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mygif

Maybe all the stuff we lost in the format-shift from VHS to DVD was worth losing, I dunno. But it definitely accompanied a loss of cultural memory. Except for websites like “Everything is Terrible” it’s hard to see precisely what the ’80s and ’90s looked like in their own words, to say nothing of all the older stuff that only made it one format in.

Now, there was no *crucial* reason to move home video from DVD to Blu-Ray or other HD medium other than grossly expanding screens. But we’re doing so. If it’s not made commercially available, it goes away from home libraries; if it’s *archived*, indexed and made available digitally in the public domain (or with some sort of view-tracker for royalties purposes? I don’t know) then at least it doesn’t vanish altogether.

I hate when things vanish altogether.

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mygif

It actually is something I’d not thought of before now… but it is rather depressing, now that I think of it. There are movies I never heard of that I’ve bought – simply because they were cheap. Or sounded good, something I know really can’t be done with BluRay’s selection now.

Although I did pick up Darkman that way.

As an aside, I’ve got that same condition of pairing DVDs with their BluRay replacements for combo packs. Sadly, the wife has put a stop to that, partially thanks to budget and partially thanks to her not understanding the need I have for format redundancy.

Admittedly, I don’t keep VHS tapes around… aside from the 4 I have to show my future kids what we used to watch things on. They’re stored next to the Laserdiscs.

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mygif

I think that’s an economic issue: DVDs are cheap to make and people had a lot more disposable cash (or at least pretended they did) a few years ago. So churning out everything in bulk was more cost effective. Then Blu-Ray came along, with higher costs and (initially) much higher prices–and while Blu-Ray prices have dropped to something more reasonable, they’re still higher than DVD prices, which is a drag on sales when the DVD option is still on the shelves right next to it.

The format war scared off a lot of consumers, and economic issues made others consider if they *really* needed to replace the DVD player. I only got a Blu-Ray player a few months ago because I needed something that could put Netflix on the new tv, not because I cared about screen resolution, and I still have only two Blu-Ray movies, which I bought only because the price of the combo pack was within a reasonable range of the DVD only.

So I wouldn’t worry about it too much; your golden age of home cinema will return when 1) the economic outlook of the average family improves, and 2) enough of the DVD specific hardware, in both home and manufacturing settings, reaches end of life and supporting both formats is no longer viable.

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mygif

This very thing has led to me compulsively buying things that come out that sometimes are available on Netflix. That’s the real frustration I have. Take Dead Like Me. A pretty good, quirky, TV series that, alas, I missed when it originally aired. So I watched it on Netflix, because, hey, why not. And I really liked it. Then, it got pulled from Netflix before I could convince all my friends that they missed this great show.

So what happens? I buy the complete series in a box set because who knows when it will vanish? I wonder why Netflix doesn’t have so many of those TV shows that have 2 or 3 seasons that aren’t syndicated, probably aren’t moving too many DVD’s or BluRays, but are still a good way to while away an hour or so every now and then.

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mygif

It’s not just Wimbledon. Tangled is not on Netflix. That’s a Disney movie, a Disney Princess movie yet.

Now do one about the digital panacea myth in comics.

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mygif

“I wonder why Netflix doesn’t have so many of those TV shows that have 2 or 3 seasons that aren’t syndicated, probably aren’t moving too many DVD’s or BluRays, but are still a good way to while away an hour or so every now and then.”

Because it’s not about getting the shows and films in front of audiences, it’s about multinational media corporations maximizing profits by figuring out the most lucrative way to bundle their massive content libraries in multi-billion dollar goldmines. And now that Netflix is dominant no one wants to make it any easier for them to accumulate more content, especially TV shows (which make up the lion’s share by far of Netflix’s online streaming).

But I will also say that I don’t really care about Blu-Ray myself with one exception – I bought the STAR WARS box set that came out two years back, just like I had STAR WARS on DVD – the ones with the original cuts as “bonus” features – and just like I’ll be sure to by the restored non-Special Edition Blu-Rays of the original trilogy that Disney should be releasing some time in 2015. (I don’t have any privileged insider information on such a release, but come on.) I will be buying STAR WARS every time they upgrade formats from now until the say I die, probably.

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The Unstoppable Gravy Express said on September 4th, 2013 at 2:35 pm

I will be buying STAR WARS every time they upgrade formats from now until the say I die

Do you mean “until the day I die” or “until they say I die”?

Sure, it’s probably the first option, but how cool would it be if you meant the second…

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mygif

Pedantry:

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau.

Not Nikolai.

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mygif

I could literally write you an essay on how things ended up this way – but I’d get even more depressed than I usually am on the subject.

If it’s any consolation, I can’t even get films I’ve produced (let alone third party titles we’re distributing) out on Blu-ray, and that’s with us often offering to pick up the (significant) cost of authoring so there would be almost no risk to our retail partners.

The big issue is that physical home video (DVD and BDR combined) is a tiny *fraction* of what it was in the 90s. The rule of thumb at one point in the late 90s was that *anything* you released in Canada (fitness film, dieting film, deep library title) should sell 12,000 units if you marketed it properly. I know of at least one recent significant academy award winning film that barely broke 3,000 units sold (and to just cover your basic set-up costs you probably need to sell 500-1000 disk per format at full $20 retail… which no one is willing to pay on most titles anyway).

I suspect that people have just been buying fewer movies for a decade, as internet and video games ascend to fill free time, but that trend was cloaked a little bit by the fact that the Blockbusters, Best Buy’s and Wal-Mart’s of the world were still buying thousands of copies of *everything* (even though they were losing money on it all, they had to have something to fill the shelves). When the video rental companies went bust, the big box stores realized they didn’t need to carry the same amount of stock and the whole thing bottomed out overnight (look how much less floor space DVD’s and Blu-rays now take up at your local Best Buy and/or Future Shop next time you visit).

So no one’s stocking product, people are buying a tiny amount of what they once were (and even fewer Blu-rays), and authoring and replication costs are mostly the same if you’re pressing 100 copies as 100,000 so economics of scale are working against you now.

Then there’s all kinds of politics with the Blu-ray standard itself. There’s a recent (historically significant) Canadian title I was involved with that I lobbied strongly *had* to be available on Blu-ray. I ended up authoring it myself, on my own time, *inventing* authoring tools and workflows in the process – and then nigh had to blackmail a replication plant to produce it since I didn’t use Sony’s proprietary (extremely expensive) platform… and they’ve threatened to de-certify any plant who replicates disks that don’t pass their “software validator” (which at that time wasn’t validating anything made on non-Sony software… it was supposedly just a temporary glitch with that particular version of the tool… supposedly).

Not that it matters because each player implements the specs in wildly different ways anyway (you think HTML fragmentation is bad, look into Blu-ray authoring).

So… it’s not for lack of want, or effort in the distribution community (well *some* fringe parts of the distribution community).

Don’t get me started about digital. I honestly don’t know what we do about that. I understand why people spoof DNS, honestly I do, but because it’s so prevalent there’s no way to demonstrate what kind of a domestic digital audience might exist, and therefore the license fees for Canada are slightly less than I honestly think I could make pan-handling on the corner in front of the office on a good day.

And for those saying we should just scrap the regional distribution system – for all it’s flaws (and there’s many) it’s the *only* thing making it possible to finance a film (*any* film) outside of the US studio system. The moment you make a “one world” distribution region independent film is effectively dead (or becomes something akin to the “independent labels” of the major studios… which is worse).

… Good thing I didn’t write an essay.

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mygif

With the exception of the problem of things going out of print, most of the time I’d rather they not re-release older films on Blu-Ray. The HD transfer of non-HD films can result in some shockingly bad releases (the two worst that I can think of were The Shining and On the Waterfront, both of which were absolutely destroyed by oversmoothing the texture of the films). Non-HD formats for non-HD films, HD formats for HD films.

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mygif

@Tenken347 – But all those old films *are* HD. 35mm has more than enough resolution for a good HD transfer.

The big problem is that SD often masked significant print damage, so that masters that made for acceptable SD transfers look like a disaster in HD (I suspect the two films you mentioned used “wet gate transfers” which look great in SD and is hot garbage in HD).

Restoration is easier now than it’s ever been (I’ve done a couple of films by myself over 8-12 weeks each, which would have been unthinkable even a few years ago) but there’s still cost and labour involved that is likely not going to be offset by immediate sales.

A good 35mm print, properly restored on HD looks *gorgeous* though – so it’s not like it’s a failing of the format.

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mygif

I remember reading an article at least ten years ago, pointing out that we could still read the originals of works hundreds or even thousands of years old, yet we can’t read an Apple II disk from 20 years ago (30 years now, I guess). The point being that the move to digital increases access to works, but hugely reduces the lifespan of that accessibility.

You’ve nicely highlighted yet another problematic aspect of it. It’s all very depressing. Time to go back to carving things in stone blocks.

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mygif

Yep, and honestly I’m worried about this in a much greater sense than just not being able to watch movies from 20 years ago. We seem to be headed for a vast and terrifying cultural memory wipe, which given the presence of the internet is INSANE.

Some people are actively encouraging it, too. There are rumours that JJ Abrams was trying to get classic Star Trek taken out of circulation so that it wouldn’t cause “brand confusion” with his new version. Certainly a lot of movie hype these days depends on making something out to be THE GREATEST MOVIE EVAR up until opening weekend, at which point it seems to be actively purged from everyone’s memory (Avatar being the most brain-melting example of this–that was the top-grossing movie OF ALL TIME, you guys). It does make sense–that allows the studios to sell us the same damn story over and over and over again.

But what’s really scary is the idea of corporations owning something and preventing anyone else from seeing it, which happens–Harvey Weinstein is guilty of sitting on a vast array of foreign movies, for instance, and as with the Abrams example above sometimes studios want to hide the earlier version of a movie they’ve remade (possibly they’re afraid of how their version will suffer in comparison?) Plus there’s the legendary “Disney vault”. It’s not always malicious, either–sometimes a studio can’t see a way to make money off a movie, but doesn’t want to release the rights in case they someday DO find a way to make money off them. It’s all heading in a disturbingly Orwellian direction.

I’m against pirating of movies, but increasingly I’m worried that’ll be the only way to see a lot of films…

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mygif

It took me about 3 minutes to find a copy of Wimbledon online and start it playing in another tab.

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Cookie McCool said on September 5th, 2013 at 12:54 am

Sneakers is the best thing ever. I don’t have anything smart or useful to add, it’s just a really fantastic, low-key film.

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Edgar Allan Poe said on September 5th, 2013 at 1:18 am

So how much of this do you think is down to our current copyright laws?

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DensityDuck said on September 5th, 2013 at 3:20 am

It’s not copyright law, it’s copyright practice. The negotiations for rebroadcast or redistribution rights have, for decades, been handled by lawyers talking to lawyers. The process is so complicated, so cut down to tiny bits which each have to be discussed, that if you aren’t expecting at least ten million dollars of revenue then it isn’t worth their time to talk to you. It costs them more to spend the time to delete your email unread than they could make from negotiating for, say, Blu-Ray rights to “Real Genius”.

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Andy Oxenreider said on September 5th, 2013 at 3:47 am

Man, could we just get Real Genius? And a commentary track while you’re at it? And some deleted scents, I know of at least two I want to see…

In general, I’d still go for physical (for now) for bitrate/quality reasons. Everything else, missing content, etc, is going to be a mess because of the legalities. As everyone else in the thread is saying.

Just want a deluxe edition of Real Genius, then I can ignore the rest.

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Holden Carver said on September 5th, 2013 at 7:35 am

Am slightly baffled by the comment referring to “On the Waterfront” being ‘destroyed’. It’s a fabulous transfer. It’s certainly not over-smoothed, there’s still plenty of grain in the picture. So I’m really surprised to see this being quoted as an example of a bad transfer!

Brad has it spot on about film still being more than high-res enough for a Blu-Ray transfer no matter the age (though I think he’s leaping a bit to suspect wet gate transfers for the Shining and OTW from the evidence of one comment).

In my experience, ’80s films are those most likely to have poor Blu-Ray transfers. This because ’80s film stock could be very grainy and noisy, an aesthetic not in vogue today, leading to excessive noise-reduction to be applied to the transfers. The canonical example of this has to be Predator, with its infamous ‘waxwork’ transfer taking all the detail out of faces and leaving people looking like, well, waxworks.

Hell, I didn’t mean to write such a long comment – I only popped BTL in the first place because I wanted to let MGK know that Touch of Evil IS available on Blu-Ray, albeit as a Region B release – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Touch-Evil-Masters-Cinema-Blu-ray/dp/B005DDIUYM

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mygif

Hell, I could barely find Brain Donors on DVD. Had to buy it in a combo pack with.. Critical Condition. Which isn’t a bad movie, just a puzzling double feature.

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Aardy R. DeVarque said on September 5th, 2013 at 9:55 am

Abyss – is there even a good *DVD* release of this out there? Everything I’ve seen points to all the different DVD versions out there being at least somewhat problematic (e.g. hard-coded letterbox rather than anamorphic widescreen). I’ve been told that, with the 25th anniversary of its release rapidly approaching, we *should* be able to count on it being out on Blu-ray by this time next year, but there’s been no announcements, not even any semi-official hints; it’s almost like Cameron forgot it exists.

Trancers – For being a so-bad-it’s-good 80’s movie, the even-worse *sequels* apparently all have good DVD releases, but the original movie… is a botched transfer from laserdisc, complete with a fade to black in mid-scene so that the tech could flip the disc. Is there *any* excuse for that?

Electric Dreams – Fabulous, low-key and very, very 80’s movie, and it’s only been released on DVD for Region 2.

And with this sort of a playing field, will then-failed but now cult-fave TV shows like Probe ever get decent, non-bootleg releases? (At this rate, we’re lucky Firefly ever saw the light of day on DVD…)

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mygif

On another note: how is it that Paul Bettany wandered into such morose typecasting? He was perfectly charming in Wimbledon and A Knight’s Tale; but in the last five years he’s done little more than albino marauders, pale tormented supernatural guys, and a bored robot voice.

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mygif

Please don’t take this as an attack, but I’m confused.

I don’t understand the heart of this debate… why should we care if something is on Blue Ray? Blue Ray was a obvious money grab of a platform from the beginning. They honestly thought people were going to re-buy their entire movie collections again- seriously?

Where did this “buy and rebuy movies” culture come from anyway? Why would I ever WANT a movie library? How many times are you gonna watch ‘Wimbledon”, really?

I literally don’t own a single DVD, blue ray disc, CD or ANY form a physical media. I don’t think i’ve bought one in 10 years. (I’m in my 30s)

Pandora One, Netflix and Hulu serve about 60% of my media needs. 10% is itunes or google play, 10% youtube, 20% pirated (I REALLY try to get things legit, but sometimes they make it literally impossible).

I’ve been slower to embrace ebooks (about 1 in 3 books I buy is digital), but mostly due to cost- I buy books used.

If you make a cool documentary or indie release film and I wanna see it, I’m happy to rent it online, or watch it via netflix, or buy it direct if it is reasonably priced. But I wouldn’t even have a way to play some physical media disc.

Honestly from an outsider’s perspective the whole thing seems like people bemoaning they can’t find new release betamax movies to me.

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mygif

Jake, I watch a lot streaming on Netflix and Hulu too. But if I want to watch a specific movie or TV show that’s not available then I buy.
I want a movie library because there are movies I do want to watch again, or may want to watch again, and it’s simpler if I have them on hand. If it doesn’t work for you, I can live with that.
As for ebooks, I just can’t get into staring at more computer screens than I do already. I have a number of ebooks but they’re the very last thing I get around to reading (obviously my mileage differs from many).

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mygif

And this is why piracy is so popular. Because unlike legitimate avenues, it gives people what they want. If I want Without A Clue (and I’m with you, MGK, it’s an unsung delight) I can spend forty bucks on a collector site getting the DVD, or I can start up a torrent and have it for free in the time it takes to watch three episodes of the Brazilian remake of Slings & Arrows that I also can’t legally buy.

People don’t object to paying for movies; people just want to watch movies. The more the current system prevents people from watching movies, the more people will go outside that system.

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mygif

Hold the phone. There’s a Brazilian remake of Slings & Arrows???

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mygif

Jake- there’s also an issue of consistent quality. Netflix won’t always stream in true HD, depending on the bandwith and time of day and whether the guys they made a deal with bothered to give them a good copy. But a good Blu Ray transfer is always a good transfer, and if I love a movie I want to see it looking its sharpest. Heck, if I hate a movie or have no opinion of it yet I still want to see it at its best.

Granted, the problem is that the vast majority of people aren’t so discerning (which is why VHS was dominant for so many years), but again, when DVD was the best you could get, it was a medium for both collectors/connoisseurs and for regular folk who liked movies. It was reasonably priced but still delivered high quality source material, plus various extras if you really liked what you saw.

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highlyverbal said on September 6th, 2013 at 1:36 am

Pedantry: Which panacea isn’t a myth again?

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mygif

Yeah, I’d definitely guilty of not caring that much about quality. I don’t even have an HD TV (720p plasma screen hooked up to a PC). My sound system is probably cringe-worthy too; fifty dollar speaker set (decent subwoofer though). I also don’t re-watch things, so the idea of spending $20 for two to three hours of entertainment is laughable.

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mygif

Holly: Yes, the remake is called Som e Fúria, and it is AWESOME. They used the scripts and score from the original (including the String Theme of Theatrical Magic) but it’s shot differently, some scenes are ordered differently or altered, emotional notes fall on different beats… it’s fucking amazing.

Not that I’d know, since I can’t get it legally.

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mygif

As far as Wimbledon goes, Friday’s Jeopardy had a category called “Net Flicks.” The first clue was about Wimbledon!

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mygif

[…] sitting in my drafts because I was not sure it said all I wanted to say.  Then I read this post on Mightygodking.com  and I just had to post this.  My favourite comment is the one from Noah Brand on Sept 5th […]

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Potomac Ripper said on September 9th, 2013 at 11:09 am

Hold the phone…there is a Brazilian remake of Slings and Arrows?

Where can I find this cultural treasure?

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Dennis Brennan said on September 9th, 2013 at 4:06 pm

Firm agreement about the merits of Wimbledon. It was a much better movie than it needed to be, or than my wife and I expected it to be.

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