, or at least update your site at New Line once in a while, there wouldn't be the need to transcribe things would there? Just a thought...

Finally, the Trivia Contest for August will be up tomorrow. Three new DVD reviews from Todd Doogan will be up for Friday as well, including MGM's Thief and both the Image and Criterion editions of Silence of the Lambs. Stay tuned...!

8/5/98

Argh! No sooner do I get my new receiver hooked into my system, my TV fails on me. Go figure. So unfortunately, today's update will be rather minimal, as I must spend the afternoon searching for just the right replacement. Technology (as much as I love it) can really be a pain...

I'm pleased to note that The Digital Bits got a nice mention in Garrett Lee's monthly column in Image's new issue of Preview magazine. Many thanks for the kind words, Garrett.

Finally, Todd brought to my attention something you should all check out. Troma Entertainment, creator of fine "B" entertainment of the shock and horror variety, is producing the first film shot with DVD in mind:

"In addition to pioneering on the Internet, Troma will also be pioneering the world of DVD. By filming Terror Firmer using multiple camera angles and tangential story lines, the completed film will be the first ever theatrical feature to take full advantage of the interactive potential of DVD. You will be able to follow your favorite characters, and watch them be mutilated in the way YOU CHOOSE."

Cool. Stay tuned...

8/4/98

Sorry today's update is so late. I had to get up at 4:30 AM this morning to drop my good buddy Dave (the TV weatherman - oh excuse me 'meteorologist') off at the airport. Hey... wanna know how to piss off a meteorologist? Let him drone on about marine layers, temperature inversions and jet streams for about 10 minutes, then say: "Meteorologist my @#& - you don't know jack about meteors!" Just trust me on this one...

Well, it looks like another industry publication is confirming Paramount's intention to announce their DVD titles soon. Video Business has published a report in this week's issue on the subject.

One of the things I'd been hearing in the last day or two, and it seems to be confirmed by the Video Business article, is that Paramount has bumped Grease for another title (temporarily only). Read today's Rumor Mill for the details.

Todd Doogan has weighed in with his opinion of Columbia/TriStar's Jason and the Argonauts DVD, so be sure to read his review.

Finally, I'm going to be spending my evening installing my new Technics SA-AX920 Dolby Digital-ready receiver, so by the time you read this, I'll likely be neck deep in Monster Cable. Gotta keep my neighbors on their toes, and what better way to do it than with thunderous 6-channel Dolby Digital and DTS sound? More tomorrow! ;-)

LATE UPDATE (8/3/98 - 2:45 PM PST)

I just found an article in this week's issue of Video Store magazine that appears to conform Paramount's impending DVD title announcement, and much of the title information. Check it out here. Stay tuned...

PREVIOUS UPDATE (8/3/98 - 9 AM PST)

All right, now that most of the information (what I hadn't already posted here) has been leaked by other sources, I've decided to reveal the rest of the information I have on the Paramount DVD title announcement. Check today's Rumor Mill for the information.

FYI, I just posted my review of U.S. Marshals this morning, and both Todd and I are working on more reviews.

The Centropolis web site (Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich's company) has some information on what the upcoming Godzilla DVD will contain. Be sure to check that out (look in the News/Press section).

Andy Patrizio (over at CMPNet's TechWeb) has written another fine article on the DVD vs. Divx controversy. Makes for interesting reading.

I'd like to point folks to Ryan Mannion's excellent Ban Divx web site. Ryan is the original creator of many of those excellent anti-Divx banners you've been seeing around the Net (as a confessed X-Files fan, the one below is a big favorite - very clever). Unfortunately, there's been a rash of people recently stealing these banners without permission and attempting to say they made them. I even had someone on Friday night e-mail me the banner you see below, and say: "Also, I made this animation GIF file about DIVX." Shame on anyone who has attempted to take credit for Ryan's hard work. I know firsthand that making animated banners as good as these takes a lot of effort.



It seems that anytime you try to stand up and make yourself heard publicly on the Net (by creating a web site or posting your opinion to a newsgroup), there always seems to be a small minority of loud, obnoxious folks out there who will stop at nothing to either take credit for your work, or sling mud and attempt to devalue your efforts. Some days it makes you wonder if the Internet really doesn't deserve the bad reputation is has in the eyes of most professionals. In any case, what goes around usually comes around. But this last comment is for Ryan, and anyone else on the Net with the guts to take a stand and be heard: don't let it get you down, because for every loud idiot there is out there that causes trouble for you, there are a vastly greater number of folks (myself included) that really appreciate both what you do and how much work you put into it. Enough said.

Finally, as requested yesterday, this came from the July 30th issue of The Hollywood Reporter (thanks Todd):

'GWTW' on sale

Gone With The Wind will be released for the first time at a sell-through price and on DVD this fall by MGM Home Entertainment through distributor Warner Home Video. The 233 minute digitally restored movie will be presented on two VHS videocassettes and a single DVD at a suggested retail price of $26.95 beginning October 27. The movie had never been priced below $89.98 but is still among the top-selling titles.

Stay tuned...

8/1/98

Thanks to a number of readers who provided translation of that Japanese video magazine from yesterday. It's pretty interesting I think - reveals a little more of Fox's Region 2 DVD plans. You can find it here. You'll also find my speculation on this in today's Rumor Mill.

There's a lot of house keeping things going on here today. I'm tightening up my HTML code, and I've updated some of the studio graphics in the Studio & DVD News section. Should have at least the first of those reviews up by tomorrow.

A request - I've been told that Friday's Hollywood Reporter (yes, I know) had a brief mention on the upcoming Gone With the Wind DVD. The information was to the effect that it would appear day-and date with VHS, and that it would sell for $24.95 (lowest SRP for this title in any format so far). The mention was only a brief blurb, but if you have the issue... please send me the text of the article for posting here.

More later...

LATE UPDATE (7/31/98 - 11:59 PM PST)

The winners in this month's Trivia Contest have been announced (click here to see who won). We had 107 entries this month - not as many as in June, but then these questions were a lot harder. We promise the August contest will be a bit less of a... workout. We're also going to be giving away copies of a very cool, yet-to-be-released DVD title too. The August contest will be up in just a few days, so stay tuned...!

PREVIOUS UPDATE (7/31/98 - 11 AM PST)

It's another big week for DVD player sales. CEMA just faxed me their weekly report, indicating that 29,038 players were sold to dealers for the week ending July 24th. That takes our running total since the format's launch to 669,976.

I'm working on lots more DVD reviews, including U.S. Marshals, Dark City and The Replacement Killers. But in the meantime, Todd gives you his take on the new Warner Bros release Enter the Dragon: Special Edition. Sounds like a great disc.

We'll be announcing the winners of the July Trivia Contest later today, and we're gonna get the August contest up right away. It was a tough one this month, but trust me - the new one's gonna be a lot more accessible (and more fun). And we're giving away copies of a brand new disc too! Stay tuned...

A couple of days ago in the Rumor Mill, I posted a report that the Godzilla DVD was mentioned in the Hollywood Reporter as being released on November 3rd, day-and-date with VHS. That was in error - I had seen the report in the Reporter (which does not mention DVD), but then read the L.A. Times (which did mention the DVD). Then I found the link to the story on-line - Hollywood On-Line to be specific! So I got all my sources mixed up. Sorry about that (and thanks to all those readers who noticed it). Click here for the story I meant to reference.

Here's another interesting link - a report on Yahoo about a new Polk Verity study which found that consumers are unhappy about the DVD vs. Divx competing formats, and that the confusion caused by this would prevent them from buying either. Anyone else wish that Divx would just go away?

Finally, a reader sent me scans of a Japanese DVD magazine, that references those new Region 2 Fox DVD releases. Anyone out there read Japanese? Translation please.

More later...

7/30/98

A word of advice to DVD buyers out there - steer clear of the recent HBO title No Escape. As has been reported on the newsgroups, there is a serious audio problem on the discs. When the disc reaches chapter 34 (at about 1:50:24 on your counter) the audio drops out completely and remains silent through the end of the movie. Clearly a major quality control problem... stay tuned for more on this.

A European reader has forwarded me the Region 2 DVD release list that included those Fox titles (distributed by Pony Canyon). You'll find that in today's Rumor Mill.

Finally, Buena Vista has sent over their official press release for their October DVDs, indicating all the disc features. If you'll remember, the October releases include Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas. You'll find that on the Buena Vista page in the Studio & DVD News section.

More as it comes in... stay tuned.

7/29/98

Today's Rumor Mill update includes an interesting piece of information I was sent yesterday, regarding a possible quality issue with the video on Divx discs. Remember that 'rain-splattering' effect I noticed back in March? Looks like it may still be a problem...

There's an interesting new press release from HBO on their upcoming DVD titles. It provides some new details on their November release of the collector's edition boxed-set of From the Earth to the Moon. Should be very cool.

Finally, I'd like to welcome Todd Doogan to the Digital Bits family. Todd is a film historian, videophile and all-purpose writer based in Atlanta, GA. He's the featured DVD reviewer over at TNT Rough Cut.com, and when he grows up, "he wants to be a cowboy". Todd's a great guy and will be doing lots of new DVD reviews here at the Bits, starting with today's look at Sphere. His reviews here (which are unique to the Bits) will really give him a chance to expand his DVD analysis, beyond his previous work (which is excellent in its own right). I think you'll really dig his style. My goal here at the Bits has always been quality over quantity, and Todd fits right in. Feel free to drop him a line at: todddoogan@thedigitalbits.com. Welcome aboard Todd - we're glad to have you!

Stay tuned...

7/28/98

I've been able to confirm a few last details about Paramount's upcoming DVD titles. There should be two release waves in October (with 4 or 5 titles each), then 1 wave per month after that. Packaging is Amaray keep case. Titles should be in line with what I've reported previously. Hang tight for the official announcement - if not made by 12 noon PST, it may have been delayed a day or two at the last minute. If it has been delayed a day or two, keep in mind - this stuff happens.

However, to avoid speculation as is sure to come (ie: the "he's staking his reputation" nonsense) I will not report further on this story until the official announcement is made. Remember folks, it's just DVD - it's not a religion. I love the format too, but I don't report this stuff to stir the more 'excitable' folks on-line into a frenzy. I do it just to give you a head's up as to what's going on behind-the-scenes. So take a deep breath and let's not sit on pins and needles out there, OK? The announcement is coming. Let's just wait for it...

In other news, I've found an interesting web site for the DVD Forum (also known as the DVD Consortium). Their official page refers to the forum as "an ad-hoc association of hardware manufacturers, software firms and other users of Digital Versatile Discs (the "DVD Format"), created for the purpose of exchanging and disseminating ideas and information about the DVD Format and its technical capabilities, improvements and innovations." Another interesting site is the DVD-Rom Initiative. Check them out.

LATE UPDATE (7/27/98 - 5 PM PST)

OK, folks... I've been told by several sources that the Paramount DVD title announcement is definitely on for tomorrow. Stay tuned for the details then...

PREVIOUS UPDATE (7/27/98 - 11 AM PST)

Doing some more housekeeping things around the site today. Added a new link for the Say No to Divx and Circuit City web site. Frankly, I couldn't have said it better myself. And I'll be darned if there isn't an Open DVD web ring (keep up the good work folks)!

The San Francisco Chronicle featured some interesting DVD-related articles yesterday, so be sure to check 'em out. There's also a new article on the fight between DVD and Divx over on the MSNBC web site. The article even includes an interactive poll, which allows you to voice your opinions on Divx. Just in case you didn't know... the FREE DVD / FIGHT DIVX campaign? That was created by me. Anyone who wants to show open DVD support is free to steal the logo and use it on their sites. I've always been willing to give Divx a fair forum for their 2 cents - I even posted the first look at an actual Divx player found anywhere in the media. But those of you who read the Bits regularly, know just what I think of the format. ZZZZzzzzzz..... Boring.

OK, I haven't heard anything new about Paramount's announcement other that what's already been covered in the Rumor Mill the past few days. Let's just sit tight. Word has come that Fox's Region 2 DVDs are being distributed by a company called Pony Canyon. More on this as I'm able to uncover it (thanks to Steve Tannehill of the DVD Resource Page for that info.)... stay tuned...

7/26/98

I was reading the paper this morning, and discovered that Target is finally advertising their DVD product in their Sunday circular. The ad lists some 11 titles, and the Panasonic DVD-A105 player for $399. Note that among the titles shown, are U.S. Marshals and Sphere, both of which are listed at $14.99. Also, the ad claims that when you buy the player, an in-store coupon lets you get 2 movies free (up to $50 combined value). Rush right out folks...

I'm expecting some details tomorrow on Tuesday's reported Paramount announcement, so I'll try to get them up as quickly as I can. I first broke this story in yesterday's Rumor Mill update. In the meantime, in case you missed it, yesterday's update also has info on upcoming DVD releases of Bull Durham, Good Will Hunting and When Harry Met Sally.

I want to thank everyone out there who reads and supports The Digital Bits. Thanks to your loyalty, this site is on its way to a record month - some 700,000 page impressions in July alone! That's not hits mind you, but the number of individual pages read by browsers. Thanks also to those of you who sent in positive comments on our in-depth VSDA coverage. Although our reports were a bit delayed, the response has been absolutely terrific. We appreciate your support and will continue working hard to ensure that the Bits remains the best source for inside industry information on DVD.

Finally, I updated the Surf the Links section today. Look for a new street address for DTS, and a new link to Quantel, as well as links to some other good DVD sites on the Net, including: The DVD Post, DVD Expression, The Big Picture, DVD File. Also, I've found the single best collection of anti-Divx animated banners I've seen on-line. Some of these banners are really funny. The site also includes lots of anti-Divx facts and information. Be sure to check it out here (the banners are at the bottom). Stay tuned...

Bill Hunt, Editor
The Digital Bits

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