Monday, August 4, 2008

Looking Into Our Crystal Clear Ball

Friends, readers and film lovers alike. We stand at a turning point in our history. And perhaps never before have we so clearly into what our futures holds, while have the advantage our knowingly repeating our past and being able to learn from it. I am speaking, of course, about Blu-Ray DVD.

By now, everyone knows and has accepted that Blu-Ray technology has cornered the market as the new high-definition format for home entertainment. In a few years, standard DVD’s will have been slowly phased out and BLR will have its chance at a long run in our lives and living rooms. Even the Criterion Collection has taken the plunge into the deep Blu. While the high quality of the format is appealing to movie fans both hardcore and casual, what does the disappearance of DVD mean to those same fans?

Playstation 3 with Blu-Ray player.

Does anybody remember the large VHS collection they used to own? Tapes could be dubbed and rented and it seemed like everyone you owned had a story along with it. I had tapes that my uncle made for me, tapes my father bought in Japan and tapes I sto- acquired from Video Time or the public library. Do you know where all those tapes are now? Neither do I. Sadly, after I graduated high school in 1999, I got a PlayStation 2 and never bought another VHS cassette again. I began to build my DVD collection that currently hovers at around 500 titles.

Ah, but cinephiles will noticed that I have missed something in this telling of format history. Laserdisc. The precursor to DVD, the laserdisc had a short, but spectacular run. Not only would we not have DVDs, but commentary tracks, the Criterion Collection and digital surround sound all came into being with the laserdisc. Far more expensive than even BLR is now, the laserdisc died when DVDs could deliver the same experience, smaller and cheaper.

The Casablanca Criterion CAV Laserdisc

But, it is worth noting the distinction between the death of VHS and laserdisc. Like moving from records and cassettes to CDs, the new format of DVD provided a superior experience to VHS, but an equivalent to the laserdisc. But, it’s a little different this time. Yes, Blu-Ray is significantly superior to standard DVD, but for the first time, our technology is backwards compatible, allowing Blu-Ray owners continued enjoyment of their collection. The combination of a Blu-Ray player and an HDTV actually increases the quality of your standard DVDs as well, something people might not be so knowledgeable of. This brings me to the point of my blog. Where are all those DVDs going to go?

Sure, you, me and everyone we know will keep our DVDs. But, what about the larger DVD buying population? Sure, Transformers and Good Luck, Chuck are coming to Blu-Ray but how many of our older favorites movies will also make the jump? Studios are making huge Blu-Ray releases for Casablanca, Taxi Driver and Dr. Strangelove but those are all seminal classic movies. What about other smaller movies that are just as deserving? If you don’t think it is worth worrying about, consider this list from Turner Classic Movies of films that have not been released on standard DVD yet!

Take a movie like The Island of Dr. Moreau. Sure, it’s trash but consider it for a moment. Directed by John Frankenheimer, starring Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer, it features creature effects by Stan Winston, Val Kilmer doing his Brando impression and the inspiration for Mini-Me. Why would anyone NOT want to see that movie? But, I have it in a bare bones snap case with a serious lack of special features. I’m not holding my breath for the Special Edition since the ten year anniversary already passed, but what are the chances that this movie will get the Blu-Ray treatment? Or for that matter, any number of movies that I loved when I was younger, like Heart & Souls or House Party?

I guess what I’m saying dear readers is try to treasure your DVDs for you never know what might happen. You can lose one, break one, damage it beyond repair and then it’s pulled from circulation, out of print, hundreds of dollars or merely gone. But, at the same time, share your DVDs. I just let my friend borrow a whole bag from my restaurant filled with movies for a bag from his work stuffed with more. Have viewing parties, introduce someone new to your favorites and above all else, remember that movies are a communal experience. There isn’t a film I can think of that isn’t more enjoyable when watched with someone else in the room or a packed theatre of hundreds.

Share your collection.


The Mad Hatter said...

Nifty mission statement...but I think it should come with an amendment...

"If you borrow - return tomorrow".

A pet peeve of mine is people who borrow my media and don't get it back to me for months and months.

If it's a movie, two weeks is an acceptable turnaround. If it's a TV series, I can up that to four weeks. But people who keep my shit for months (and worse - never actually get around to watching it), deserve to be boiled in oil.

elgringo said...

"Heart & Souls"
Yes. Hell yes! Oh fuck yes!
Alright, a bit much, I know.

I'm happy with the upgrades as long as they will still play my old DVDs. I have 1,300 DVDs and I'm not looking to replace them any time soon.

And yes, Heart and Souls is one of them.

Big Mike Mendez said...

I try only to let my friends borrow movies when I know they are trustworthy enough to get them back to me in an orderly fashion. I'd rather they keep them for two months and love it, than keep it for one month and never watch it.

Not replacing my DVDs either, so I hanging onto a lot of them and have begun the hunt for movies I don't think will make the jump. If I see something I want, I get it.

Graham said...

Personally, I think this all misses the point. I just got my new Roku netflix streaming box...and it is awesome.

I'm not sure the BluRay disc will be the Laserdisc, but I wonder if it might. Because the XBox 360 is going to stream movies to. And I think the BluRay is showing up right as disc based (or even physical) media is over.

Everything will be streaming.

I'm also cautiously optimistic that the prevalence of streaming will bring about a renaissance of availability. Sure, they'll still have to clean up and remaster a print, but that's it. No worrying about how many DVDs to make, if it'll sell enough to make the print run worth it, nothing. Just make a nice transfer, digitize, and stick it online. Hard not to make a profit when you're only selling information; information you already had sitting in your warehouse.

Big Mike Mendez said...

I understand your point as friends of mine hit me over the head with it constantly. I can only counter with the fact that everyone owns a kitchen and a TV, but restaurants and theatres are still open.

Personally, I want something I can hold in my hand as a collector. If I have a choice, I would rather pay a premium for a disc than download a file. I still buy one or two CDs a year, but only buy single songs off iTunes. It seems to me the solution is to make a better quality product.