Click here to learn more about anamorphic widescreen!
Go to the Home Page
Go to The Rumor Mill
Go to Todd Doogan's weekly column
Go to the Reviews Page
Go to the Trivia Contest Page
Go to the Upcoming DVD Artwork Page
Go to the DVD FAQ & Article Archives
Go to our DVD Links Section
Go to the Home Theater Forum for great DVD discussion
Find out how to advertise on The Digital Bits

Site created 12/15/97.




page updated: 1/15/99



My Two Cents
(Archived Posts 12/28/98 - 12/3/98)


Back to Previous Archives

Back to Current Posts

12/28/98

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 alt.video.dvd and E-Town's 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.

DVD News and Information Once 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!

On to other business. The Musicland Group has just issued a new press 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 CBS MarketWatch has a feature 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." Bingo!

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 charts here at the Bits have been updated accordingly.

Finally today, that Titanic DVD bootleg I 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.


12/27/98

Thanks to everyone who wrote to say they dug our Digital 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 Days.

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 commentary track.

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 The Rumor Mill.

Finally today, this weekend has found me playing Digital 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!

12/24/98

It's here at last! The Digital Bits official Digital 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 Divx discs)!

Happy Holidays! Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukah! Happy Kwanzaa!

See ya back here this weekend.

12/23/98

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 story 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. Variety.com 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 press release crowing about the strong DVD sales this holiday season. Finally, there is another press release out on the strong sales of high-tech items in general. "Bright Future Envisioned for Digital Televisions, DVD Players," it predicts.

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!

12/22/98

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 DVD City), a Trio for DVD care kit (courtesy of CD PlayRight) 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, January 8th.

In other news, Laserviews has announced 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.

Stay tuned...

12/21/98

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 Patrizio's report on the whole saga, over at Techweb. The Wired site has a revealing follow-up 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...

Vikings helmet... old-style Fear ye, all the league around! Fear ye the fury of the Northmen! GO VIKINGS!

Oh, come on - you know I had to do that...! ;-)

12/19/98

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 NetFlix, 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):

http://www.x-filesdvd.com/fightthefuture/

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 DVD Resource 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.

LATE 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 Studio & 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:

Greetings,

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 rewarding.

See you on the Net!


<end>

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...

12/17/98

Some interesting DVD happenings around the Net today. First of all Wired is taking a closer look at the DVD vs. Divx fight, in an article 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 Lair DVD-ROM.

Speaking of Yahoo, click here for the results of a search of other DVD news, press releases and information today.

Laserviews has announced some of those DVD titles I mentioned in The 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.

E-Town has an interesting 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!

New Yorker cartoon
Cartoon 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.

Stay tuned...!

12/16/98

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 DVD File, for the kind words on his pages today.

ZDTV's Call For Help
So 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 network's Call 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.
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 read:

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 Bits.com

[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."

[end]

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 press 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 soon.

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 PCWeek (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 here 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...!

12/15/98

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 Ask Digital 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 Widescreen Review magazine (Issue 29). Back here at the Bits, I've updated the Official 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 The 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!

12/14/98

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 recent Studio 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 report on our recent visit to the MPAA, over those bootleg 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.

ABCNews.com has an 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 anything." Bingo.

MSNBC.com has a story 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 good 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 web site. Thumbs up, gentlemen!

See you tomorrow...

12/11/98

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 www.prodivx.com 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 scan of 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!

12/10/98

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 consumers grows.

There's a great opinion column on Divx over at Upside. It's written by Ziff-Davis' VP of Market Intelligence, Aaron Goldberg. The title says it all... Divx is Dumb.

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 Internet Movie Database's spanking new DVD Browser. 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...

12/9/98

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 information.

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 here, here and here). 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 discussion board). There's an interesting new 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 tomorrow...!

12/8/98

More information on that Titanic bootleg, and bootlegs in general. First of all, my contact at the MPAA tells me that those Disney 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 mob. Yikes!

You all know my stand on piracy (if not, read my recent 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 web 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 here. AsiaBizTech has a story 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 here).

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!

12/7/98

All right... my behind-the-scenes article 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 From 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 recently 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 figure.

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.

Stay tuned...!

12/6/98

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 Disney bootlegs I reported here a few weeks ago. You'll find a scan of the cover below, and you can click here or on the picture to see a larger 300K image, in more detail (be patient - it's a slow load).


Bootleg Titanic? The 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.

The 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 full chart in the FAQ & Features section.

Finally, Laserviews 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!

12/4/98

NetFlix 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 Columbia page in the Studio and DVD News section.

Around the Net, there's a story on Canadian DVD player sales over at Canoe's JAM! 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 tomorrow. Click here for the full details, including location and times.

Stay tuned...!

12/3/98

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 Studio Day). But from a business perspective, they're fairly easy to deduce.

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 it.

See you tomorrow!


More Archived Posts

Back to Current Posts


E-mail the Bits!


Don't #!@$ with the Monkey! Site designed for 800 x 600 resolution, using 16M colors and .gif 89a animation.
© 1997-2015 The Digital Bits, Inc., All Rights Reserved.
billhunt@thedigitalbits.com