Sunday, March 18, 2007

Format Wars

I've recently come to the conclusion that a feeling I had about the latest entertainment technology based war between formats (HD-DVD Vs. BluRay) was changing. Oh, how a change of feelings bothers me. So sure I was of my 'rightness' only a year ago, that now, coming to a new conclusion is frustrating, and annoying. But it has come to be, that I must change the way I feel. I just can't escape it, kind of like my lambasting of The Killers some 2 years ago. I now...kind of like The Killers. I know, I'm horrible.
For those who know me, and have worked with me since the first talk of HD-DVD and BluRay DVD's started bouncing about, I found it laughable. It immediately brought thoughts of Sony Mini-Discs and Digital Audio CD's. I mean that as, those were two blips on the radar of technological goodies for all us consumers to decide to buy into and subsequently re-buy our old collection of CD's for 'convenience' or 'quality' depending on which one you sunk your hard earned cash into. Those blips lasted a mili-second and never showed up again. I am glad our consumer minds didn't fall into that trap. We all saw we didn't need them, and they bottomed out quickly, never to return...unless you consider the Ipod the evolution of Mini-Disc...perhaps for another blog...
Though I also considered this, what were the previous 'Format Wars'? Well, they were VHS vs. DVD, and Cassette Tape Vs. CD. Those weren't so much wars, as they were 'squash' matches. We're talking an old fashioned jobber against Hulk Hogan. Though it did take DVD's a little longer to catch on due to some folks holding true to their VHS roots, it soon became clear that DVD's weren't just a lame attempt at getting consumers to spend money on movies they already had, they were just a superior product and looked and sounded awesome! I bought my first DVD's at the Carousel Mall in Syracuse, NY with the ol' Crazy Train. What did I buy that day? The Game(which I had never seen before, and marked the first time I ever bought a movie without seeing first) and 'LA Confidential' one of my favorite movies of all time. What did I use to buy them? A credit card.
Yes, DVD's best friend...the college freshman who just got their first credit card and were armed with a brand new PC with a DVD player built in. Absofuckinglutely brilliant.
And not just me, everybody in the dorms were doing the same thing. 'Hey, I just got Starship Troopers, come on in!' and 'Holy shit, have you seen The Matrix? AWESOME!' It was pandemonium, Jess!
They came out faster than VHS did, they were cheaper than VHS when they first hit the shelves, they were durable, they were easy to store and transport and mail(Netflix started soon after this too) and they looked and sounded great. Soon, DVDs were clearly here to stay, and VHS was no longer needed. And we all didn't care about rebuying stuff we had on tape, it was BETTER now.
CD's were the same story, no chance for cassette tapes to survive...ever had to untangle a CD out of your stereo? If you have, please tell me that story, it's probably a worthwile tale. The quality and convenience was clear, and prices were affordable for everybody to enjoy.
Those 'wars' were just evolution really.
This new war though, I thought was a lost cause. I said earlier I found it laughable. My thoughts were this: Everybody already did the new DVD dance starting in 1997 and 1998. That time is was the logical next step in home theater entertainment. We liked it, and bought it, and made it huge. People started their 'collections' and 'libraries', it wasn't just a casual thing. It was a 'It's Tuesday, I'm going to Best Buy' thing. Or a 'Amazon is having a kickass sale' thing. So here we are, 8 years later, and a new type of DVD format is coming out? Oh, I'm sorry, 2 new DVD formats are coming out?!?! WTF?
So, these years of building a library, marvelling at how much better the remastered editions of all these great movies and now TV shows look and sound, and you're telling me a new format is coming out, that is supposedly better? Puh-lease. Laughable. Not laughable in that they could look and sound even better, but just that the studios and retail chains would actually think anyone in their right mind would want to spend first hundreds of dollars on one or possibly 2 new DVD players AND THEN spend more money rebuying some, if not all of the DVDs they already owned and then someday soon be forced to buy any new DVD's under the new format(assuming standards DVD's get phased out naturally like VHS).
Yeah right, I thought. No way. No-one's going to give a shit, we're all too jaded and can see right through this. There's no way the quality could be that much better to make me want to spend all that money.
Yeah, me? I was wrong.
We have both formats set up here at the office, and I even have an HD-DVD player at the apartment(that's a tale for another blog as it doesn't work very well at the moment).
The quality difference is amazing, especially on BluRay dics. There really is a difference!
I can't explain it really as I'm not a wiz when it comes to the specs of the machines, or speed at which they spin the disc and read the data, but with my own two eyes, I can see the difference. The HD-DVD movies, and BluRay movies look and sound fantastic. There's no way around it. I, sadly, know that there will be some of my favorite movies that I will want to own in these formats. There in lies the other problem...not every movie will be on both formats. To this day, I think Superman Returns is the only movie released on both formats to far. THAT is a major league bitchslap to us consumers that I...I...well, I would normally break into a tirade, complete with cursing at how fucked up that is and how it's solely based on numbers being crunched by big wig mother fuckers who know they're going to make a shit ton of money off of all us consumer losers who have to spend money on their entertaining crap. But I won't do that this time. I pretty much have resinged myself to one day owning both formats, here's what gives me that idea and what actually prompted this blog.
Last weekend I got a call from a friend of mine who said 'You know who's gonna win this HD Vs. BluRay war? HD-DVD will because they got Porn movies and we all know that business is here to stay.' True. I added 'But BluRay will have Disney films.' An equally powerful mainstay in the world of entertainment, albeit one for adults(mostly), and one for children(mostly). So I see this scenario. As times passes, we all know the prices will go down on both sets of new players, and they will get smaller and easier to have one in every room with a TV(which is also an ever growing number per household). Size wise, if you haven't seen them, the HD-DVD players are as big and heavy as an 80's first generation VCR...they are clunky bitches. That will change and life will be merry. So in this world of dual formats, the kiddies will have their 'Disney's Robin Hood' playing for the 400th time in a row as they curl up to sleep in their room now equipped with a TV, laptop, Tivo and BluRay PS6. Meanwhile, Mommy and Daddy pop in the latest Jenna Jameson so pops can get the proper motivation to make another 'Little Consumer' with the Missus'.
Somewhat of a narrow view, but you catch my drift. In the last year, I have gone from 'neither will win, they both will fail' to 'they are both going to win, and I'm going to help them do it.'
Working in the industry I do, I see where all this is going. Everyobdy is moving towards a bigger and better house with bigger and better gadgets(and I realize that some of this has to do with living in L.A., somehow I want to believe that back on Long Island, it's not quite as extreme as it is out here, but I feel even if that's true, it's only a matter of time.) HD-DVD and BluRay are better enough quality that they will succeed, and I will be buying Lewbowski, LA Confidential, Shawshank, Transformers: The Movie, Chinatown, and all the rest on whatever format they end up coming out on. I wonder which one will get WWE DVD's...