10 ways DVD content creators pwn you

Have it ... their way. Here are some of the most pernicious bugbears built into your film collection...


Gone are the semi-good old days when you could wind through the arse-aches that issue from the marketing and legal departments of film companies when they finally permit you to watch major motion pictures in the comfort of your own home. All these apply (often with added bells and whistles) to Blu-ray…

10: Region controlThe public explanation for region coding on DVDs was that since movies have different release dates worldwide, their availability on DVD needs to be staggered and disabled in zones where that movie has not yet come out. In this age of multi-region DVD players and the increasing frequency of simultaneous release dates worldwide (to obviate the rapid distribution of pirated copies, particularly in region 5 – China), the remaining justification is revealed as the primary one: enforcing the price differentials in the wildly varying economies of different countries. Why should the denizens of rip-off Britain pay £3.50 for a legal DVD when they can potentially be gouged for three or four times that?

(Interestingly, there are two sub-branches of the region 2 code that have relevance for the United Kingdom – ‘D1’ is UK-only whilst D2/3 exclude the sceptred isle).

9: Criminalisation of end-users Reversing the common principles of western justice, DVD-watchers are presumed guilty until…ah what the hell, who cares if they’re not guilty? All must sit through the same demonising featurette depicting anyone who runs a DVD through a cloning process as cloven-hoofed paedophile terrorists. This is psychological blanket-bombing, where the superlative imagery is almost – but not quite – absurd enough to make the piece humorous in nature. The unskippable nature of these one-minute-insults issues from the delightful technology of User Prohibited Operations (or UPOs), and there are many other examples of it in this list. A UPO simply sets a flag on the feature/video-section that tells the DVD player to not allow the end-user to skip (and in some cases even to fast forward or gain access to a previously-viewed root menu).

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8: Auto play This is particularly aggravating for the arguable majority of users who leave their screens off whilst the film companies bombard them with unskippable accusation, ads and legal admonitions. Once all this tosh is done with, dawdling too long at the ‘play’ menu will start your film off on its way. Why? Why take the choice of when the movie will begin away from the end user? The answer, as usual, seems to be ‘because its possible’. As Richard Attenborough said in Jurassic Park, it’s ‘kind of a ride’.

7: THX and other unskippable pre-film Corporate Wanks Why would a company imagine that pissing off its end-users is good for product awareness? On the rare occasions I ever chance to consider George Lucas’s THX surround-sound system, the associations I come up with are discomfort and coercion, as I have to trawl my way through his latest – often excessively long – render-fest lauding THX to get to the movie itself. This would at least be justifiable if I could go down the road and buy a packet of THX to snort at home. The truth is, this technology has no point-of-sale for the likes of me except in a cinema or on a DVD – where I have already paid money for the fecking thing.

6: Blocking ‘on the fly’ access to subtitles and alternative soundtracks If anything demonstrates that DVD content creators delight in using utterly superfluous features in the DVD control-set, it must be when they stop you using the ‘audio’ or ‘subtitles’ button to gain access to a commentary, or to check out an inaudible word that you would like to see spelt out on screen in order to better understand what is going on. Worse yet is when you are forced to return to an overblown, tea-inspiring menu-wank to select a new soundtrack or title…only to press ‘resume’ and be taken back to the start of the film instead of the point you left it at!

There are variations of subtitle control-freakery; I have an Italian copy of Dune where turning on the English soundtrack also turns on a forced Italian subtitle – no doubt employed to discourage grey imports into the US and UK from the rights-negotiators in Italy, and this is relatively common practice among lower-price or giveaway discs in that country.

5: Ads for other DVDs and for non-film products One of the most offensive aspects of having unskippable movie trailers burned into a retail copy of a DVD destined for a home collection is how awful some of the movies are – why should American Pie 12 be in any way enshrined in my DVD collection, particularly in a form that is resistant to the ‘skip’ button it so richly deserves? Still, at least Pie 12 (or whatever) is arguably a movie, unlike the lifestyle products, soft drinks and other commercials that invade the movie pre-amble just as stubbornly in the sleaziest DVD releases.

4: Spreading 9GB of data over two discs One two-hour movie, a grab-bag of 4-minute TV docu-slots and a (small) bucket of deservedly deleted scenes can comfortably fit on a single 9GB dual-layer disc, yet these bland and very cheesy extras morsels frequently migrate to occupy 25% of a second disc in an ‘ultimate’ edition.

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3: ‘Ultimate’ collections that offer no – or inferior – content to previous editions Drawing on the far superior reputation of the ‘Laserdisc’ extras of the 1990s (many of which have crossed over to DVD editions) and the obsessive, geeky detail of first-class releasers such as Criterion and Anchor Bay, these cynical editions seek to shake down some more shekels from completists who probably have already bought the most definitive version. For instance, the pointless 2001 ‘director’s cut’ of The Exorcist replaces William Friedkin’s perfectly competent commentary with an appallingly pointless one wherein the director simply speaks out loud what is happening on screen. The other ‘extras’ are as risible as the re-cut is pointless and cynical – and there’s a lot of that about.

2: Huge ‘extras’ lists that boil down to mere junket-morsels A Chat With Dirk Caribou, star of ‘Zombie Rodeo‘:”Hey Dirk – how was it working with Zak Hardly, director of Zombie Rodeo?””Zak’s a guy I’d work with anytime, anywhere. We bonded real well on set, and everyone was real great. It’s been a real great experience and I think we’ve all pooled together to give 110% and produce a major motion picture that’s going to really find its audience quickly – and which, to boot, has something to say to all of us.”© SuperKwik DVD Productions, 2008, all rights reserved.

Rinse and repeat 15-20 times until the list on the rear DVD jacket is bursting.

1: Button responses An increasing plague, where user-input is required at some point in the locked-down preamble shambles other than right at the start. Many users will be familiar with the ‘select language’ button-choice common enough on multi-region discs in Europe, but other ‘user choices’ are beginning to crop up in the middle of all that crud that you are letting play itself out whilst you make the tea or do something else more interesting, like rubbing lard on the cat’s boil. Will we have to answer questions on the chocolate commercials soon before we are allowed to see the movie?

More lists…

28 Sequels Later: more films you didn’t know were coming23 TV shows heading to the big screen13 videogames being made into films7 shots horror filmmakers should never be allowed to use again30 Upcoming Movie Sequels You Didn’t Know About10 most depressing movie endings22 added sequels and remakes that you didn’t know were comingIf Terminator 4 can be PG-13, then why can’t these?

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