The DVD ten Commandments

The DVD Ten Commandments

September 23rd, 2007

1. Thou Shalt Not Pan and Scan

This is numero uno because the cropping of films is probably the worst plague in the world of cinema. An entire generation was denied the glory of widescreen; deceived even, into a false box of 4:3 damnation. If you think I’m exaggerating, consider this: Stanley Kubrick, the greatest filmmaker to ever live, after the advent of home video, never shot another film in widescreen ever again. Knowing that posterity, and thus the vast majority would view his film at home, he simply could not bear to see his meticulously crafted frame cropped ex post facto. Oh, if only he had lived to see the rise of widescreen home video.

Cropping a 70mm film to 4:3 should be an offense punishable by death

If you think I’m crazy, try this little experiment:

  1. Try watching any 70mm film (Try Ben-Hur, Lawrence of Arabia, The Sound of Music, 2001: A Space Odyssey or just about any classic John McTiernan film).
  2. Then watch the same film on TV or VHS.
  3. Try and avoid vomiting.

2. Thou Shalt Not Release a Featureless Disc

Although this is pretty rare nowadays, it was absolutely rampant in the early days of DVD. But since those releases were just to launch the format, is it forgivable? But shouldn’t the studios put out the highest quality releases at the launch of a new format? The real blasphemy is never releasing a nice feature-filled edition. Sure, some movies just don’t have any thing available for extras, but that doesn’t mean they can’t make it a nice edition. If it’s gonna just have the film, then don’t make me pay anything over $12 bucks.

3. Thou Shalt Comment

Directors like Spielberg and Tarantino don’t believe in audio commentaries. They think they distract from the film, and a film should speak for itself. Okay, fine – that’s a pretty reasonable position, but then you should make up for it by including other features, like say, an isolated score – but they don’t. The Indiana Jones box set, anyone? All it had was a making-of documentary that wasn’t nearly as nice as the one on the Star Wars Box set. Why can’t I have an isolated score? Is that too much to ask? Some films stand on their own, some don’t. It’s usually some of the most interesting films that lack commentaries.

I want a commentary track so I feel like they put some effort into the DVD and I got my money’s worth. However, there are those who would argue that worse than no commentary at all is the all-too-common boring as hell commentary where they have absolutely nothing to say. Tragically, the vast majority of DVDs have some director, locked in a room, who hasn’t seen his own film in years, and he just sits there and watches his film, and Voilà! – 2 hours of silence. I put the blame on the people who produce the DVDs – they really should prep the commentator, especially when it wasn’t their idea to do a commentary and doubly so when it’s an older film. Commentators need to start to realize that this feature, to really be done properly, needs a plan just as any other feature would. Sure, a “party” track can be fun, but these are usually not insightful or scholarly. If a filmmaker is commenting on his own film alone, he definitely needs to view the film and write down what he has to say about the film before commenting. Commentators need to think of it as a lecture to film students at a university or a scholarly analysis of the themes and content of the work. And DVD producers need to prep commentators that need it, and have the backbone to tell someone when they just recorded 2 hours of crickets, and ORDER them to do it again properly.

4. Thou Shalt Include an Isolated Score

Here’s a simple feature to include, especially for newer movies. So why the hell is this feature so rare? This feature is so simple, so obvious, I just don’t understand. There’s so much great film music out there, and CD scores simply can’t fit 2 hours of music on one disc, so this music lingers, mostly unappreciated. WTF! Isolated Scores are so rare, the entire list fits on one page.

5. Thou Shalt Not Split the Film in Half

Don’t you hate it when you’re really, really deeply involved in a movie, and then all the sudden you have to take out the disc to see the rest of the movie? I sure do. DVDs can hold well over 4 hours of uninterrupted video, so why split it in half? The DVD FAQ put it best:

“Most “flipper” discs exist because of producers who are too lazy to optimize the compression or make a dual-layer disc. Better picture quality is a cheap excuse for increasing the data rate; in many cases the video will look better if carefully encoded at a lower bit rate. Lack of dual-layer production capability is also a lame excuse; in 1997 very few DVD plants could make dual-layer discs, but this is no longer the case.”

Okay, SOMETIMES it is justified:

  1. If a movie was originally released with an intermission (pretty common with older films), thus it was intended to be viewed as such.
  2. Sometimes, in very long films, it’s quite nice to take a little break/intermission. The Extended cuts of the Lord of the Rings come to mind
  3. At a certain point, there is a noticeable loss in video quality.

So basically, if it is the director’s intention to split the film, then fine. However, there are many cases of DVD releases that were clearly split for no good reason, especially in the early days of DVD. With the coming of High-Def formats, with their ample size, there are no more excuses left.

6. Thou Shalt Not Lock Out Thy User

Imagine if you got in your car, started driving, then all of the sudden, a huge truck darts in front of you. You slam on your breaks, ONLY TO SEE THIS:

Operation Currently Prohibited By Car.

Crazy, right? Well, this is what DVD players do to people everyday – they lock out their owners. They make people sit there and watch FBI warnings, a series of boring splash screens, commercials, menus and other crap that ruins the cinema experience. JUST GET TO THE FUCKING FILM ALREADY!!! The person who invented this “feature” should be dragged out into the street and shot in the face – or better yet – forced to use Windows 95 for all eternity – since he seems to love the idea of technology not doing what you want it to do.

The greatest day of my life was the day I found a setting in my DVD player that skips straight to the feature automatically immediately after inserting the disc. Although I think its absolutely wonderful that this is the default with HD-DVD (and Blu-Ray?), I doubt they have discontinued the asinine concept of user lock-out.

FBI Warning

7. Thou Shalt Utilize Slim Cases for Box Sets

A box set is not a clown car. What retard designed these cases?

These cases are comically over-sized.  And I’m not laughing.

The plastic in these cases often breaks and they’re not replaceable, and the paper wears down as well. These cases are not meant to last.

This is so obvious, it’s horrible I even have to point it out.

Slim cases are replaceable and protect the printed material from wear and tear. And they aren’t unwieldy or a headache to use. You don’t need an aircraft carrier to get to the last disc. I’m sure there’s a special place in hell reserved just for designers of terrible packaging. It probably involves them trying to find the last disc of the complete 30 season Simpsons box set.

8. Thou Shalt Remaster Digitally and Enhance for 16:9

Okay, so DVD isn’t High-Def, right? Sure, it’s higher-res than broadcast TV, it’s digital and virtually interference-free, true. But it still isn’t high-def, so it won’t look good on a High-Def TV, right? Well, that’s why they made DVDs support anamorphic widescreen – now you can cram in a lot more data and thus effectively up the resolution to pretty close to high-def…or at least good enough to look okay on an HDTV. Only problem is, not all DVD authors take advantage of this essential feature. You won’t notice it on a regular TV, but try a computer monitor or an HDTV, and suddenly you get a horrible full-screen, cropped, ugly-as-hell, low-res crap of a movie. WTF?!?!?! I see this all the time with movies that were shot non-anamorphic, then matted to widescreen, then the retards making the DVD think that because the source video isn’t anamorphic, you can’t make the video widescreen. WTF!!! For the record, anamorphic film has nearly nothing to do with anamorphic DVD. Anamorphic lenses are so you can shoot in 2.35:1 on 35mm film. Anamorphic Widescreen DVDs are so the video doesn’t look like absolute shit when played on a nice screen. If you can’t author a DVD properly, how the fuck do you keep your job at the DVD company?

9. Thou Shalt Not Encase in Abnormal Packaging

You know what pisses me off? When I spend 100 bucks on a nice DVD rack, and then they release DVDs that won’t fit on the fucking shelf.

Simpsons FAIL at Packaging

10. Thou Shalt Include the Trailer on the First Disc

I often want to see the trailer right before or after a movie. I hate having to switch to the second disc just to view it. I know they try to up the data rate of the feature as much as possible by stripping the first disc of features, but come on! The menus take up more space than the 2 minute trailer!


Thus spaketh the Lord.

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