The big news today, is that with the CEA DVD player sales numbers
reported in the last week of February (215,732 shipped), the DVD format
has officially crossed 6 million players (6,194,852 to be exact)! We've
got all the details on our main
DVD Player Sales page (the chart above
has also been updated).
Before I continue with the usual DVD news of the day, I wanted to let
you all know about a very special opportunity that's open to those of
you who want to break into screenwriting. A good friend of mine (by the
name of Frank Bennett Gonzalez) works at ABC Television, and administers
a special fellowship program there for up and coming young writers. The
program is launching a new drive for interested applicants, and knowing
that many of our readers may be interested in working in film and
television themselves, I extended an offer to Frank to mention his
program here. I've known Frank for many years, having worked with him on
projects in the past, and he's got what I think could be a really good
opportunity for some of you out there. So here's Frank to tell you all
"Thanks, Bill. For the 11th year, the Walt Disney Studios and ABC
Television is offering fellowships in the feature film and television
writing areas. We are looking for up to 8 writers to work full-time
developing their craft with the Walt Disney Studios/ABC Television
Network. No previous experience is necessary, however writing samples
are required. A $33,000 salary will be provided (to those chosen) for
one year, tentatively scheduled to begin in January of 2001. For
complete information, check
out our website. So if you or a friend are interested in becoming
a writer, please consider this prestigious program. Good luck!"
Be sure to check our the program's website if you're interested - you
can download all the forms you need to apply.
Now then... I've finally recovered from the 18-hour days needed to get
that anamorphic guide done. Whew! Thanks to everyone who has e-mailed us
saying that it's helped them understand the subject better - that's what
it's all about. We even (I think) made most of the nitpickers happy,
although based on some of their recommendations, we've made minor
changes to the text (an added comment here and there, and we replaced
the Apollo 13 image with one from
The Thin Red Line - we'd been
using it to show a scope film, but it was actually shot Super 35). Other
than that, we're pleased to say that the Guide
is a success.
Todd, Frank and Brad are all working on more reviews (as am I), but
thanks for being patient with us while I spent most of my time getting
the anamorphic feature finished - it was a hectic couple of days!
Frank and I did take the time to drop on by Dave's Video this weekend
for their Studio Day 2000. There was a packed house, and it was a great
time. But there wasn't a whole lot of new information about upcoming
titles conveyed. I mean, a lot were discussed, but most of the titles
we've mentioned in recent weeks in
Mill, and there was very little truly new information. I was
excited to learn a few new things however, which I'll mention here.
First of all, Toy Story and Toy
Story 2 are both currently in production. No dates have been
set for their release, but the more recent of the two could be out this
summer, with the original possibly coming out for the holidays. Here's
the good news: both will be released in dual editions - a standard
edition and a hefty 2-disc collector's edition (a la A
Bug's Life and Tarzan).
Fox has got a nifty Planet of the Apes
boxed set coming out late in 2000, featuring all of the films and a disc
of extras (it's actually been done since last year). New Line's DVD
Platinum Editions of Seven and
Boogie Nights are floating at the
moment, but should be out by the summer. Magnolia
is also on the way. MGM is prepping When
Harry Met Sally for next year. And Columbia TriStar's working
on special editions of Glory and
Legends of the Fall, as well as an
anamorphic widescreen Fly Away Home.
They've also got a Remains of the Day
DVD coming, which will include a brand new interview with Christopher
Reeve. A DVD of Girl, Interrupted
is expected from them on June 6th. And here's one that got me happy -
they're also working on Fail Safe
for DVD. DreamWorks expects to release some 10-12 titles this year, with
awesome DVD editions of Gladiator,
The Road to El Dorado and Chicken
Run high on the list.
The crowd (which also included the delegation from the
Theater Forum) was treated to sneak peeks at Columbia
TriStar's Stuart Little: CE (which
looks great) and Fox's The Abyss: SE
(we'll have OUR review of this awesome disc up tomorrow). Those are the
highlights. If you'd like to read more about Studio Day, I recommend you
Bracke's good report on the event over at DVD File.
A quick update - Todd's gotten all of the reviewer submissions we need,
and he's in the process of going through them all now. Thanks to
everyone who sent in review samples. Hopefully, you'll be reading
reviews from some new "voices" around here soon...
Entertainment's updated their
News page with lots of cool upcoming Image-exclusive DVD titles.
Among those mentioned are Endless Summer,
Gold Rush, Peter
Frampton: Live in Detroit (in anamorphic widescreen), Popeye
cartoons, more Twilight Zone
episodes and Stormchasers: IMAX
(DD & DTS).
Okay - see you all back here tomorrow. And to those of you who live in
California (and the other Super Tuesday Primary states)... don't forget
(LATE UPDATE - 3/6/00 - 6 PM PST)
This is just a quick update to let you know that Sarah's just posted
in the News Trivia Contest - the first of 2 contests
we'll run this month. The goal is to guess the identity of 7 people who
have recently been in the news, by looking at only their noses! The
contest will run until Friday, March 10th at 5 PM PST, and the winner
will be announced that evening. The winner will take home any 3 DVDs of
their choice (up to $39.95 each) thanks to
So get those entries in and good luck!
(EARLY UPDATE - 3/6/00 - 2 PM PST)
It's here at last!
Ultimate Guide to Anamorphic Widescreen DVD is now complete
and ready for you to take out for a spin! It sure took long enough, but
you will now be able to learn everything you ever wanted to know about
DVD's most important video quality improvement feature (and then some).
We'll give you the skinny on aspect ratios (and why widescreen really is
better). We'll show you how to tell if your disc is anamorphic (even
when the packaging doesn't say). And we'll even show you exactly how
anamorphic works on DVD. Better still, all of the above will be
illustrated by tons of actual screen shots taken from some of your
favorite films on DVD. I think you'll find it was well worth the wait,
and I'd love to hear what you think. And you'll always be able to find
the Guide by clicking on the
anamorphic widescreen logo at the top of any page of The
And it gets even better for those of you who have access to Video
Store magazine - a more concise and refined version of my
explanation of anamorphic on DVD will appear in next week's print and
online issues! It's will serve has a handy print reference for those of
you who run video or DVD-related businesses - just tear the article out,
and post it up in your store for both your employees and your customers
to reference. I'll remind you when the issue is out (and available
online). So be sure to look for Anamorphic
DVD: What it Means and Why You Should Care, coming soon to
Video Store magazine (and a video
store near you)!
All right - I'm exhausted! Enjoy the Guide,
and we'll be back tomorrow with lots more news and reviews.
We're doing some final tweaking on our anamorphic guide, so it will be
posted sometime over the weekend. Specifically, the aspect ratio
section's gotten a lot more substantial than planned, and has thus taken
a lot more time to finish. One of the things we're doing, is to take
snapshots of DVD video in both widescreen and full frame (from the same
film) so that you can see what a difference widescreen presentation
really makes. Getting all those snapshots prepared has taken a lot of
effort, but we think the results will be worth it. So thanks for your
patience, and stay tuned...
We've got a couple more reviews for you today, as well as a couple of
announcements and a preview of a special feature article we've got
coming for tomorrow.
First of all, our own Todd Doogan's taken a look at a couple of recent
anime (Japanese animation) titles on DVD, and deals with a trend in
anime called "hentai". Let's just say that kinky tentacles are
involved in at least one of the titles reviewed, and that these reviews
aren't for the kiddies. I'd best leave it at that. So you're over 18
(and not easily offended) can check out Todd's reviews of
Perfect Collection and
Also, we've updated our
Wars on DVD Campaign page to reflect the newest petition
signature totals. As of this afternoon, we had 22,074 signatures. We're
going to be forwarding them on to Lucas sometime soon, and we want to
get as many as possible before we do (click
here to sign). Keep 'em coming!
Now then - the announcements. As many of you know, Dave's
Video: The Laser Place is holding their Studio
Day 2000 event this Saturday at their Studio City, CA store.
They're spotlighting producers of supplementary information for DVD,
among them representatives from Two Dog Productions Inc, Three Legged
Cat Productions Inc, Image and Sound and Acoustic Visions, as well as
representatives that work full time for the various studios. DVD staff
members from the following studios are expected: Paramount, Sony DVD,
Buena Vista, Warner Home Video, Pioneer Entertainment, Trimark,
DreamWorks, New Line, MGM, Fox, Universal and Artisan. Manufacturer reps
should be on hand as well, including Panasonic, Monster Cable, Yamaha,
PSB, NAD, DTS and Jamo. Door prizes will also be given away. Frank and I
will be on hand, along with the folks from DVD
File, and a couple dozen of the staff and members of our
favorite DVD discussion group,
Home Theater Forum. The event will run from 10AM to
1PM. The store is located at 12144 Ventura Blvd. in Studio City, CA.
Hope to see you there!
New Line has announced the DVD release of their film Tumbleweeds,
starring Academy Award Best Actress nominee Janet McTeer, on April 11th.
The film will be rental only on VHS, and will only be available for sale
on DVD. SRP is $24.98.
Next, we've gotten word from our friends at Troma about some title
confusion, so here's Todd to straighten it all out:
"Contrary to Internet rumors floating around, rest assured that
Dario Argento's The Stendhal Syndrome
is not, we repeat NOT cancelled. It will street as planned on May 30th,
2000 and is currently in production as you read this. The disc will
include the standard Troma fare: lots of trailers, the TIT II, and the
Tour of Troma Studios. It will also include some bios on Dario and
daughter/star Asia Argento, three interviews with Dario (totaling over
30 minutes of footage), an interview with special effects supervisor
Sergio Stivaletti, and an interview with Italian horror legend Ruggero
Deodato. It should be a nice special edition, so keep your eyes peeled."
Speaking of DVD
File, it looks like Pete and his staff have finally launched
their site's new look, and it ain't too shabby. So if you get a chance,
drop on by and check it out.
And there's been some big changes over at
Express.com too... or should I say
name change has officially taken place - guess we'll have to change all
their logos here at the Bits! ;-)
Finally today, I've been working on something for a few weeks now - a
new feature article - and we're going to be posting it tomorrow. Many of
you remember my editorial on anamorphic widescreen,
Big Squeeze. Well, we have so many people asking us about
anamorphic to this day, that I've decided to write the Ultimate
Guide to Anamorphic Widescreen on DVD. Not only will it
include easy-to-understand explanations as to what anamorphic widescreen
is and how it works, but we'll also explain aspect ratios and why we
think that the widescreen presentation of movies is so important (as
opposed to pan & scan). Not only that, but we'll use a whole slew of
actual DVD screen shots to help illustrate things and make them easy to
understand. Our hope is that this new article becomes an indispensable
reference for ANYONE (not just you experts out there, but beginners too)
who wants to understand one of DVD's most important quality features.
And once it's posted, it will always be just a click away - it will be
forever linked from our Anamorphic Widescreen on DVD support logo in the
button bar at the top-left of every page of the Bits.
So be sure to check back tomorrow for that.
(LATE UPDATE - 3/1/00 - 2:30 PM PST)
Todd and Brad have taken a look at another couple of discs. Todd gave
Perfect (starring Jennifer Aniston) a look-see, while Brad's
got another retro review up today with, Paramount's
It's a surprisingly slow news day,
there's word (via Yahoo) that Village Roadshow and Warner
have teamed up to deliver lots of great DVD titles to you folks in
Australia. And for you fans of The Princess
Bride, we've got some good new information on MGM's DVD plans
for June and July in today's update of The
Rumor Mill (and we think you'll be happy about it). Also
included is an update of Buena Vista's April and May release line-ups,
which include more classic animation.
Oh, and thanks to everyone for enduring my rant about buying a computer
yesterday. After reading the dozens of e-mail I received last night, it
looks like lots of you have had problems with Tiger too. Buyer beware.
(EARLY UPDATE - 3/1/00 - 11:30 AM PST)
This is just a quick early update to let you all know that the
for February is now closed, and that the winner has been announced -
Joel Mack of Omaha, NE. Congratulations
Joel! We had some 1,138 entries this month, and we've got two more
contests coming in March, so there will be plenty of chances for the
rest of you to win. The
answers to this
month's puzzle have been posted, and we'll be back later with some
reviews and other news.
Happy Leap Year Day! For all those of you who celebrate a rare
once-in-every-4-years birthday today, may it be very special. I had a
teacher in high school who was 14 years old when he retired. ;-)
Well... the story I'm about to tell you has nothing to do with DVD. But
let me tell you, Todd and I have been through the ringer these last few
weeks. We've been trying to purchase a new computer, and we've had a
horrible experience, which I think might serve as a good buyer beware
tale for all of you.
As many of you know, Todd and I live on opposite sides of the country.
I'm at the Bits' home office in
Irvine, CA, while Todd mans the East Coast office of the Bits
in Atlanta, GA. And Todd's been without a computer for a couple of
weeks, so we've been trying to buy a new one for him. In anticipation of
all this, we went to a company called
to order a new PC way back in early January. I ordered straight from
their just arrived mail order catalog, and the computer was supposed to
take 5 to 7 days to arrive, right? So 7 days pass and no computer. I
call Tiger to see what's up, and it turns out that they've cancelled the
order because they've discontinued the model computer we ordered... all
without calling us to inform us of this fact! Okay... I'm upset but
figure it's an honest mistake. So I reorder a different model with one
of their phone sales people. I check back a few days later to make sure
things are going smoothly... and Tiger has no record of my 2nd order.
Now I'm getting pissed - it's like 3 weeks after we initially placed the
first order, and these people seem to have no clue. But the customer
service manager says, "We're very sorry sir, we'll get a computer
ordered for you..." And we place yet another order. Except now,
that order is going to take 5 to 7 WEEKS, instead of the 5 to 7 days I
was originally told. And when I call back the next day to check on that
order, it's been lost too!
Finally, we're able to get things straight - I'm so pissed that I can
barely even talk with Tiger (and they've stopped returning my calls),
but Todd is able to get a computer ordered... and it's overnighted to
him. But by overnighting it, Tiger doesn't bother to test the PC (gotta
love that quality control), and it arrives with a short on the
motherboard, causing it to crash repeatedly. So Todd's dealing with
their tech-support people, and of course, they say that it can't be the
motherboard at first. No... Todd has to spend like 12 hours on the phone
with Tiger over the course of about 4 days (most of it on hold), while
they have him reinstall Windows and the like. They tell him that it's
probably his video card - they've "been having a lot of complaints
about that particular video card" (so why the hell do they bother
to ship it?!) and they'll send him a much nice replacement overnight. So
the new video card arrives (after Todd is forced to pay a $100 deposit
for them to ship it), and Todd installs it. Doesn't help. So Todd has to
spend another 5 or 6 hours on hold with them, while Tiger finally
figures out that it's the motherboard as we originally said it was. They
promise him that they'll overnight a new, working PC to him (this is on
Thursday). So Friday arrives... no computer. It turns out that they
tried to charge him a $1000 deposit to send the new one (without
bothering to ask him), and so it didn't go out. Can you believe all
Monday arrives, and Todd and I are both ready to shove this computer
down someone's throat by now - this is almost 2 MONTHS after we
originally ordered the thing. So we tell Tiger to just forget the whole
thing - we're sending the damn piece of crap back and we just want a
refund. Their online support person says. "I'm sorry sir, we don't
accept returns - we'll be happy to send you a new computer, but we don't
give refunds." At this point, had Tiger been located here in
Irvine, I probably would have snapped, and you'd have been watching a
hostage stand-off on CNN that night. It takes tense calls to Tiger's
corporate offices (which the average customer never even reaches through
their 800 customer service number) get them to agree to a refund. And
here's the kicker - the next morning, I receive a call from a very
pleasant customer service manager who wants to help us with our problem
(and I think it's the same guy I talked to that first day). And when I
tell him to forget it, and that we're just returning the damn thing,
he's stunned and can't figure out how something like this could have
I know none of this has anything to do with DVD, except that the
computer we're trying to buy (and finally have through a local Atlanta
vendor) is so that Todd can work more efficiently on stuff for all of
you. We just REALLY needed to vent after all this. But the moral of the
story is... NEVER EVER purchase anything from
EVER. They are a customer service disaster. Todd and I have experienced
it first hand. And the story I've just told you? It's the SHORTENED
version, believe me.
Anyway, in order that we may regain our sanity, we're going to have a
light post today. We'll be back tomorrow with lots more reviews and the
like. Don't forget that today is the last day to enter the
for February. You have until 7 PM this evening (Pacific) tonight to get
your entries in for a chance to win that new DVD player. So what are you
We also wanted to mention some May 2000 DVDs from Paramount and
Columbia TriStar that were recently announced, in case you haven't
heard. Paramount's got the following DVDs set for May: Bringing
Out the Dead, G.I. Blues,
Blue Hawaii, King
Creole and Roustabout
(all 5/9) and Star Trek: The Original Series,
Volumes 11 & 12 (5/16). Columbia TriStar's officially
announced Dogma and Virtual
Sexuality for May 2nd. New Blood
and Hollywood Knights are
currently set for May 9th. And Neil Jordan's The
End of the Affair is due on May 16th.
You know how they say that it never rains in California? Well that's
mostly true... it ALMOST never rains here. But when it does, things here
get a little crazy. So I spent most of my weekend watching DVDs, and
writing reviews and some other special stories you'll be seeing around
these pages in the next week or so.
But Frankie and I did take some time on Sunday night to join Ron
Epstein, Parker Clack and about 30 or 40 members of
Home Theater Forum for an evening of good food and
conversation at the Hard Rock Cafe in Universal City. They've come here
for a week of studio tours and Hollywood sight-seeing (organized by
Ron), and the dinner last night was the kickoff for the festivities.
Among those who joined us were Peter Bracke and Cliff Stephenson from
Jeff McNeal from The
Big Picture, the legendary Robert (don't call him "Obi")
George, and lots more. As you can imagine, DVD was the talk of the
evening, and it was great fun meeting a number of people for the first
time that we've grown to consider friends (we've been chatting by phone
and e-mail for a 2 or 3 years in some cases!). The week will be capped
by a special Studio Day 2000 event this Saturday at Dave's Video, and
we'll be there to report on all the latest.
In the meantime, we've got a pair of new DVD reviews for you today.
Frank's given Artisan's new Stir
of Echoes a spin, and Brad's checked in with another classic
disc review - Disney's TRON.
We've also posted that
of the chat I did last Wednesday evening over at Etown.
And we've updated the
DVD player sales numbers again. By this time next month, the DVD
format in the U.S. will have cracked 6 million players shipped.
One last note this morning -
Entertainment has updated their
DVD News page again with more upcoming titles, including Being
John Malkovich (sweet!), The 10th
Kingdom, Felicia's Journey: SE,
The Lords of Flatbush, Flawless,
The Bachelor, Caddyshack,
Little Shop of Horrors: SE and
You know... it's no secret that we weren't very impressed by Warner's
Kubrick DVD Collection around here. In fact, we thought it was
a piece of trash, as did most experienced reviewers (and not just those
on the Net either). So it was with a nervously held breath that we took
a look at Warner's new DVD edition of Kubrick's final masterpiece, Eyes
Wide Shut. That sound you can't hear right now is our
collective gasp of surprise and delight (maybe we should post a .wav
file of it up on the site) - the disc looks and sounds wonderful. And
while it's not packed with extras, you get some really fascinating
interviews with Tom Crusie, Nicole Kidman and fellow director (and
Kubrick friend) Steven Spielberg. I can't tell you fully how happy we
are to see Warner make good on this disc. But our own Todd Doogan's
gonna try. Here's his review of
Wide Shut. It streets on March 7th, and if you haven't ordered
it yet, you should. Thanks Warner. Now how about doing us all a favor,
and remastering that Kubrick Collection.
We've also got reviews up today of Universal's
(as seen by Frank Ortiz) and a classic from the studio -
starring Robert Redford and a great ensemble cast (given a spin by Brad
We'll have that Etown chat
transcript up for you this weekend. Have a great one, and we'll be back
with a big post on Monday, including lots more reviews.
See you then...
There's some mighty big DVD news going down today folks, at least from
a title standpoint. Columbia TriStar has just officially informed us
that they'll be releasing a full-on collector's edition DVD version of
Men in Black on September 5th of
this year. It's a title that we've all been waiting for, and Steven
Spielberg has finally given Columbia the green light on it. Spielberg
fans will be in seventh heaven in time for the holidays - 4th Qtr 2000
is also when we expect Jaws and
Jurassic Park to arrive on DVD
(that's not official, but both titles are definitely in the works are
are expected in 2000). Now if we could just get Close
Last night's chat with Etown at
Yahoo went pretty well. I had fun
with it, and several of you have e-mailed me to say you found it
enjoyable too. I was only able to see myself and the moderator on my
screen, but I'm told the turnout was pretty solid. And little did I know
it, both Doogan and Frankie were there as well. Doogan was even
answering questions from readers in the chat room while I was handling
the ones that filtered through the moderator! Anyway, we'll have a full
transcript up tomorrow, and we'll probably be doing it again. So thanks
to everyone who participated.
Today's post got sidelined somewhat by taxes... ARGH!! What a pain!
Gotta tell you, that flat tax is sounding like a better idea all the
time. But we'll have several new disc reviews for you tomorrow from
Brad, Frankie and Doogan, and I'll be working on more over the weekend
too. Among the titles we'll be posting tomorrow will be Eyes
Wide Shut, which (I'm happy to report) is much better than
Warner's previous Kubrick DVD offerings.
So stay tuned...
Okay... as promised, we've got a quick rundown of the extras on those
James Bond Wave 2 DVDs. But first
a quick reminder: tonight I'll be doing a live chat on all things DVD
over at Yahoo, with John Falcone
The times are 8 PM Eastern and 5 PM Pacific. Click on over to this link:
and you'll be able to sign up for the chat (you have to be a Yahoo
member, which is free and takes just a few minutes to do). As we get
close to the chat time, you'll see the links to the actual chat area.
I'll be answering lots of your DVD questions, so I hope to see you
Now then, here are those Bond DVD
The World is Not Enough: Special Edition
Audio Commentary with the director, 2nd Audio Commentary with the
production designer, 2nd unit director and the composer, Documentary
The Making of The World is Not Enough,
The Secrets of 007 (featuring
alternate video options), Still Gallery, Music Video by Garbage,
Original Theatrical Trailer, Booklet
Dr. No: Special Edition
Audio Commentary with the director, cast and crew, Documentary Inside
Dr. No, Documentary Terence Young:
Bond Vivant, Still Gallery, Dr. No
Featurette, Original TV Ads, Radio Spots, Original Theatrical Trailers,
The Man with the Golden Gun: Special Edition
Audio Commentary with the director, cast and crew, Documentary Inside
The Man with the Golden Gun, Documentary Double-O
Stuntmen, Still Gallery, Original TV Ads, Radio Spots,
Original Theatrical Trailer, Booklet
Moonraker: Special Edition
Audio Commentary with the director, cast and crew, Documentary Inside
Moonraker, SPFX Documentary The
Men Behind the Mayhem, Still Gallery, Original Theatrical
On Her Majesty's Secret Service: Special
Audio Commentary with the director, cast and crew, Documentary Inside
On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Documentary Inside
Q's Laboratory, Above it All
Featurette, Still Gallery, Original TV Ads, Radio Spots, Original
Theatrical Trailer, Booklet
The Spy Who Loved Me: Special Edition
Audio Commentary with the director, cast and crew, Documentary Inside
The Spy Who Loved Me, Documentary Designing
Bond, Still Gallery, Original TV Ads, Radio Spots, Original
Theatrical Trailers, Booklet
Looks like Wave 2 is gonna be
just as good as Wave 1 was (read
our reviews here). I just wish that The
World is Not Enough was included in the boxed set, or that at
least there were room for it in the Wave 2
slipcase. Oh well...
Hope to see you tonight
(EVEN LATER UPDATE - 2/22/00 - 4 PM PST)
One last post for today - I thought you all might like a look at MGM's
upcoming James Bond Collection, Volume 2
on DVD (street date: May 16th). Here are the disc covers...
disc is packed with features (which we'll list disc by disc tomorrow)
and will SRP for $34.98 each (MAP is $26.95). And the new boxed set
will include all of the above titles except The
World is Not Enough, which will be available separately.
The box is priced at $149.98 SRP.
(LATE UPDATE - 2/22/00 - 3 PM PST)
There seems to be a lot of confusion about that Little
Shop of Horrors DVD, so we called up some well-placed folks
at Warner for the skinny. Now it seems - and this is official - that the
disc will NOT include the alternate ending in ANY form, color or B&W.
Warner is working to get us an official reason for this, and we'll bring
that to you as soon as we get the call. There is some thought that this
may be because of legal issues, or possible plans to re-release the film
theatrically with the alternate ending, but that's just speculation at
the moment. Sorry about the confusion earlier - we were wrong, and
there's so much information flying around on this, that even some of our
inside sources were confused.
In other news, you might be interested to know that Fox has registered
several interesting DVD-related domain names... and you can count on the
titles coming sometime in 2000:
Our guess is that the Cleopatra
disc is the 1963 Liz Taylor version. And since "apesdvd" is
generic, I'm guessing that we're talking about the whole Planet
of the Apes series. Thanks to Shawn for pointing that out to
(EARLY UPDATE - 2/22/00 - 4 AM PST)
Well, despite the rare rainfall here in Southern California (which the
local news calls "a major winter storm" - they've never
experienced a good Midwestern blizzard no doubt), President's Day was
uneventful here at the old Bits.
There wasn't much in the way of DVD news yesterday, which is good, since
your faithful editor spent the day watching and reviewing discs in lieu
of making an actual post. Doogan spent his weekend fighting the good
fight with his new PC... but that's another story (best told by him when
he calms down a bit). ;-)
It occurred to me that I haven't written a review in a few weeks or so,
and I figured I'd best get busy. So here, for your reading pleasure, is
my take on a pair of Frank Capra classics, recently arrived on DVD
thanks to the good folks at Columbia TriStar:
Smith Goes to Washington and
Horizon. Both are not to be missed. And I have to say that I'm
really digging this Columbia Classics series - it's nice to see so many
good older films hitting our favorite format.
Doogan, Frankie, Brad and I are all working on more reviews, which
you'll be seeing as the week progresses. In the meantime, there is one
bit of DVD news today worth checking out: "market analysts"
are suggesting that Sony's upcoming PlayStation 2 (which will be
DVD-ready) should spur the sagging market for the format in Japan. You
that story out at Yahoo. PlayStation 2 isn't scheduled to
debut in the States until the fall (but I still can't wait...!).
Finally, we've had a lot of readers e-mailing us about Warner's
upcoming re-release of their Little Shop of
Horrors: Special Edition. The disc WILL include the alternate
ending seen on the previously released disc in B&W. Only this time,
we'll get the color footage straight from the collection of producer
David Geffen. And you fans of Polygram's discontinued DVDs of Fargo
and Kalifornia will be happy to
know that both titles will be re-released by MGM this summer. Better
still, Fargo will finally get the
anamorphic widescreen transfer it deserves, as will MGM's upcoming The
Terminator: Special Edition. We say it's about damn time!
As promised, the Trivia
Contest for February is now on! This time around, the contest
theme is the Oscars. You'll have a chance to take home a brand new
Pioneer DV-525 DVD player and any 3 DVDs of your choice thanks to
The contest will end at 7 PM PST on Tuesday, February 29th - Leap Year
Day - and we'll announce the winner that night. So what are you waiting
Monday's will be a late afternoon post, but we've got a few things for
you to check out now. First of all, our friends at
posted an article about the lack of Episode I on disc and the
Star Wars on DVD Campaign. And speaking of Etown,
I'll be dropping by their site on Wednesday evening (8 PM EST) for a
live chat. Click on over to
page at Etown for the details, and then
drop on by Yahoo
on Wednesday night. Hope to see you there!
Entertainment has updated their
News page with details on a number of upcoming titles, such as
Columbia TriStar's Stuart Little: SE
(in dual anamorphic widescreen and P&S versions), Galaxy
Quest (from DreamWorks, distributed by Universal), Three
Kings: SE from Warner, and a slew of Buena Vista titles
including (but not limited to) Princess
Mononoke, The Aristocats,
The Fox and the Hound, Happy
Texas: SE, From Dusk Til Dawn: SE,
The Insider, Mystery
Alaska and Chasing Amy: SE
from Disney and Criterion (see below). Whew! There are a TON of good
titles listed, so don't miss it.
Force has an interview with Frank Oz, where we learn a little
more about the fate of the original Little
Shop of Horrors DVD (a re-release is on the way in May).
And finally, The
Criterion Collection is posting liner notes from their Chasing
Amy laserdisc, in anticipation of their release of the DVD
version. If you're a fan, it's worth a look.
See you Monday afternoon. Stay tuned...
(LATE UPDATE - 2/18/00 - 4 PM PST)
Review time - Todd's checked in again with a look at a pair of recent
Expectations (1998) and
Fine Day. Those Columbia reviews will be posted Monday, and
we've got a lot more on tap for next week.
FYI - we've updated the
DVD Player sales numbers to include the 54,508 sold in the
second week of February. We're up to 5,902,936 here in the States - look
for us to top 6 mil before the month is over.
We'll be posting the main Trivia Contest
for February this weekend. You'll have a chance to win a DVD player and
some more discs. Oscar will be the theme this time around, so be sure to
check back for your chance to win.
Have a great weekend, and stay tuned...!
(EARLY UPDATE - 2/18/00 - 8:45 AM PST)
Those reviews are on the way this afternoon, but first we wanted to
check in early with some upcoming DVD information that just came in -
confirmed. DreamWorks will release Galaxy
Quest on DVD on May 2nd, with an SRP of $26.99. The disc will
include a behind-the-scenes featurette (On
Location in Space), cast & crew bios, production notes,
the trailer and language tracks in English, French and... Thermian
(that's alien-speak - just FYI). Also on May 2nd, USA (formerly
Polygram) will deliver Being John Malkovich
day and date for $24.95.
(LATE UPDATE - 2/17/00 - 2 PM PST)
Okay... we've got 3 new reviews for you today. Todd's checked in with
his thoughts on Columbia TriStar's DVD edition of
Out with Britney Spears. No, I'm not kidding - we're all about
diverse programming around here. And Brad's taken a look at an older
title, with new relevance given that this is political primary season -
We'll have at least 3 more new reviews for you tomorrow, including some
more excellent new Columbia TriStar titles. Stay tuned!
(EARLY UPDATE - 2/17/00 - Noon PST)
Wow, have we ever gotten tremendous response to
Lucasfilm comments from yesterday. I must have had 800 messages
this morning, with people saying everything from "Their response is
completely bogus" to angry, barely-intelligible ranting. Several
people have even decided to return their VHS copies of the Star
Wars Trilogy to Mr. Lucas by mail, along with a
directly-worded letter of disapproval. All we can say is,
those signatures coming...
Now then - more on the Tarzan 5.0
issue from yesterday. We posted the editorial from our retired film
editor reader to make a point. He's not alone in his feelings on the
issue. But he's not necessarily correct either (you'll notice that we
also posted links to Dolby Labs articles which contradicted him). The
idea was to stimulate discussion. So today, we're posting a response to
the letter from our friend Jim Taylor, editor of the
I beg to differ with the anonymous comments about .1
channels on DVD. His letter reflects unfortunately common misconceptions
in the film production community.
As the anonymous retired film editor correctly pointed out, most
theaters have full-range speakers. They dont need separate
subwoofers since most of the speakers have a subwoofer built in. But
this does not mean that films dont have 5.1 audio tracks. As Dolby
Labs has pointed out over and over, apparently with little success, and
as explicitly stated in the links you provided to Dolby production
guidelines, LFE does not equal subwoofer.
The LFE channel is WAY overused today. Perhaps some readers are
familiar with the case of a certain famous movie released on laserdisc
with Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks in which the booming bass footsteps of
large dinosaurs were placed exclusively in the LFE channel. When
downmixed, the bass was discarded by the decoder, leaving wimpy
tiptoeing dinosaurs. Had the footsteps been left in the main 5 channels,
which are all full range, the bass effects would have come through
properly on all home systems.
Dolby Digital decoders deliberately ignore the LFE channel when
downmixing. This is because the typical stereo or 4-channel surround
system doesnt have a subwoofer. But this does not mean that the
LFE channel represent the subwoofer. Dolby Digital decoders all have
bass management, which directs low frequency sound (from all 6 channels)
to the subwoofer, if there is one. As this clearly implies, the LFE
channel should be reserved only for added emphasis to very low frequency
effects such as explosions and jets (which I dont believe occur
very often in the Tarzan movie).
Your anonymous readers comments that moving low-frequency audio
to the LFE channel makes the soundtrack better in the home environment
is incorrect (as illustrated by the tiptoeing dinosaurs). This mistaken
approach is what has caused so many complaints about the LFE channel
being omitted in downmixing. Nothing important in a film soundtrack,
including low-frequency audio, should ever be moved out of the main 5
channels. Isolating low-frequency audio in the LFE channel does not remove
the added burden from the center and main speakers, since the
built-in bass management already does this. Roger Dressler, Technical
Director for Dolby, has said that perhaps they should rename the LFE
channel to the explosions and special effects channel to
Its absolutely possible to mix all subwoofer sounds
in Dolby Digital 5.0. Such a mix will play the same in 5.1-channel home
theaters as in cinemas. The .1 channel is there only for an extra kick
that the audio engineer might decide should only appear in the subwoofer
of a full 5.1 audio system. Its quite possible that Disney decided
that the film did not need any exaggerated bass effects, and therefore
wisely left off the unneeded .1 channel."
Thanks, Jim. As you can tell, this is an issue that confuses even those
in the film production world. And it certainly confuses our readers.
We've had several ask why films like The
Wizard of Oz and The Little
Mermaid come out on DVD with 5.1 soundtracks, while a film
like Tarzan has only 5.0. Well,
now you (hopefully!) know. ;-)
We'll be back later with some reviews. Stay tuned...
(LATE UPDATE - 2/16/00 - 4 PM PST)
Lucasfilm has responded. Many of you have seen today's update of
Wars.com - Lucasfilm's official response to our Star Wars on
DVD Campaign. Lucasfilm allowed us to send a number of
questions regarding the DVD issue, and this comment is their response to
them. A number of our questions remain unanswered.
here to read our comments on the whole thing, along with their
statement and our original questions. We're pleased to say that
we're at least getting a response.
Peter Bracke of DVD File.com, our
partner in these efforts,
has a few things to say in response to the Lucasfilm statement.
You may want to read them as well.
(EARLY UPDATE - 2/16/00 - 2 PM PST)
There's been a lot of talk recently about all the problems with the
English Dolby Digital 5.0 soundtrack on Disney's Tarzan
DVD. For the record, there IS a problem, and it appears to be a problem
on all current copies. The nature of the problem, is that the front-left
channel has been duplicated in the left-rear channel as well, resulting
in a listening experience that is off-balance sounding at times. Some
people can't hear the difference, but experienced listeners are
distracted by the audio error. Both THX and Disney have acknowledged the
error, and word is that the discs are being repressed (the problem
should be corrected on the 2-disc Tarzan:
Collector's Edition DVD, expected April 18th). You can return
the disc with the receipt OR call Disney's Customer Hotline
(1-800-723-4763) for a replacement.
But we feel that there's another issue that needs to be addressed here,
which is Disney's claim that Dolby Digital 5.0 (and not 5.1) best
represents the film's theatrical audio. The following is an excerpt from
a letter one of our readers (a retired film editor) sent us on the
"Disney's claim that 5.0 best represents the film's theatrical
audio presentation is disingenuous. The problem is that NO theater has a
5.1 speaker system! So NONE of the DVDs we currently enjoy in Dolby
Digital 5.1 at home are being presented exactly as they were in the
theaters. Theaters don't have separate subwoofers - rather the speakers
they use are ALL full-range. Whatever the placement of speakers in a
given theater, their Dolby Digital surround processor sends a 5.0 signal
out to the speaker system. Each channel contains low frequency sound
because the speakers can handle it!
The 5.1 configuration is specifically designed for use in the home, to
best represent the theatrical experience in the average home listening
environment. Experienced audio mixers know that the average home theater
speaker isn't full-range. They use specially designed (and smaller)
center channel and surround speakers, which simply CAN'T handle low
frequency sound. Even most main speakers in homes aren't capable of
reproducing the deep bass on modern film soundtracks. So when mixing a
film soundtrack for presentation in the home, sound engineers create a
dedicated .1 channel in the mix that's used to drive a subwoofer. When a
DVD soundtrack's low frequency sound is directed to an active subwoofer,
the deep bass CAN be reproduced. It also removes the added burden from
the center and main speakers, resulting in a more natural and pleasant
soundfield. It in no way diminishes the integrity of the film's
original soundtrack - in fact, it actually represents that soundtrack
BETTER in the home environment!
Too often, when you see a 5.0 soundtrack on a DVD, it's just a result
of someone's laziness. When the sound engineer (probably inexperienced)
was mixing the audio for the DVD, it's likely that someone didn't bother
to provide the film soundtrack's original separate sound elements or
stems. Someone simply dropped off a mixed mag or - God forbid - even an
exhibition print (which contains the film's ENTIRE 5.0 mix on a single
track), and that was used to master the DVD's audio. Thus, you get a 5.0
mix. Heard on most home theater speaker systems, you get a
lifeless-sounding soundfield, with an unsatisfying lack of low frequency
sound. And all this because of someone's lack of effort or experience.
Consumers NEED TO KNOW that this is happening, and studios need to make
more of an effort. The bottom line is that 5.1 (and soon 6.1) sound
mixes are the ONLY way to go when presenting modern multi-channel film
sound in the home. It's the best way to accurately present the film
audio you heard in the theaters in your living room."
Thanks to our reader, who wished to remain anonymous, for his valuable
comments. For more information on this issue (and another perspective),
you might want to read
the Most of Audio Source Tracks for DVD - Some Guidelines from Dolby
Laboratories and this
file on LFE channels.
In other news, NetFlix.com
has launched a new element of their online rental program. Consumers can
now rent an unlimited number of DVDs from the service, for only $19.95
per month - and you'll incur no late fees, per-movie fees or shipping
charges. We think this is great... and it's about time too. It was the
only thing missing from their "marquee" program.
can read the press release here.
Speaking of press releases, we're proud to say that DreamWorks has
issued a release recognizing our
Awards. Here's the full text:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 10, 2000
DREAMWORKS HAILED AS "BEST DVD STUDIO" IN DIGITAL BITS' FIRST
ANNUAL BITSY AWARDS
Saving Private Ryan, The Prince Of Egypt, ANTZ And The Haunting DVD
Releases Awarded For Superior Content and Quality
GLENDALE, CA -- Continuing to reap accolades as a provider of quality
DVD entertainment, DreamWorks was lauded as the "Best DVD Studio"
by The Digital Bits (www.thedigitalbits.com) on the web site's first
annual Bitsy Awards. Designed to recognize outstanding achievement in
DVD video, audio, menus and bonus features, the renowned DVD-focused web
site also awarded top honors to DreamWorks' Saving Private Ryan, naming
the five-time Academy Award®-winning* film as "Best DVD Audio."
The Saving Private Ryan DVD, which continues to garner wide acclaim, was
recently ranked among Stereo Review's Sound & Vision magazine's top
five DVD releases of 1999 (December 1999). The much heralded The Prince
Of Egypt DVD was recommended in the "Best Overall DVD"
category, in recognition of the disc's array of bonus programming which
includes a full-length director's commentary, a multi-language
presentation of "When You Believe" and a behind-the-scenes
look at the animation process and state-of-the-art special effects.
The studio's first computer-animated feature film, ANTZ was recommended
as a top release in several categories including "Best DVD- Special
Edition" for the DVD's director's commentary and "Best
DVD-Video" in recognition of the film transfer, which delivers an
exceptional clarity and crispness. In addition, the heart-stopping
thriller, The Haunting, was also recommended in the "Best DVD-Audio"
category for delivering an "eerie sound experience."
Finally today, many of you have e-mailed me with this editorial from
Sean M. Dugan of InfoWorld.com -
DVD: The still-young age of digital video disks is coming to an
inevitable end. And you've asked me what I think of it. Well...
with all due respect to Sean, I think he's about as wrong as wrong can
be. Yes, DVD's CSS encryption has been broken. But CSS-2 and other new
encryption schemes are on the way. Worst comes to worst, you'll have to
have your DVD player's firmware upgraded (and that's worst case). But
DVD is the fastest growing segment of the home video and electronics
industry. Let me make this point clear - EVERY studio and industry
insider I've spoken with agrees with the following statement. With
nearly 6 million DVD players currently in the U.S. market (and with
another 12 million expected to ship by the end of 2000), DVD is most
certainly NOT going away. Enough said. What in the WORLD were you
We'll be back tomorrow with lots of reviews. Stay tuned...