ASCII by Jason Scott

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Looking Ahead: DVD Formats —

Well, I’m sure all the parties involved were quaking in their boots to find out which side Bovine Ignition Systems was going to come down on, but after spending some time on the issue, I’m going to cautiously throw my support behind HD DVD as the likely format my next two movies will be produced for.

There are a number of reasons behind this, most prominent that I hate Sony and Blu-ray is basically Sony’s format, while HD DVD is basically Toshiba’s. Just knowing Sony got its hands all over Blu-ray makes me shove it into something burning and run away. It’s worth noting, however, that Sony was also on the steering committee for HD DVD as well. This follows with the second part of my “fuck Sony” outlook, which is that Sony plays every side and backs every horse, even when it screws Sony. If that sounds unlikely, it really isn’t; Sony will work at cross-purposes to meet any potential economic advantage it can in every situation. That said, HD DVD appears to have only gotten a small amount of Sony grease on it.

As a filmmaker who puts out his own crap on his own terms, my main point of view with a format is: How quickly and easily can I strip all limitations out of the format and leave the most up to the people who have bought my stuff?

I realize this is not the majority view of most filmmakers or studios in regard to a format; they want to know how much it would cost to make it so the players actually reach out and hold children hostage until the studio is sent $15 for each play of the DVD. In fact, the big concern would rest with whether it should be $15 or $30 or a per-seat license.

Anyway, enough hammering. The point is, I don’t care about copy protection and I certainly don’t care about setting up the disc to be obfuscating to the end-user. That means no footage you can’t get out of (do you really need to be forced to see the full 10-second logo of the studio every time? You’ll see it enough as it is), and making full use of cool features that you can also turn off. (Menus shouldn’t really have background music, but playing a song could be a cool option elsewhere, if the person chooses).

Both Blu-ray and HD DVD come with AACS, which is the new “we promise nobody will snap it in half” version of CSS,which was the copy-protection they promised nobody would snap in half and which was snapped in half. All I care about is I can shut it off. There’s this astoundingly vicious thing called “down-sampling”, where the studios can choose to force the player under certain circumstances to play the footage at a reduced rate. I will not choose to force the player under certain circumstances to do anything you don’t want it to.

Blu-ray then goes on to clock on another bunch of stuff, including a watermarking technology they promise you won’t be able to hear in the disc. They also claim this watermark won’t be removable. Of course it’ll be removable. And not content with AACS, they also add the BD+ copy protection format, because nothing’s better than having six bouncers at the door instead of one; no chance for confusion or issues there! Either way, combined with the rest of the crap it sticks on the disc, it’s a loss.

It is also apparent that AACS will give the option of a computer/player “phoning home” if so chosen, so verify you got a good copy. Fuck that right in the ear. I will never do that, either.

Am I starting to sound repetitive? Likely. Let me move forward into the rough plans for my work.

At the rate I’m filming/doing things, it looks like GET LAMP is looking at an early 2008 release on whatever format I choose. Obviously a lot can go weird during the next year, but I expect this to be the case. I am assuming for the moment it will be two DVDesque things in a nice package. I’ve potentially lined up a jaw-dropping package artist. I know it sounds weird to talk this way after only a dozen interviews, but you have to if your final work is going to look good. If I layer it out, it can potentially add years.

Assuming they have the HD DVD ducks in a row, I’ll again go with Bullseye Disc. I love those people. I finally met them in person this past July and had a great time hanging out with Curtis, Shelby and the rest of the gang. Curtis has his Apple II disc collection on-site. Who the hell else does that? I’m sticking with them.

HD DVD also has this neat other feature that I’m likely to go with, even if it means no disc art: dual-format discs. You can actually have one side be HD DVD and the other regular DVD, so that you can take GET LAMP to a friend’s house and pop it in, and still get stuff. I like that a lot, even if it means twice the authoring work.

The previous documentary was Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0. The next ones will likely be Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5. This “Non-Commercial” bit relates to the fact that I’m bringing in more “name” people and they need something that doesn’t have my documentary packaging going “and please make money off this as well”, since some of them are making money off what they’ll have me do. This mostly centers around the music, by the way.

So there we go. I’d tell you to throw your Playstation 3 plans into the garbage after this, but the fact is, they’ll be able to play DVDs, and I intend to be compatible with DVDs! Everyone wins! Well, except for people who think Blu-ray’s the way to go.

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  1. Krisjohn says:

    Please do a version with hi-def divx/xvid files on a normal old DVD or three. I can already play that.

  2. Shii says:

    Right now I am laughing at both sides and telling people to just buy DVDs. Much less expensive, and probably much less of a hassle the way things are looking right now. I guess only time will tell whether people actually spring for these things.

  3. Flack says:

    While wandering the aisles at Ultimate Electronics over the weekend I saw the first batch of blu-ray discs. I’m not sure the problem with “50 First Dates” was the resolution.

    I don’t mind investing in things like the DVD player you mentioned because like you mentioned, it’s only $99 and does something neat. And by the time it dies, something else neat will have replaced it. This new generation of televisions is scaring me. When you walk into a store and see two televisions with a $2,000 price gap that you can’t tell the difference between, you’re out of touch.

  4. Zed says:

    “You can actually have one side be HD DVD and the other regular DVD, so that you can take GET LAMP to a friend’s house and pop it in, and still get stuff”.

    Please, please do this. We, your third world customers, thank you.

  5. Jason Scott says:

    You have my pledge, Zed, that no matter what happens, I will guarantee I will not shut people out. Even the Blu-Ray players will play “regular” DVDs.