I'm happy to announce today, that The
Digital Bits and The
Home Theater Forum have joined forces to provide our
readers with the best all-around coverage of DVD on the Net! For a long
time now, I've had my readers ask when the Bits
would be adding a discussion board. I could certainly have added a
discussion group feature here, but the technical and administrative
effort needed to maintain and moderate a first-rate forum would have
taken me away from my normal work here at the Bits.
And, in my opinion, The Home Theater Forum
has long been the most civil, well-maintained board on the Net, so why
try to duplicate that?
My relationship with Ron and Parker goes way back to the beginnings of
the DVD format, when we used to be regular participants at
It's All DVD board. Each of us then set out to create something
better - to add something to the Internet's coverage of DVD issues. I
started The Digital Bits to
provide the best, in-depth coverage of the DVD industry available, while
Ron and Parker created The Home Theater Forum,
so Net surfers interested in DVD could ask questions and share
information in a flame-free, cooperative environment. We share so many
of the same readers anyway, that a partnership seemed only natural. So
now our mutual readers have easier access to the best of both worlds:
first-rate coverage of DVD news and information, and serious, worry-free
DVD discussion with their peers. Bits
readers can access The Home Theater Forum
instantly, from the DVD Discussion
button on the ever-present bar at the left. And those who frequent Ron
and Parker's site can jump quickly to the Bits,
by clicking on the DVD News icons
on their pages.
again, let me say that I'm very happy to be working so closely with
Ron and Parker. I think it's a good fit, and a great partnership. So
to all our readers... enjoy! And to both Ron and Parker... here's to a
great 1999, guys!
to other business. The
Musicland Group has just issued a new
release, stating that in the last seven days of the X-mas shopping
season, they sold some $5 million in DVD products to consumers. Their
overall DVD sales for the year have now topped $50 million. Hope all you
studio-types out there are taking notice. Also
MarketWatch has a
on the most over-hyped products to reach market this year. And leading
the worthless category (right behind Windows 98) is Divx. How's this for
a conclusion about which is the better format (DVD or Divx)? "Unless
you like to be ripped off and inconvenienced, you choose DVD."
The latest CEMA DVD player numbers are in, for the
week ending 12/18: 46,322 players sold to retailers, making the monthly
tally 130,740 with a week of reporting to go. At this rate, December
could end up being a record-setting sales month (beating October's
163,074 players sold). All of the
here at the Bits have been updated
Finally today, that Titanic DVD
mentioned a few weeks ago (see
cover scan) is currently spinning in my DVD player. I'm doing a
little bit of forensic investigation this afternoon, for a full report
which will appear here tomorrow. The disc itself is bound for my contact
at the MPAA's anti-piracy investigations department, most likely this
week. I've made some pretty interesting observations based on a quick
cursory examination. As I said, I'll have full details for you tomorrow.
I think you'll find it worth a read, so don't miss it.
Have a great day, and I'll see you then.
Thanks to everyone who wrote to say they dug our
Holiday Card. Nothing like taking a shot at Divx to get you in
the holiday spirit! You know, it's funny... when I went to Circuit City
expecting to find this tremendous selection of Divx movies, I was more
than a bit surprised. Sure, there were tons of Fox and Buena Vista films
on Divx, which are not yet on DVD (including plenty of good Miramax
product). But every Paramount title found is already available on open
DVD. I'm hoping this means that the studio is trying to catch up its DVD
releases to match the Divx catalog. I wanted to choose a trio of movies
which really piss me off, being only available on Divx. I also wanted to
pick a disc from each of the three big Divx supporting studios. But
alas, I couldn't find a Paramount title, so I chose Ed
Wood (Touchstone) from Buena Vista, and I took a double shot
at Fox with The X-Files and Strange
Another observation I was surprised to make, is that Divx discs are
MUCH more delicate than DVD discs. They are more easily scratched, and
are more severely damaged by scratches than open DVD discs. In setting
up the pictures, I was very careful to handle the discs so as to
minimize scratching, but they got seriously scratched all the same. Not
having a player, I can't report on how this affects performance, but I
can't imagine it helps.
In other news, I'm pleased to report that of those three Columbia
TriStar DVDs recently announced for February 16th, The
Governess, John Carpenter's
Vampires and The Fisher King,
all three will be released on DVD with both full frame and anamorphic
widescreen versions included. John
Carpenter's Vampires will also include a director's
By the way, I've been passed some new information from a source on
Divx's expected player sales numbers. Peter Bracke of
The DVD File
has been reporting information he received, that Divx will be claiming
some 80,000 players shipped to dealers. However, I'm hearing, from a
very good source, that the real sales numbers will be significantly
lower. You'll find that in
Finally today, this weekend has found me playing
Leisure's Dragon's Lair game
for DVD video players quite a lot. I was a big fan of the original game,
when it swept arcades back in the early 80s. And I have to say, I'm
impressed. This version (for DVD players) does work very well, and
manages to recapture much of the same feel of the original arcade
experience. Look for a full disc review soon.
Enjoy the rest of your weekend, and see you Monday!
It's here at last! The Digital Bits
Holiday Card! For all you DVD fans, it's just what you need to
get into the holiday spirit! So be sure to check it out, and enjoy. And
whereever you are this holiday season, and however you choose to
celebrate, please do so safely. Our very best to you and yours, many
thanks for a wonderful 1998, and may you all get lots of DVDs (and no
Happy Holidays! Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukah! Happy Kwanzaa!
See ya back here this weekend.
Well, the contest entries are already flying in! Just FYI, a number of
readers have asked about a couple of the questions (#s 3, 5, and 9 to be
specific) - there was some wording that caused a bit of confusion. But
the questions have been reworded to clarify the issue. No one who
entered prior to the slight wording changes will be penalized, so no
worries. Good luck to everyone!
There have been a flurry of articles today, announcing the positive
sales of DVD players this holiday season. To start with,
CNet has a
on some high-tech gadgets being as hard to find as Furbys this year. I
like this quote: "Circuit City has a hard time selling Divx,
because they can't even demonstrate it in the store," said Hause.
has a story
on how both DVD and Divx sales are strong (just goes to show you how
different people interpret numbers differently - more on that in a
minute). The DVD
Video Group has issued a
release crowing about the strong DVD sales this holiday season.
Finally, there is another
release out on the strong sales of high-tech items in general. "Bright
Future Envisioned for Digital Televisions, DVD Players," it
Back to those 'strong' Divx sales numbers. At next month's CES, Divx is
expected to release numbers indicating that some 80,000 Divx-equipped
DVD players have shipped to dealers this holiday season. But isn't that
a bit misleading? First of all, these numbers are subject to the same
restrictions as DVD sales numbers - sales to dealers do not equal sales
to consumers. Also, the dealers these players are being shipped to, are
Circuit City and The Good Guys primarily, so isn't that like saying "We've
shipped 80,000 players to ourselves!"? It is widely believed that
Circuit City stores are deliberately short-stocking DVD players without
the Divx 'feature', and just try finding Toshiba or Sony DVD players
there. It remains to be seen just how loudly Divx will crow when they
finally release numbers at CES. But what I would like to know, is how
many accounts are consumers setting up? And how many Divx discs are
people actually watching? This is the real measure of Divx. Just because
someone buys the player, doesn't necessarily mean they're using the Divx
feature. This is especially true considering the Divx sales pitch - "If
you're gonna get a DVD player, why not get one with Divx, so you can use
it if you want to." We'll see.
Finally, I wanted to let you all know that there WILL be a post
tomorrow, but none on Friday, due to the holiday. Tomorrow's post,
however, will contain our official Digital
Holiday Card to all our readers. I think you'll get a big
kick out of it.
So rush out there and get all your last-minute shopping finished, and
we'll see you tomorrow!
Urgh... I hate the flu. Just had to get that out of the way.
Well, in honor of The Digital Bits'
first year, we have a very special Trivia
Contest this month. The winner will take home a new Pioneer
DV-05 THX-certified DVD player (courtesy of
City), a Trio for DVD care kit (courtesy of
and a collection of six terrific DVD titles, including the
no-longer-available Little Shop of Horrors:
Special Edition, and a copy of the new Exorcist:
25th Anniversary Special Edition signed by director William
Friedkin himself! This month's contest will run longer than usual, since
we're starting a bit late. The winner will be announced on Friday,
In other news, Laserviews
a host of new DVD titles, including Singles,
Soldier, and Practical
Magic from Warner Bros, The Fisher
King and Vampires from
Columbia TriStar, the afore mentioned
MGM titles, Friday
and Jackie Chan's First Strike
from New Line, Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid
from Universal, and lots, lots more. By the way MGM's inclusion of The
Manchurian Candidate in their recent 2/99 DVD
PR materials was
apparently an error - the title has been available for many months.
Finally today, could there really be a hardware / remote hack for some
Divx players? The rumor seems to be spreading in some Internet DVD
discussion groups. No word yet as to whether or not it's for real, but
you can read about it in The
Rumor Mill today.
Alas, ladies and gentlemen, your faithful Bits
editor spent all of Sunday in bed with the stomach flu, so today's
update is a bit leaner than I had planned. In fact, I barely managed to
find the strength to lay there in bed and watch the Vikings spank the
Jaguars 50-10, thereby clinching Dome-field advantage throughout the
playoffs. But, I digress. In any case, I do have an interesting piece of
trivia for you.
Inspired by a couple of erstwhile Bits
readers, I did a little research this weekend. So, guess who's back?
Yep, it's ProDivx.com.
Guess you can't keep a good web site down... especially when it's got
corporate backing. How do I draw that conclusion, you may ask? Simple -
I searched the Internic for the domain name, then (using the domain
listing's administration contact phone number) I searched one of the
Net's address finder engines to find the webmaster's name and address.
For the record, now that he's back, his name is Mark Patton. But here's
where it gets REALLY interesting - Mark's address (which, out of
courtesy, I will not post) is 0.7 miles away from Circuit City's
corporate headquarters on Mayland Drive in Richmond, VA (1.4 miles by
pay-per-drive employee car - again, information searchable on the Net).
Coincidently, Divx also has a number of key corporate offices at that
location, including their communications department. Just kinda makes
you say, "Hhmmmmm..." don't it? If good old Mark's not a
ringer, I'll eat a damn Divx disc myself.... Be sure to read Andy
on the whole saga, over at Techweb.
site has a revealing
as well (don't miss it).
In another brief F.Y.I. for you, Paramount has informed me that their
January DVD line-up, which had been expected to street on 1/12, has been
bumped back to 1/26 (I'm assuming due to production issues). For the
record, the titles affected are The Truman
Show, The Real Blonde,
48 Hours, and Star
Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.
OK, now I'm gonna crash for about 15 or 16 hours. I'll be back with
lots more on Tuesday. But first, one last comment...
ye, all the league around! Fear ye the fury of the Northmen! GO
Oh, come on - you know I had to do that...! ;-)
I've been getting a lot of e-mail about MGM's Manchurian
Candidate DVD, which their promotional materials state will
be released in February, and which I mentioned
yesterday. It has,
apparently, been released early, and is now available in stores. Go
figure! Also, a friend of mine has let me know that Fox's The
X-Files DVD, which was delayed from February 9th, is now
being pre-sold at
DVD Express and
several other on-line retailers, with an April 20th street date. The
truth is out there. Try this link on for size (and be sure to download
that Black Oil screen saver):
I watched Warner's new The Negotiator
DVD last night, and darned if it isn't a really great flick. I missed in
theaters, so I'm glad I have the chance to check it out now on DVD.
Samuel L. Jackson and Kevin Spacey give tremendous performances -
there's great drama here. I do wish that the DVD has a few more extras
on it - that commentary track it was originally supposed to have, or
deleted scenes. I kept looking for that line at the end of the trailer,
where Spacey says, "Now you have to deal with both of us." It
isn't in the film itself, so either it was recorded just for the
trailer, or it ended up on the cutting room floor. No matter. This film
is extremely well crafted - a wonderful directing job by F. Gary Gray.
And the script is tight and intelligent. If you dig action-thrillers,
The Negotiator is first-rate.
Around the Net, Steve Tannehill has a great editorial today, that
anyone even considering Divx should read, over at the
page. You go, Steve! And my friend Peter has a good street date change
rundown over at The
DVD File. By the way, congrats on finishing school, Pete!
Now, go out and have yourselves a good weekend! Enough said.
UPDATE (12/18/98 - 2 PM PST)
The latest CEMA DVD player sales numbers are in
for the week ending December 11th - 42,814 players sold. All of the
charts have been updated accordingly.
Also, MGM has provided me with the cover artwork from some of their
upcoming DVD titles (scheduled for January and February). I've scanned
them, and you will find the pictures in the
MGM page in the
DVD News section.
More tomorrow, and have a great weekend!
EARLY UPDATE (12/18/98 - 2 AM PST)
Da, da, dum, dum, dum... prodivx.com
bites the dust (yikes - bad Queen reference!). Yes indeed, no sooner
does the All About Divx web site
appear and make a stir, it evaporates in a whiff of corporate smoke.
According to returned e-mails, and a final post on the site itself, the
site was unplugged because just too darned many people loved it (sniff).
Here were the webmaster's EXACT words:
I would like to thank everyone for making ProDivx such a great success.
Unfortunately, it was too successful. I have had over a thousand people
request the bulletin board service and hundreds of emails everyday.
To position this site where I would like it.. I would need to quit my
job and do this full time. My wife would never let me.. haha
So instead of doing a partial job, I am going to withdraw my site. I
hope everyone enjoyed it. I myself found it very educational and
See you on the Net!
Huh? Did I miss something? The site was here and gone in like a week!
I'm sure he got a lot of e-mail all right - and as nasty as I'm sure it
was, I almost pity the guy. I have a feeling that the true reason the
site was pulled is this: the webmaster's real name was learned by
intrepid investigators, and was in danger of being posted widely on the
Internet. When this fact was learned by Divx execs, I suspect word
trickled down to the guy (whom I believe to be a Divx employee) to pull
the plug. That is, of course, my own theory. But I did learn the guy's
real name, and I do know that it got back to Divx. Hey - it's the
holiday season. I'll give the guy a break and not reveal his name. But
what's that saying about getting caught with your hand in the cookie
jar...? I guess you have to give Divx credit for trying.
It's been a damn weird week, hasn't it? Bombing countries, impeaching
Presidents, fly-by-night Divx fan-boy sites. I get the feeling things
are gonna get even goofier before 1998 is out! ;-)
I'll be back later today with another update, so stay tuned...
Some interesting DVD happenings around the Net today. First of all
taking a closer look at the DVD vs. Divx fight, in an
available on their web site. They too have noticed the sudden appearance
of pro-Divx web sites, and all of the newly heated cross-flaming going
on on some of the newsgroups. And they too, have noticed the
corporate-slick appearance of some of the new sites. The article is a
great read - be sure to check it out. And I have to agree with Oliver -
Divx is indeed DOA.
I was informed by Digital Leasure, that Yahoo
will be featuring a live, on-line chat with Dragon's
Lair creators Don Bluth and Gary Goldman, this Friday night
(12/18) at 8 PM EST. I'm told the fastest access route for the chat will
be via the TVGen
web site. Bluth and Goldman are also responsible for the Space
Ace game, as well as many feature length animated projects,
such as An American Tail, The
Land Before Time and the recent Anastasia,
for Fox. In fact, both gentlemen are currently the creative leaders of
Fox Animation Studios. It should be an interesting chat, and those who
tune in will have an opportunity to win copies of the Dragon's
Lair DVD-Video game, the Dragon's
Speaking of Yahoo,
for the results of a search of other DVD news, press releases and
has announced some of those DVD titles I mentioned in
Rumor Mill a while back, including Il
Postino, Mighty Aphrodite,
Mother's Boys, Parent
Trap (1998), Halloween: H20
and Splash from Buena Vista, as
well as Jade, Black
Rain, Another 48 Hours
and Snake Eyes from Paramount.
Jackie Chan's Who Am I, Plump
Fiction and a slew of Chaplan
DVDs are also in the offing.
article on a possible shortage of low priced DVD players during
the final sales push of the holiday season. We at the Bits
haven't heard anything about this to confirm or deny, but it is
interesting nonetheless. Could it have to do with the fact that the
manufacturers making most of the really low end (price-wise) players are
involved in Divx?
Bob Morris forwarded me this cartoon, from a recent issue of The
New Yorker, in homage of Freddie Young, the Academy Award
winning cinematographer of Lawrence of Arabia,
who sadly passed away on December 1st. Thanks, Bob. And I agree, I can
think of no better tribute to Freddie than to see Lawrence
released on DVD. Hope you're reading this, Columbia!
by Jack Ziegler. © New Yorker 1998
Finally, check The
Rumor Mill today, for a quick sampling of new DVD information,
including a pair of release date updates and some Divx sales info.
Well, I'm truly overwhelmed by the amount of e-mail I've been getting
about our first anniversary - many thanks again to all of you who read
these pages. It definitely means a lot to us to know that people
appreciate what we do. And rest assured, we'll keep doing it for as long
as you'll have us. Thanks also to Peter Bracke of the
for the kind words on his pages today.
Apparently last week, Leo discussed the topic of Divx (without knowing
too much of the details), and he received a flood of e-mail, including
at least one from a Bits reader
named Lanny (many thanks, Lanny!). Lanny told us about it, and we were
able to tape the rerun early this morning. We were pretty excited about
it here, so I've done a quick transcript of the segment for you all to
how's this for a way to celebrate our first year - The
Digital Bits was on national TV last night! For those of
you who have cable, the Bits was
mentioned last night on the ZDTV
For Help program (which was rerun again early this morning).
The show is about exactly what its title implies - viewers can call or
e-mail the program with their computer questions, and host Leo Laporte
answers them in plain English.
Leo Laporte: "We recently received an e-mail, actually a bunch of
e-mails, on a segment that we did - I'd like to read a couple of them
for you. On Friday, Patrick Norton and I talked a little bit about a new
DVD format, or an add-on for DVD, called Divx. And we got a lot of
e-mail about it, because I think this is a hot topic. I didn't realize
at the time, what a hot button that we'd pushed. DVD, of course, is the
CD-ROM format that allows you to watch movies on a CD-ROM sized disc.
Divx is an addition to that, that allows companies to charge you -
pay-per-play - on these things. And the Divx player has a little phone
line on it, and you set up an account, and then you can buy, er
rent these discs for $4.95, and pay each time you play it. A lot of
people are dead set against Divx. There's a whole movement to keep DVD
open, and Divx out. And Lanny sent me a long, and I thought quite good,
letter on DVD.
[He calls up the letter, which appears on screen.]
He said, first of all, that it [Divx] had been national for a couple of
months. I'd said about to go national. And he said that he'd heard the
rumors that the sales were very poor in San Francisco - these are rumors
of course. But the main issue that he wanted to address is one that
Patrick and I talked about. Patrick had said that there will be titles
available only on Divx, and not on DVD. He [Lanny] said, in the long
run, you'll see all titles on DVD, just because it's a larger market.
Well, that's a question mark - I mean it's not known. But he does point
us toward a great web site called The Digital
[He pulls up the Bits on screen]
which is all about DVD, and of course is very much, as you can
tell if you look at the web site, is very much involved in this Free DVD
/ Fight Divx fight. So I urge you, if you want to know more about the
DVD vs. Divx fight, to go to The Digital
Bits.com. And I thank you Lanny, and all the rest of you who
wrote, we appreciate it. We appreciate the feedback. And I have to say,
I'm not a fan of Divx from what I've heard."
OK, cool no? Thanks again, Lanny, for pointing the folks at ZDTV
to the Bits, and for letting us
know about it - much appreciated.
In other news, Warner Bros. has issued a
release on their holiday DVD releases, so be sure to check that
out. I have to say, I've been impressed with their new Premiere
Collection releases, including Mister Roberts,
The Negotiator, Lethal
Weapon 4 and My Fair Lady.
You get a lot of bang for your buck on these titles, and thankfully, all
are enhanced for widescreen displays.
Speaking of Divx, Video Store
magazine is reporting that Circuit City's investment in Divx has dropped
the company's earnings by 17 cents per share in the third quarter, which
ended November 30th. Video Store
also briefly mentioned that Titanic
bootleg story that we broke here on the Bits
recently. I should have a lot more for you to read on that story very
New Horizons Home Video will be entering the DVD arena on February 2nd,
with a trio of Roger Corman films, to include Death
Race 2000, Eat My Dust
and Big Bad Mama. Look for them to
sell for an SRP of $24.98.
Finally today, I found an interesting article in
(what do you know - a ZD publication - small world) on how the Clinton
Administration is working to relax export laws on encryption technology.
In particular, the administration is working to legalize the export of
encryption technology up to 128 bits, to protect customer data in
on-line commerce. Click
for the full text of the article. This, of course, could have some
effect on whether or not Divx is allowed to expand outside the United
States, as they eventually plan to do.
Thanks again, and stay tuned...!
Hey, The Digital Bits is
celebrating its first year anniversary today! We'd like to thank the
thousands of readers who have supported us during the past twelve
months, and all those within the industry who have been generous with
their time, information and support as well. Thanks also to everyone who
has sent e-mail and snail mail to congratulate us on our anniversary. To
celebrate the occasion, we'll soon be announcing our biggest contest yet
- the grand prize will be a DVD player, and a set of discs to go with
it! So stay tuned...!
I'd like to announce today, something new here at the Bits.
Judging by the e-mails we've been getting, many of you have been using
our free on-line Tech Support
section. Our resident tech expert, Josh Lehman, has been working to make
this service even better, so we've turned this page into a whole
separate web site. Clicking on the DVD Tech
Support button will now take you to the domain of
Man. There, you'll be able to ask about DVD, DVD-ROM and Home
Theater, and get helpful answers to your questions. The new site is
slowly coming on-line, but it's up enough to be functional, so let me
know what you think.
In other news, I was interviewed today for a story on those dubious new
"pro-Divx" web sites, so I'll let you know when the final
article is available. Also, you can read my latest Inside
DVD column in the new issue of
Review magazine (Issue 29). Back here at the Bits,
I've updated the
DVD FAQ to its latest version, so be sure to check that out.
Also, I've learned some new and interesting DVD information recently,
which you'll find in
Rumor Mill today.
Stay tuned for more tomorrow. And from all of us here at The
Digital Bits, thanks again for a great first year!
Well, I hope everyone had a great weekend. I spent mine taking my wife
to see Journey - my choice for guilty pleasure band from the 80s. Steve
Perry isn't with the band anymore (he's doing solo stuff - movie themes
and such, like the one on the new Quest for
Camelot DVD), but they've got this new singer Steve Augeri,
and I'll be darned if he's not terrific (sounds a LOT like Perry). They
band really won over the crowd at the Wiltern theater in L.A. on
Saturday night. We even got to meet the band, so it was good fun. We
wrapped up the weekend by watching the Vikings game, and a very
entertaining holiday episode of The X-Files.
I mention all this only to explain the lack of updates this weekend -
sometimes quality time with the family takes priority.
I'm working on a new behind-the-scenes story, which should be ready in
a few days. I don't often cover the retailer perspective here at the
Bits, so I thought it would be
interesting to do so. Dave and Linda Lukas (owners of Dave's Video - the
Laser Place), were kind enough to sit down for an interview before their
Day. Dave's Video is a store with very close ties to Hollywood -
their customers are a Who's Who of the film industry. I found the idea
of a store that sells DVD and Laserdisc movies to the very people who
make them, quite fascinating. I think you'll definitely find the
interview worth a read. I'll let you all know as soon as it's up.
My friend Andy (over at TechWeb)
has posted his
on our recent visit to the MPAA, over those
DVDs. He and I will be going back again soon, to investigate those
illegal Titanic DVDs, so we'll be
sure to let you all know the story on that front. I do believe that this
may actually be encouraging for DVD - pirates are choosing to go after
laserdiscs to make illegal DVDs, and not DVDs themselves.
interesting story on Divx, and how it is causing a lot of
confusion for consumers. My favorite quote: "Divx is going to be a
minor player and will eventually go away. In the meantime, the industry
has become disgusted with so many standards that increase the buyers'
risk and teach a whole lot of consumers to hold off and not buy
MSNBC.com has a
on the booming DVD sales, although I think they buy Divx's sales hype a
little too much. Divx's Josh Dare is quoted in this article as saying, Despite
concerns about it [Divx] creating consumer confusion, I can report that
based on what we're seeing, consumers are overwhelmingly able to grasp
how it works. With all due respect for Josh, I think that's true -
consumers DO grasp it... and then can't believe how silly it is. By the
way, the Detroit News
also has a
story on DVD sales for the holidays.
For those interested in picking up a DVD player this holiday season,
there's a site called Active
Buyer's Guide that can help. You select DVD, then the site asks
you which features are most important to you. Finally, you're asked what
kind of money you wish to spend, and the site generates a list of all
the players available (with your requested features) in your price
range. Very handy.
Last (but not least), Siskel and Ebert finally have "DVD video
format" listed as their Video Pick of the Week on their
site. Thumbs up, gentlemen!
See you tomorrow...
The new CEMA numbers are in - 41,604 DVD players
sold for the first week of December (ending 12/4). I've also updated the
latest VideoScan Top selling DVDs today.
So how do you like this - after my rant yesterday on those bogus Divx
fan sites, I (and a ton of Bits
readers, judging my my e-mail) checked to see who had registered the
domain, and guess what? As suspected, it was registered by the ProDivx
Association, which just happens to reside within spitting distance of
Divx's Richmond, VA headquarters. Can you say Divx employees, anyone?
Man, how pathetic...
Also, one of my readers happened to be visiting a Wal-Mart store
recently, and e-mailed this
a company newsletter called On
Spotlight, which features a comparison between DVD and Divx.
Check it out for yourself - it's a bit tough to read, but I think you'll
get a kick out of it. Be sure to read the section labeled "the
bottom line". Thanks Johnathan!
Have a great weekend!
Warner Bros. is finally taking a hard-line stance against Divx. As
reported in the trades this week, the studio has notified its retailers
(via memo) that any retailer which supports "any alternate or
variant optical disc technology, including both video software and
hardware (excepting only laserdisc only)" will not receive
advertising support from Warner. In other words, this means any store
that chooses to carry Divx product in addition to, or instead of, DVD.
In other news, it's being reported that DVD sales were very strong over
Thanksgiving, helping to offset disappointing VHS sales. Representatives
from Best Buy, Musicland, Tower and others, all claim DVD sales are
steadily increasing, even in small markets, as the number of DVD
There's a great
column on Divx over at Upside.
It's written by Ziff-Davis' VP of Market Intelligence, Aaron Goldberg.
The title says it all...
OK, I'm going to make no bones about my personal feelings here. Circuit
City continues to blast the airwaves with their irritating Divx ads, and
I'm really getting sick of it. Get the sense I'm peeved? Well you're
right. As of late, a handful of pro-Divx idiots have been spamming many
of the newsgroups with posts extolling the virtues of Divx. In addition,
a handful of pro-Divx web sites (such as
this one) have
suddenly sprouted up on the Net. Now, given the fact that Internet
sentiment has been running 98% against Divx for months, I find this
sudden ground swell of support highly suspect. Give me a break - you
actually expect me to believe that the
All About Divx
web site was created by a fan of Divx? Look at the boring graphics, man!
Teenagers at the movies munching popcorn? This stuff is right out of
Divx's marketing brochure. This sudden Internet support of Divx is
nothing but a bald-faced attempt by Divx itself to improve their public
image. Period. Hey, they have every right to create a bunch of false
Divx fan-boy sites, and spam the newsgroups. But this is the same kind
of propaganda and deception consumers are being exposed to at Circuit
City stores, and I'm sick of it. So, in the immortal words of Bugs
Bunny, "Of course you know... this means war!"
Let's do DVD a favor this week - everyone go out and tell 5 friends to
avoid Circuit City like the plague. Are you a pro-DVD studio executive?
Lobby to get some good DVD advertising on the airwaves! Do you write a
newspaper or magazine column? Make your readers aware of Circuit City's
deceptive tactics, so they won't fall prey to pro-Divx sales people. Are
you just a Average Joe, who wants DVD to succeed? Write your local
newspaper's opinion column on the subject. If you happen to find
yourself in a Circuit City store, and see some poor bloke getting
way-laid by a Divx sales pitch, tell 'em the truth! Go out and spread
the word. Here's the thing - too many industry analysts and studio-types
mistakenly believe that this holiday season is, "make or break for
DVD." Wrong - it's make or break for Divx - DVD is doing just fine,
thank you. And Divx knows it, or you wouldn't be seeing such an active
propaganda machine. It's time to beat them at their own game. Anyone out
there up to the challenge? Then get busy!
Finally, I'd like to point you all to the
Database's spanking new
You can search for, or browse, DVD titles from all the studios, see
lists of disc features, and even jump to the IMDB's official listing for
each movie. The IMDB is an invaluable aid to movie fans, and it's just
gotten even better. Enjoy!
See ya tomorrow...
I've updated The
Rumor Mill to include the latest information I've been able to
gather regarding Paramount's February DVD releases, so you'll definitely
want to check that out.
I'm hard at work on a couple more in-depth stories - I'll keep you
posted. They should be ready soon, but I've fallen into the trap of
saying "they'll be posted tomorrow" and then had something
come up to delay the post, so I'll just work hard, and get them up as
soon as possible for you. Working on the Bits
is definitely a full-time job - I spend many nights up until 3 AM
crunching HTML code, or working on graphics, and most of my days are
spent investigating stories, or gathering information. So rest assured,
I'm always working to bring you the latest news and behind-the-scenes
We've got a pretty exciting December Trivia
Contest in the works, so stay tuned for more on that. I'll
let you know as soon as I can.
Around the Internet, there are some interesting articles for you to
check out. The Minneapolis
Star Tribune has posted a trio of DVD-related stories (click
I'm not sure you'll agree with all of the conclusions drawn, but hey...
give 'em an e-mail and let them know (or post your own opinion on their
board). There's an interesting
report that finds that some 125,000 DVD players will be in
European homes by the end of the year, rising to nearly half a million
next year (keep in mind that the rollout of DVD software in Europe has
lagged significantly behind Region 1).
Finally today, those of you interested in the industry side of DVD,
might want to drop by DVD
Insider. Their news and information page is specifically
geared toward those involved in DVD authoring and development, but
there's something there for everyone. They do a nice job of covering the
technical side of DVD, so definitely give 'em a look.
More information on that Titanic
bootleg, and bootlegs in general. First of all, my contact at the MPAA
tells me that those
bootlegs are a sticky legal issue. Under Taiwanese law, any work
produced prior to a certain date in the 1960s is no longer protected
under copyright locally, and is thus fair game for pirates there. So
lots of manufacturers (both in Taiwan, Hong Kong and elsewhere) take
advantage of this loophole. For the studios, trying to do anything about
this is a complex matter involving teams of high-paid lawyers and
international lawsuits. Of course, under international copyright law,
these disc are illegal the moment they leave Taiwan.
Now about that Titanic disc. My
contact tells me that it was definitely produced in Hong Kong. He says
that there were many more DVD bootlegs in the area before the studios
started releasing so many legal titles in Region 4. No surprise - I
think most DVD fans agree that the best way to nip this in the bud is
for the studios to release their films more aggressively on DVD, and
thus dry up the market for pirates. DVD pirates, it seems, don't like
competition. The bootleg Titanic
DVD is definitely made from the laserdisc release - my contact was able
to confirm this. There was apparently a recent crackdown in Hong Kong,
which resulted in a big bootleg factory being shut down. This made such
titles scarce for a while. Alas, the pirates are now back in business,
so titles are beginning to be more available again. There are a variety
of other popular films apparently available - I'm working to learn more
on this. Finally, I'm told that the manufacture and smuggling of illegal
software, VCDs, laserdiscs and DVDs is usually handled by the Chinese
You all know my stand on piracy (if not, read my
editorial on the subject). But, I do hope that the studios see
this for what it is - an opportunity. It's time to start more seriously
committing to DVD. You're never going to stop pirates - all you can hope
is to stay one step ahead. But by producing LEGAL, high-quality copies,
the studios could go a long way towards making pirated software
undesirable and irrelevant. Enough said.
Many of you may have seen Siskel and Ebert praise DVD as their Video
Pick of the Week this weekend. A lot of Bits readers have mentioned it,
and I did see the episode. The dynamic duo showed clips from a few
different discs, and extolled the virtues of the format, including
quality, features, and low price. They even took some low-key shots at
Divx, to steer unsuspecting consumers away from the pay-per-use format.
The pick MAY be mentioned on their
site this week (it's not up yet), so you may wish to check it out.
In any case, message to Gene and Roger (who I've been told may be
readers of the Bits): Nice work,
boys. Two thumbs up!
In other news, Palm Pictures and Rykodisc have signed an agreement to
produce a series of music DVDs. You can read the press release
on DVD growth in Taiwan, that becomes interesting in light of the
bootleg situation. A search of DVD-related stories on TechWeb
has turned up a number of interesting items for you to read (click
Finally, I'd like to point out what has become one of the best places
to discuss DVD on-line: the Home
Theater Forum. Ron and Parker run a very well organized board
for posting your feelings on DVD, and best of all, it's well moderated -
nary a flame to be found. I was reading some of the messages over there
the other day, and was surprised at how cordial and helpful the posters
are toward each other. How refreshing. In any case, for informative, and
friendly DVD discussion, it ranks very high in my book.
See you tomorrow!
All right... my behind-the-scenes
on EMA Multimedia
is now on-line! EMA almost single-handedly reinvented the way DVD menus
are done, using animation, sound-effects and film-themed graphics. The
article will give you a look at the process of creating these menus,
from overall design to final execution. And there are lots of sample
menu screen graphics from the recent
the Earth to the Moon, to illustrate the process. I think
you'll find it an interesting read.
The ripples from that Titanic
bootleg DVD are already starting to make themselves apparent. I've
already received three phone calls from the studios, and a flurry of
e-mail. I've had one or two readers ask why 20th Century Fox's logo
appeared on the packaging. Keep in mind that Fox originally produced
Titanic. Paramount was brought in
at the last minute to help foot the production costs, and was given U.S.
domestic distribution rights as part of the deal. Fox retains complete
international rights, both theatrically and on home video. So it would
only be logical to have their name on a DVD release of the film outside
Region 1. Keep in mind, however, that the disc is illegal - this is not
a Fox sanctioned disc. The disc is believed to have been manufactured in
Hong Kong (technically Region 6), and was purchased at a store in
Region 4 (Australia). I'll bring you more as soon as I learn it.
You may recall that I
reported (in The Rumor Mill)
that Star Wars DVDs were in the
planning stages from Fox, for release to coincide with the theatrical
run of Episode I. The saga
continues - Steve Tannehill over at the DVD
Resource page has apparently received a cease and desist
letter from Fox and Lucasfilm lawyers. Steve cleverly registered the
starwarsdvd.com domain name, and Fox is apparently none too pleased. Go
Finally today, I was quite pleased last night (as I happily watched the
Vikings whip the Bears to win the NFC Central Championship on ESPN) to
notice some new pro-DVD advertising from Toshiba. I saw the same
commercial a few hours later, during The
X-Files on Fox. It's nice to see that at least a few of the
big open DVD supporters are trying to spread the word. The spot was
flashy and quite effective, mentioning the advantages of DVD, player
prices starting at $299, and 5 free movies if you buy a Toshiba player
at Best Buy, The Good Guys and one or two other participating retailers.
All I can say is... finally! I was REALLY getting sick of those damn
Divx ads, let me tell you.
Yes, I know my promised update on Friday never happened... but there's
a very good reason. Something MAJOR has come to my attention, and I've
been investigating vigorously. One of my readers (and a good friend -
thanks D.) in Region 4 has discovered something quite shocking. It
appears that there is now a DVD bootleg of James Cameron's Titanic,
similar to the
bootlegs I reported here a few weeks ago. You'll find a scan of
the cover below, and you can click
or on the picture to see a larger 300K image, in more detail (be patient
- it's a slow load).
packaging bears seemingly official 20th Century Fox markings, but I'm
told this is another illegal DVD, mastered from the recent laserdisc
release. The disc includes Chinese subtitles, and sound is listed as
Dolby Digital 5.0 only, although I'm told the actual disc DOES include
an active subwoofer channel.
packaging indicates that the disc is in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1)
and is RSDL to boot. Oddly, the film was never released on laserdisc in
other than 2.30:1 letterboxed widescreen, or 1.33:1 full frame (open
matte), another indication that the disc is illegal. Pirates never seem
to get their disc specs right (they're worse than some studios!). You
can bet Fox, Paramount and the MPAA will go through the roof on this
one. I'll post more on this disc as soon as I am able to learn it, so
definitely stay tuned...
Also today, I've updated the CEMA DVD player sales numbers again -
56,322 sold for the last week of November (week ending 11/27). You can
view the summary above, or the
chart in the FAQ
& Features section.
last week announced a number of new DVD titles, including New Line's
Rush Hour and Universal's 1941,
so be sure to check that out.
Check back for more tomorrow, and enjoy the rest of your weekend!
and Amazon.com have
just announced a new partnership to market DVDs for sale and rental. You
can read the press release
here. By the
way, Amazon.com is currently selling the top 100 DVD titles for 50% off,
so if you want to pick one up, you can get quite a deal there.
Columbia TriStar has just announced a host of new DVDs for February,
including the noir-thriller Devil in a Blue
Dress and a disc of Three Stooges
shorts. You can read the full list (with disc specs) on the
in the Studio
and DVD News section.
Around the Net, there's a
on Canadian DVD player sales over at Canoe's
Video. And those of you who live in the Mountain View, CA
area, can get a copy of The Exorcist: 25th
Anniversary Special Edition DVD signed by Linda Blair
for the full details, including location and times.
Congratulations to all those who were winners in the November Trivia
Contest. We received lots of entries from those craving a Dances
With Wolves fix - 389 in all, so thanks to everyone who
participated. The December Contest
will begin shortly, so be sure to stay tuned....
In other news, I've been hearing whispers that
Wal-Mart may not
be so gung-ho on Divx after all, but I suggest you all keep up the
pressure on them until we hear that they've turned down the Divx deal. A
recent study by Neretin Associates (a market research firm) indicates
that confusion about Divx was the primary concern of 47% of the DVD
retailers interviewed. The study was conducted over a seven week period
(ending 11/10). Retailers said that customers were being confused by
Divx advertising, when considering DVD purchases. Wal-Mart's
participation in Divx would only further enhance such confusion - a
tremendous disservice to its customers. So don't let them off the hook
just yet, despite their automatic e-mail responses that they have no
Divx plans. Use the following contact info (you can also e-mail them
from their web site,
but there's some concern that they may not be read):
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
702 Southwest 8th Street
Bentonville, Arkansas 72716
Attention: David D. Glass, President
Phone: 501-273-4000 / 800-966-6546
Finally, I've gotten quite a lot of e-mails from readers, asking why
some studios seem to be lagging in their support of DVD. You may recall
yesterday, that I mentioned Buena Vista, Fox and Paramount specifically.
Buena Vista has been reluctant to release its classic animated titles on
DVD. Fox has been very slow to release marquee films to the format. And
Paramount, after a stellar debut, has done an about-face in terms of
anamorphic widescreen support on their DVDs (Fox and Buena Vista have
also yet to support this feature). So why is this the case, you may be
wondering? There are several reasons, which you're not likely to hear
from the studios directly (although Buena Vista all but admitted a few
of them at
Day). But from a business perspective, they're fairly easy to
First of all, the studios which tend to be the most progressive in
terms of DVD, all have some kind of affiliation with DVD hardware
manufacturers (Warner with Toshiba, Columbia TriStar with Sony, and
Universal with Matsushita). These studios, and those which fall under
their distribution umbrella, thus have a vested interest in pushing the
limits of DVD software capability. It's no coincidence, that these
studios have therefore produced some of the most complex, and
features-loaded DVDs, and released the most titles. Conversely, the
studios with no hardware affiliations, Fox, Paramount and Buena Vista,
have much less interest in being on the cutting edge of the format.
Fox, Buena Vista and Paramount are also generally considered to be the
studios with the most valued catalog of films (Star
Wars, for example, or Titanic
and the afore mentioned Disney animated films). These studios believe
that they have much more to lose from digital piracy, and have thus been
slow to adopt DVD. These studios also have a tremendous stake in the VHS
market, and tend to fear the possibility of DVD eating into VHS profits.
So they are very cautious about which titles they release to the format,
and when they are released in relation to VHS. There are other factors
as well. Buena Vista believes that action films are what really sells on
DVD, and has thus decided that action films will make up the majority of
their releases in the coming months (an argument which looses some
merit, when you consider that Gone With the
Wind, Casablanca and
The Horse Whisperer are all in the
current VideoScan Top 10 DVD chart).
So why release DVDs at all? Why release only basic discs, with few
features? Why not release discs with anamorphic widescreen? Simple. By
releasing only basic DVDs now, these studios can claim to be supportive
of the format, and thus (at least in part) satisfy demand for their
films on DVD (the classic, "hey we're doing DVDs, so get off our
back" argument). They can test the waters, to gauge just how
profitable DVD is, and will become. But more importantly, these studios
know that DVDs will have a longer life than VHS tapes, which tend to
wear out after prolonged use. So the best way to keep people buying your
product, is to repackage and reissue them (a process which Disney has
long perfected). It works like this: you simply issue a basic DVD
version of a film now, then in a year or two, release a new "remastered"
version, with say anamorphic widescreen and a few new features. A couple
of years later, you can issue a special collector's edition of the
title, loaded with extras. And, naturally, each new disc is only
available "for a limited time". So they get you to repurchase
the same film multiple times.
The bottom line is this: every new innovation in home video has been
resisted by the Hollywood studios, whether it was VHS, laserdisc, or now
DVD. There have always been studios which dragged their feet in
supporting the latest format. But trust me... when the DVD market grows
more profitable, even these studios will be quick to take advantage of
See you tomorrow!