The issue of player compatibility occasionally rears its ugly little head even to this day. And although it puts producers in an awkward position as messengers with disappointing news, in virtually all cases the blunt truth is -- it's the Player.
Sorry, but that's the way it is. The problem has been with us since the beginning of the format. Early adopters may remember microscopic disclaimers on many titles similar to those appearing on CDs in the mid 80s. There are no fewer than 7 DVD variations in North America (NTSC). For now, let's ignore the current battle-royal* [see below] of new High Definition discs (Blu-ray vs. HD DVD). Multiply that by other world systems (PAL, SECAM, etc.) and dozens of machine & disc manufacturers, and you have the potential for a great deal of aggravation.
Back in the Old Days (2000) when we first started offering delivery on disc, our advice to people was, "Stick with the Big Three - Pioneer, Sony and Panasonic." Early players were costly and the leaders were the most careful in releasing machines with full functionality and the highest quality components. Today, that's not necessarily the case. There are some bargain-basement (under $50) models that out-perform the mega-brands.
The production community has known about the headaches for years. An excellent early report headlined on the cover of the July 2002 issue of DV magazine as, "Can Your Clients Play Your DVDs?" ("DVD Compatibility Test" by Ralph LaBarge, p.20 - archived here)
All we can do as professionals is maintain our quality standards, stay up-to-date with the technology and educate our customers. Every disc we deliver is guaranteed. If you encounter a problem with a DVD, please try the following:
If you cannot duplicate the problem precisely every time, or if you have ever been able to play that scene successfully, chances are -- it's the Player.
Kindly return the DVD and we will send you a VHS tape, while they last.
If you are curious to learn more about the technical aspects behind this Marvel of Engineering and Source of Irritation, simply do a web search for "DVD Compatibility".
©2006 Montiel Video Productions
"The Envelope, Please."
At the beginning of 2008, Warner Bros, and their sister company New Line Cinema, announced that they will become Blu-ray exclusive by mid year. That gives the High Definition format nearly an 80% share of Hollywood content for the US home video market.
Nearly overnight, HD DVD equipment prices began to plummet. Major studio holdouts to that format are Universal and Paramount/DreamWorks. Oddly, in mid 2007, Paramount/DreamWorks had pulled their support of Blu-ray in favor of HD DVD. When contract renewals are due later in 2008, it is likely that these studios will rejoin the Blu-ray camp.
In 2007, Blu-ray titles outsold HD DVD by 2:1. Target Corporation sells only Blu-ray players in-store. Home Theater Specialists of America has endorsed Blu-ray as their format of choice, and Best Buy is recommending Blu-ray to its customer base.
In the rental industry, Blu-ray is now the exclusive format with Blockbuster and Netflix.
We have favored Blu-ray from the start, due mainly to its greater data capacity (50 GB vs. 30 GB), 1080p capability and higher transfer rate (54Mbit/sec vs. 30Mbit/sec).
Is the war over? Not quite yet. Prices for Blu-ray and a handful of Combo players are still relatively expensive. Once they fall through the $200 price point, however, watch for the victory flag to fly for consumers.
©2008 Montiel Video Productions
"And the Winner is..."
It crumbled quickly. About a week ago we published the article above, "The Envelope, Please." It was intended to be just a progress report. Within 2 days, Wal-Mart announced its exclusive support for Blu-ray. Yesterday afternoon (19 Feb), Toshiba surrendered and withdrew the format. Within hours, Universal Studios jumped onboard the Blu-ray train. Guess you could say it's over. Wish I had taken long odds.
So now you know the story. Click any of the links if you'd like more information. While I wait for prices to ease down to reasonable, I will return to more mundane matters.
©2008 Montiel Video Productions