Monday, September 04, 2006

Snakes and Ladders

***** Rant Warning! Five Star Rant Ahead! *****

I've been watching a few DVDs recently. Nothing special, just working my way through the list from my last call for ideas. Mostly they've been enjoyable movies, and I've had a bit of mindless relief from the world of Benfro by immersing myself in Stargates Atlantis and SG 1. The new season of Battlestar Galactica is out now over this side of the pond too, so I'm spoilt for choice, really.

But watching all these DVDs, I'm increasingly frustrated and annoyed by the way the content is packaged.

First you get a little schpiel about copyright theft, which plays before anything else and can't be fast-forwarded through. Now if anything is going to make me go out and pirate a movie, it's being told I mustn't over and over again in a message I can only avoid by not watching the movie at all. Sure, put the message out, but let people skip it if they want to.

Then there are the endless ads for the studios. Sometimes with series like Stargate, where there are four episodes on one disc, you get to see the Universal* introduction film five or six times, once at the beginning of the disc, once at the beginning of each episode, and occasionally once at the end as well. Why? What are they trying to sell? I don't go out and look for Universal productions, I go and look for movies by directors I admire, or with actors I like, or which are well reviewed. Sometimes I even follow the hype machine, though I've not seen Superman yet, or Pirates of the Caribbean (I missed the small window of opportunity in Aberystwyth.) What I don't do, and I don't suppose many people do, is think 'Ahah! Universal made this movie, it must be good.' So why waste twenty or thirty seconds of my time showing me the stupid logo sequence.

As if that weren't bad enough, there are more little bits advertising the distributor, the production company, even the manufacturer of the surround sound system encoded onto the DVD. Now maybe I'm a bit of a technophobe, but I thought Mr Dolby had that all sewn up in a nice little monopoly. Pretty much all DVDs are recorded in some iteration of Dolby Surround Sound, and unless you've got an expensive amplifier and a living room full of speakers, it doesn't really matter which iteration that is.

As it happens, I do have an expensive amplifier and too many loudspeakers. But I really don't need to be told in a little ten second film that the disc is Dolby encoded - I can't buy anything else, so advertising it is a waste of money, and it keeps me from the film.

And then, just when you think you're getting somewhere, you hit the dreaded Menu system.

OK, so I'll admit to being a bit of a luddite. I have a mobile phone, but I've never sent a txt msg. I only recently started storing a few numbers in its memory - I don't know enough people, or call them, to need that function really. When it comes down to it, all I want of a phone is that it will connect me to another specific phone so that I can talk. If I have to wade through endless options just to do that, then frankly the technology is too complicated. It's a solution looking for a problem.

I reckon there's a huge market out there for mobile phones that do nothing more than make calls. Perhaps with a simple phone book option, but nothing else. These phones would be large, with easy to press buttons, and a clear screen for the short of sight. They'd sell by the million, and they'd be cheap to make too.

But I was talking about DVDs, not mobile phones. And DVD menus in particular. You've waded through the anti-piracy propaganda and half a dozen self-congratulatory advertisements for things you can't buy (or already have bought, given that the disc is in your machine). Now you've got to wait for a stupid bit of computer animation to flutter around for a while until a series of options appears. And don't be so stupid as to think that one selection will get you to the movie. Oh no. you've got to go down through the file system first. Select language options, camera angles, director's commentaries, signing by animated cat for the hard of hearing. It's worse than those bloody automated phone systems; 'press 1 if you want to kill someone, 2 if you're feeling suicidal.' Aaarghhh.

And then, half an hour after you sat down to watch your movie, you finally make it to the opening credits. Only it's not that. It's another chance to see the Universal Studios opening film; the expensively made logo sequence for a production company that was set up specifically to make that film (and that film only); and something from the distributors as well.

Only then do you get to see what the director wanted you to see. And by then you have to hit pause to get another beer from the fridge. Or go for a pee.

Just make sure you don't hit stop by mistake. Otherwise it's right back to the start again.

* in the interests of fairness, I should say it isn't just Universal who do this. They all do, but Universal were the first to come to mind.

3 Comments:

Blogger Trace said...

Yeah, same as going to the movies. There are so many friggin' ads that I actually ALWAYS forget what movie I went to see by the time the actual movie starts!

September 06, 2006 12:58 pm  
Blogger JamesO said...

I don't mind a few ads before a movie, Trace - it's all part of the experience. And I hate missing the trailers. But on a DVD these endless little snippets telling you who produced and distributed the film just get in the way.

September 06, 2006 4:56 pm  
Blogger Sandra Ruttan said...

They're trying to ingrain their brand name into your brain, and it's annoying as hell.

Although I don't mind the one intro to The Wire...

September 07, 2006 12:54 am  

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