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Site created 12/15/97.

page updated: 3/16/99

My Two Cents
(Archived Posts 2/8/99 - 1/20/99)

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(LATE 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 DreamWorks page, 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 today's Rumor 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.

Stay tuned...


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.

Stay tuned...


We've got that hardware review of the ultra-cool, new Sony 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 The 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 reported on 1/27. The error has been corrected - sorry for any confusion.

Stay tuned...

(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 full 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 DreamWorks page in our Studio & DVD News section. Also, in the same section's Buena Vista 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 Earthlight: 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 since yesterday.

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 Earthlight: Special Edition DVD, and another hardware review as well - the Pioneer 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, Laserviews 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, To Die For, Sniper, Godzilla (Double Feature), and The Wild One.

Widescreen Review magazine (Issue 30) Here's a funny piece of coincidence: Cinescape 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 previously (on 11/11 and 11/16), 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 develop.

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 nonetheless.

We'll be back tomorrow, with another DVD player review and more - see you then!


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 CD PlayRight 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 Pioneer DV-05 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 DVD 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 link. 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 Menace...

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 here. Somehow, we're pretty sure we didn't cause the hampsters too much stress... ;-)

We're cookin' up some more DVD reviews for tomorrow, so check back then.


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, believe me.

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 Eagles: 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, behind-the-scenes 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 press release out today, on Digital Video Systems new 6.2x DVD-ROM drive.

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, click 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 10/14 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, as first 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 and 11/19), 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 The Rumor Mill over the last couple of months, as well as read our complete 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 there...

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 World's 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 story 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 Hollywood, CA.

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 studio's page 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 v2.0.

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 they will.

Wanna see something funny? Take a look at this Real 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.

Laserviews 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 an excellent page dedicated to DVD's most important quality feature, anamorphic widescreen. Don't miss it.

Finally, the NY Times has a new 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 models now..."

See you all back here tomorrow!


Well, we've got some information on Paramount's March DVD titles in today's Rumor Mill update. And Warner Bros has announced all of their February DVD releases as well (you'll find that in the Studio & 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 the works.

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.

More tomorrow...

(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 Alive, Videodrome, The Frighteners, Dario 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 Review 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 the disc.

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 our CES 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 News Askew). And DVD Review has a brief interview with MGM's Dave Miller.

More later...

(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 The Peacemaker and Mouse Hunt, and tune in for Small Soldiers soon.

Also, we've updated the CEMA DVD player sales numbers (the summary above, and the full 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 today, including: Leviathan, Westworld, The Seventh Sign, and a trio of John Carpenter classics, They Live, Prince of Darkness and Starman. 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.

More later...

(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.

Features grid on Divx Armageddon package

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 Laserviews, 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 well.

More later...

(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 here for the story from yesterday's New York Times on the Web. You can also read another story on the subject at AsiaBizTech.

Stay tuned...

(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, featured-loaded discs.

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.

Stay tuned...

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