We're back! Today is a bit of a catch-up day here at The
Digital Bits. We're gearing up for some of those exciting
things I mentioned briefly yesterday, so we fully plan on hitting the
ground running. Let's get started...
First of all, a last Minnesota note. You may remember that I joked a
few weeks ago, about the state electing former WWF wrestler and actor
Jesse "The Body" Ventura as governor in the recent election. I
asked folks about it when I was there, and darned if most people aren't
proud of it. Apparently the Democratic and Republican candidates spent
the whole campaign bickering, so state voters decided to, "teach
those Weisenheimers a lesson." It came as such a surprise on
election night, that local TV stations covering the event had to
scramble - they'd sent their third-string crews to Ventura's
headquarters! Just to give you an idea of local sentiment, I picked up
this bumper sticker at the Mall of America - I think you'll get a kick
out of it. By the way, you can see "The Body" himself on the
new DVD version of Predator
(see... there is a DVD angle!).
OK, on to DVD news. It's being reported that the X-Files
DVD (originally scheduled for February) is being delayed. The trades
(and now Fox) are saying that no street date had ever been issued for
the title. While an official press release had not been issued by the
studio, a Fox representative had told me previously that February 9th
was the street date, and clearly Image Entertainment's Laserviews
had been given that information as well. Video
Store magazine is reporting that it's been pushed back, "reportedly
to allow for the preparation of extra materials." Rest assured,
I'll keep digging on this.
Interestingly, the same issue of Video Store
(Nov 25 to Dec 5) features an article on how retailers are looking for
big titles to impact DVD sales over the holidays. In the article, Cliff
MacMillian, video buyer for Tower Records and Video is quoted as saying,
"I think what's disappointing is the holiday is missing out on Armageddon
and X-Files." I think what's
needed is a greater commitment to DVD, from the likes of Buena Vista,
Fox and Paramount. But that's just my opinion...
Speaking of Paramount, Video Business
is reporting that James Cameron has told them a Titanic
DVD is definitely in the works, and is considering a director's cut for
the disc. The director wouldn't provide a specific planned release date,
but apparently indicated that a late first quarter or second quarter
(1999) release was possible. The article also confirmed a story the Bits
few months ago, namely that Cameron is looking into DVD-18 (dual-sided,
dual-layered discs) for Titanic,
in order to include multiple versions of the film on the same disc.
The CEMA DVD player sales numbers have been updated (click
here for the summary, or
for the full chart). As expected, player sales continue to impress -
some 80,000 have been sold thus far in November, with fully a week of
reporting data yet to be included.
We'll be announcing the winners of the Trivia
Contest tomorrow, so be sure to get your entries in quickly,
if you want a chance to win those Dances With
VSDA has finally taken a stand against Divx officially. My buddy Andy
Patrizio over at TechWeb
has filed a
story on official letters that were sent by VSDA chairman Mark
Vrieling and president Jeffrey Eves to all members, warning about the
pay-per-use format. You can view a scan of the actual letter (in .jpg
format) by clicking
By the way, Andy accompanied me to the MPAA during my visit regarding
those bootleg DVDs last week, so you'll be hearing more from both of us
on that subject.
Finally today, I've been notified by a few Bits
readers, that some of you are experiencing a slowdown when trying to
load pages around the site. The reason for this, is that the banner you
see at the top of the page is loaded remotely, from theden.
Unfortunately, they seem to be having some problems with their ad server
handling all of the traffic to their network affiliates. Rest assured,
I'm staying on top of this, and will take whatever measures are needed
to see that the problem clears up soon. Thanks for your patience.
There will be lots more in tomorrow's update, so be sure to check back
then. Best wishes!
Hey folks! Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving. Sorry for the lack of
updates this weekend. A significant portion of the Bits'
staff is in Minnesota right now, and things here have taken a bit longer
than anticipated. We'll be back in sunny California tomorrow, however,
and the Bits will be back better
than ever. We've been planning some very exciting things for the next
month or so, around the site, and we're all pretty excited about it.
Rather than give too much away, we'll just let you all see things as
they develop. Rest assured, there's good stuff in the works...
In the meantime, we'll be announcing the winners of the Trivia
Contest in just a couple of days, so be sure to get those
entries in! Image
Entertainment announced a few new titles last week, so be sure to
check the list. Also, I've been told that X-Files
has indeed been postponed by Fox Home Entertainment, and I'm looking
into the situation, to try and determine exactly why this has occurred.
Finally, before I wrap things up today, I wanted to tell you how
surprised I've been, while staying here in Minneapolis, at how much DVD
advertising I've seen. There are a number of commercials playing on
local TV, touting the benefits of DVD, from the likes of Best Buy,
Panasonic and Blockbuster. I've seen Columbia TriStar's new Mask
of Zorro ad (which mentions DVD), and even heard DVD ads on
the radio. Most major electronics and national music/video chains here
are carrying DVD, and many video rental stores here have a good
selection of titles. I was particularly impressed by the DVD selection
at a Hollywood Video store in the Uptown area of Minneapolis - dozens of
titles were available for rent. It should be noted that Minneapolis is
the corporate home of Best Buy and Target, both of which have supported
DVD quite nicely. And while visiting one Best Buy store yesterday
afternoon, no less than seven people purchased DVD players, just in the
short time I was speaking to the clerk (who, I might add, new his DVD
stuff, and just happened to be a Bits
reader to boot!). I'm proud to say, that DVD is alive and well in the
Land of 10,000 Lakes.
As I said, we'll be back tomorrow with lots more DVD news and
information. And we promise... no more vacations around here for quite a
while! I think we've had about all the R&R we can take! So have
yourself a great day, and we'll see you tomorrow.
Well, the MPAA experience was fascinating. I talked with their digital
anti-piracy people at great length, and observed as their forensic
investigator put the bootleg discs through their paces, checking the
complexity of the authoring, the subtitle accuracy and the like. These
are the first illegal DVDs they have seen which exhibit such complexity,
in terms of levels of authoring (menu screens, multiple-language
subtitles, etc...), and they were extremely interested in them.
Generally such pirated software is manufactured in Hong Kong, and is
sold there in stores, as well as being exported by organized crime
(through Taiwan and Malaysia) to the rest of the world. The MPAA has
been hearing rumors that a number of laserdisc factories in Hong Kong
were planning to gear up for DVD production, and these discs may be the
first examples of their work. Clearly, someone put a lot of effort into
them. In any case, rest assured that the MPAA is on the case.
Around the Net, Steve Tannehill has been posting an excellent series of
columns on how to get your money's worth when buying a DVD player, over
at the DVD
Resource page. Definitely recommended reading. Other than
that, there's not much in the way of DVD news today, so let me just say
Happy Thanksgiving to all our readers in the States, a day early. We'll
be taking Thanksgiving Day off, but we'll be back after that with some
new updates over the weekend. So have a great holiday, and/or a great
What do you know... some big fish do read the Bits.
Just a few days after posting my editorial on Bootleg
DVDs, I've been invited to visit the
Association of America (MPAA) to show them the actual discs and
discuss the problem in person. The MPAA has been investigating the issue
for some time now, and was unaware of the existence of these DVDs. I'm
going in this afternoon, so this evening, I'll let you know how it went.
In the meantime, you'll find an interesting
release, which seems to reveal the number of Divx players expected
to ship over the holidays. If you do the math, it comes out to about
70,000 players. Keep in mind, those actually have to sell to consumers
(in some 800 retail stores nationwide).
FYI - The Fox reps I spoke with yesterday were unaware of any delay for
The X-Files DVD, so we'll just
have to wait and see on that rumor.
Finally this morning, Peter Bracke (of
and I have been able to uncover Buena Vista's expected DVD line-up for
February and March. So you will definitely not want to miss a stop to
Rumor Mill today.
So how was everyone's weekend? Mine was pretty good. The Vikings beat
the Packers again, which always makes for a nice holiday-like atmosphere
at my house. I spent most of the weekend building a wooden, frame-like
contraption, to keep my three cats from taking up residence behind my
entertainment center. Had a nice dinner with friends, and even took time
out to watch an interesting The X-Files
last night. Not a bad way to spend a couple of days off. So I hope your
weekend was as nice.
Speaking of X-Files, word is that
the DVD version of the feature film may be delayed from its 3/9/99
release date. I'm expecting an official comment from Fox on this issue,
so I'll let you know as soon as I hear anything. In the meantime, there
are a host of new DVD announcements from the likes of Warner Bros and
Artisan (see Laserviews
for the full list). CNet
has a DVD
Topic center on DVD, which you may find interesting. In case you
missed it, Andy Patrizio has an
on the big retailer DVD push, over at TechWeb.
Here at the Bits, I've got some
interesting information on Universal's DVD release plans for February of
next year. You can read all about that in The
Rumor Mill today, including anticipated release dates for the
first of those Spielberg/Amblin Special Editions. The new CEMA DVD
player sales numbers are now up as well (click here for the
Finally, thanks to everyone who responded to my editorial on
Problem of Bootleg DVDs. I received 203 e-mails on the subject
over the weekend - lots of you had comments! I'd like to try to respond
here, to at least a few of your points. I'm surprised at how many of you
feel that bootleg DVDs are "the studio's fault, for not releasing
the films in the first place! Bootlegs should send the studios a message
that there's a market for legal copies, and they should get busy
releasing them!" First of all, even if many of these films were
available on DVD, there would still be a large market (particularly in
Asia) for bootleg versions. Consider Gone
With the Wind, a legal version of which was just released,
only a short time after the bootleg became known. If it isn't
availability, there's always price, or some other reason for those who
buy bootleg copies to justify doing so.
But since these discs, which are made from LEGAL laserdisc releases,
exist, can you blame the studios for being afraid of digital piracy? Can
you blame them for being cautious about releasing their most prized
films on DVD? How long will it be before the technology to copy LEGAL
DVDs appears in the hands of pirates? Not long, I'm sure. These films
are a joy for us to watch, but for the studios who own them, they're
also an asset that must be protected. This is why I dislike Divx and its
ilk so much. I fear that, in the digital/high-definition world,
pay-per-use may become the preferred model for all media consumption,
out of fear of piracy. It may become impossible for collectors to OWN
copies of their favorite films and music, as we know the definition of
Think of a Divx movie disc, sitting on your shelf. Do you own it? Well,
certainly you own the plastic substrate itself, but your use of its
content is REGULATED by an entity outside your control (Divx). How is
that good for you, the consumer? It's not. The idea behind Divx, is that
your rights as consumers are restricted somewhat, so that the copyright
owner's rights are more effectively enforced. And THIS is the price
we'll pay for digital piracy, if we let it spread unchecked. It's not
just about increased prices anymore.
I also received lots of e-mail from people who claimed that
region-coding is the problem. "If every studio released their
movies on DVD in all regions at the same time, there wouldn't be a
problem!" A nice idea, but there just isn't enough manufacturing
capacity to do that right now. Imagine if the studios had released DVD
versions of all their films, in all regions, in sufficient quantity to
meet demand, right from the beginning. Everyone would be happy... except
that the catalog of available titles would be less than 500, not 2,000+.
Other people claimed that the problem goes back to the way studios delay
the release of their movies theatrically outside the States. But this is
done, in large part, because the studios don't have the resources to do
it differently. It takes time to prepare marketing campaigns.
Multi-national release requires prints to be planned and reproduced in
multiple languages - a very costly and time consuming process. Press
junkets must be arranged to promote the release, and directors and
actors simply can't be everywhere at once. So there are very real,
practical reasons why things are as they are, like it or not.
The bottom line is this: the problem of bootleg DVDs is the fault of no
one but the pirates themselves, and the people who choose to buy illegal
discs. The act of buying illegal copies (DVDs, CDs, VHS tapes, etc...)
is an act of tremendous disrespect toward those individuals who created
the work to begin with. And make no mistake - every time someone buys an
illegal, bootleg DVD, we move one step closer to a content-encrypted,
pay-per-use world. So ask yourself what's worse - waiting for legal DVD
copies of your favorite films, or risking The Great Divx-ing of All
Media? Enough said.
More and more over the last few weeks, readers have been asking me
about a number of bootleg DVDs, that have begun appearing for sale on
the Internet. These include animated Disney titles, classic MGM films,
and even Star Wars. I've noticed
that some folks on the Net are paying top dollar to obtain these discs.
My advice: don't. You are NOT going to get the kind of quality we've all
come to expect from DVD. These discs are simply illegal bootleg copies,
made using previous laserdisc and even VHS copies as masters. For more
on this topic, read my latest editorial: The
Problem of Bootleg DVDs.
In other news, our friends at
have just partnered themselves with
release). I've updated the
Warner Bros page
with news on their latest deal to promote DVDs with Microsoft. Also,
Best Buy has
moved into the on-line retailing game (be sure to read the official
Finally, I'd like to invite all of you to read Dana J. Parker's well
Laser and HDTV: Panacea or Pipe Dream? You'll find it over at
Professional web site. Dana is quite knowledgable in the
technical areas of the industry. In fact, she's the chair of the DVD Pro
Conference. Her editorial is a must read for those of you who believe
that recordable and high-definition forms of DVD will quickly obsolete
the current DVD standard. The bottom line: If you think content
providers (the Hollywood studios) have been wary of releasing their
movies on DVD thus far, just wait until recordablity and high-definition
quality enter the picture. This, folks, is why Divx is so attractive to
the studios. Do you suppose Fox would release a pristine,
high-definition DVD of Star Wars
into a market where DVD recorders are as ubiquitous as VCRs? Not likely.
Stay tuned, and have a great weekend.
Remember how Divx just welcomed San Diego-area retailer Dow to the fold
release)? Well, a year ago, the Better Business Bureau kicked Dow
out of their local chapter for "misleading and deceptive
advertising practices" (see
story). Of course, the two are in no way connected... except that
it doesn't surprise me that a retailer with somewhat dubious advertising
methods might want to jump on the Divx band wagon.
I've learned that Criterion is planning on recalling the DVD version of
Seven Samurai soon, officially due
to manufacturing issues. It is expected to be remastered and
re-released. However, be aware - there's nothing wrong with the quality
of the DVD. I've heard that there's another reason for the recall, and
you'll find that in the Rumor
Mill today. Also, you will find some information I received
last night on some more Fox titles, extending well into next year.
The re-mastered Warner DVD of Devil's
Advocate is now beginning to appear in stores. The disc had
to be re-mastered, due to legal issues over the use of a particular
statue in the film - one that appears on the wall of John Milton's
penthouse. The original DVD bears the following disclaimer on the
"The large white sculpture of human forms on the wall of John
Milton's penthouse in Devil's Advocate
is not connected in any way and was not endorsed by the sculptor
Frederick Hart or the Washington National Cathedral, joint copyright
owners of the Cathedral sculpture "Ex Nihilo" in Washington
I've been told by readers that in the re-mastered version, the statue
has been digitally 'blurred' or removed from the scenes in which it
appears. So, if you've got the original DVD, you have a nice little
Just a day after the information appeared in the The
Rumor Mill, Laserviews
has officially announced those January Paramount DVDs (48
Hours, The Real Blonde,
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
and Truman Show). Unfortunately,
none of them are enhanced for 16x9 displays. This is starting to get
irritating. Anyone who doubts the value of new anamorphic transfers,
need only compare the gorgeous 16x9-enhanced Star
Trek: First Contact DVD, with the MUCH less than
stellar-looking, matted letterbox Star Trek:
Generations. Take a look at the start of chapter 3 in Generations,
where the starfield fades away to reveal the ocean waves. A graphic
appears, which says "78 Years Later" - take a good look at the
lettering. You'll see so much ringing and jittering, so much unnecessary
picture noise (artificial edge enhancement, and the like), that there
can be little doubt an old transfer was used in mastering the DVD. The
quality difference is like a slap in the face. BLEECH!!! After comparing
the quality of Paramount's first two Trek
DVDs, you can be nothing but disappointed with the studio's sudden about
face on the issue of new anamorphic transfers. I suggest you let them
know how you feel about it.
Finally today, I was able to get my hands on that cool Super
Bowl XXXII: The Best One Ever DVD (produced by Polygram, RCA
and NFL Films). I've been told that they are only available at Circuit
City stores, and are only given out to folks who purchase RCA Divx
players (at least that's what one Circuit City manager told me - go
figure, it ain't a Divx disc). However, the disc is usually found just
sitting on the DVD racks at the store, with all of the other DVD titles.
It also doesn't have a price, but people have been able to buy them for
anywhere between $.01 to $24.99. Unfortunately, you have to sit through
2 or 3 RCA commercials at the beginning of the disc - you can't fast
forward or skip them - very irritating. But the disc is cool for several
reasons. You can choose to listen to either the NFL Films announcer, or
hear the Broncos or Packers radio announcers call the game (there's also
a Spanish track). And throughout the disc, you can view multiple angles
of the action, and view stats on players, team rosters and more. It's
also in 5.1 audio, and the picture quality is quite good. For football
fans, the disc is a blast.
So I suggest you act quickly if you want the disc - go into your local
CC store (the ONLY time you will EVER hear me say that!), grab a copy of
the disc, and high-tail it to the checkout stand. They'll probably just
end up selling it to you for cheap. If they give you any crap - demand
to see the manager, and demand they sell you the disc - after all, it is
on shelves with all the other DVDs for sale. But a word of warning: the
folks at Circuit City do read this page closely, so I've no doubt that
the disc will get pulled from store shelves as soon as management
catches wind of what's up. So act now if you want the DVD. Good luck!
"You refer to the prophecy - the one who will bring balance to the
Force. You think it's this boy?" "The Force is strong with
him. He can see the future..."
Wow. Yes, the Star Wars: Episode I
trailer is nothing short of amazing - even rather exotic looking - some
absolutely incredible visuals. For those of you who still feel the title
may change, the trailer DOES use the name The
Phantom Menace at the end. But you don't have to take my
word. The trailer is available for download right now at Star
Wars.com. Just drop on by and check it out for yourselves.
Expect a wait though... half the world is trying to download it at the
I've got some new upcoming DVD information in The
Rumor Mill, including some confirmation of the Paramount
titles mentioned elsewhere today.
Check out ZDnet's
coverage of Comdex 98 for all the latest DVD-ROM news.
TechWeb also has
an excellent Comdex
Showcase up. Via Business
Wire: There's an
DVD magazine filming at Comdex this year, and
has just made an alliance regarding web-enhanced DVD. Also,
has just announced the first 4.7 GB DVD-R and RW writer. There's
lots more Comdex news, so check the links above.
Finally, we've noticed an audio sync problem with the DVD of The
Hard Way (Michael J. Fox and James Woods). Starting in about
chapter 7 or 8, the audio lags by about a half-second (the scene aboard
the subway train in chapter 8, is particularly bad). We're looking into
it further, but you might want try it out first before buying.
Lots more DVD information is coming, so stay tuned!
The November Trivia Contest here at
The Digital Bits is now on. This
month, we're giving away 5 DVD copies of Image Entertainment's terrific
new Dances With Wolves disc (see
and EACH of the winners will also receive the CD PlayRight
for DVD kit (many thanks to the folks at
Those of you who are just dying to see that new Star
Wars: Episode 1 trailer MAY have a chance to get a sneak peek
today. Check the theater listings on the
Star Wars web
site, to see if a theater in your area is showing it today. If so,
the trailer will be played before AND after the film. I may try to check
it out this afternoon, and I'll let you know how it looks if I do. Don't
fret if you miss it today - the trailer will go into general release
All right... it took me hours, but I've finally gone through all of my
tapes and put together an
report on Saturday's Studio Day 1998. I spoke at length with DVD
representatives from DreamWorks, MGM, Warner Bros., Columbia TriStar,
Buena Vista, Artisan and more, and I think you will find it an
interesting read. It's absolutely packed with upcoming DVD title
information (if you're interested in upcoming DVD titles, or the
studios' DVD plans well into next year, it's absolutely a must read).
Also, be sure to read Peter Bracke's own report of the event, over at
Peter and I worked hard to report on the event thoroughly between the
two of us. We each covered some areas that the other missed, so I
definitely recommend reading both reports for complete coverage of the
day. Also, some interesting new DVD information came my way this
weekend, from non-Studio Day sources, including something new on Titanic.
You'll find it all in the Rumor
The latest CEMA numbers are in - 11,860 more
players sold in the week ending November 6th (see full chart
Fox finally got around to announcing all those DVDs I first told you
about in the Rumor
Mill weeks ago (including the Die
Hard Trilogy and X-Files).
for the details. Also, be sure to check ZDnet
and TechWeb for
the latest DVD information from Comdex.
Hey, hey, hey... wanna know when that Ghostbusters
DVD is coming? Check the
Mill. You'll find that and information on other Columbia
TriStar titles tentatively scheduled for early next year (including
The EMA article is coming today - I swear. I've been grappling with
unforeseen technical problems, both on my server and my PC. But, I
believe I have them all resolved. So thanks again for your patience. I
think I'm gonna just start surprising you with these things, instead of
telegraphing them in advance - makes it more interesting, and you won't
be left hanging.... You are hanging, aren't you? ;-)
Speaking of EMA, the results of their
1st Annual DVD
Awards are now in. Hopefully, you all got your votes in. Be
sure to drop on by to see which of your favorite discs took home the
gold. "Coming round the final turn, it's Contact
and Austin Powers neck and neck.
Contact's ahead by a
Snapper-length...! Do you believe in miracles...?!"
For all of you Star Wars fans,
Lucasfilm has posted the first teaser posters from Star
Wars - Episode 1: The Phantom Menace on the official
Star Wars web
site. And don't forget, next weekend (11/20) the trailer will
begin appearing in theaters....
You may have noticed a few changes around the Bits.
I'm slowly going through EVERY page of the site, and making some minor
performance-related changes. I'm changing all of the FONT=ARIAL tags, so
that they call Arial, Helvetica, Courier or your browser's default font,
in that order. This should make the Bits
more friendly to Mac users. I'm also ditching the italics I used, in
favor of bold text (I know some of you said the italics were hard to
read). Finally, I'm going through and repairing a few broken links I
found. The result of all this should be a better Bits.
Let me know what you think of the changes. I'm also planning a few other
changes, including adding frames. As in, the button bar in the left
frame, and the rest of the site in the right. This would prevent you
from having to reload the bar every time you go to a new page. Waddya
Ya see? We care about ya here at the Bits!
Faster, better, stronger... that's our motto. We want to do everything
short of a-la-carte snack and beverage service to make your stay here at
the old Bits as nice as possible -
sort of brighten up your day. And hey - if I had the bandwidth to send
you all a packet of peanuts to nosh on while you read, I'd do that too!
Now, before I tell you to have a great weekend, I want to invite all of
you L.A. area Bits readers to join
me at Dave's Laser on Saturday (11/14), for their annual Studio Day.
Reps from many of the Hollywood studios will be there, to give us a look
at their DVD and laserdisc plans for next year, and to answer your
questions. I'll be posting a full report of the event on Saturday night,
so those of you who can't make it won't miss out. But for those who can,
the event is from 10 AM to 2 PM. Dave's Laser is at 12144 Ventura Blvd.,
Studio City, CA 91604 (phone: 818-760-3472). See you there!
OK, now... have a great weekend!
Today's early update will be brief, so I can get the EMA article up
later today. But there's still some good stuff. You'll find a first look
at the Buena Vista January DVDs (including Armageddon),
by clicking here.
Also, I'd like to introduce Todd Doogan's brand new, regular column here
at the Bits. It's called
Doogan's Views, and you'll find it
Editor Speaks (soon to become The
Editors Speak, as in plural), along with my regular
editorial, now called The Bill Zone.
His first column has an exclusive interview with filmmaker Lance Mungia,
director of the new cult fave Six String
Samurai. I think you'll dig it.
So, enjoy... and check back later tonight for the EMA article. Best
Yes, I know I missed an update yesterday, but for good reason. All of
my recent technical problems have now been resolved, and we've got
content for you!
Today, you will find my massively-detailed, in-depth look at
the Earth to the Moon on DVD. Everything you want to know
about this terrific collector's set is here, disc by disc, episode by
episode, feature by feature, with graphics to boot. I've also got some
interesting new tidbits in today's
Mill update, and I've posted the full text of Paramount's
Best of all, tomorrow I'll be posting my exclusive, long-awaited look
behind-the-scenes at the making of the From
the Earth to the Moon DVDs, with the folks at
These guys are nuts about DVD, I'll tell you that much! I really had a
blast hanging out for a couple of afternoons with them, and I think
you'll find my report interesting. There will be lots of actual menu
screen graphics as well, to illustrate the design concepts that went
into the set. Very cool.
There's a mention of the yet-to-be-announced Titanic
DVD, in an
in the Houston
Chronicle. Interesting if nothing else, and James Cameron
talks a bit about DVD.
Finally today, I've been asked by lots of Bits
readers about those
DVD sales numbers. Particularly, people want to know how many
DVD-ROM drives are selling, as this seems to be the most ignored, yet
fastest growing, portion of the DVD market. I'm still looking for
monthly sales data, but I can tell you this: industry observer
estimates that, while roughly 1.2 million DVD-Video players will have
been sold into retail by the end of this year, some 6.5 million DVD-ROM
drives will have been sold worldwide by year's end, either shipped in
computers or as seperate add-on components. Impressive no?
Catch you tomorrow...!
Sorry for all the delays with the reports and reviews I've been
promising. I had planned to post them last night, but unfortunately my
dedicated server decided that it was full, and that there was no more
room on the hard drive for uploads. Apparently, the log file (which
tracks server access) has grown to immense proportions, and needs to be
cleared. Of course, try to get that done at 11 PM on a Sunday night....
Rest assured the problem is being corrected as we speak, and I'll have
all the posts up just as soon as I can. I very much appreciate your
A friend of mine, who works at Lucasfilm, called me excitedly over the
weekend to tell me that the first trailer for Star
Wars: Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace will be appearing in
theaters in a couple of weeks (starting 11/20), just in time for the
throng of Thanksgiving movie-going. Sure enough, the news has been
posted on the Star
Wars web site. Now that should be something to see...
Andy Patrizio has another new
article up over at TechWeb.
magazine has some interesting comments about Divx in their November
issue. Page 82 features a brief called Deconstructing
on E-Town pegged my quote of note: "Indeed, it's hard not to
be flummoxed -- and annoyed -- by Divx. The introduction of the format
seems to have less to do with market demand than with old-fashioned
greed. Circuit City and its lawyer cohorts are evidently bent on raking
in the bucks regardless of what's best for the industry or consumers."
I couldn't agree more. Note that the full contents of the issue will be
available on-line on November 27th.
Speaking of Divx, I've got some distressing information for you. I have
been able to confirm that national retailer
indeed negotiating with Divx to carry Divx product, despite the chain's
recent denials. You may recall that Steve Tannehill's
Page addressed this issue recently, and received a reply from
Wal-Mart denying the claim. I have confirmed that negotiations are still
underway, and are in fact, still close to being finalized. The deal
would reportedly give the retailer a significant percentage of Divx
stock (in the 20-30% range), in exchange for carrying the company's
product. This is no rumor - I have been told that VSDA is concerned
enough about this issue, to ask its members to make their feelings known
to Wal-Mart. I would suggest that all of you do the same, using the
following e-mail addresses:
Letters to the President: firstname.lastname@example.org
Corporate Affairs: email@example.com
I'd also like to ask all of my fellow DVD web site editors to join me
in alerting our readers to this issue. Let's make sure Wal-Mart knows
how we feel about Divx, and CONTINUES to do so, as they negotiate this
This brings me to another Divx-related issue. Just out of curiosity, I
found myself visiting a local Circuit City store on Saturday night (for
the record, it was the Fullerton, CA store). I wanted to see just how
the retailer was marketing Divx to consumers, and what kind of selection
they had available, of both Divx and DVD discs. I wanted to get a sense
of the average customer experience. Boy, was I in for a shock.
Naturally, there were Divx signs, banners and advertisements everywhere
- no surprise. Naturally, X-Files
was prominently featured as a new release on Divx (ggrrrr!). Naturally,
the salesman (a young teenage kid, maybe 18 or 19 at the most) was
wearing a spanking new shirt, with the Divx logo embroidered on it -
clearly, he was the stores Divx designated hitter. What what caught me
by surprise was the sales pitch being given to an unsuspecting customer,
just a few feet away. I listened casually, as this kid proceeded to tell
the guy and his wife that EVERY movie that gets released on video, will
be on Divx at least a month before it comes to DVD. EVERY movie! He then
talked about the 48-hour viewing period, the $4.49 rental price, and how
(if you like the movie) you can make them ALL unlimited viewing Silver
discs for just $15 each! My mouth dropped open - I shook my head in
disbelief. Which of course, he spotted immediately. Whoops... my cover
Full of challenge and SERIOUS attitude, he asked me why I didn't
believe what he was saying. The kid got right in my face, actually
calling me out in front of his would-be customer. What's a guy to do? I
calmly told him that his sales pitch was inaccurate. "Not every
movie will be on Divx first," I said. "What about virtually
EVERYTHING released by Warner Bros, New Line, HBO, Polygram and
Columbia/TriStar?" "Oh," he said, "Those studios
aren't supporting Divx." Undaunted, he arrogantly asserted that he
meant, "every movie by all the other studios." Round Two. "Oh,
you mean like The Horse Whisperer
and Six Days, Seven Nights, which
are being released day-and-date to DVD by Buena Vista. And what about
Species II by MGM? I was right
when I said your sales pitch was inaccurate - not EVERY movie will be on
Divx first. And not all Divx movies can be upgraded to Silver
unlimited-play." He vehemently denied this. "Oh yeah? Check
Hard Rain, Face/Off,
Deep Impact or any of the
Star Trek movies. None of them can
be upgraded yet. And your $15 upgrade price? Many good, new movies are
$19.99 to upgrade... ON TOP of the $4.49 you've already paid. That's as
much as many DVDs cost. And you've got a disc that you can only play on
your player, with no extras at all. Not much of a deal."
At this point, he got mad. "Look, I've been trained on Divx, so I
know what I'm talking about - you're just wrong!" I was losing my
own patience, but managed to coolly reply. "You've been trained,
all right... on how to sell Divx, and pull the wool over people's eyes.
But you facts are wrong. And believe me, I saw one of the first Divx
players months before you had ever even heard of Divx. So don't think
that just because you make a commission on every player you sell, you're
an expert." Then I smiled, give my business card (with the
Bits' web site address) to the
kid's grateful customer, and left.
Man, I've gotta just stop going into Circuit City, when I know it's
only gonna piss me off. It's bad for the blood pressure. Still, it
angers me. Given that most of the sales people I've seen at Circuit City
are little more than used car salesmen, no doubt a LOT of consumers out
there are being mislead about Divx. I already knew this was happening,
but to see it first hand is VERY irritating...
Anyway, I'll have those new articles and reviews up as soon as I can.
So thanks again for your patience, and stay tuned!
Well, it's 5 AM, and I'm on shuttle watch. There's a 50/50 chance that
the shuttle will be landing here in California tomorrow morning. So, of
course, I'm up late (or early) to be ready in case it happens. If you
haven't figured out that I'm a major NASA buff, you'll know by Monday!
In any case, it would make a nice ending to that report I'm working
In the meantime, I've got two of those reviews up: my look at
Durham, and Todd's take on Columbia's new
DVD. I'm working on the From the Earth to the
Moon review now, and I can tell you right off the bat, that
it's QUITE an impressive set. I think you'll dig my forthcoming look
behind the scenes at the making of the DVDs. Also, just FYI, the
November Trivia Contest will be starting
next week. I was so impressed by Image's
With Wolves, that I've decided it will be this month's prize.
It looks like Paramount has finally announced that
Deep Impact DVD I've been telling
you was in the works. It's expected on December 15th, according to the
latest update of Laserviews.
The American President has also
been announced (finally!) by Warner Bros - I've been looking forward to
that one for a while now. Elsewhere around the Net, there's a couple of
good articles on our favorite doomed pay-per-play video disc format (see
these links at the
Sun and the
Finally, I'd like to clarify my statements from yesterday regarding the
DTS version of Dances. My feeling
is that any improvement the DTS version may (or may not) make in terms
of video quality, over the already excellent Dolby Digital version, is
irrelevant. When I go to buy a DTS DVD, I'm going to be looking for
noticeable AUDIO improvements - not video improvements. DTS is, after
all, an AUDIO format. I expect the video quality to be at least as good,
and anything beyond that is superfluous to me - a bonus yes, but not
enough to justify purchasing a more expensive version, spread over two
discs. It's the audio, folks... that's the key. I've got my DTS decoder.
I've got my DTS-ready DVD player. I am ready to be impressed. We'll
More later this weekend...
1 Million DVD Players!
No, you aren't seeing things - that new statistic at the top of the
page is correct. During the week ending October 30th, 94,527 DVD players
were sold to retailers in the United States, bringing the grand total
since the DVD format was launched to 1,033,984! I've been tracking CEMA
sales numbers for longer than I can remember (see
history chart), and it's been exciting to see new monthly sales
records set again and again. In fact, I do believe October set another
record, with a total of 163,074 for the month. Not bad for a format
that's less than 2 years old...!
Thanks to everyone who responded to my review of Image's upcoming Dances
With Wolves DVD. The disc is nothing short of fantastic in
quality. In answer to many of your questions, yes... there is a DTS
version of this DVD in the works, but it has not been officially
announced. Yes, it will be spread over two discs, but largely for AUDIO
BIT RATE REASONS ONLY. It has very little to do with the increased video
bit rate, and we'll have to wait to see if there is any noticeable
difference in image quality (I suspect there will not be - stay tuned
for my comparative review). And yes, it will cost more.
All of those retailers you see who are taking preorders for it are
doing so inappropriately - there is as yet, no official release date. I
actually learned of this title when speaking to DTS representatives more
than a month ago, along with several other titles that they're working
on, but I decided not to mention them on The
Digital Bits. The reason? Far too many DTS DVDs have been
'mentioned' as coming from DTS, and then disappeared due to political or
disc production issues. I'd like to make sure DTS has the cart before
the horse this time, before revealing anything I'm told they're
planning. I think we all remember how long we waited for those March 98
DTS DVDs that never happened...
If anyone out there has been following all the Fox DVD domain name
hijinks, I can confirm that all of the titles in question are indeed
coming from Fox. In fact, I mentioned almost all of them back in the
update of The Rumor Mill. I have a
sneaking suspicion that Fox will discontinue the practice of registering
their forthcoming DVD titles as domain names...
Those two Image DVD reviews are coming today, along with Todd's review
of Godzilla '98. The shuttle
report will be up this weekend. I want to capture some video frame grabs
first - I was able to get some really good looking video of John Glenn
himself, as he walked out to the pad. Also, here's what I'm trying to
have up for Monday: My EMA Multimedia behind-the-scenes on the making of
From the Earth to the Moon, an
in-depth review of From the Earth to the Moon
itself, and the first installment of Todd Doogan's new regular column
here at the Bits,
By the way, all you X-Files fans,
don't forget that the first episode of the new season is on Sunday,
entitled appropriately The Beginning...
Have a great weekend, and stay tuned...!
LATE UPDATE (11/5/98 - 2 PM PST)
I've just finished my look at
With Wolves. I know you've all been waiting for this DVD for
months, so I wanted to get it up right away. In an nutshell, it's an
impressive disc. I'll have the rest up later this evening!
EARLY UPDATE (11/5/98 - 10 AM PST)
I've posted the text of Buena Vista's January DVD press release on the
in the Studio &
DVD News section. I've also got information on a possible Melvin
and Howard: SE DVD that's in the works in the
Check back later this afternoon for the Image reviews, and tonight for
the John Glenn report...
Funniest election result: New MN Gov. Jessie "The Body"
Couldn't resist. OK, today's Bits
update will be a bit brief, so I can finish my report on the shuttle
launch for tomorrow. I'm also going to have a trio of new reviews of
some excellent Image Entertainment DVDs up then, including Bull
Durham, The World's Greatest
Animation and the forthcoming Dances
In the meantime, I've posted a partial list of Warner Bros distributed
DVDs coming in January in
Mill, including titles and release dates. Looks like The
American President will finally grace DVD soon...
Around the Net, DVD
File has some scans of DVD keep case cover artwork from the
Paramount December DVDs, including the now delayed Deep
Impact (it may be delayed, but SEE - I told you it was
coming!). Fox has finally got their
page up on their home video web site (but it ain't much...). A
reader over at the always excellent
Theater Forum has
the text of a recent article in Business
Week magazine, that compares Divx to Betamax and 8-track
tapes (funny!). Also, just in case you missed them, I noticed while on
vacation that USA
Today ran a pair of good DVD articles:
on DVD: The Big Squeeze and
Discs paying big DVDends.
Have a great day, and see you tomorrow...!
Yes... I'm back. And although I now need a vacation to RECOVER from my
vacation, I've got lots of cool stuff coming for you. Just give me a day
or two to organize myself a bit, and I'll get my full report of the John
Glenn Experience up, as well as my Inside the
Industry article on EMA Multimedia. Plus there's a ton of
cool new DVD reviews on the way, so check back tomorrow.
Meanwhile, CEMA has sent over their new DVD sales numbers. 34,217 DVD
players were sold into retail in the States in the third week of October
(week ending 10/23). So the total number of players sold to retailers
since the format's launch is now VERY close to the 1 million mark -
currently 973,308. At this rate, one more week could see us hit a
Artisan Entertainment has gotten their new
on-line, but they're still working on their DVD section. Still cool to
site has announced a host of new DVD titles, as I'm sure you're
all aware. Tons of great new releases, and a few reissues, most of which
were mentioned in the Rumor Mill
long ago. Should be a great holiday season for DVD, given all of the
great new titles.
Finally, today IS election day here in the States. For all of the
freedoms we enjoy as Americans, we have few real responsibilities. But
voting is one of them. So whatever your party affiliations, or personal
preferences, be sure to get out there and cast your ballots! And when
you're done, reward yourself by watching ABC's Sports
Night (my favorite new show of the season), or any of those
new DVDs that came out today. You'll be glad you did. Enough said.
OK, there's a couple of very cool items to be found in today's
But first, let me get this out of the way... I've gotten the latest DVD
player sales numbers from CEMA. 17,992 players were sold during the 2nd
week of October (week ending 10/16). That brings the total number of DVD
players sold to retailers in the U.S. to 939,091. We're closing in on 1
million pretty fast...
Now for the cool stuff. You will find your very first look at the keep
case artwork for the upcoming DreamWorks DVDs (including Amistad
and Paulie), in the
page in the Studio
& DVD News section. Likewise, I've got the Snapper case
artwork for Blade up on the
New Line page.
See? Told you it was cool...
Now... around the Net, those of you looking to pick up a DVD-ROM drive
for your computer, should read ZDNet's
Smart Way to Shop for DVD. And the voting for
EMA's 1st Annual
People's Choice DVD
Awards has been extended to October 31st, so be sure to get your
votes in for your favorite titles.
Just to let you all know, there will be few (if any) updates from
tomorrow until November 2nd. The reason? I'm flying to the Kennedy Space
Center this week, to see the John Glenn shuttle launch. I may try to
post a brief update or two from the laptop, but I can't promise anything
- I just have no idea how busy things will be at the Cape. I've been
cleared to go behind-the-scenes with the throng of media covering the
event, to research an upcoming script I'll be working on. So it should
be nothing if not interesting. When I get back, I'll have a full report
on the launch here at the Bits
(with pictures) for anyone who is interested (I know it's not DVD news,
but read on...).
Also during the first week of November, I'll be posting the next in my
Inside the Industry series of
articles, this time featuring a recent visit to EMA Multimedia, and a
look at their work on the upcoming From the
Earth to the Moon DVD. So there will be a definite space
theme here at the Bits next month
(you see... it all ties together after all!). November will also see
lots of new DVD reviews from both Todd and I (including a hardware
review or two), and a host of new exclusive articles and features. Next
month's Trivia Contest will start very
soon after I get back, and we're planning something big for December, in
honor of the Bits' first
anniversary. So, I think I can promise, that you ain't seen nothin' yet!
While I'm gone, I'd like to recommend checking out Peter Bracke's DVD
File and Steve Tannehill's
Page for the latest news (MY favorite two non-Bits
stops for DVD information). And hey... there's lots of content here at
the Bits to sift through as well,
including page after page of news, reviews, event coverage,
behind-the-scenes articles, and more.
but not least, I couldn't let the day pass without a quick nod to the
7-0 Minnesota Vikings. I know many of you could care less, but we
Vikes fans have been waiting for a season like this for a very, VERY
Everyone have a great week, and I'll see you when I get back. Best