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-Newsletter est. 4/15/97-
-Website est. 12/15/97-






page updated: 5/12/06



My Two Cents
(Archived Posts 5/2/06 - 4/18/06)


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5/2/06

We've got a bunch of DVD release news to report today (particularly major TV DVD release news), so let's get right to it...

First up, Buena Vista has announced the DVD release of Desperate Housewives: The Complete Second Season, Grey's Anatomy: The Complete Second Season - Uncut, Lost: The Complete Second Season - The Extended Experience and Commander in Chief: Season One - The Inaugural Edition. All will include video in anamorphic widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio.

Desperate Housewives: The Complete Second Season (due 8/29, SRP $59.99) will be a 6-disc box set including all 24 episodes, plus an "exclusive unaired storyline" shot for the series but unused (featuring Terry Hatcher), 3 featurettes (Anatomy of a Show: Director's Diary, Iconic Housewives and Mark & Mom), audio commentaries, deleted scenes and more.

Grey's Anatomy: The Complete Second Season - Uncut (due 9/12, SRP $59.99) will also be a 6-disc box set including 27 episodes (three of them available on DVD exclusively in extended versions), along with a Fan Roundtable Discussion video (in which the cast answers questions from fans about the show), audio commentaries and deleted scenes.

Lost: The Complete Second Season - The Extended Experience (due 10/3, SRP $59.99) will be a 7-disc box set including all of the season's episodes, along with the Lost Connections interactive documentary, The Lost Flashbacks (unseen footage on the characters' backgrounds), 3 featurettes (Lost: On Location, Secrets of the Hatch and Fire and Water: Anatomy of an Episode), audio commentaries, bloopers, deleted scenes and more.

Commander in Chief: Season One - The Inaugural Edition (also due 10/3, SRP $39.99) will be a 4-disc set containing all of the first season's episodes, along with an interview with star Geena Davis, unaired scenes, bloopers and audio commentaries with the show's creators.

Meanwhile, Paramount has set the Star Trek: Fan Collective - Klingon and Nick Jr's Max & Ruby: Afternoons with Max & Ruby for release on 8/1. A ton of repackaged and repriced catalog titles will follow on 8/8, including Domestic Disturbance, Hardball, Graveyard Shift, Bringing Out the Dead, Varsity Blues, Bless the Child, Rosemary's Baby, Prophecy, An Officer and a Gentleman, Hellraiser III, Ordinary People, Catch 22, April Fool's Day, Searching for Bobby Fischer, The Relic, My Bloody Valentine, Pet Sematary 2, Silver Bullet, Necessary Roughness, The Temp, Jennifer 8, The Odd Couple, Tales From the Darkside: The Movie and Death Wish (again, none of these are new editions - they'll just have new cover art), along with a new 2-pack edition of The Adams Family and Adams Family Values. A number of new PBS Kids titles are also due on 8/8, among them Teletubbies: All Fall Down - Funny Friends and Terrific Tumbles, Boohbah: Umbrella, Caillou: Caillou's World of Wonder and Jay Jay the Jet Plane: Jay Jay's Sensational Mystery. Nick Jr's Dora the Explorer: We're a Team is currently set for 8/15. Finally, Threshold: The Complete Series, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Trick or Treason and It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown: 40th Anniversary Edition round things out on 8/22.

Finally today, Anchor Bay Entertainment will release the hospital horror flick Room 6 on 6/13 (SRP $19.98). Video will be anamorphic widescreen with audio in Dolby Digital 5.1. Extras will include the Hospital from Hell: The Making of Room 6 featurette, audio commentary with writer/director Mike Hurst and writer/producer Mark A. Altman, the theatrical trailer and the film's screenplay (via DVD-ROM).

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 5/1/06 - 12:45 PM PDT)

Well, it looks as if more indies are lining up to debut titles in the new HD-DVD format. And the format's about to get its first cult titles no less as well. BCI Eclipse has officially announced that it will release That's the Way of the World (staring Earth, Wind & Fire along with Harvey Keitel), the sexy sci-fi parody Galaxina, and a pair of Paul Naschy horror flicks from Spain... Night of the Werewolf and Vengeance of the Zombies. These first titles from BCI are expected in August. The company expects to release more than 20 HD-DVD titles in 2006 include (among them the yet-to-be-announced Bob Hope classics Son of Paleface and The Lemon Drop Kid).

Naturally, we've updated the High-Def Release List again with these latest details.

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 5/1/06 - 11 AM PDT)

We've got a few more new release announcements to report this morning.

First up, Universal has officially set Jack of All Trades: The Complete Series for release on 7/18. They've also announced NBC's Surface: Season One for release on 8/15.

Sony has set Edison Force, The Ellen Show: The Complete Series, Road House: Deluxe Edition, Road House 2, I Dream of Jeanie: The Complete Second Season (color) for release on 7/11. They also have a Road House UMD coming out that same day (we've update the UMD Movie Release List accordingly).

On the high-definition front, Magnolia Home Entertainment has announced its first releases on the HD-DVD format for sometime in May (specific street dates are still TBA). A trio of film titles kicks things off, including Bubble, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room and The War Within (SRP $29.98 each). Magnolia will also release a pair of HDNet programs on HD-DVD in May, including Bikini Destinations and the HDNet World Report Special: Shuttle Discovery’s Historic Mission (SRP $26.98 each). I was actually there for that shuttle launch, so it will be cool to relive it again in high-def. As you'd expect, we've updated our High-Def Release List to include the Magnolia news.

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 5/1/06 - 12:01 AM PDT)

Happy May Day, folks! Wow... can you believe it? May already? Pfffssshhhhew... hard to believe. Another month or so and we'll be looking at Blu-ray Disc titles. Time sure is flying this year.

Well... before I say anything else this morning, Sarah and I want to send out a big thank you to the many hundreds of readers who sent in get well wishes for our kitten. It's been a little stressful these last couple of days, as you can probably imagine, but you'll be pleased to know that we got her to the doctor in time on Friday and she's going to be just fine. The little bug comes home tonight, and we can't wait. We've only had her a couple months, but it's amazing how empty the house seems without her. Anyway, thanks so much, guys. You're the best, and your e-mails were much appreciated.

Now then... we've got some new DVD cover art to show you this morning, to get a jump on the day's come-what-may news. Here's Sony's Ultraviolet (6/27 - PG-13 and Unrated editions), Fox's The Hills Have Eyes theatrical cut (6/20), Universal's Jack of All Trades: The Complete Series (TBA - starring the legendary Bruce Campbell), and Criterion's Koko: A Talking Gorilla and Yi Yi (both 7/11)...

Ultraviolet (PG-13)Ultraviolet: UnratedThe Hills Have Eyes (Theatrical Version)

Jack of All Trades: The Complete SeriesKoko: A Talking Gorilla (Criterion)Yi Yi (Criterion)

Back with more later today, so stay tuned!

4/28/06

Hey, guys. I'm afraid there isn't going to be much of an update today. I'd planned on posting a few things this afternoon, but I've had a bit of a personal thing come up. Sarah and I have a new kitten that we adopted a few weeks ago, and she's been feeling a little under the weather in the last day or two. We took her to the vet today, and it turns out she's pretty sick with some kind of bacterial digestive thing, and they're having to keep her over the weekend to treat her. So naturally we're stressed and worried and a little freaked out, and you'll have to forgive me if DVD, HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc are the last things on my mind this afternoon. Her name's Chloe. Here's a pic...

Chloe

Ain't she just cute as all get out? We sure think so.

Anyway, I do have a couple new DVD release announcements to report for you today. First up, HBO has set the standard DVD release of Carnivale: The Complete Second Season for 7/18, with Rome: The Complete First Season following on 8/15. Both will be distributed by Warner Home Video.

Also, 20th Century Fox has announced Dharma & Greg: Season 1 for release on 6/13.

Here's art for Carnivale and Rome, along with covers for Fox's The Hills Have Eyes: Unrated - The Version to Die For (due on 6/20), Universal and Focus Films' Brick (street date TBA), and Warner's Rumor Has It and Training Day on HD-DVD (both due 5/9)...

Carnivale: The Complete Second SeasonRome: The Complete First SeasonThe Hills Have Eyes: Unrated - The Version to Die For

BrickRumor Has It (HD-DVD)Training Day (HD-DVD)

Sorry again for mentally checking out on you guys today. Rest assured, we'll be back on Monday with our usual digital focus and enthusiasm.

Best to all 'til then!

4/27/06

Argh! Today's post is a bit later than expected, but as some of you may have noticed, server troubles knocked out access to the site for a few hours this morning. Rest assured, it was just a glitch and things are back to normal. Still... technology, you know? It's pretty great, but it's sure not perfect.

That's funny, it just occurred to me as I'm typing this how appropriately that statement describes our experiences with HD-DVD these past couple of weeks. Go figure.

Anyway, Universal has announced the DVD release of a Safe Men: Special Edition on 8/15.

Around the Net today, there are a couple of interesting stories about HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc. Matsushita's executive officer, Kazuhiro Tsuga, is rattling his sabers, claiming that HD-DVD and their own Blu-ray Disc will never merge: "We are not talking and we will not talk. The market will decide the winner." You can read more via Reuters. Yeah, mmmm'kay... and if the market decides to say "Screw it!" and declare neither format a winner, what then smart guy?

Meanwhile, according to a story over at Home Media Retailing, those few adopters who are actually interested in high-def on disc seem impressed with the quality of the picture and sound on HD-DVD so far... but they're wondering where the killer ap movie software is. So are we (on that note, we hear - Rumor Alert - that Batman Begins will be out from Warner by the end of May).

And on a completely different note, Nintendo officially unveiled the name of its next generation videogame console today (which will be compatible with neither HD-DVD or Blu-ray Disc). And no, it's not Revolution, which was the code name the company had been using. Following in the footsteps of the NES, the Super Nintendo, the Game Boy, the Gamecube and the DS... is the Wii. As in Wii, Wii, Wii all the way home. Says Nintendo: "While the code-name 'Revolution' expressed our direction, Wii represents the answer. Wii will break down that wall that separates game players from everybody else. Wii will put people more in touch with their games... and each other."

Boy, they must drinking some seriously good KoolAid at the mega-conglomerate tech/media giants these days. "The Whu and the Blu will never merge, because the market will love the Whu without question! The Whu will thrill consumers with its superior nomenclature, moderately exorbinant price point and the dazzling array of colors of its shinny plastic case! The Whu will not play Dolby TrueHD without future upgrades! The Whu will not offer full convenience or functionality without a major addition to your home! The Whu may or may not solve the problems of global warming, poverty and receding hairlines! The Whu will cure nose cancer but not toe cancer without the purchase of the optional Blutooth-enabled, super-special wavy wand...!"

Guess I'm picking on Nintendo and Matsushita there a little, but you get the idea. We love new technology at The Bits, but some days, don't you just feel like chucking it all and moving to a log cabin in the mountains? Yeah, it's kind of a slow news day. And I'm feelin' a little punchy.

Hey, I know... how 'bout some new cover art?! Here's Warner's Swordfish and Goodfellas on HD-DVD (both due 5/2), along with their Hanna Barbera-animated Magilla Gorilla and Hong Kong Phooey (both 8/15). We've also got Universal's Earthquake (5/9) and Paramount's Reno 911: The Complete Third Season too (7/11)...

Swordfish (HD-DVD)Goodfellas (HD-DVD)Magilla Gorilla

Hong Kong PhooeyEarthquakeReno 911: The Complete Third Season

See you tomorrow, good neighbors...

4/26/06

Afternoon, folks! We've got some ground to cover today on a wide range of topics, so let's get to it.

First up, some new DVD announcements. Sony has set Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing and Charm School, Charlie's Angels: The Complete Third Season, an Out of Time/Hart's War double feature and a To Live and Die in L.A./Dark Blue double feature for release on 7/4.

Meanwhile, 20th Century Fox will deliver The Pretender: The Complete Fourth Season on 7/18.

Also, Paramount has set Failure to Launch for release on 6/17. Perry Mason: The First Season - Volume 1 and Reno 911: The Complete Third Season will follow on 7/11, with Queer Duck: The Movie due a week later on 7/18, and Laguna Beach: Season Two and a repackaged Ladybugs rounding out the month on 7/25.

Finally, Criterion has set Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's A Canterbury Tale for release in July (Catalog # 341).

On the UMD front, Sony will also release Hoosiers, Baby Boy, Tomcats and Cruel Intentions on UMD format for the PSP on 7/4 as well. Our UMD Release List has been updated accordingly.

On the topic of high-definition today, there's no real news to report, other than that Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has urged the HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc camps to end the format war for fear that it could hurt the adoption of high-definition movies on disc (click here to read more at Video Business). He's right, certainly, but no one in the industry with the power to do anything about it is going to listen at this point.

Actually, there is one more thing... Microsoft's European Manager for Xbox, Chris Lewis, has told Spiegel Online that his company will announce more details about the Xbox 360's forthcoming HD-DVD peripheral drive at the upcoming E3 electronic gaming conference. Rumors place the price at around $100, but there's little real information as yet. Lewis is full of marketing spin and bluster, however, saying (among other things): "Blu-ray right now reminds us of another technology from Sony: Betamax. A bit like VHS -- we think that HD DVD is the format that consumers, film studios and publishers will embrace. As you're mentioning the cost of Blu-ray -- we think it's about giving consumers choice, we think it's about not necessarily asking them to pay over the odds for a technology that, at the moment, is unproven."

I've got news for you Chris... HD-DVD hasn't really proven itself very well either. We've got a few thousand players out in the market at most, at least some of which are experiencing frustrating technical glitches, and just SIX movies. That's not much of a track record there yet. So people would be fairly stupid to count Blu-ray Disc out at this point. Or HD-DVD for that matter. It's just too early to tell.

Man, I'll tell you... I just hate listening to these corporate suits spewing their sales bullshit to a sometimes unsuspecting public like it's the gospel truth. And I'll tell you, if we do NOTHING else here at The Bits than help to hose some of that away each day, to leave you with a more accurate, honest and realistic picture of what's actually going on in the industry, then that's a damn good day's work as far as we're concerned.

Speaking of honesty and HD-DVD, I suppose I should admit that I had my first genuinely thrilling experience with the format last night. Universal's Apollo 13 HD-DVD showed up on my doorstep yesterday, and I'll tell you... the film looks and sounds better than I've EVER seen it before. Universal is really doing a beautiful job with their high-definition transfers and mastering. I suspect Apollo 13 also benefits from the work that was done a few years ago to create an IMAX version - the digital clean-up, etc (no worries though, the film is full length and 2.35:1 widescreen, as it should be). Anyway, I was VERY impressed with this disc... despite the fact that our Toshiba HD-A1 locked up not once but twice over the course of the evening. The first time, the glitch only lasted a moment, and I was able to get it to continue playing normally. The second time, when I was showing my wife how good the film looked naturally, it locked up completely and I had to unplug and reboot the player to get it going again. Go figure.

Rest assured, we'll have reviews of Apollo 13, Doom and Million Dollar Baby up in the next day or two.

Now then... changing gears just a little bit, since a lot of you have asked questions about it, I wanted to talk a little bit today about the new high-resolution audio formats available on HD-DVD, how the Toshiba HD-A1 processes them and how current surround sound receivers recognize them. And I'm going to try to boil it down into plain language (as much as is possible, anyway) for the vast majority of folks who don't have engineering degrees.

Dolby DigitalDTSLinear PCMDolby Digital-PlusDolby TrueHDDTS-HD

First up is Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1. In general, it should sound better than current DTS and actually something close to the quality of DVD-Audio and SACD (once we've got the hardware to fully take advantage of it). Currently, to enjoy the full resolution equivalent of Plus 5.1, you can either connect the player to your receiver via the analog 5.1 outputs or via an HDMI connection (although few receivers come equipped with HDMI audio capability as yet), in which case your player will decode the Plus 5.1 bitstream and convert it to LPCM 5.1 to be read by your receiver as such. The other choice you have, is you can connect your player to the receiver via the digital Toslink (optical) or coax outputs that most of us have been using for years now. Unfortunately, in this case, the HD-A1 decodes the Plus 5.1 bitstream and re-encodes it as DTS 5.1, which is then passed to your receiver (the receiver recognizes the bitstream as DTS accordingly). You're still getting a great audio experience, but it's not full Plus resolution, because DTS has a lower bitrate. It's sort of a half-assed solution that the Toshiba engineers came up with, but that's what they came up with.

Next up is Dolby TrueHD 5.1. This should sound not only significantly better than Plus 5.1, but even better than DVD-Audio and SACD - potentially as much as three times better, in fact (but again, only once we've got the hardware to fully take advantage of it). Currently, it's impossible to enjoy TrueHD on the HD-A1, because the HD-A1 only supports 2-channel decoding of TrueHD. The best you're going to get out of the HD-A1, via any connection, is stereo audio converted to either LPCM (via HDMI or analog outputs) or DTS (via the Toslink and coax digital outputs), neither of which is going to be full TrueHD resolution.

Finally, there's DTS-HD (which should roughly equate to the quality of Dolby TrueHD, although there's no software available yet and few official specs yet either). This will again be converted to either LPCM or DTS by the HD-A1, depending on which output you use with your receiver, and again this will not be full resolution either.

So the basic problem with all of these audio formats, is that there's currently no hardware available - either HD-DVD players or surround sound receivers - that supports them all fully yet. This will change starting later this year, when players and receivers fully compatible with Plus, TrueHD and DTS-HD are released, equipped with specific HDMI 1.3 connections. Current HDMI connections don't actually allow for the full-bandwidth capabilities of True HD and DTS-HD (and Toslink and either digital or analog coax connections don't have the bandwidth to allow them period). So to experience full-resolution, multi-channel audio via Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD, you'll eventually NEED to upgrade to new hardware equipped with HDMI 1.3 - both your player AND your receiver. Is it any wonder why we've told most of you to just wait on HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc? Even if you do buy an HD-DVD player now, you'll STILL have to buy another player later on if you want the full audio capability!

Sony, recognizing all of these audio incompatibilities and the potential for confusion, is not even including Dolby Digital-Plus, Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD on their early Blu-ray Disc software. Instead, they're simply encoding the audio on their initial Blu-ray titles in high-resolution LPCM 5.1, until such a time as the hardware catches up. FYI, PCM audio is the same basic format that's been used for existing music CDs for many years, except that it can also be encoded in high-resolution bitrates and can support multi-channel audio in addition to just the common 2.0 stereo found on CDs. Current multi-channel receiver should all be able to accept an LPCM 5.1 signal and drive your speakers with it, just as they currently can with stereo CD audio.

Frustrated yet? Yeah... trust me, you're not alone. In any case, I hope we've been able to at least shed some light - and in a reasonably understandable way - on the situation at hand with regard to these new audio formats. You can read more about all of them, and their compatibility issues, in a great new editorial by our very own DocDVD, Josh Lehman, over at his own website (one of our Bits partner sites). It's entitled, The Sound and the Furious: The Next Generation.

Anyway, with regard to our HD-DVD (and future Blu-ray Disc) reviews, we're evaluating the current audio experience allowed on these discs as best we can, until we can really fully test and appreciate the quality of Dolby Digital-Plus, Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD with 100% compatible hardware in the future.

So okay... there you have it. That's enough tech-speak for today, I'd say. If I've got any errors in there (there shouldn't be, but this stuff is complicated and boiling it down into real-speak isn't easy, believe me), I'll fix 'em soon and let you know about it. 'Nuff said.

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 4/25/06 - 4PM PDT)

We've got one more quick update for you this afternoon, to let you know that Warner Bros. has just announced its next batch of HD-DVD releases. They aren't... well, quite the titles we might have hoped for.

The studio's first DVD/HD-DVD hybrid disc (officially called a "HD DVD and DVD Combo Format" disc in press release lingo) will be Rumor Has It on 5/9 (SRP $39.99 - day and date with the standard definition DVD-only release). In terms of catalog titles, GoodFellas and Swordfish will arrive on 5/2, while Training Day will follow on 5/9 with Rumor Has It (SRP on the catalog titles will be $28.99 each).

Say what? Seriously? Training Day? Swordfish? Why not toss in Battlefield: Earth and Catwoman? While GoodFellas is a nice surprise, and the others aren't bad films per se, one can only assume that titles like The Matrix and Batman Begins - the films that should really dazzle viewers in high-definition video and high-resolution audio - are being held back to allow for the inclusion of new and more complicated high-def bonus features. Nevertheless, I'm VERY surprised that Warner isn't being more aggressive in releasing at least a few of the kind of whiz-bang catalog films that early adopters really want to see on HD-DVD. It's puzzling and somewhat frustrating - not quite the format lunch we expected for HD-DVD anyway. After just having had to sit though Phantom of the Opera, I was hoping for a little better from Warner: Wave Two. Ah well... maybe Wave Three will impress. At least Universal has The Bourne Supremacy, U-571 and The Chronicles of Riddick on the way. Anyway, we've updated the High-Def Release List accordingly.

Back with more regular DVD news tomorrow. Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 4/25/06 - 2:30 PM PDT)

Okay... so is anyone in the mood for a trio of HD-DVD movie reviews? I think I've finally gotten a handle on those technical issues I mentioned the other day with the Toshiba HD-A1 player.

There's still a clear difference between the video quality being issued via the HDMI and component outputs, and I've heard all kind of possible reasons as to why this might be (the HDMI 1.1 hardware has a 'clipping' bug that prevents the pass-thru of the brightest and darkest video information, the component bitstream is more compressed in terms of bandwidth, etc). Suffice it to say that I've calibrated and re-calibrated and even triple calibrated my display hardware, so I'm confident both that HDMI is the best way to go and that what I'm seeing is accurate to what was intended by the filmmakers.

As for the freezing/skipping/audio sync problem, it seems to happen for two reasons: 1) when the player is hot (has been in use for a long time) and/or 2) when you use the remote to skip and scan around a lot in the film material. Either way, it seems to be a hardware issue, and it's not happening enough to be truly annoying. I've been able to watch several films all the way through now without a glitch, so we'll see.

A couple of notes on the review specs before we get started: The Toshiba player doesn't give you a bitrate meter for either the video or audio data streams when you use the on-screen display. It also doesn't tell you what the native resolution of the video on the disc is - just what it's outputting to your display (so we'll have to trust the box). Finally, you'll note the lack of our familiar and comforting anamorphic widescreen logo in the reviews - anamorphic enhancement does not apply to high-definition video, because HD is by its nature a native 1.78:1 (16x9) format. Anamorphic enhancement should only really apply on HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc when talking about any pre-existing, standard definition supplemental features that may have been included on the disc. Just so you know, we've also included some additional notes on our new review format and grading process - you'll find those here (at the end of the actual review page).

Anyway... after all that, here's our first HD-DVD format reviews: Universal's Serenity, and Warner's The Last Samurai and The Phantom of the Opera (2004). We hope you like the new review format and the way we're indicating the specs, features and video/audio quality. Be sure to let us know what you think.

FYI, in the future, you'll find the high-definition format reviews indexed in the Review section of the site - just click on the red HD-DVD format logo (or, eventually, the blue Blu-ray Disc logo) at the top of the page to find the review links.

We'll try to have reviews of Warner's Million Dollar Baby, and Universal's Apollo 13 and Doom on HD-DVD up before the end of the week.

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 4/24/06 - 12:30 PM PDT)

We've got a couple more things for you this afternoon.

First of all, Sony has just announced the DVD, Blu-ray Disc and UMD release of Ultraviolet on 6/27 (SRP $28.95 for the DVD and UMD, and $38.95 for the Blu-ray version). There will be FOUR different versions available: PG-13 DVD and Blu-ray Disc versions, and unrated extended versions on DVD and UMD. Strangely, the Blu-ray Disc version (which you'd think would be the more deluxe) will ONLY include the PG-13 version. Clearly, Sony hasn't figured out seamless branching on Blu-ray yet. According to Sony, the PG-13 versions will include a cast and crew audio commentary track and the UV Protection: The Making of Ultraviolet documentary. The Unrated version will add to this "additional never-before-seen bonus footage." We've updated the UMD and High-Def Release Lists accordingly.

Meanwhile today, Buena Vista has announced the DVD release of Scrubs: Season Three for 5/9 (SRP $39.99). Each copy will include a "Scrub-o-graph" cast photo, 100 randomly distributed copies of which will actually be hand-signed by the entire cast of the series.

Buena Vista has also confirmed the 7/18 release of 2005's Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film... Tsotsi. The DVD will include audio commentary with director Gavin Hood.

Genius Products will release Project Runway: The Complete Second Season on 6/6.

Finally, Warner Home Video has recently announced a number of new titles (some of which we may have mentioned before, but we'll do so again just to be sure). On 7/11, look for Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story (for HBO) and Grilled. 7/18 will bring The Film Noir Classics Collection: Volume 3 (including Border Incident, His Kind of Woman, Lady in the Lake, On Dangerous Ground, The Racket and the Film Noir: Bringing Darkness Into Light bonus disc) and the Warner Tough Guys Collection (which will include Bullets or Ballots, Each Dawn I Die, G-Men, Sam Quentin, City for Conquest and A Slight Case of Murder, each of which will also be available separately). On 7/25, you'll get Bogie & Bacall: The Signature Collection (set to include The Big Sleep, Dark Passage, Key Largo and To Have and Have Not, each of which will also be available separately). On 8/1, look for Blue Collar TV: Season Two, Dallas: The Complete Fifth Season and Mrs. Harris (for HBO). 8/8 will see the release of Heidi. On 8/15, you'll get a pair of new Hanna Barbara animated titles... Hong Kong Phooey and Magilla Gorilla. Last but not least, 8/22 will see the release of a number of new BBC titles, including The Worst Week of My Life: The Complete First Series, A Bit of Fry and Laurie: Season One, A Bit of Fry and Laurie: Season Two and The Robinsons: Complete Series One.

Elsewhere here at The Bits today, we've updated the CEA DVD Player Sales numbers for the complete month of March, along with some additional format stats that we track. All charts have been updated accordingly.

And yes, we're still working on the HD-DVD reviews, and resolving the tech issues I mentioned earlier this morning. We should know more soon.

Stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 4/24/06 - 12:01 AM PDT)

Morning, folks. Got yer coffee? Good. Have a nice weekend? Good.

Okay.

So guess what? We'd planned to get our reviews of Serenity, The Last Samurai and The Phantom of the Opera up on Friday... then Saturday... then today. But it hasn't happened yet. It's certainly not for lack of trying or serious effort, believe me. It's because we've encountered some significant issues during the process. First of all, we continue to have a problem with movie software freezing for a few moments during playback, after which it continues playing but without audio, or with out-of-sync audio. It's happened on every movie disc we've tried now, at least once per film (and sometimes more often).

The other thing we've discovered is that the quality and character of the 1080i video that the Toshiba player delivers from its digital HDMI and component analog outputs is very different. The analog output features significantly enhanced color saturation and contrast levels over the HDMI, which SHOULD be more accurate. The difference is not minor, and we're trying to figure out exactly what it means and why it's happening. It's important to understand what's going on here, and which video output is correct (or more correct), so that we can accurately describe the video quality in our reviews.

Anyway, we're going to see what Toshiba says on both of these issues and get back to you on it, then try to finish those reviews. Well... no one ever said the transition to high-def was going to be easy, did they?

In the meantime this morning, we have a pair of standard DVD reviews for you to enjoy from our own Peter Schorn: Paramount's Hustle & Flow and Magnolia and Sony's Nine Lives.

We've also got FIVE new Contests going here at The Bits, giving you each the chance to take home DVD copies of Warner's The Waltons: The Complete Third Season, Platinum Disc's Category 7: The End of the World, Universal's Law and Order: Trial by Jury - The Complete Series and five more great anime titles from Geneon. Our previous contest for Criterion's The Complete Mr. Arkadin also continues through this week. All five of the contests will run until Noon (Pacific) on Sunday, April 30th. Click on the links to get started and good luck!

We'll leave you this morning with a look at more new DVD cover art. Here's Sony's Freedomland (5/30), Universal's Smokey and the Bandit: Special Edition (also 5/30) and 20th Century Fox's Will Rogers Collection: Volume 1 (7/25)...

FreedomlandSmokey and the Bandit: Special EditionWill Rogers Collection: Volume 1

Stay tuned...

4/21/06

Okay... we've got a couple bits of news for you today.

First of all, the greatest news we've heard in months... Universal is FINALLY delivering a Double Indemnity: Special Edition on 8/29 (SRP $26.98). It's only one of the greatest film noirs ever made, and it's been YEARS since the Image Entertainment DVD went out of print. Thankfully, your patience will be rewarded with a 2-disc set that's part of the Universal Legacy Series no less! Extras are TBA, but we still couldn't be happier right now.

Speaking of Universal, the studio has officially announced more HD-DVD titles for June and July. On 6/13, look for Happy Gilmore and The Rundown (SRP $34.98 each). Following on 7/11 are Pitch Black and Friday Night Lights (also $34.98 each). We expect Pitch Black to be the unrated edition, but we'll confirm that when we can. Our High-Def Release List has been updated accordingly.

I'm afraid we have a bit of disappointing news to report about Warner's recent re-release of The American President. It turns out that their press site posted inaccurate details about the title - it does NOT include anamorphic widescreen as we'd been led to believe. After getting a few confused e-mails from readers who picked up the new disc only to discover that it had non-anamorphic widescreen video (the same as the previous DVD), we made a call into the studio and were told that they'd screwed-up on their press site. Believe me, we're as disappointed as many of you probably are. Anyway, sorry for the confusion on that.

Speaking of Warner, we hear that the studio is likely to announce their second wave of HD-DVD releases next week. We'll bring you all the details when they're available.

Here's a bit of new cover art for you... Warner's Syriana (6/20), Sony's The Pink Panther (2005 - 6/13) and Paramount's Star Trek: Fan Collective - Klingon (8/1)...

SyrianaThe Pink PantherStar Trek: Fan Collective - Klingon

Speaking of Star Trek, word is that J.J. Abrams has been tapped by Paramount to write and direct the next Trek feature film. Due in 2008, it's reported to be a Starfleet Academy story focusing on the first mission of a young Kirk and Spock from The Original Series. I know a lot of people love Lost and Alias, and early reviews of Abrams' M:I 3 have been pretty good... but man. Anyone remember how close Abrams came to rewriting Superman mythology a few years ago? Any Alias fans out there recall how that show has jumped the shark multiple times in recent seasons? I don't know. I just don't have a good feeling about this. Abrams could certainly bring a fresh perspective to Trek, and I know the studio wants to attract a younger audience to the franchise, but I'm not sure how much younger and sexier Trek can go before longtime fans bail even more than they already have. We'll see, I guess. Cross your fingers.

There's still a few things I'm checking out on these HD-DVD discs, which I hope to have done by the end of the day (I'll be back at it moments after posting this update). It's tricky, doing the first reviews on a new format. Takes time to understand the quirks, to know what to look for, etc. And I'm trying to understand how the audio is interacting with my receiver via the Toslink connection. Rest assured, I'll get the reviews up as soon as they're done, even if I have to post them on Saturday. I also just received Warner's Million Dollar Baby this morning, so watch for that review next week (along with Universal's Apollo 13 and Doom, both of which are due on Tuesday). Once I've got the new review format down, it'll get a lot easier.

In the meantime, have a great weekend. Stay tuned...

4/20/06

Afternoon, everyone!

Well... it's Day Three living with HD-DVD here at The Bits, and we've got a few more observations to report. First, we've got a quick update on those Paramount HD-DVDs that we told you yesterday were about to be announced. It's looking like they might now street on 6/20, rather than 5/30. We're still waiting for official confirmation in a press release from the studio, but their press site is now showing indications of a revised 6/20 date.

Now then, we're getting close to having our reviews of Serenity, The Last Samurai and The Phantom of the Opera ready to post. It's taken a while to figure out all of the specs and information that we need to include in the reviews - video resolution, video codec, max allowed analog video resolution, etc. It's also taken a while to figure out how to grade the video and audio quality in such as way as to provide a meaningful comparison with the quality of the same title on standard DVD. But I think we're getting close. With any luck, we'll post the reviews later today, or first thing tomorrow. We'd like to get your feedback on our new format. As currently planned, the video is going to be graded on a 1-20 scale that's the same for both standard DVD and high-definition (1-10 being the range for standard DVD and 11-20 being the realm of high-def). We think that's a good way to accurately record the quality, and also give you an idea of how the standard DVD and HD-DVD video compare. Audio is also going to be graded on a 1-20 scale (1-10 corresponding to preexisting audio formats like Dolby Digital and DTS, and 11-20 covering the new Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD and high resolution Linear PCM). The film and extras will continue to be scored with A thru F letter grades. We'll also try to note whether all the extras from the previous DVD edition have been carried over to the new discs. We'll see how it goes.

In terms of the hardware, the performance of the Toshiba HD-A1 continues to be generally solid, although there are a couple of issues of concern. As I mentioned on Tuesday, the delay time in booting up the machine (over a minute) and booting up software (about 45 seconds) is almost intolerable, particularly when you're trying to do a lot of comparing (and thus swapping) of discs in the machine. I've also had a situation where, about once or twice per film when watching HD movies, the video stutters and freezes for a few moments. Then when it continues, the audio and video aren't entirely in sync. It's impossible to get the error to duplicate in the same position in the software, so this is clearly a hardware issue - hopefully something that can and will be corrected in a firmware upgrade soon.

In terms of the software itself, you'll be very happy to know that all three discs - Universal's Serenity and Warner's The Last Samurai and The Phantom of the Opera - allow you to view the video in full 1080i resolution via standard analog component outputs. It will be interesting to see if Warner continues to allow this on new, first-run films on HD-DVD in the future.

All in all, I continue to be very impressed with the video and audio quality of these first three HD-DVD releases. I will say, however, that I'm not absolutely blown away by it. The discs look and sound truly fantastic, no doubt, and the video/audiophiles among you are going to drool when you experience it... but I expected all that. And it's not so much better than existing DVD that you find yourself somehow enjoying the movies that much more. It's not anywhere close to the difference upgrading to standard DVD made over VHS and laserdisc, for example. And I wonder how much your average consumer is going to care.

By way of example, I was watching The Last Samurai on Tuesday night, when my wife Sarah came home from work. Sarah, as some of you know, is the business end of The Bits - she handles all of the contests, promotions and advertising. While she's not as into the technology as the rest of us are here around here, she's pretty savvy when it comes to this stuff. Anyway, she walked into the home theater and sat down to soak in the picture and sound for a bit. Then, after a few minutes of watching, she turned to me and said, "So this is HD-DVD?"

"Yeah."

"It looks good and all, but I don't know... I guess I don't see what the big deal is."

"Well... it looks more like film. More like it should."

"Yeah, but doesn't regular DVD look like film too?"

"Sure, but not as much as this does."

"Well... I don't know. I guess I just don't see what the big deal is. I could live without it."

Then she walked out and went about her business. I thought about what she said for a good long while, as I continued to watch the movie... and I finally had to come to the conclusion that she's absolutely right.

Nothing like a nice reality check from your wife to put things in perspective. Knew I married her for a reason.

Now... before you get all outraged (I can almost hear some of you scoffing: "Yeah, he must not be watching it on good equipment..." and believe me, I've already had several readers ask what kind of equipment I have since I started talking about my experience with HD-DVD), know that my home theater consists of the following: a Panasonic PT-L500U LCD front video projector driven via an HDMI/DVI adapted connection from the Toshiba HD-A1 (or my usual Pioneer Elite DV-59AVi DVD player) and displayed on a 110-inch High-Contrast Cinema Perf Da-Lite projection screen. My audio system begins with a Denon AVR-5800 receiver, and ends with a Monitor Audio Silver Series 7-speaker configuration capped by an SVS PB12-Ultra/2 subwoofer that's bigger than the engine in my frickin' car (and a special thanks out to all the fine folks at Projector Point, Da-Lite, SVS Subs and Better Cables for all their help and assistance over the years - I heartily recommend each of them to all our readers here at The Bits). All of this equipment is properly connected, fully functional and tweaked and calibrated to within an inch of its life. As a rule, I'm not one of those guys who spouts their home theater specs like it's some kind of job resume, but just know that my system is well above average and that I'm getting superb quality out of it. Are there better, more expensive systems out there? Sure... but I guarantee there aren't that many people who could really appreciate the difference.

All of this goes to my point, which is this: HD-DVD looks and sounds fantastic... just as we all expected it would. I have little doubt that Blu-ray Disc will look and sound just as good too - not better than HD-DVD mind you, but every bit as good. But how good does the video and audio quality REALLY have to get for most people to enjoy a film in their living rooms? Standard DVD looks and sounds great just as it is - it was a MASSIVE improvement over VHS and laserdisc. And the better your equipment is (and keep in mind that most people still haven't upgraded to widescreen HDTVs, upconverting DVD players and true multi-channel surround sound), the average experience of DVD is going to keep improving. There's tremendous value to be found in existing DVD, just as it is, and that will continue to be the case for years to come. So how many people are REALLY going to care enough to upgrade to a new high-definition videodisc format? How about TWO high-definition videodisc formats? Not that many, I'll bet.

Maybe, eventually, if and when there's only ONE format so people can feel comfortable spending their money on it... they'll start to upgrade to either HD-DVD or Blu-ray Disc in moderate numbers. But for now, HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc will likely remain the domain of only the most enthusiastic early adopters. And the longer the format war drags on, the greater the chance that even those consumers who MIGHT be interested will just pass on both of them, in favor of HD offerings from their cable or satellite provider, downloading... or just plain old standard DVD (like most audio consumers passed on much higher quality DVD-Audio and SACD, in favor of far lower quality iTunes or MP3 downloads, satellite radio and current CDs). DVD became the success it is not just because it had better quality going for it over VHS and laserdisc, but because it had significantly better value and convenience going for it too. HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc offer the same basic value and convenience as regular DVD, so the only real improvement is the video and audio quality. And better quality isn't always enough to separate people from their cash.

I'm certainly not trying to be a pessimist, just realistic. As cool as they are, I'm afraid I don't see HD-DVD or Blu-ray Disc becoming even half as successful as current DVD... and that's BEST case, if one of them quickly stands out as the clear and obvious choice to consumers (something I fear that isn't going to happen anytime soon). Time will tell.

Anyway, enough said for now. Watch for those first three HD-DVD reviews later today or tomorrow.

Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 4/19/06 - 3 PM PDT)

Okay... some more HD-DVD news today. The Bits has learned that Paramount is close to announcing its first wave of releases on the format. Expected in the first batch are U2: Rattle and Hum (which would be the format's first ever music release), Four Brothers and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. The tentatively expected street date is 5/30, but when contacted for confirmation this afternoon, a studio representative told us that the date wasn't yet finalized. We expect to have official details soon. We've updated the High-Def Release List with this tentative news accordingly (as the information on specific titles comes directly from the studio). Meanwhile, here's the cover artwork...

U2: Rattle and Hum (HD-DVD)Four Brothers (HD-DVD)Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (HD-DVD)

Also this afternoon, there are a couple of new stories at Video Business and Home Media Retailing on yesterday's debut of HD-DVD hardware and software. There's little new information, however, other than word from Universal that The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift is likely to be the studio's first day and date HD-DVD release later this year.

We'll have more on HD-DVD tomorrow, so stay tuned...

(EARLY UPDATE - 4/19/06 - 12:30 PM PDT)

Afternoon, everyone!

We've got more HD-DVD coverage coming later today, but before we post that we need to get some good old fashioned standard DVD news out of the way. Here goes...

Sony has officially announced the 6/27 DVD release of Cache (Hidden), Candy Stripers, The Hunt for Eagle One: Crash Point, Yellowbeard, Private Resort, a Fortunes of Captain Blood/Captain Pirate double feature and a The Boy & the Pirates/Crystalstone double feature. By the way, Sony's Why We Fight, which had previously been announced for release on 6/20, will now be released on 6/27 too.

New Line has announced the 7/11 release of Jason Ensler's Grilled.

Universal has set Amazing Stories: The Complete First Season for release on 7/18 (SRP $49.98).

Disney has officially set Eight Below for release on 6/20, on both DVD and UMD. Also on the way from the studio is The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, Volume 1 (7/18), That's So Raven, Volume 4 (also 7/18), Leroy & Stitch (6/27) and Cow Belles (also 6/27).

Criterion has announced the July DVD release of Edward Yang's Yi Yi (Cat #339) and Barbet Schroeder's Koko: A Talking Gorilla documentary (#340).

Finally, Genius Products and The Weinstein Company have changed the street date for The Libertine from 6/27 to 7/4. Just FYI.

By the way, we've updated the UMD Movie Release List with that Eight Below news.

Now then... here at The Bits, we're pleased today to bring you a new Bottom Shelf column from our own Adam Jahnke, in which he takes a look at a few fine new Italian cinema DVD releases from indie NoShame Films. Included are reviews of The Luciano Ercoli Death Box Set (including Death Walks on High Heels and Death Walks at Midnight), Uno Bianca, Double Game and The Emilio Miraglia Killer Queen Box Set (which includes both The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave and The Red Queen Kills 7 Times, along with a Red Queen action figure).

We've kicked off a VERY cool new Contest here at The Bits today as well, giving you the chance to take home one of 10 copies of Criterion's The Complete Mr. Arkadin. This in addition to the contests already running. Entries will be accepted until Noon (Pacific) on 4/30 for this new one. Good luck!

Also today, Matt's back from his vacation over at MusicTAP with all the latest music release news. He's even kicked off a very cool Team in Training charity raffle to benefit leukemia research, complete with some very cool prizes, including a band-signed copy of the Rush: R30 DVD and more. Do check it out.

Here's more new upcoming DVD cover art: Sony's Why We Fight (6/27), Fox's Night Watch (also 6/20) and Universal's Amazing Stories: The Complete First Season...

Why We FightNight WatchAmazing Stories: The Complete First Season

Back with more later. Stay tuned...

(LATE UPDATE - 4/18/06 - 2:30 PM PDT)

Okay... a word of advice to all your folks out there who might have picked up HD-DVD players and software today. The audio levels on Warner's first two releases on the format, The Last Samurai and Phantom of the Opera, are mastered on the discs are a substantially lower level than the audio on Universal's Serenity. We're talking well below reference level, on all audio options. Why this was done by Warner is a mystery to us, but beware that if you start with one of the Warner discs and adjust your system volume to a normal listening level, and then switch to Serenity, you run the potential risk of damaging your speakers. More on this tomorrow.

(EARLY UPDATE - 4/18/06 - 12:30 PM PDT)

Well, here we are on the first day of class with HD-DVD... and Toshiba has announced that initial sales of their HD-A1 HD-DVD players are strong (click here and here for more on that). In fact, many stores carrying the hardware sold out this weekend. I drove over to a local Best Buy store here in Orange County this morning, and sure enough... there were a few diehards waiting to throw down their money at 10 AM.

As luck would have it, I managed to secure a loaner HD-A1 to use this week, while we wait for Toshiba to ship us official review hardware. I've also got three pieces of review software... Warner's The Last Samurai and The Phantom of the Opera, and Universal's Serenity (Warner's Million Dollar Baby is due later this week - it's apparently slightly delayed and is not in stores yet). What I'm going to do now is just give you some initial thoughts. Rest assured, I'll be posting more detailed reviews later this week.

First, the player. The construction of Toshiba's HD-A1 is fairly solid - not as good as my Pioneer Elite DV-59AVi DVD player, for example, but still better than most other entry level players. Setup is very easy and intuitive. I've had trouble with other DVD players in the past - I'm using HDMI to drive a native 1080 LCD video projector, and typically most upscaling DVD players need you to go into the setup menu to activate the HDMI output and upscaling. The HD-A1, however, recognized the HDMI connection right out of the box - there was no need to hook it up to a regular display via component cables and go into the menu screen to turn on the HDMI. The setup menus themselves are very simple and easy to use - very few settings, if any, needed to be changed in order to start viewing the discs.

The player does have a couple of big downsides right off the bat, however. The first is that the remote is absolutely awful. Just really a mess. It's basically the same as the one that's going to be included in the more expensive HD-XA1, except that it's not backlit. BIG mistake. The button labels are impossible to read in the dark, and few of the controls on the remote are intuitively laid out. At least on the cheaper unit, they could have labeled the remote in brighter paint or something. It's a disaster.

The other major downside is the time it takes the player to get into operating mode. When you first turn on the player itself, it takes a full minute to boot up into a usable configuration. You can't even open the disc tray during that time. Very irritating. Once it's ready to go, however, and you insert a disc, it takes about another 30 seconds to boot up the software. Again, very irritating. Still, it's worth noting that this is the kind of thing that's only going to get better as newer firmware becomes available, and as second and third generations of hardware hit the market.

Speaking of firmware, the player is designed so that you can connect it to the Net via a standard broadband LAN port, which will allow you to make fast and easy firmware upgrades to the hardware... and I suspect there's going to be a lot of them needed to add full interactivity and functionality.

In terms of backwards compatibility, the player seems to handle existing DVDs and CDs well. Its upconversion of standard definition DVD video is quite good, but still not quite as good as my Pioneer DV-59AVi, at least on first impression. I haven't really had the time to test and compare this in any kind of depth, however, so don't take that as gospel. I'll let you know more when I do.

Now for the software. Universal's Serenity is basically a port of the existing DVD release, simply with the film in high-definition video and Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 audio. No offense to Joss Whedon fans, but I do sorely wish the first title I'd watched on HD-DVD was something other than this film. Still, the picture quality is absolutely spectacular - vibrant color, fantastic contrast and VERY few compression or processing artifacts (and if you watch a lot of broadcast HD video, you've no doubt seen a lot of those). It's just utterly clean and clear without being too crisp or edgy - a very natural looking and extremely pleasing image. I knew it was going to be impressive, but I'm still surprised at the sheer improvement over regular DVD, at least when viewed in a very large projection format. You notice so much more of the characteristics of the actual film medium rather than any kind of video aspects, which is as it should be. Warner's The Last Samurai is equally impressive in terms of video, though I haven't watched Phantom of the Opera yet (again, not a title I would have chosen to release first on HD-DVD, but what the hell).

The Dolby Digital Plus audio quality on these discs is also stellar, though again I have yet to Phantom of the Opera (which has Dolby TrueHD). The Plus audio is lovely - easily on par with the best DTS tracks I've listened to. In terms of the overall audio quality and experience, you wonder just how much better Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD could possibly sound... and how most people are going to possibly be able to appreciate the difference. I'll have more on this tomorrow, after I've had the time to check out the 2.0 TrueHD the Tosh player will allow on Phantom.

It's worth noting that, like current DVD discs, Serenity has a film-themed root menu. Hitting the 'menu' button on your remote takes you back out to that root menu where you can access all the features and options. Warner's discs, however, do NOT have any kind of root menu. When you start playing them, they simply go right into the movie. Hitting the 'menu' button brings up a menu overlay while the movie continues to play, from which you can select all of the various features via pop-up/sliding menus. It's very similar to how the start/program bar works in Windows XP, except that the look of the bar is themed to the film itself. I do, however, wish the discs had a main menu. Maybe it's just that I've gotten used to the way standard DVD works, but not to be able to pop out to a main menu seems... wrong somehow. Some combination of the way Universal's menus work, and the new menu overlay, would seem to be optimal. The extras I've seen so far are all in standard definition (and they're not anamorphic widescreen either), but I've only really dug through Serenity so far. I will tell you, however, that it's jarring to see the difference in quality going from well-compressed HD video to less well-compressed standard definition video.

One other irritating thing I've discovered about the hardware when playing the discs, is that when you change audio tracks on the fly, there's no on-screen graphic that notes what language you're changing to. So you can't tell what language you're in until someone starts speaking. The 'display' button does bring up a nice read-out of the audio format you're listening to, and what the particular codec and resolution of the video is, but there's still no language indication.

I should also tell you that Warner's discs boot into a little promo video for the format, that explains how the discs work (how to use the menu overlay, etc). Thankfully, you can skip past it. Warner's discs also include a promotional flyer touting some 50 titles that are coming for Summer 2006 to the format from the studio, including The Matrix, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Full Metal Jacket, The Perfect Storm, The Shawshank Redemption, Batman Begins, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Troy and The Dukes of Hazzard: Unrated.

Anyway, those are just my initial impressions. Overall, I would say that this is a pretty solid start for HD-DVD. I've experienced nothing so far that would, in theory, cause me to warn early adopters away from the format (other than what I've already said recently about the wisdom of waiting given the format war). And it's worth noting that even those things that I think are a little rough, less than fully functional and perhaps non-optimal about my HD-DVD experience so far, are all the same kinds of things I experienced in the very first DVD players and software way back in March of 1997. The picture and sound quality, as it stands, now is excellent and it's only going to get better. Of course, I expected no less from the HD-DVD launch... and I expect no less from Blu-ray Disc when it arrives in May/June.

I'm going to take the rest of the day to really soak all this in and try to process my thoughts more, so I'll have more to say about it tomorrow. I'll work on getting full reviews of the software posted over the next couple of days as well.

Stay tuned...


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