My Two Cents
Friday, 10 January 2014 17:12

CES 2014 wrap-up – 4K, DEG stats & Dolby Vision, plus cool new BD announcements & artwork!

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We’ve got a BIG post for you guys today. Let’s start with some new release announcements…

First up, Warner Home Video has finally announced a pair of catalog Blu-ray titles to get excited about: The Big Red One and Memphis Belle are on the way on 5/16 (SRP $19.98 each). [Editor’s Note: We’ve checked with Warner Home Video sources and have confirmed that The Big Red One contains a remastered version of the film’s 113-minute Theatrical Cut in HD and – as a ‘special feature’ – the 169-minute Reconstruction version in SD only as well. That’s official, so FYI and make your plans accordingly.Check out the cover artwork below. One assumes that any extras that were on the DVDs will carry over. [Read on here…]

Speaking of Warner, they’ve got Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time: The Complete Third Season coming to Blu-ray and DVD on 2/25, featuring all 26 episodes, commentaries for all 26 episodes, an interview with series creator Pendleton Ward, an alternate show introduction, and a “custom collectible BMO die-cut slipcase that transforms your Blu-ray and DVD packaging into your very own collectible BMO figurine.” So there you go. SRP is $32.07 for BD and $26.95 for DVD.

Meanwhile, Disney has set Frozen for Blu-ray Combo and DVD release on 3/18, and HD digital release on 2/25. There’s not a peep in the press release about Blu-ray 3D, but we know that’s because Walmart has an exclusive on the Blu-ray 3D version in their stores. Extras on the Blu-ray will include 3 featurettes (The Making of Frozen, D’frosted: Disney’s Journey from Hans Christian Anderson to Frozen, and Breaking the Ice: The Real Making of Frozen), 4 deleted scenes with introduction by directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, the Get a Horse theatrical short, Let It Go music videos, and the teaser trailer.

Disney also has Winnie the Pooh: Springtime with Roo due on BD on 3/11, followed by The Jungle Book 2 (BD) and Devious Maids: The Complete First Season (DVD only) on 3/18.

20th Century Fox has set The Book Thief for Blu-ray Combo and DVD release on 3/11.

Magnolia will release The Last Days on Mars on Blu-ray and DVD on 3/4.

Shout! Factory has a Sophie’s Choice: Collector’s Edition due on Blu-ray Combo on 4/29.

Meanwhile, Scream has set Nosferatu the Vampyre for Blu-ray release on 5/20. This is the 1979 Werner Herzog film. They’ve also set Evilspeak for Blu-ray on 5/13.

Now let’s do a little CES 2014 wrap-up…

From a home video technology standpoint (4K Blu-ray aside – we’ll talk more about that next week), there were two developments I found most interesting. The first was a new 4K projector – specifically, Sony’s 4K Ultra Short Throw projector. It allows you to project a high-quality 4K image on a blank wall from a long, low cabinet or media shelf-like device that’s positioned nearly up against the wall itself. Here’s what it looks like in action…

Sony's 4K Ultra Short Throw Projector

My doubts about the consumer demand for 4K itself aside, projectors that work along those lines might go a long way to making video projection more accessible for the average home video consumer. Flat panels are awesome, no doubt, but I’m a big proponent of video projection in terms of offering a much more movie theater-like viewing experience in the home. The projector will be available as a consumer product sometime in mid-2014. You can read more about this device here at gizmag.

The other interesting development, in my opinion, is Dolby Vision, which is a technology add-on to displays (of any HD resolution, so it could be applied to 1080p HDTV, 4K UHD, etc) that greatly improves the image’s color depth and dynamic range. This could become a standard feature on future HDTV displays, it wouldn’t necessarily have to come at a high premium (certainly nowhere near the upgrade cost of 4K) and it would make real difference in current image quality that the average consumer would be a lot more likely to appreciate than the difference between 1080p and 4K. You can read more on this technology today here at Variety and also here at Dolby’s own primer website. Here’s a visual simulation of the difference it can make in image quality…

Dolby Vision Demo

Also today, the DEG (Digital Entertainment Group) released its annual report on consumer digital media spending habits and trends for 2013. Among the highlights for the year are the following:

• Consumer spending on EST climbed close to 50 percent compared to 2012 representing $1 billion in consumer spending dollars.

• Overall spending on digital content rose 17 percent in 2013.

• Blu-ray Disc spending remained consistent, up about five percent for the year.

• The number of Blu-ray homes continues to grow, with total household penetration of all Blu-ray compatible devices (including BD set-tops, PS3s and HTiBs) now at more than 72 million U.S. homes according to numbers compiled by the DEG with input from retail tracking sources.

• There are now more than 15 million UltraViolet accounts and most major retailers support UltraViolet.

• Consumers purchased more than 38 million HDTVs in 2013. HDTV penetration is now at more than 96 million U.S. households according to numbers compiled by the DEG with input from retail tracking sources.

• Strong consumer interest in the new Ultra HD/4K technology bodes well for the home entertainment industry. [Editor’s Note: I’m not sure ‘strong consumer interest’ will translate into strong sales, but we’ll have to wait and see.]

• Among the best-selling titles of the year are: Despicable Me 2 (Universal Studios Home Entertainment), Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 (Summit Entertainment), The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment), Wreck-It Ralph (Walt Disney Studios), Skyfall (MGM), Star Trek Into Darkness (Paramount Home Media Distribution), Monsters University (Walt Disney Studios), Iron Man 3 (Walt Disney Studios), Man of Steel (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)

Now for my own observations about CES…

I’ve said many time (here at The Bits and elsewhere) that 4K, 8K, and 3D are technologies in search of a market. I’ve seen the latest demos and there is no doubt that 4K and 8K both look absolutely fantastic. Home 3D is improving and autostereoscopic 3D is coming along nicely. The problem is, I just don’t see much in the way of consumer demand for any of it. Display technology is not like smart phones – people don’t want to have to buy a new device every 3 or 4 years, with incremental upgrades in between. We have to remember that consumers in the States lived with analog NTSC television for more than fifty years (from the early 1940s until just a few years ago). Part of the reason for NTSC’s long life is that the pace of technological development back then was a lot slower than it is now. Today, technology is advancing at a blistering pace and it’s only getting faster – far too fast for most consumers (and more importantly, their budgets) to keep up. The other reason for NTSC’s long life, is that for the vast majority of TV viewers, it was simply good enough. Today, the entire TV industry has just upgraded (or is in the process of upgrading – many local TV stations still haven’t completed the transition) to 1080p HDTV. Display prices have come down, consumers are appropriately wowed by the image quality and they’re happy. This process of transition took a long time. I saw my first tech demonstration of HD way back in the late 1980s, thanks to NHK and the Minnesota State Fair. It was exciting at the time to think that HD was just around the corner. But it took another thirty years before HD was widely adopted by the industry and by consumers. So too, I think, will be the case with 4K, 8K and autostereoscopic 3D. The technological capability for these is obviously ready now. But I suspect that consumers might not be ready for any of them for another decade or more. Anyway… just some food for thought.

Finally today (in a completely different note), you Hitchcock fans will be interested to learn that the director made a documentary film on the Holocaust back in 1945, at the behest of the British government, that’s gone largely unseen since. It was apparently made as a way of show the German people the atrocities that the Nazis had committed in their name, but the film took so long to make that the Allies ultimately decided not to release it. The completed reels were sent to the Imperial War Museum and the film was soon forgotten. It was eventually rediscovered, and the Museum has finally restored the footage to present the documentary in a way that Hitchcock originally intended. It will apparently be released later in 2014. You can read more on all this at The Independent.

Now then… we’ll leave you this week with a look at the Blu-ray cover artwork for Warner’s The Big Red One and Memphis Belle, Shout!’s Sophie’s Choice, Fox’s The Book Thief, Magnolia’s The Last Days on Mars and Universal’s Somewhere in Time (due 3/4)…

The Big Red One (Blu-ray Disc)    Memphis Belle (Blu-ray Disc)    Sophie's Choice: Collector's Edition (Blu-ray Disc)

The Book Thief (Blu-ray Disc)    The Last Days on Mars (Blu-ray Disc)    Somewhere in Time (Blu-ray Disc)

Have a great weekend and we’ll see you back here on Monday. Stay tuned…!

- Bill Hunt


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