War of the Formats

07-Jan-08 1:05 PM by
Filed under Potpourri; Comments Off on War of the Formats

The current buzz of the movie industry is Warner's decision to abandon the HD-DVD format in favor of Blu-Ray. That leaves almost no major studios supporting both formats, choosing one or the other exclusively. The only party left to get off the fence is us, the consumers.

I know competition is supposed to be good for business and that we always benefit from having a choice, but my limited experience suggests this high-definition trend just isn't catching on, unlike our last media storage generational leap. The move from VHS to DVD was dramatic, delivering improved audio and video, more content, and more control over how the movie is presented. I have not observed that either Blu-Ray or HD-DVD offer significant incentives in any of these three departments. The video quality of either compared to standard DVD is noticeable, but only to entertainment mavens whose budgets support the high-end, next-gen televisions necessary to take advantage of the player's capabilities. No other significant feature justifies the upgrade: Interactivity? Internet connectivity? This is a DVD player, not a game console! And appreciable differences between HD-DVD and Blu-Ray — well, nobody has demonstrated that to me yet.

What is a consumer to do while this format war is waged? We're already poor enough from the last decade. How many of us have already upgraded our VHS collections to DVD — or from DVD standard edition to DVD "collector's edition" (now with director commentary!)? I doubt I could restrain myself (or my budget) to be satisfied with standard definition if I knew I had a high-def player in the house. Do I therefore replace my highly functional 36" CRT, buy a $850 combination Blu-Ray/HD-DVD player, and begin replacing my hundreds of movies and TV shows at the cost of house and home?

Jeff Kleist suggest it's not really up to consumers to make such decisions; it's the retailers who hold the power, and they're likely to decide soon. That's fine for them. If not to decide is to decide, then I guess I've chosen my place on the fence. Though HD-DVD may go the way of the dodo, giving way for the superior species of Blu-Ray, we're farther still from the extinction of standard DVD. My DVD player turns ten years old this year and should continue to serve up new films for some time yet, and this old dinosaur is still an industry behemoth.

Return to the Forbidden Planet

06-Oct-07 11:27 AM by
Filed under Star Trek; 4 comments.

After a week of blogging about Star Trek: The Next Generation, you might get the impression it's my favorite of the Trek series. Even I haven't decided if that honor belongs to TNG or DS9 — but definitely not in the running is TOS.

That's not an indictment of the show's datedness or lack of quality, but more simply a lack of exposure. The Original Series' debut predates my own by a decade, and since it has the least number of episodes of any Trek series and I cancelled my TV service eight years ago, it's simply not something I have much opportunity to watch. But I love the characters and have found that Kirk, Spock, and McCoy make for much more captivating novels than any other crew (especially Voyager's — blech).

Now comes the opportunity to watch The Original Series in a way previously afforded to only The Next Generation: on the silver screen. As a promotion for the November 20th HD-DVD release of Star Trek Remastered, the updated "Menagerie", which features footage from the rejected pilot "The Cage", will be shown in 300 theaters nationwide the evening of Tuesday, November 13th. "The two-hour screening includes a special introduction by Eugene 'Rod' Roddenberry, son of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, plus an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the making of the Remastered series," says StarTrek.com, which has links to both the press release and theater listings. (Yet another tip of the hat to Dayton Ward)

"The Menagerie" is one of the few episodes I have seen of TOS, but not like this. I already have my tickets and will my calling my father shortly to introduce him to this event, just as he did me to TNG two decades ago. If you've never seen Trek before, this might be the franchise entry point you've been looking for.