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David Poland

By David Poland

Who'll Do It?

It occurred to me last night…
The battle between Blu-Ray and HD-DVD is hot and heavy… both companies are willing to spend millions to get studios to join the effort on one side or the other…
The biggest challenge for the marketers is to get people to, finally, commit to buying these machines.
And what group would be an obvious key demographic for the players involved? How about 6000 members of The Academy and the 9000 or so people who are in guilds, groups, and media who also get screeners?
Of course, the majority of these folks can afford to buy machines if they so choose. But getting them/us off the dime is a challenge.
So what if either Sony, on the Blu-Ray side, and Microsoft on the HD side made a play to make sure that those who get 50+ screeners this awards season get them in traditional DVD AND in the High Definition version of their creation?
If I have 20 of the top movies of the year sitting on my shelf in one of these formats, even if I can just pop in the regular DVD, isn’t the temptation to consider a new player increased significantly… especially if I have the hi-def TV, which this demographic has more in larger numbers than most?
It’s the old razors and razor blades concept, except that in this case, the cost of the initial razor is what is prohibitive… and if you can get them to buy the razor at all, there is an incremental value to selling these blades instead of the old one… but the bigger issue is not making a fortune on DVD “razors,” but market share for these players, which is life and death… especially to the Japanese business model.
Of course – and not entirely unfairly – some of you will think I just want a bunch of free High Definition DVDs on my shelf. Guilty.
But had I not recently joined the hi-def game. After a week with a souped up DVR

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24 Responses to “Who'll Do It?”

  1. hendhogan says:

    piracy is actually a big concern. as all who’ve been following this knows, the encryption codes have been cracked and spread over the internet. an hd copy of a movie is basically a master of the movie. while pirates aren’t pushing hd copies, they can make far superior low def copies off an hd copy.

  2. David Poland says:

    When’s the last time you heard of a person buying a pirated DVD based on quality, Hand?

  3. hendhogan says:

    never. but then again, i don’t hang out with people that buy pirated dvds. not judging. not a matter of principle. just saying i don’t.

  4. scooterzz says:

    i know for a fact that when news hit a few years ago that the pirated copy of ‘batman returns’ available on the streets was a high end bar-coded studio leak that people were car pooling to santee alley in droves……
    and, while i’m with you completely on the freebie hd players, won’t they hit the same wall that cinea did and find that a whole lot of older group members just don’t want to reconfigure their entertainment centers?

  5. IOIOIOI says:


  6. David Poland says:

    Well, I wouldn’t actually be giving away HD players. That would be very expensive and iffy.
    Giving away Blu-Ray and/or HD DVDs is bait that isn’t going to cost all that much more than the normal process of watermarking… but would force them to speed up the DVD authoring process.

  7. IOIOIOI says:

    Heat; it’s a good plan, but the compression alone would be a pain in the ass on all of these award flicks. Unless these flicks were already in the pipeline to be BLU-RAY or HD-DVD, then they should send them out there in the hi-def versions. Nevertheless; I doubt all the HI-DEF mastering houses want anymore unnecessary work before Thanksgiving.

  8. a1amoeba says:

    The porn industry will really help decide the battle – in the end it will boil down to the question “What would Vivid do?”

  9. lazarus says:

    The porn industry will definitely choose HD-DVD, simply because it goes so well with DVDA.

  10. movielocke says:

    Harry Knowles likes pwesents too.
    The funny thing is that despite some studios being exclusively hddvd, I could see those studios sending out screeners in blu-ray because the copyright controls and security are much greater. And correct me if I’m wrong but I thought only HDDVD had been cracked, I thought Bluray was still uncopyable, at least in the latest iteration of the software/hardware (which is upgradable, ala security patches, I believe, but I could be very wrong).
    I could certainly see Sony or Microsoft writing off ten thousand players to try to get an edge on academy winners. But if they do send out players, they ought to bite the bullet and send component and hdmi cables with them, nothing like sending an academy member a player they can’t use because they have to go out to an electronics store to buy a fifty dollar cable.

  11. IOIOIOI says:

    The porn industry chose HD-DVD. Whoopidy doo. Nevertheless; BLU-RAY has yet to be cracked. If it’s cracked. Sony will throw a hissy fit. Luckily; Blu-Ray has a rather crazy encryption that would make hacking it a royal pain in the ass.

  12. scooterzz says:

    again– after the cinea debacle i can’t imagine studios sending out hd machines (my cinea is still unopened and resting in the garage)…. maybe down the road a bit but it’s not going to happen in the next couple of years……
    and, seriously, does anyone really want to see porn in hi-def?!? ewwwwwwww………

  13. lazarus says:

    Good point, scooterzz. You’re going to see a lot more stubble and/or razor burn on those close-ups.

  14. I prefered it when it was just DVDs and I felt special for having a DVR player. Now I’m gonna have to wait a year or so until they make one that can play the specified kinds (Blu or HD) and normal regular old fashioned (hah!) dvds.

  15. PastePotPete says:

    Recently in the WSJ there was an article about the HD format war. IIRC they listed the number of hd/blu ray players out there at 1.8 mil. 1.2 mil of those are game systems and the majority of those were not used for watching HD movies.
    Neither format will win. This is just laserdisc all over again. And no Criterion Collection to make it worthwhile. I may buy into HD-DVD, but only because it’s relatively cheap.

  16. ThriceDamned says:

    HD (Blu-Ray + HD-DVD) is already bigger than LaserDisc at its peak, less than two years in, so no, it’s not going to be “LaserDisc all over again” in my opinion. Whether or not it’ll ever be as mainstream as DVD remains to be seen, although I tend to doubt it. However, I believe that either format, or both, will at some point command a large enough share of the entertainment pie to no longer qualify as a niche product.
    And hey, high definition is GREAT!!…I’ve mentioned this before in other threads, but on a semi-large screen (say 42 inch or bigger, although smaller screens benefit immensely as well), high definition is a thing of true beauty. I’m up to about 50 HD discs (on both formats) in just a few months, and have mostly stopped buying regular DVD’s at this point. There’s just no going back once you’ve seen the difference.

  17. combat_wombat says:

    …in my opinion; is that it just doesn’t seem like enough of a technological progression for anyone to get excited about. When CD took over from vinyl it felt like a leap forward, not simply because of quality but because it was a shiny silver disk – it was the future! Same for DVD over VHS- it felt like something significant had changed in the tech world. Of course with DVD the leap in quality was astounding too and, I think, saved the film business over this last decade.
    With the new HD formats, it’s all well and good saying the picture quality is an amazing step up (which it is, and as a film maker myself I welcome it wholeheartedly) but the technology doesn’t seem different enough. Hey, my DVDs are Blue now! The delivery just seems so ordinary. If it just seemed different, you know, something that felt like another leap into the future, somehow I think the enthusiasm to change would be there. As it is most folks don’t even have their TVs tuned in correctly, does anyone think that picture quality is going to be that big a selling point? Hell, VHS took over the world and not only was the picture quality like watching movies through soup but they were all panned and scanned. So quality isn’t what the majority of people seem to want.
    Also, it seems to me that the studios are all being idiotic about the price-point of their product. Sure, new HD disks can be whatever price but reissuing the same movies that some of us have collected more than once already in different formats at the same high price feels like they’re taking the piss. I have stopped buying DVD entirely now whilst waiting to see how it all shakes out. To my mind, the format that wins will be the one that makes it easy for someone to replace their back catalogue DVD collection in its entirety without breaking the bank.

  18. Krazy Eyes says:

    The porn analogy for the HD war seemes rather misguided since the situation is completely different from the video era.
    1) We now have mostly unrestricted access to porn on the internet 24/7. Who needs a HD-DVD porn film when you can see this stuff online?
    2) Porn is already available on other formats like DVD. When video came out the only other option was going to a dingy theater.
    Plus as scooterzz said, who really wants HD porn? After all the in focus stretch marks and funbag scars you’l be wishing for your DVD back.

  19. IOIOIOI says:

    HD-PORN is apparently a horrour show. Those gals and guys apparently look a lot better with a more standard resolution. Nevertheless combat; it is a technological leap forward. However, it’s only a leap if you have the cash to make it look good. If you do not have the cash or a quality TV, then there is not discernable difference.

  20. hendhogan says:

    i dunno if porn is the only place you want regular def. saw “life” on hd. brooke langton did not look as good in this format.

  21. David Poland says:

    One of the big problems, imo, is that I already have a library of 20 hi-def films on my DVR from the various HDing channels.
    The quality of the experience is significantly better. But why do I need to buy discs when so much of the still limited product is on satellite-cast that I am already paying for?
    The hope for the level of delivery is that it will become the standard, not the extraordinary thing with players at extraordinary prices.
    That said, my initial proposition was that some studios could push a specific influential demographic forward, which is pretty much Marketing 101. If all in, Sony and Microsoft invested $1 million in screeners for this group of 15,000 this year and converted just 2500 of them, you can bet that their sales teams would see that as a massive success. $400 per new customer in a demo that can freely spend, would be paying for the hardware, and would likely buy at least 20 units per person over the next year, and are influencers (in the marketing sense of the word) is not outrageous by any means.

  22. lawnorder says:

    Dave, if you’re all excited over your compressed satellite HD signal (which is at 1080i resolution at best – I don’t think satellite TV trasmits 1080p yet), you’ll really get your rocks off when you view a Blu Ray or HD DVD at 1080p on a 1080p compatible TV. If your library of HD films is limited to your tivo or DVR, then you’re still way behind quality wise. Not to mention, the many extras you’ll miss out on from a DVD release. Regular DVD releases played on my Blu Ray player on my 1080p plasma actually appear sharper than my Direct TV HD signal. There’s a huge step up in quality from statellite HD to a beautifully mastered HD DVD (either format).

  23. doug r says:

    Looking at HD sets at Costco, most of them seem to be that 766 x 1377 vs a true HD 1080p x 1920. Sounds like half-def to me.

  24. I agree with Combat Wombat.
    And I also don’t want to start investing in one format just to see it fall flat on it’s face (“Oh no, Beta!”) and to have wasted my money.
    Plus, I don’t have a HD television so it’s all sort of pointless at this stage.

Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon