Well, we've got the latest news up on some upcoming DVD titles from MGM
(scheduled for May release). There's a definite World War II theme going
on here. Check the Rumor
Mill for the latest.
Also today, we've got the full text of Paramount's
announcing their April DVDs, which include an anamorphic widescreen DVD
of The Relic. Artisan has also
finally released a statement
announcing their intention to issue the first DVD-18 title, Steven
King's The Stand (as was first
mentioned over at the excellent DVD
No doubt you're all aware by now of the reader survey on the
official Star Wars
web site (it's also in the latest issue of Star
Wars Insider magazine). Feel free to use it to tell Lucasfilm
just how much you want the Star Wars
DVDs. Keep in mind, however, that the DVDs are ALREADY in the planning
stages, and are soon to go into production for release later this year.
The official site also has the latest installment of
Hale's web documentary on the making of The
Phantom Menace, this time looking at the casting process.
Speaking of Star Wars, be sure to
check out one of my favorite Net sites - Cinescape
Online, for some new Episode I
has an interesting
article up on music and performance DVD releases. ZDTV's
Spin has been
more closely at Divx lately. They have some new features and
editorials up about the difference between DVD and Divx now, as well as
feed of a program segment on Divx that we mentioned here a few
weeks ago. If you haven't seen it yet, it's worth a watch. Keep in mind,
you'll need to get the
Player software. Thanks to Bits
reader Jim C. for the reminder.
See ya tomorrow...
(LATE UPDATE - 2/24/99 - 5:15 PM PST)
I'm very happy to say that we've got some more new DVD capsule reviews
up today from our own Todd Doogan. You'll find
on Me and
Around the Net today, you'll find a
release on MGM's Ronin
on-line event with director John Frankenheimer, scheduled for March 14th
(visit the event's official
site to pre-register). Also Image Entertainment has signed an
exclusive new deal with RM Associates, for exclusive distribution of
classical music, opera and art titles on DVD (see
Check back tomorrow for more...
(EARLY UPDATE - 2/24/99 - 11 AM PST)
Tis true, tis true. Our friends at
Theater Forum held a members-only, online chat with Warner's John
Powers last night. There was a bevy of upcoming DVD information
provided. Some highlights include: Heat
(3rd QTR, sans extras), Shawshank Redemption,
Excalibur (with director's
commentary) and the delayed The American
President (all hopefully in time for the holidays). Pee
Wee's Big Adventure is in development. Superman
I and II will take some time to show up on DVD, due to heavy
restoration work that needs to be done on the prints, however Little
Shop of Horrors may finally be reissued on the format (either
sans alternate ending, or with the original color footage of it
restored). Perhaps most interesting, Babylon
5 episodes were discussed as possible DVD releases, although
nothing definitive was mentioned. Expect DVD-18 support from Warner, as
well as a few of their previous flipper titles to be remastered. As
we've mentioned before, several Kubrick films are in preparation,
including Clockwork Orange, The
Shining, Full Metal Jacket,
Barry Lyndon (our sources say to
look for them in July). In the near term, look for The
and The Outlaw Josey Wales in
March, and two Steven Segal flicks, On Deadly
Ground and Out for Justice,
For those of you who missed it, HTF has allowed us to post the
transcript of the chat here at The
Digital Bits (many thanks to Ron and Parker). It's an
interesting read, so don't miss it. Also, be sure to check out
Theater Forum for the best in "civil" DVD discussion on
We'll be back with more later this afternoon...
Wow - lots to talk about today! Let's start with what we've updated
around the site today. First of all, we have more new information on
upcoming DVD titles in today's Rumor
Mill update. Lots of good stuff, including more Star
Trek DVD info. We've also updated the CEMA DVD player sales
numbers (both the
chart and regular listing on this page), to
reflect the fact that some 16,545 DVD players were sold into retail
during the second week of February (week ending 2/12).
Now then, I've spoken with the good folks at Sony, who tell me that
they are still busy investigating that layer switch/multi-angle problem
with the Sony 7700. They're having difficulty trying duplicate the
problems in question, so if any of you out there are having problems
with a particular DVD on the 7700, let me know so I can pass that along
to them. At the moment, they do not believe it's an issue with the
firmware after all (as reported
I've only had one problem with a disc on my 7700, after hundreds of
playing hours - my player occasionally sticks on the layer-switch on
Disc One of Dances with Wolves (DTS).
Sony acknowledges that there is something going on, but they are still
hard at work trying to determine exactly what it may be. We'll be sure
to keep you up to date as new information is available.
On a related note, we would like to welcome Sony as an official sponsor
of The Digital Bits. You'll notice
we've added their logo to the top of our site, and you'll see a new Sony
banner running on the Bits as
well. Sony is cautious about advertising, especially on the Net, so
we're definitely honored that they would choose to get involved with the
Bits. Here's to a long
I received a nice e-mail from Josh Dare of Divx yesterday, saying that
their lawyers had nothing to do with that
Divx Hack box site
redirecting to the Divx home page. Josh says they were just as surprised
as the rest of us. Go figure...
has again been updated to include a TON of new, upcoming DVD titles.
Among those mentioned are American in Paris,
At First Sight, Gigi,
Hair, and Seven
Brides for Seven Brothers from MGM, and Badlands
(a great flick with Martin Sheen doing his best James Dean) and The
Big Red One from Warner.
We've had a lot of readers mention to us, that they don't like a new
trend in DVD production, in which studios are omitting Spanish audio
tracks on Region 1 DVDs. We're sorry to report, that this is being done
very deliberately. A recent issue of Video
Week had this to say:
"Although studios that were slow to step up to the DVD plate have
been making great strides in day-and-date availability and inclusion of
extra material on discs, one feature that's been discontinued even by
DVD champion Warner Home Video is Spanish language tracks. Spokespersons
for 2 leading major studio DVD releasers Warner Home Video and Universal
Studios Home Video confirmed practice has been halted, while spokesmen
for other studios we contacted couldn't name any new title for which
Spanish track is planned. Primary reason for discontinuing Spanish
tracks is to prevent transshipment from U.S. to Mexico to keep release
windows intact. Some studio spokesmen said demand doesn't warrant
inclusion of Spanish track for domestic market anyway - although video
retailers in areas such as Miami have told is they strongly disagree."
While I can appreciate the business reasons for doing this, I find it
extremely troubling that Spanish-speaking American consumers (who make
up a significantly-growing percentage of the U.S. population) are being
left in the cold. Perhaps if the studios got more aggressive about
simultaneous multi-Region DVD release windows, this wouldn't be a
problem. In the meantime, this is likely to be something of a hot-button
issue for DVD in the coming months (and rightly so, in my opinion).
Columbia TriStar and Universal Studios are teaming up to distribute DVD
titles internationally. You can read the full press release
From the text comes this statement: "Both USHV and CTHV have agreed
that wherever possible, new release product will be day and date with
VHS rental and VHS direct-to-sell through and that catalog titles will
be released at the earliest possible moment to build a successful
international DVD business."
There's a lot of great new DVD information on sites around the Net.
has lots of new title information today, so be sure to check that out.
has been following an Artisan plan to release the first DVD-18 title
(the Steven King mini-series The Stand,
due this fall), however The
Big Picture claims that Paramount may try to beat them to the
punch with a DVD-18 Titanic (our
sources have been telling us to expect this as well).
Finally today, Jim Taylor has voiced "His Two Cents" on the
hotly-debated "blacker-than-black" issue, as to whether or not
a DVD player should be able to reproduce below black. You may recall
that I voiced the opinion that it isn't very important to a DVD player
(the Sony 7700 does not do it). Here's what Jim had to say:
"While I agree with Sony (and you) that the inability to produce
blacker than black is not very important, Sony is being specious when
they claim it's not in the DVD standard or NTSC standard. It's an
accepted video industry standard that analog NTSC video leaves headroom
for blacker than black and whiter than white, although you'll get
arguments about whether that headroom should be used only for
calibration signals or for general video. Headroom is also definitely
part of the DVD-Video standard, since it specifies MPEG-2 MP@ML video,
which in turn specifies ITU BT.601 digital video, which has explicit
reserved ranges for superblack and superwhite.
Part of the problem is that the analog video guys (including my
esteemed friend Joe Kane) have certain preconceptions from the analog
video world that don't translate well to the digital video world. For
example, many of them claim that it's important to maintain headroom
when video is encoded digitally. For example, they say "What if you
have a standard black scene, but then you want something even blacker?
You need extra values." I say, "Figure out what the extreme
values are, then set the scale to match. If you need extra, include it
as part of the range in the first place." Kind of reminds me of the
"It goes to 11" scene! Adding to the confusion is that when
MPEG-2 encoders are given full-range digital video (say from the RGB
colorspace) they can either directly encode all 255 brightness values,
or they can scale the video to fit within the ITU 601 constraints
(values from 0 to 15 for superblack, 16 to 235 for normal video, and 236
to 255 for superwhite). Almost all encoders scale the video first, which
means there is no valid data in the headroom ranges. So DVD (MPEG-2)
video played back on a computer will almost always be scaled back up
from the 16-235 range to the full 0-255 range, throwing away things like
blacker than black in pluge test patterns."
Got that? Whew - certainly a mouthful of tech-speak! In any case, we
consider it the last word on the subject, straight from the DVD
Now then, we'll be back tomorrow with another big update, so see you
(LATE UPDATE - 2/22/99 - 2 PM PST)
Want to see the legal team over at Divx making themselves useful?
Remember that Divx Hack box that was being sold on the Net for $150?
Well the site that
carried it now redirects to the official
Divx site. Check it out for yourself. I'm guessing that Divx
reached right out and touched the would-be Divx hackers with the long
arm of the law. To be honest, we at the Bits
were just waiting for this to happen, are only surprised that it took
this long. Guess we won't be getting one of those boxes to test any time
Speaking of Divx, the company is claiming that it's sold a total of 1
million pieces of software to date. You can read the official
release here. This is combined over ALL their brick & mortar
store fronts, AND their on-line store. It is something of a milestone
for the pay-per-use format, but is SO outshone by DVD software
performance that I wouldn't even bat an eye...
Noted horror film scholar David Skal (author of Hollywood
Gothic and The Monster Show)
has announced (via AOL) that he's going to be producing the Universal
DVD collector's editions of Dracula
(both versions), The Mummy, Frankenstein,
Bride of Frankenstein and The
Wolf Man. The discs will include documentaries, commentary
tracks and more - very exciting news indeed for film buffs. The DVDs
couldn't be in better hands in our opinion. We've updated our
100 DVD list accordingly. ;-)
Finally today, we've got some very exciting information about those
upcoming Alien DVDs in a late
update of The
See you tomorrow!
(EARLY UPDATE - 2/22/99 - 5:15 AM PST)
So did everyone have a good weekend? I spent mine doing some work
around the site, getting ready for the transition to version 2.0 of The
Bits. We're still at least a couple of weeks away yet, but
you'd be surprised how much work is involved.
One thing I did this weekend in particular, was to work on the new Digital
Bits logo. We wanted something smaller, which would load
faster than the old one. Also, since it's going to be in the new button
bar frame, you'll only have to load it once per visit - not every time
you read a new page on the site. Even with browser caching, this should
all help load times significantly. We also wanted to give the new logo a
more dynamic look and feel, so we snuck a little bit of animation into
it (but we took to heart everyone who said they found the spinning DVD
distracting). Without further adieu, here it is. Let me know what you
Well, there's been a great deal of talk over the weekend about
forthcoming Star Wars DVDs.
Several sites have posted information on the subject, including the
Big Picture and DVD
File. According to many of the posts, 20th Century Fox's
international distributor (PFC) sent out a sell sheet relating that Star
Wars: SE would be appearing on DVD in a "simultaneous
worldwide release" this fall. Other posts have indicated the
possibility of a May release for the DVD. We at The
Digital Bits CAN confirm (as we've been saying) that Star
Wars will find its way to DVD this year, but there's no way a
May release will happen. At this point, the DVDs are still in the
planning stages only - no significant production has as yet begun. Look
for the DVDs to appear late in the fall, in a time frame leading up to
the home video release of The Phantom Menace
(but WELL after the theatrical release of Episode
I). No doubt Star Wars
will be THE DVD to buy for the holidays.
Check out The
Rumor Mill today, for a few more juicy tidbits on upcoming
I took the opportunity to see a couple of films this weekend, and I
really enjoyed both. Office Space
has got to be one of the funniest flicks I've seen in a long time. It
sort of unravels a bit about 2/3rds of the way in, but the laughs up
until that point are definitely worth the price of admission. If you've
ever worked for a big corporate monster of an employer, the film will
hit VERY close to home. In fact, it's almost scary just how on-target
the film is. The "printer rumble" scene had me in tears. I'll
say no more - just check it out. I also saw October
Sky and Rushmore (last
week), and enjoyed both immensely. It's rare that you see three good
films in a row these days, but there you have it - all are recommended.
Finally today, we'd like to take a moment to remember film critic Gene
Siskel, who passed away over the weekend, apparently due to
complications from recent brain surgery (see
Tribune obituary). We at the Bits
were surprised and saddened by Gene's death, as I'm sure all of you are.
I suppose the most fitting tribute would be... "Thumbs up, Gene."
See you back here tomorrow.
Have a great weekend, folks!
Let's get right to it! We've got some extremely cool information for
you Trekkers out there in today's Rumor
Mill, which you'll definitely not want to miss. You'll also
find some new DVD information in there from New Line, regarding your
favorite serial killer Freddy coming to DVD, as well as the latest on
shag-a-delic super-agent Austin Powers. FYI, we've also updated out list
Top 100 Films on DVD today (finally!).
Columbia TriStar issued an official press release yesterday, announcing
the street date for their long-awaited The
Adventures of Baron Munchausen DVD. You'll find it in stores
on April 20th, along with Apt Pupil,
One Tough Cop and Savior
(all three of which will be day-and-date with VHS).
Looks like DTS is gettin' busy with... X-rated DVDs? Yessir, I've got a
nice, full-color, glossy brochure from Nu-Tech (the folks behind that
dubious Legend of Mulan DTS disc),
which indicates that at least 4 of their upcoming adult DVDs will
feature DTS 5.1 audio. Now, I'm not gonna list the titles here, 'cause
you know how adult film titles are - pooooooor taste man. And this is,
after all, a family web site. I'm no connoisseur of the whole X-film
milieu, but it is worth pointing out that the adult video industry has
long driven the home video market - a trend which has definitely
continued with DVD. There are literally hundreds of adult DVD titles,
and while many are of poor quality, a small percentage of titles are
really pushing the envelope in terms of DVD's capabilities - Doom-like
3D interactive menu screens and more. I have to say, however, that I'm
having a REAL difficult time trying to imagine exactly what benefit the
added clarity of DTS 5.1 surround sound would give an adult DVD. I mean,
the only sounds on X-rated films are the cheesy music and the... well,
we won't go there. You know what I'm talking about. I can hear the
testimonials now - "Gosh... it almost sounds like they're right
here in the room!"
Moving on, Laserviews
has been updated, to list some more forthcoming DVD titles, including
Very Bad Things, The
Thief and several DVDs of Bonanza
Finally today, I have to say, I'm really impressed with the quality and
quantity of DVDs being produced right now. I had expected there to be
something of a drop-off in DVD production after the holidays, but if
anything, it's actually increased - something which I find very
encouraging. We've been looking at some great new DVDs here at The
Bits this week, including Warner's terrific The
Music Man, Artisan's new director's cut of The
Last Emperor, MGM's awesome Ronin,
and Universal's The Flintstones: Collector's
Edition (OK, the movie ain't great, but the extras are cool).
All are definitely worth a look. We'll be getting reviews of some of
these new titles up soon, so stay tuned...
I've been getting a lot of e-mail from people asking if I can confirm
rumors that have been appearing on the Net, regarding Buena Vista
releasing some of its classic Disney animated films on DVD this year.
The rumor originated from a brief article in Video
Week, an industry trade newsletter, in which Buena Vista Home
Entertainment president Michael Johnson was recently interviewed. The
article is a bit confusing in its wording, but the headline boldly
[DISNEY STRENGTHENS OPEN DVD BUT WON'T RULE OUT DIVX GOLD: Johnson says
Mulan and 101 Dalmations will appear on open DVD this year but not
before Divx Gold.]
The article itself speculates that the Disney animated classics will
debut on open DVD by Christmas, but probably will first be released on
unlimited-play (but still restricted) Divx Gold discs. You may recall
that The Digital Bits, along with
DVD File, attacked this story
when we first learned that the both Mulan
and 101 Dalmatians had been made
available to Divx for use as Divx Gold releases. The article in Video
Week confirms this, but reiterates something that we
discovered in the course of our investigation - no specific release
dates had yet been decided upon for either Divx Gold or open DVD
versions (although release schedules are now in development).
When asked by Video Week to
comment on the possibility of the titles being available exclusively on
Divx Gold, at least initially, Johnson had this to say: "Exclusivity
is either by design or by happenstance, and we don't plan exclusivity by
design. I'll let you figure out what that means." The article then
speculates that he's referring to the fact that Disney's contract with
Divx binds them to offer Divx titles, even when the studio isn't yet
ready to offer then on open DVD (for whatever reason).
That said, I spoke this morning with Buena Vista Home Entertainment's
director of public relations, who confirmed the basic statements made by
Johnson in the article. Disney classic animated films WILL be finally
released to DVD later this year. Specifically, Mulan
and 101 Dalmatians appear to be
the titles in question (although official confirmation on this is not as
yet forthcoming). We at The Digital Bits
will bring you more as on this as soon as we're able to learn it.
Yes, it's true - Polygram Filmed Entertainment has begun closing up
press release), as new owner Seagram begins integrating the
company's various divisions into Universal, a piece at a time (with home
video expected to follow theatrical distribution). This comes just
months after the company's library of films was sold off to MGM. How
this will affect DVD is still a bit unclear, but look for Universal to
likely handle DVD release of any films that are currently in production,
while MGM gets around to releasing catalog titles later this year.
Finally today, I've received some valuable comments from the esteemed
Jim Taylor (Microsoft's DVD Evangelist, and author of
Official DVD FAQ), regarding the newly-finalized DVD-Audio
specification's compatability with existing DVD equipment:
"The bad news is that the DVD-Audio spec includes features that
will not be compatible with existing players (DVD-ROM PCs should be
upgradeable). This includes new copy protection, watermarking, MLP
encoding (lossless packing), higher sampling rates, slideshow format,
lyrics options, and a bunch of other stuff. Not to mention that all of
this is stored in the AUDIO_TS directory, which DVD-Video players never
even look at.
The other bad news is that even though the spec is official, the copy
protection and watermarking schemes have not been finalized. This may be
resolved quickly in a few months, but could easily drag on for more than
a year (especially if the RIAA's SDMI monkey wrench gets in the works).
The good news is that while "universal players" will be
needed to take advantage of all the DVD-Audio features, any DVD-Audio
disc producer who cares about current player owners can make a "universal
disc today." All it takes is to put a copy of the audio, encoded in
Dolby Digital format, in the DVD video zone. The disc will then play on
all the DVD-Video players and DVD-ROM PCs out there today."
Jim then elaborates further on the "universal disc" process:
"Pioneer (and others) have released DVD-Video discs that contain
mostly audio in 96/24 format. These discs can be played on any of
today's players, although many players will throw away 4 or 8 bits and
every other sample (resulting in 48/16 playback). If you let a player
with full 96/24 capability decode the PCM audio (as opposed to
connecting it digitally to a receiver), then you'll get full quality.
Unfortunately no player can pass 96/24 audio out the standard digital
audio connections. When DVD-Audio discs are released that contain 96/24
audio (or even 192/24 audio), they won't play on existing players, even
those with 96/24 capability, since the data is stored in the audio zone
of the disc (the AUDIO_TS directory) that DVD-Video players never look
Soon there will be "universal players" that can do both
DVD-Audio and DVD-Video. I believe that within a few years all DVD-Video
players will become universal players. In the meantime, people who care
about audio should ask the studios to make "universal discs."
Anyone making a DVD-Audio disc can take a little extra time and a little
extra disc space to add a Dolby Digital version of the audio in the
video zone of the disc. This will allow the disc to work on every DVD
player out there, including computers. The audio quality won't be quite
the same as the full PCM track in the audio zone, but at least it will
play. And many people can't tell the difference anyway (me
included--I've listened to AB comparisons). I think it's very important
for DVD player owners to understand that music studios can make
universal DVD-Audio discs if they care enough. And it's important for
player owners to make them care."
I couldn't agree more with Jim's comments. So if you were wondering, "How
does DVD-Audio affect me?", there you have your answer in a
nutshell. Many thanks to Jim for his comments, and for all his fine work
We've got more new DVD title information for you today. I spoke with
Columbia TriStar this morning, and learned that their Monty
Python and the Holy Grail DVD has been delayed. Fear not -
it's definitely coming, but some last minute legal issues must be
resolved first. The studio is working on a special edition re-release of
Taxi Driver (for release sometime
in May), which will include a production featurette, featuring new
interviews with Robert De Niro, director Martin Scorsese and others.
As reported here previously, all four of the Alien
films have been confirmed for DVD release (by distributor preorder
sheets) for June 1st. Each will carry an $29.98 SRP, and all will be
available in an Alien Saga 4-pack
for $109.98. Aliens will
definitely be the longer version (reportedly Cameron's director cut).
Look for Soul Food the same day,
the excellent Waking Ned Devine on
June 30th, and The Imposters on
May 18th from the studio.
Image Entertainment is also bringing some great new titles to DVD in
March. Look for lots of music and concert titles, including Janet
Jackson: Velvet Rope Tour, Joni
Mitchell: Painting with Words and Music, Ray
Davies: Return to Waterloo and The
Rolling Stones: Live at the Max (the IMAX film, THX-certified
on DVD, and in 5.1 audio). March 23rd will see the DVD release of Sunday
in the Park with George (which will include commentary by
Steven Sondheim, James Lapine, Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters).
Also look for more Twilight Zone
DVDs (Volumes 6, 7 & 8 to be specific) in mid March, along with a
pair of silent classics - The Hunchback of
Notre Dame (1923), and DW Griffith's America.
Down the line, Image is working on a terrific DVD of last year's Amnesty
International Concert (recorded in Paris on December 19th),
which features performances by Peter Gabriel, Plant & Page, Alanis
Morissette, Bruce Springsteen, Tracy Chapman and more. For you anime
fans, be advised that Project A-KO
has been delayed due to production issues, but is still in the works.
Finally, I'd like to thank my friend Peter Bracke of
for the nice mentions on his site recently. Both he and I have grappled
with the many technical and time difficulties of publishing our
respective DVD sites. I, for one, never imagined how much work bringing
The Bits to you every day would
be. Between chasing down news, confirming street dates, doing feature
interviews, travelling to the various DVD-related events, and attempting
to get reviews of new and interesting titles done with some degree of
regularity (the list goes on)... let's just say there's never a dull
moment. Then when a gremlin decides to mess with your computer... well,
you can imagine the kind of havoc that wreaks on our plans. I know
Pete's working hard to complete his site re-design, and I'm busy
preparing version 2.0 of The Bits
as well (plus trying to get that Warren Lieberbarb CES article, that
you've all been asking about, finally posted!).
I'm sure I speak for Peter, when I say that we both appreciate all the
enthusiastic support and encouragement our readers have given us. And we
definitely appreciate your patience, as we continue to grow and improve
our sites. Many thanks!
(LATE UPDATE - 2/16/99 - 3:30 PM PST)
OK, here's what I've been wanting to tell you all weekend - I've
Rumor Mill this afternoon, with a look at some of Universal's
DVD releases set for May and June. There are some good titles here,
including Gods and Monsters, Patch
Adams and Battlestar Galactica,
so you'll definitely want to check it out.
(EARLY UPDATE - 2/16/99 - Midnight PST)
Well, I've had better weekends. Turned out, after having the cable line
pressure adjusted this afternoon, there WAS a problem with the modem
after all, so that had to be swapped. Then, we discovered that our
network card was conflicting with the new modem, so I had to make a run
to my local Fry's Electronics, which naturally meant standing in a line
for nearly an hour. And, of course, getting everything working together
smoothly again after the new card was installed took a few hours of
tweaking and driver updating. It's almost enough to make me want to
trade my PC for a Mac... almost. No slight against Macs intended - I've
just always been one of those guys who likes to tinker under his
Anyway, we're finally connected to the Internet again, and everything
seems to be running smoothly. I'm preparing another update for later
today (that I had originally been planning to upload this weekend).
In the meantime, congratulations to the February Trivia
Contest winner, Andrew Link! His entry was chosen out of 1,185
we received this month. Thanks to everyone who entered, and who gave
Sarah feedback on our first crossword-style puzzle. Everyone seems to
have really enjoyed it, so Sarah's preparing an even better one for next
month. FYI, we'll be starting the next contest on March 1st, so stay
has been updated again, with some new information on upcoming DVDs.
Among the titles listed, are DreamWorks' ANTZ!,
Star Trek V (yech!) and War
of the Worlds (very cool) from Paramount, and the 1944
version of Henry V (starring
Lawrence Oliver) from Criterion. DVD
File has an interesting glimpse at another mediocre DVD
bootleg, this time Jurassic Park.
And I continue to see more of those Disney bootleg DVDs up for auction
on Ebay. I would
seriously caution you against bidding on them - they are definitely of
substandard quality. Finally, I've received the weekly CEMA DVD player
sales numbers: 14,746 sold into retail for the week ending 2/5 (both the
data above and the
chart have been updated).
By the way, I hope all of you had a great Valentine's Day. And I hope
all of you U.S. readers had President's Day off of work. Now then, I'm
gonna take an hour to watch Sunday night's taped episode of The
X-Files, crash for a few hours, then start kicking things up
a few notches in terms of content here at The
Bits (guess I've been watching too much Emeril
Live on the Food Network... BAM!). And, once again, many
thanks to all of you for your patience with our technical difficulties
Ggrrrrr...! Don't you just hate it when your computer gadgets flutz up
and throw a monkey wrench in your work? My cable modem problems are
being resolved as we speak, and it looks like the culprit was... line
pressure? Yes indeed, apparently the signal strength back to the
Internet from my cable modem (on the actual cable line) is slightly too
high. When the pressure going back to the Internet is too high, it
interferes with the modem's ability to connect entirely. So one Cox
Cable technician just visited to tell me that another technician will
have to come back this afternoon, to lower the line pressure on the
cable box outside the house. How do you like them apples?
The upshot of all this is that we'll be fully back on-line here at the
Bits by tonight, so we'll make an
update this evening. As part of the post, we'll be announcing the winner
of the Trivia Contest. You've still got
a few hours to get your entries in, however, so do it quickly if you
Thanks for everyone's patience. Back later...
I seem to be having some trouble connecting to the Internet via my
cable modem today. In fact, it took me more than an hour just to upload
this brief update. I'm going to take some time to resolve our technical
difficulties, and I'll post the content I had ready for today over the
weekend instead. Thanks for your patience...
In the meantime, I know a lot of you have asked me about the Sony 7700,
with regard to the layer switch problem some are describing. We've been
talking with Sony today, and they're investigating now. We'll be working
with them over the next week on this, and we'll let you know what's up
as soon as possible.
One thing we do want to address today, is the issue regarding the 7700
not being able to output the "blacker-than-black" bar in the
Pluge pattern, on the Video Essentials
setup DVD. This invaluable DVD is designed to help you properly
calibrate your display device, so that you are seeing the NTSC video
signal output from your DVD player, as it is intended to look. The Pluge
pattern on the disc is designed to make it easier to correctly adjust
the brightness setting on your TV. Sony acknowledges that the 7700 does
not reproduce the blacker than black signal, but they do not consider
this a deficiency in the player (and neither do I). Sony's position is
that neither the DVD spec, or the NTSC spec, includes a provision for
any black signal below 7.5 (7.5 being considered "black"). And
no DVD produced (other than Video Essentials)
actually uses a black signal lower then 7.5 as part of the picture - 7.5
is the lower limit. So while the ability to reproduce blacker-than-black
comes in handy to calibrate your TV, it will not be required at any
other time while using your DVD player.
Furthermore, the Video Essentials
DVD DOES provide another method of properly adjusting brightness,
without using the blacker-than-black stripe. Using the same Pluge
pattern, you simple bring the brightness down until the "above-black"
stripe blends into the black background, then bring the brightness back
up slowly until the "above-black" stripe just appears above
the background. Stop at that point, and you're correctly set. These same
instructions are included with the disc. So Sony considers this a
non-issue, and I'd have to agree.
As for not including the 7000's feature of being able to adjust the
black level OUTPUT of the player, this is really a redundant feature
anyway. Black level should never be adjustable via the player - the
video signal leaving the player should simply be correct, according to
the NTSC and DVD specs. And Sony has worked extensively to ensure that
the 7700's output video signal is spot-on accurate. Any adjustment of
black level, color, etc... should all be make on the display device, not
on the player itself. I hope this resolves both of these issues. Bottom
line - the 7700 is a damn fine DVD player in my opinion.
We'll post more over the weekend, as soon as we're able to resolve our
technical problems. Stay tuned and again, thanks for your patience.
All right, we've got a review of Digital Leisure's
Lair DVD (note that separate DVD-ROM and CD-ROM versions
exist). I have to confess, I've had some fun with this disc... which
explains how long it took to get the review finished! If you liked the
original arcade game, you'll dig it.
Moving along, I spoke with Columbia TriStar's DVD head of production
this morning. He's got some info he wanted me to pass on to all of you.
Apparently, on their recent John Carpenter's
Vampires DVD, the packaging states that a gallery of
production photographs is included on the disc. Unfortunately, when they
looked at the photos (during production) they weren't happy with their
quality, and so opted to leave them off the final disc. However, they
didn't catch the case artwork in time to delete the gallery from the
feature listing. So know that they ARE aware of the error - be kind and
cut them some slack. It was an honest mistake, and they're working very
hard on lots of new titles. You will be happy to know that their Ghostbusters
DVD, which is now in production, is coming along nicely. And I'm REALLY
looking forward to having Monty Python &
the Holy Grail on DVD on 3/16. Very cool.
Warner Bros just issued a
release detailing their March DVD offerings. Among the titles
listed are: Soldier (street date
3/2), and Home Fries, The
Outlaw Josey Wales, True Stories,
Running on Empty, Fair
Game, Burglar, and Joe's
Apartment (all streeting 3/30). In addition,
has been updated to include a host of new DVD announcements from
Universal, Columbia TriStar, and Fox.
Finally, I'd like to direct your attention to a couple of good review
sources. The Pittsburgh
Cinema Project has assembled an excellent
Movie Review Query
Engine (MRQE), which lists reviews of more than 15,000 films on
the Internet. I proud to say that the Bits'
DVD reviews are indexed there as well. Also
has a nice library of laserdisc and DVD capsule reviews. Check them both
See you tomorrow!
Sorry for the late post. I was busy away from the office for a while
today, chasing down some new DVD leads. But I've got that
With Wolves (DTS) review you've been waiting for. The review
is a comparison to the
Dolby Digital 5.1 DVD, so you may want to check that out first if
you haven't already.
By the way, it's being reported by the trades, that the DVD version of
Armageddon was the second-highest
entry (in its debut week) on VideoScan's chart of sales in ALL formats,
VHS included. For the week ending January 16th, the DVD outsold all VHS
titles monitored. Director Michael Bay has claimed the he shot the film
with DVD in mind. Wonder how he'll feel when he learns that it isn't in
FYI - we've also updated the VideoScan chart, for the week ending
January 31st (see above). The
Truman Show currently occupies the top spot.
That Dragon's Lair review I
promised will be in tomorrow's post. Stay tuned...
(LATE UPDATE - 2/9/99 - 5:30 PM PST)
I'll have my Dances (DTS) and
Dragon's Lair review up by
tomorrow morning, but we've posted 6 more capsule DVD reviews now. Todd
gives you his opinion of Protocol,
and the Bandit, and Nowhere
Alas, no sooner do I mention the subject of those newly-nominated Best
Picture films coming to DVD, than one of my sources informs me that work
is well under way on at least one of them. Check the Rumor
Mill for the latest.
See you in the morning!
(EARLY UPDATE - 2/9/99 - 8:30 AM PST)
Well folks, it's a big day in Hollywood today. The nominations for the
71st Academy Awards are in - the announcement was made early this
morning, and you can read them at the official
Oscar web site. The
films vying for Best Picture this year, are: Elizabeth,
Life Is Beautiful, Saving
Private Ryan, Shakespeare In Love,
and The Thin Red Line.
Saving Private Ryan will be
released on video by DreamWorks, and if all goes well, should appear on
DVD later this year. Elizabeth is
a Polygram film, so we can be hopeful about a DVD release fairly soon.
The Thin Red Line is a Fox film,
so there's no telling when we might see it on DVD. And the other two
films, Life Is Beautiful and Shakespeare
in Love are from Miramax, so again, there's no telling...
has announced some great new titles, and has confirmed that Paramount is
returning to anamorphic enhancement for at least some of their DVDs.
Among the other titles announced are Amistad,
Beautiful Girls, Father
of the Bride, A Bug's Life,
and American History X.
At long last, the DVD Audio format specification has been finalized.
You can read the full
release here. DVD Audio discs will hold up to seven times the
content of current CD discs, making possible single disc anthologies of
your favorite artists' music. Both stereo and multi-channel surround
recordings can be included on the same disc. The spec also requires
compatibility with DVD Video and DVD-ROM formats, although it's
uncertain if this definitively means that future DVD Audio discs will
work on current DVD Video players and DVD-ROM drives. Of course, for DVD
Audio to succeed, it would be foolish to require new players, so I'm
hopeful that compatibility will be full.
has an interesting story on a demonstration of using High-Definition
Digital Video to source program material on, as an alternative to 35mm
film. Many of you may recall that George Lucas has been considering this
process for Star Wars Episodes 2 & 3.
Be sure to check it out.
We'll be back later today with DVD reviews of Dances
With Wolves (DTS), Dragon's Lair
and more, so stay tuned...