UPDATE - 2/8/99 - 5:15 PM PST)
We've added some new information to the Rumor
Mill this evening - it looks like the Alien
DVDs have a new street date. Also, DreamWorks has provided us with the
box art for their upcoming ANTZ!
DVD, so we've added it to the
along with the disc specs posted previously.
(EARLY UPDATE - 2/8/99 - 12:15 PM PST)
I'm working on some bigger posts for later this evening, but in the
meantime, I've got a couple of interesting tidbits of information in
Mill update, that I think you'll be interested in.
By the way, I've tested my 7700 on RSDL layer switches more. This time
I set the A/B Repeat function on the player, to play over the layer
switches on both Terminator 2: Judgement Day
and Contact. I ran each playback
loop for more than 3 hours, with no glitches at all. I also tried the
recent Olympic Highlights DVD, and
that Superbowl DVD, The Best One Ever,
both of which are multi-angle discs - both worked fine.
I've had a number of people ask me about the Sony 7700 since I posted
the review yesterday. A couple of changes have been made to the review
to answer some of the questions. First of all, the player does not
reproduce the blacker-than-black bar in the "Pluge" pattern on
Video Essentials. This is a minor
inconvenience, and can make setting up a display device difficult, but
is otherwise not a problem.
Second, a number of people have told me that they've had problems
playing multi-angle discs, and RSDL dual-layer switches. I have played
some 27 RSDL discs on my player without a hitch. However, I've heard
that the early firmware on the 7700 has had some problems (versions 9.1
and 9.2). I've been told that Sony is aware of the problem, and is
working on a 9.3 firmware upgrade, which should resolve all the issues.
In any case, I have not changed my opinions of the player. If Sony
resolves the technical issues quickly, there should be no problem. I'll
be speaking with Sony on this issue this week, and will post an update
here as soon as I do.
We've got that hardware review of the ultra-cool, new
DVP-S7700 DVD player. For the record, we were extremely impressed
with it. Todd and I like it so much, in fact, that we've decided to make
it our official DVD player here at the Bits.
Check out the review, and you'll see what we mean.
For you laserphiles today, I've also posted the first review in our new
It Ain't Dead Yet section - a look
at the DTS and Dolby Digital (AC3) laserdisc versions of
X-Files: Fight the Future. We'll be doing more of these in the
future, reviewing LD versions of some of our favorite films, that aren't
yet available on DVD.
Speaking of The X-Files, just a
reminder that the DVD version of the film is coming on April 20th. And
for you fans of the show, don't miss Sunday's episode (entitled Two
Fathers), the first of a two-parter that is guaranteed to
blow the show's mythology story arc wide open.
Finally, just a quick note - I posted yesterday in the Rumor
Mill that Days of Thunder
would be released by Paramount (and would be anamorphic) on 3/30. That
was an error - the title should be Days of
Heaven, as correctly
1/27. The error has been corrected - sorry for any confusion.
(LATE UPDATE - 2/5/99 - 4:30 PM PST)
Well, any thoughts of DVD player sales waning after the holidays should
be dispelled by these numbers: 61,635 players were sold into retail in
the week ending January 29th (125,536 were sold for the entire month).
Not too bad at all. But the most important aspect of the January
numbers, is that it pushes the U.S. Grand Total over 1.5 million
players. The Stats Section (above) and the
chart have been updated accordingly.
Now for a biggie - we've come by a MAJOR piece of information, that if
true, bodes something of a change in attitude towards DVD's anamorphic
widescreen capability over at Paramount. Check the Rumor
Mill for the full scoop...
Have a great weekend!
(EARLY UPDATE - 2/5/99 - Midnight PST)
Just a quick update for the moment. The kind folks at DreamWorks have
given us a sneak peek at the complete disc specs for their upcoming ANTZ!
disc. It looks to really be something special as DVDs go - gotta say
we're definitely looking forward to it around here. You'll find the
complete details on the
page in our Studio
& DVD News section. Also, in the same section's
page, you'll find some specs on the studio's March DVD releases, as well
as the Criterion Armageddon DVD.
FYI, we've just revised our
Special Edition DVD review, to include some new information
we've learned. Our review copy of the DVD came packaged in a computer
software-style softbox, with the disc enclosed in a CD jewel case. This
packaging is designed for traditional computer software outlets. I've
learned that the new disc is also available in an Amaray keep case, for
more traditional DVD retailers (you may recall that the original Earthlight
was released in a Snapper case). We just wanted to mention it here to
clear up the confusion, as we've received a number of e-mails about this
We'll be making another post later today, so check back then...
Told you we were getting more serious about reviews. Today, we've added
a look at Mill Reef's ultra-cool new
Special Edition DVD, and another hardware review as well - the
DV-414 DVD player.
I've gotten myself in trouble before by announcing reviews and articles
we're preparing, and then not getting them up quickly. Believe me, this
is something I'm working on - often, I just put too much on my plate, so
to speak, and get bogged down. And occasionally, something comes up that
is more urgent, so stuff gets bumped. That said, here's what's in my
plan for the next few days: another player review (this time the awesome
new Sony DVP-S7700!), that Dances With Wolves
DTS comparative review, and the long-awaited Dragon's
Lair review. Yes, good old Warren Lieberfarb will finally get
his last word from CES, and we've got an interesting interview with my
favorite non-online software retailer coming. Finally, I hope to throw a
couple laserdisc reviews up in our new It
Ain't Dead Yet section. There - now I've thrown my best hat
over the wall, as JFK used to say. Time to start climbing...
Around the Net today,
has made an update, with information on some new DVDs (dig this - more
Twilight Zone discs, and Private
Snafu animated shorts from WWII!). There's a good site I've
visited recently, which helps you shop around for the best price on
DVDs, called appropriately DVD
Price Search. Let me know what you think about it. There's a
funny joke for all you anti-Divx / Big-Brother-is-watching types - it's
a cartoon called Penny
Arcade ("Get out of my teeth!" - gonna have to use
that line). And finally today, I'd like to welcome my good friend Peter
Bracke back to the world of the reasonably healthy! He's got his new
400Mhz Mac going too, so look for some good stuff over at the DVD
File. Hey Pete - does this sound familiar? "It's 3AM, and
only 10 more DVDs to review...!"
Stay tuned, friends.... Get out of my teeth!
Well, we promised you reviews today, and we aim to deliver. Todd's been
hard at work, and has six new DVD capsule reviews for you to check out.
You'll find South
Park, Volumes 1, 2 & 3 reviewed, along with some recent
Columbia TriStar titles: Stripes,
Die For, Sniper,
(Double Feature), and The
a funny piece of coincidence:
is reporting, that a webzine called C.H.U.D.
is reporting, that the Star Wars
and Indiana Jones films will
appear on DVD this year. Here's the funny part - their source is my
Inside DVD column, in the latest
issue of Widescreen
Review magazine (issue 30)! Note that this information was
NOT uncovered at Studio Day (as mentioned on C.H.U.D.),
but was included at the end of my column.
For the record (all Rumor Mill "grain-of-salt"
cautions apply), my sources have been telling me that both sets of
films are at least in the planning stages for release this year. As
reported in The Rumor Mill
the Indiana Jones films will
likely be a holiday '99 release from Paramount, while the Star
Wars films should appear on DVD in conjunction with either
the theatrical or home video release of The
Phantom Menace. We'll have to wait and see as things
We've finally received the CEMA DVD player sales numbers for the week
ending January 22nd - 32,340 players sold to retailers. The grand total
is now 1,458,298 players sold to retailers in the U.S. (keep in mind
these are both DVD and Divx players). The DVD Sales
Stats section (above) and the full
chart have both been updated accordingly.
Speaking of Divx, I had a recent conversation with someone today, who
brought it to my attention that Paramount seems to be slowing down their
Divx output. There are very few (if any) Paramount titles on Divx that
are not already on DVD, or scheduled to be released to DVD. What's more,
few of their big hit titles are being released on Divx day-and-date with
VHS, something which is specified in Divx's licensing contract. One can
only speculate as to what may be behind this, but it's interesting
We'll be back tomorrow, with another DVD player review and more - see
All right... the Trivia Contest for
February is now on! We're giving away another DVD player this month,
courtesy of DVD
City! In fact, it just happens to be the very player that your
faithful Bits editor is using at
the moment: a Pioneer DV-414 (trust me - it's very cool). The lucky
winner will also receive 6 more cool DVDs, and a
Trio for DVD care kit to use with the player. Not bad, huh? The contest
winner will be announced on the evening of Monday, February 15th. So
you've got about 2 weeks to get those entries in!
Speaking of Pioneer DVD players, we've got a new player review up today
for you to read - the
Elite player. The player retails for $999, includes the DTS
Digital Out, and is THX Ultra certified. Plus, the remote is among the
best we've seen thus far. All in all, I have to say that we were pretty
impressed with the DV-05 here at the Bits.
If you're looking for a player in that price range, it's tough to beat.
On the subject of THX, I've had a number of people ask me what
THX-certification does for a DVD player. Well, the good folks at THX
have established a number of strict guidelines that a player must meet
in order to be certified. These guidelines cover both video and audio
performance, as well as general ease of use.
THX has posted a
complete list, and explanation, of its
Player Certification criteria on their site, so you might want to
check it out.
So did anyone see the trailer for this summer's off-beat actioner Wild
Wild West (starring WiIl Smith and Kevin Kline), that aired
during the Superbowl? It was... interesting, to say the least. If you
missed it, you can check it out via Quicktime or Real Video at this
It's a Warner flick (release date July 4th), so you can bet it'll be on
DVD by Thanksgiving. I'm guessing it will also be buried at the
box-office, quicker than you can say Phantom
By the way, I'm told the link to that funny site we mentioned yesterday
was to a duplicate. The original version of the site can be found
Somehow, we're pretty sure we didn't cause the hampsters too much
We're cookin' up some more DVD reviews for tomorrow, so check back
Well, I hope all of you had a great weekend. All you football fans out
there recovered yet from Superbowl fever? I know it takes a while,
Well, I spent the weekend working on the site, and had an opportunity
to go out and see a movie in the theaters for a change. If you haven't
seen it, Waking Ned Devine is
definitely not one to miss. Make sure you catch it while you can.
Turns out, after posting my review on the DTS 5.1 version of
Hell Freezes Over, there will NOT be a Dolby Digital 5.1
version of the disc. The alternate soundtrack is PCM 2.0 discrete
stereo, and it is ALREADY included on the disc. There will be no
seperate version - it's the same disc. There IS however, two seperate
sets of packaging, one designed for general DVD retailers (as shown in
my review), and one which emphasizes the DTS soundtrack. There will also
be different order numbers for each - go figure. Again, it's the same
disc, and both will be sold for the same suggested retail price -
$24.99. I've revised my review accordingly. If you've read it already,
you'll know that the PCM sound is excellent, just not surround. Sadly,
no direct DTS and Dolby Digital comparision will be possible here. I
hope that clarifies the situation.
I'd like to mention a couple of interesting items around the Net. The
Big Picture has an excellent,
article on New Line and their DVD work with Laser Pacific - very
well done. MSNBC
has an article up called How
DVD got my BVDs in a Wad. That's all that needs to be said -
just check it out. Also there a
release out today, on Digital Video Systems new 6.2x DVD-ROM
Finally, this has nothing to do with DVD, but it's just too "out
there" not to mention. This site came to my attention, that a
Harvard student with way too much time on his or her hands put together.
I don't know how to describe it, except that if you're ever in a deep
blue funk, this might be just what you need to break out of it. I
couldn't help but laugh when I saw it, and I'd be surprised if you don't
at least get a smile out of it. A sound card is absolutely necessary to
get the full effect, so be sure your speakers are on. Now then,
here and you'll see what I mean...
Well, I've received all kinds of e-mail this evening regarding Fox: "In
case you hadn't heard Fox is releasing the Aliens
films on DVD," was the common theme. It's being reported as
breaking news elsewhere on the Internet today. Well folks, it's no news
to us. Those of you who read The Digital Bits,
will have known this for more than three months! If you read the
update of The Rumor Mill, you'll clearly see that we
reported all four Aliens films as
in the works for DVD, to be released in June '99, to commemorate the
20th Anniversary of the original Alien.
And although some of the release dates have changed, you'll see that we
were the ones who first told you about the Die
Hard series films coming to DVD, along with The
X-Files (which has now been pushed back to 4/20,
reported 12/19), Ever After,
How Stella Got Her Groove Back,
The Slums of Beverly Hills and a
whole host of Fox titles. What's more, if you look at a pair of Rumor
Mill posts a month later (11/11
you'll see that we even gave you tentative release dates and SRPs for
many of them.
Yes, all four Aliens films are
coming to DVD on 6/8. Keep in mind, that much of the content of these
DVDs is still in production, so any discussion of specific disc features
is premature, and only speculation. We'll have the complete and accurate
details on these DVDs as soon as they're solid. In the meantime, some of
you may wish to browse the content of
Mill over the last couple of months, as well as read our
report on Studio Day 1998. You'll find lots of upcoming DVD
release information contained in each.
Image Entertainment has informed me that MD
Geist has been set for a 2/9 release to DVD. Another anime
title, Project A-KO is apparently
still deep in production, so those of you waiting for it - hang in
Speaking of Image, you can read our first look review of their new Eagles:
Hell Freezes Over DVD, which is encoded with a DTS soundtrack
(street date 2/16 - a Dolby Digital version streets the same day). We've
also got that Small
Soldiers review up today, as well.
Bits reader Greg Lovern recently
e-mailed me to say that he has created a new page explaining anamorphic
widescreen on DVD. I've read it, and I think is one of the best (and
simplest) such explanations of this feature I've yet read. Greg has
created graphic representations to accompany the text, which serve to
illustrate the process nicely. So don't miss the
Easiest Explanation of Anamorphic 16:9 Widescreen Enhancement in DVDs
Andy Patrizio (of Techweb)
and I have been digging into an alleged "Divx Hack" box that
is being offered for sale on the Net. Andy's got a
on this up today. The creators of this dubious device claim that they
will demonstrate it for The Digital Bits
in the near future (we're actually supposed to receive one of them to
test - whether this happens or not remains to be seen). In the meantime,
here's the link to
their site. All the common sense warnings about purchasing "little
black boxes" on the Internet apply...
CEMA has informed me that their DVD player sales numbers, for the week
ending January 22nd, will not be available until early next week. We'll
be sure to post them as soon as they come in.
Finally, I wanted to let all you L.A. area readers know, that Pioneer
Entertainment is sponsoring a special DVD signing event with musician
Eric Burdon, to promote the 2/2 DVD release of Eric
Burdon and the New Animals: Live at the Coach House. The
event will be held at 7 PM on February 5th, at the Virgin Megastore in
Have a great weekend!
(1/29/99 - LATE UPDATE - 12:30 PM PST)
I know there's been some confusion about whether the A
Bug's Life DVD would be full frame or widescreen. Buena
Vista's press release is a little unclear about this point, but I had
asked them specifically about this issue yesterday. And I've done some
double-checking again today, with Buena Vista Home Entertainment's
director of public relations. The DVD will definitely include BOTH the
non-anamorphic widescreen AND full frame versions. The disc will be
dual-layered (DVD-9), and you'll be able to select which version you
wish to view as a menu option. Also, the four different box covers
pertains to VHS only - there will be only one cover for the DVD.
Finally, the press release only refers to A
Bug's Life and Mighty Joe Young
as DVD releases - the other titles mentioned are VHS plans.
(1/29/99 - EARLY UPDATE - Midnight PST)
OK, here's the news you've all been waiting for. Buena Vista has
formally announced that A Bug's Life
is coming to DVD on April 20th. The disc will include both sets of "outtakes"
that were shown in theaters (during the credits), as well as the 1997
Academy Award winning Best Animated Short, Geri's
Game, also from Pixar. Although it isn't clear from their
press release, Buena Vista Home Entertainment's director of public
relations told me that the disc will also offer both full frame and
widescreen versions of the film. The disc will not feature anamorphic
widescreen. That aside, the disc will feature DVD's first fully digital
transfer - the disc will be generated straight from the original digital
computer imagery, rather than being a standard film-to-video transfer.
In short, the disc should look phenomenal. Also, since the video is
being generated straight from the digital computer files, the animators
will be able to reformat each shot for full frame as well as widescreen,
in effect creating two differently composed versions of the same film.
I'm disappointed about the anamorphic issue, but I do have to say that
the DVD should still look phenomenal. And with both versions included on
the disc you'll at least have a nice choice of viewing options.
You will find the full text of the press release in the
in the Studio
& DVD News section. Mighty Joe
Young is also expected on DVD from the studio on March 23rd.
Also, I've got more information on the rest of Buena Vista's April DVD
slate in today's update of The
Rumor Mill, so don't miss it.
We'll have more later, so stay tuned...
Well, we've been working very hard here at the Bits.
Remember way back when we told you all that we've been planning a major
revision for the site? Well we can finally give you a glimpse of what it
will look like. Click
here for a sneak preview of the Bits
Be sure to check back tomorrow for some very exciting news - we're
going to have all the details on that "hypothetical"
Disney/Pixar animated title, along with other April DVD releases from
Buena Vista. Let's just say, I think you'll all be very pleased...
I've had several people ask me what I was referring to, when I
mentioned yesterday that Fox is headed for a turnaround with their DVD
product in 1999. It's too early to mention specifics, but I can tell you
that X-Files: Fight the Future is
due on 4/20 according to the latest pre-order sheets. My reason for
raising the issue in general, is simply that I wanted you all to know
that the studio has heard your concerns (about their DVD product), and
is responding. Suffice it to say that there are some good things in
store from them. We'll have more as things firm up, but I for one, would
just like to give Fox a chance to really impress people. And I think
Wanna see something funny? Take a look at this
Video clip from ZDTV's Silicon
Spin. They give their Two Cents on Divx... and they aren't
too kind. You'll need the Real Player to view it (free
trial download available here). Thanks, David.
has made an update, to add new information on several upcoming DVD
titles, including Warner's Home Fries.
I have to tell you, I saw this flick in theaters, and I really dug it.
Man, was it weird (but in a good way)! Let's just say it was not at all
what I expected going in. Should make a fun DVD.
Peter Bracke, of The
DVD File, has some new information on more South
Park DVDs that are on the way. Also, be advised that the
existing discs (and VHS tapes) are going on moratorium, so be sure to
get them while you can. Hey, they're only $15 each...
A fellow DVD compatriot, Derek Germano (of The
Cinema Laser), has put together
excellent page dedicated to DVD's most important quality feature,
anamorphic widescreen. Don't miss it.
Finally, the NY
Times has a
article available on-line, on choosing between DVD and Divx. It's
funny, so be sure to check it out. See, it ain't just me who's gotten
the Divx "used-car-salesman" pitch. "Well, Divx is better
than DVD, and all the major manufacturers are going to start making Divx
See you all back here tomorrow!
Well, we've got some information on Paramount's March DVD titles in
Mill update. And Warner Bros has announced all of their
February DVD releases as well (you'll find that in the
DVD News section, or
click here for
the direct link). I have to say that I'm very encouraged by many of the
things I've been hearing behind-the-scenes. If even half of the titles
I'm being told are in the works, are released, 1999 is shaping up to be
a banner year for DVD. We'll let you know more on some of these new
titles in development as soon as we can.
By the way, we mentioned in yesterday's Rumor
Mill post, that Singing in the Rain
would be repackaged in the Amaray case. Several readers have written to
say they've already seen this new package in stores.
We're almost finished on the first of those items we mentioned in
yesterday's post, so check back later today, and we'll hopefully have
them up. Stay tuned...
Today's update is going to be brief. I'm working hard to try and get a
bunch of stuff posted over the next couple of days that's been overdue
for a while. But we do have some new information up in The
Rumor Mill today, regarding some cool MGM musicals that are in
So did anyone catch Steven Spielberg's recent comments about Star
Wars - Episode I? I saw a brief TV interview with the
director about a week ago, where he let it slip that he's seen a
complete print of the film, at the invitation of George Lucas.
Spielberg's comment: "I can't wait to see it again." Millions
of Star Wars fans are, of course,
eating their hearts out.
(LATE UPDATE - 1/25/99 - 11 AM PST)
OK folks, I've just spoken to Buena Vista, and gotten the skinny on
their announcement. Basically, Divx has the rights to release any or all
of the Disney animated classics... BUT, they currently have no specific
plans to do so. So Buena Vista has now decided that making any kind of
announcement would be premature, until such time as Divx makes a release
decision. How do you like that bit of logic? We'll just have to wait and
see what Divx does. In the meantime, I can confirm (sort of) a very cool
rumor that DVD
File caught wind of recently. There's a very good possibility
(Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. Know what I mean? Say no more...) that Disney
and Pixar's A Bug's Life is coming
to DVD soon, with some highly-desired disc features on board. I should
be able to tell you more about this "hypothetical" DVD by the
end of the week, so stay tuned...
Now then, I've just posted my full length review of Star
Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. I'm still working on
DreamWorks' Small Soldiers - damn
there's a LOT of stuff on that disc. Every time I think I'm done with
the review, I find something new. I should be done with it this evening.
Both titles are definitely worth a look as far as DVDs go. And Todd's
got something for all you horror fans out there. Try Dead
Argento's World Of Horror, and Zombie
(a word of warning: even the cover is not for the faint of heart on that
last one). Finally, to lighten things up a bit, Todd's got a quickie
review of The
Unknown Marx Brothers. I'm thinking we've covered quite the
wide spectrum of films today, no? Enjoy!
(EARLY UPDATE - 1/25/99 - 3 AM PST)
Well, we spent our weekend here at the Bits,
doing a complete reorganization of our
section. We've organized our DVD reviews into several pages (by letter),
and we've added a new section - It Ain't Dead
Yet laserdisc reviews. We thought, since many of our favorite
films aren't yet available on DVD, that it's only right that we review
the existing laserdisc version. So look for those soon.
The major reason for the reorganization, is that we're really planning
to kick our review section into high gear. We needed to make the whole
review section more streamlined, to make it easier and faster to add new
reviews. Now that that's done, I'll be adding a bunch of new DVD capsule
reviews from Todd later this afternoon, along with my full length
reviews of Small Soldiers and
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.
I'm going to try to add at least one new full length review every couple
of days. On deck are Dances With Wolves (DTS),
Dragon's Lair, and some other good
titles I've been trying to get posted. Let me know what you think of the
whole capsule review idea. We think it's a pretty good way to get more
titles covered, yet still give you the information you need to evaluate
I'm slowly going to update every major section of the Bits
over the next few weeks. As for the immediate future, the remainder of
coverage (overdue I know) will be posted in tomorrow's update.
And, with any luck, we'll hopefully be hearing from Buena Vista soon, as
to their feature animation coming to DVD and/or Divx. Both Peter Bracke
(of DVD File) and I were told flat
out, that they would be issuing a statement on this issue, and now
things seem to be a bit up in the air. We'll be sure to bring you the
latest as soon as we hear anything. We'll definitely stay on top of this
story, rest assured.
Check out the latest Laserviews
update, which includes DVD announcements for Pleasantville
and Living Out Loud, and lots of
other good titles. DVD
File has some scans of the new Kevin Smith DVDs that are in
production currently (you can also follow the story on
And DVD Review
has a brief interview with MGM's Dave Miller.
(LATE UPDATE - 1/22/99 - 5 PM PST)
Well, I've spoken with Buena Vista this afternoon, and it looks as if
their announcement has been delayed until next week, Monday at the
earliest. You gotta love being kept on pins and needles - BVHV has got
to be loving all of the free publicity. We've been hearing so much
speculation as to what the announcement will be, that we've decided not
to say anything until the studio does.
All right, those full length DreamWorks DVD reviews are available now.
I've been saying for a while just how impressed I've been with
DreamWorks' first set of DVDs, and now you can see how good they are for
yourselves. Check out
Hunt, and tune in for Small
Also, we've updated the CEMA DVD player sales numbers (the
summary above, and the
chart). The gist is that we're up to 1,425,958 DVD players sold to
retail since 3/97. Keep in mind however, that Divx players are included
in the number - CEMA doesn't break them out.
See you tomorrow...
(EARLY UPDATE - 1/22/99 - 10:15 AM PST)
Well, I plan to keep my comments brief for now, and then comment more
when we hear from Buena Vista (hopefully today) as to their policy on
Disney classic animated titles appearing on DVD and/or Divx. I'm told
that the Mouse is doing some serious decision-making on this front. I
suggest we all wait to see what they have to say, before getting too
worked up. So check back periodically - we'll be posting their official
statement as soon as we receive it.
Some of you may have been wondering what Todd was up to - we'll he's
been pretty busy. He's got no less than 6 capsule DVD reviews for you
Seventh Sign, and a trio of John Carpenter classics,
of Darkness and
The idea behind the capsule reviews, is to give you all the information
you need to know, and tell you what we think about the disc, without
getting long winded. Plus, we can review more discs that way! Don't
worry - we'll still give you lots more long winded ones too, when we
feel the disc deserves it. In fact, both Todd and I are hard at work on
lots more reviews, including stuff we've promised recently, so keep
checking back. In fact, check back later this afternoon, for my
full-length reviews of DreamWorks' The
Peacemaker and Mouse Hunt.
I'm also working on Small Soldiers.
Speaking of DreamWorks, it's been reported elsewhere, but we feel it
bears repeating: a Divx version of ANTZ
is going to be released day-and-date with VHS in early February. But
rest assured, that the open DVD version is not far behind. I spoke with
the studio's DVD production guru today, who assured me that the delay is
only due to the added time needed to pack the DVD version with lots of
extra material. Look for it to street probably in late March. Trust me -
it will be worth the wait.
(LATE, LATE UPDATE -
1/21/99 - 3 PM PST)
All right, folks. The Bits has
gotten to the bottom of the anamorphic Armageddon
controversy. I just got off the phone with Divx's Josh Dare, who has
been investigating this issue for us with their internal technical
people. Josh tells me that the "Anamorphic Widescreen" label,
which clearly appears on the Q pack for their widescreen Armageddon
(see scanned image below), is a packaging error. The widescreen Divx
version of this film isn't anamorphic after all - the discs are simply
mislabeled. The only anamorphic widescreen disc Divx has released thus
far, is Tomorrow Never Dies, which
is already available in anamorphic widescreen on DVD. The error was
completely unintentional, and caught Divx by surprise as much as the
rest of us - there's no devious intent here. Buena Vista had to approve
the packaging, so it obviously slipped by them too. Divx tells me that
they're going to start working on a plan for repackaging, or relabeling,
all of the discs to deal with the problem.
So all of you anxious Armageddon
fans can rest easy, at least on this issue. As I mentioned earlier, we
should hear from Buena Vista tomorrow, as to their animated classics
appearing on Divx. Thanks to both Buena Vista and Divx, for helping us
to clear up at least this bit of confusion. I do hope this incident
reinforces the need for better, standardized and more ACCURATE labeling
on both DVD and Divx discs. Stay tuned...
(LATE UPDATE - 1/21/99 - 10 AM PST)
Well, we've heard from Buena Vista on at least one of the Divx-related
issues in question. After checking with their technical services people,
they've confirmed that no truly anamorphic master was supplied to Divx.
It was definitely not their intention that the Divx version be
anamorphic, while the DVD version is not. What they believe happened,
and this is pending confirmation with Divx, is that during the mastering
process, Divx neglected to "throw the switch" (so to speak)
that would have disallowed the anamorphic feature. So the result is that
a "faux" anamorphic effect has been created on their Divx
version, from a clearly non-anamorphic master. If this turns out to be
the case, it should look slightly distorted, or otherwise inferior, to a
true anamorphic DVD image, created with a truly anamorphic master.
Both Buena Vista Home Video and The Digital
Bits are working to confirm that this is in fact the case
with Divx, and as soon as we hear from them, we'll let you know. Buena
Vista is also working to ensure that this doesn't again happen in the
future, given that they have yet to officially support the anamorphic
feature of DVD.
As far as the question of Disney animation reaching Divx Gold, Buena
Vista expects to have their statement ready tomorrow.
(EARLY UPDATE - 1/21/99 - 2 AM PST)
Just wanted to jump in quickly here. We're working on some items for
later this afternoon, and we're also waiting to see if Buena Vista makes
their announcement today. In the meantime, I urge all of you to try and
be patient, until we see how this new situation with Divx and Buena
Vista will work out.
Until our post later, be sure to check out
which just announced some new DVD titles and street date changes. Also,
be sure to check out DVD
File for some new upcoming title information. Pete's also been
digging into the Buena Vista/Divx story, so look for updates from him as
(LATE, LATE UPDATE - 1/20/99 3:15 PM PST)
My contact at Buena Vista has informed me that they are preparing an
official statement on both the animated/Divx Gold question, as well as
the anamorphic Armageddon/Divx
issue. They may have something ready as soon as tomorrow, and we'll post
it as soon as it comes in. Stay tuned...
(LATE UPDATE - 1/20/99
2:15 PM PST)
Well, I've got some interesting information on Buena Vista and Divx.
I've been told by reliable sources that both Mulan
and 101 Dalmations have been made
available to Divx for use as possible Divx Gold releases. I contacted
Divx's Josh Dare for comment, and here's what I was told: "Divx
does have contractual rights to the Disney animated classics for Divx
Gold, but no decisions have been made as to the pricing or timing of
possible releases." Another source at Divx, speaking privately,
told me that there is some serious internal debate going on at Divx, as
to whether or not to go forward with releasing the two films, given the
massive negative outcry that releasing them would obviously generate
among avid DVD consumers. Such an outcry would certainly dampen the
positive effects their CES press releases might have had for the
pay-per-use format, and would certainly reinvigorate anti-Divx efforts
on the Internet.
This information is particularly distressing, given the fact that Buena
Vista recently allowed Divx to release Armageddon
in anamorphic widescreen, while preventing the anamorphic feature from
appearing on open DVD versions of the title. Regardless of the reasons
for these decisions, it's asking a little much of consumers to be
understanding about them at this point.
I have asked a Buena Vista spokesperson for comment on both issues, and
will post more as soon as I hear from them.
On a more positive note, there's been a breakthrough in
short-wavelength laser technology (which should help to make an eventual
HD-DVD format more likely). The achievement is that a short-wavelength
laser has been developed with a life-span of at least 10,000 hours
(which is necessary for use in consumer devices). Click
for the story from yesterday's New York Times
on the Web. You can also read
story on the subject at AsiaBizTech.
(EARLY UPDATE - 1/20/99 12:30 PM PST)
Yesterday, I received an e-mail from Criterion's Jon Mulvaney,
addressing the anamorphic widescreen issue. John wished to express some
points he believes were misstated in Criterion's original statement
(which was why the statement was removed from their site). The first
important thing to know, is that Criterion really does look forward to
working with anamorphic widescreen on DVD. The simple fact, according to
Jon, is that the opportunity has not yet arisen. As many of you know,
Criterion is a licensee of titles, similar to Image Entertainment. They
only have so much control over the content of their releases -
ultimately the studio makes the final decision. As a licensee, this is a
very complex issue. Criterion did explore an anamorphic DVD release for
Armageddon, but the decision was
ultimately Buena Vista's.
Also Criterion wants to proceed very carefully into anamorphic
widescreen. As many of you know, they did encounter some difficulties
with the RSDL layer switch process on some players. They want to make
sure that, when they do an anamorphic DVD, the same sorts of player
inconsistencies do not compromise quality. I think we can all appreciate
their concern. Bottom line: they simply don't want to do this
half-assed. Criterion is, and will continue to explore this issue, so
there is no reason not to believe that they will release anamorphic
titles in the future.
It might sound as if I've done an about face on this issue, but now
that Jon has added his perspective, I can understand the difficulties
they face a little better. And, to be fair, I've been known to get a
little passionate in my arguments on occasion - a soapbox syndrome if
you will. Well, that's just how I am - I really love this format, and
want to help make sure that all of you get the most value and enjoyment
from it possible.
Here's the difficulty I routinely find myself in: I have to try, on a
daily basis, to help consumers understand how the industry works, so
they have a better understanding of why things are the way they are with
DVD. At the same time, I try to provide the studios with some insights
into their consumers - what they want from DVD, what they like and don't
like, what's confusing or frustrating them. And that's a very difficult
task. I understand that there are many factors that come to play in the
studios' decision making, with regard to DVD. But some days, I get just
as frustrated as my readers do with the studios.
Hollywood take notice: consumers get irritated when, for example,
they've just paid $30 for an Armageddon
DVD without anamorphic widescreen (and few extras), and they learn, less
than a month later, that another DVD version is coming from Criterion
with LOTS of extras, but for $50, and still non-anamorphic. Then they
learn that the $4.49 Divx version, IS anamorphic (and we all know the
general level of animosity toward Divx), so this just stokes the fire.
What happens next, is that I receive hundreds of angry e-mails from
readers, who know that, by voicing their concerns to me, I'll make them
known to the studios. It gets just a bit overwhelming - I can certainly
relate to their irritation. So I hope that those of you in the studios
can understand my frustration, and the frustration of your consumers in
general. And I can't help but feel, that with a little more work - a
little more effort - you folks could figure out what your audience
wants, and give it to them the first time. Follow the lead DreamWorks
has just set for you - they carefully researched what consumers wanted
from DVD in advance, and then delivered a trio of terrific,
All that said, I realize that I might have been a bit too harsh
yesterday, so to my friends at Buena Vista - sorry about that
Brontosaurus thing. Like I said, I was on a rant, all a-fire.... It
happens from time to time. That doesn't mean that I don't still have
some issues with your DVD work (believe me, I do), but a dinosaur
analogy MIGHT not have been the best way to raise the issue... ;-)
All right, in today's Rumor
Mill, you'll find the details of Universal's April releases,
and some information on a cool new DVD magazine series.