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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: March ::
DVD vs. Laserdisc
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0397  Monday, 8 March 1999.

[1]     From:   Tanya Gough <
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        Date:   Friday, 5 Mar 1999 22:27:30 -0500
        Subj:   DVD vs. Laser

[2]     From:   Gabriel Egan <
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        Date:   Saturday, 6 Mar 1999 20:24:56 -0000
        Subj:   Re: Video Discs

[3]     From:   Douglas M Lanier <
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        Date:   Sunday, 7 Mar 1999 11:46:28 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Shakespeare on Laserdisc

[4]     From:   William Kemp <
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        Date:   Sunday, 07 Mar 1999 13:18:09 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0380 Re: Video Discs as Obsolete


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tanya Gough <
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Date:           Friday, 5 Mar 1999 22:27:30 -0500
Subject:        DVD vs. Laser

It certainly does look like DVD is going to stick.  Last Christmas was
the big test - and consumers purchased DVD machines and disks in much
higher numbers than anticipated, and the one millionth player sold mark
was passed recently.   Many electronics stores are beginning to
liquidate Laser disk players at ridiculously low prices, and the fact
that you can still play audio CDs on a DVD player is a definite lure.

That being said, there are currently tens of thousands of laser titles
available compared to only thousands of DVD titles.  And although the
major studios seem to be releasing mass quantities of DVD - to the tune
of hundreds of new titles each month - it will still be many years
before DVD matches Laser in terms of choice.  Keep in mind too that many
of the more obscure titles may not find DVD release for decades, so
video will continue to retain a stronghold in this arena for some time.

Tanya Gough
Poor Yorick - CD & Video Emporium

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gabriel Egan <
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Date:           Saturday, 6 Mar 1999 20:24:56 -0000
Subject:        Re: Video Discs

Hardy Cook writes,

>I was under the impression the laser video
>disks are an obsolete technology and the
>DVD would probably be the technology to replace laser
>disks. Am I incorrect in my assumption?

DVD will probably take over, but is being held back by the popularity in
the Far East of VideoCD, which is ordinary audio-CD technology carrying
a compressed video signal. A VideoCD takes two disk to hold one movie,
but it's established and cheap technology.

The other thing holding DVD back is that the content producers, the
studios, are reluctant to release movies on DVD until regionalization is
fully implemented. Currently most DVD players will play a disk no matter
where it was pressed, but the content producers have forced the chip
manufacturers to make players which work only in one region. Thus, DVDs
made in the US would not work in Europe. It's not clear whether this
regionalization will succeed, since what controls the 'refusal' to play
is firmware which can be changed by individual manufacturers. So, Sony
players will undoubtedly be region-sensitive (since Sony owns content
producers too) but Far Eastern manufactured players may well retain the
ability to play any disk.

In case anyone is interested, all new VCRs in Europe now play NTSC as
well as PAL-encoded cassettes, so anything available for purchasing over
the Internet is now playable here. However, US VCRs do not play
PAL-encoded cassettes.

Gabriel Egan

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Douglas M Lanier <
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Date:           Sunday, 7 Mar 1999 11:46:28 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Shakespeare on Laserdisc

Since Hardy raised the question about the status of laserdisc and DVD,
and since so many of us use movie clips in our classrooms, here's a
short primer for those new to laserdisc and DVD technology.

Both technologies are designed as alternatives to videotape.  The
advantages of Laserdisc (LD) and DVD over tape are:

*  they allow you to move quickly from scene to scene;
*  the video is much sharper and, unlike tape, is not supposed to
degrade over time;
*  the sound is designed for a home theater speaker system, at least on
contemporary titles;
*  some LDs and DVDs have additional materials:  commentary tracks by
the director or cast, trailers, outtakes, documentaries ("on the making
of").  Many LDs and DVDs (though not all) feature "letterboxing,"
allowing you to view the movie in its original visual composition (or
something close to it).

At the present moment, Laserdisc technology is being superceded by DVDs
(as Hardy correctly suggested). However, one shouldn't give up on
Laserdiscs quite yet.  The market niche of DVD, at least at present, is
primarily mass-market movies, with a few popular back-catalogue titles
thrown in for good measure.  The market niche of Laserdisc, on the other
hand, was for the serious movie afficionado, so that laserdisc features
many movies with small or specialized audiences that will probably never
appear on DVD (or at least not in the near future).  (In the past major
studios would license small market films to niche market laserdisc
producers, but that practice has largely stopped because of corporate
mergers, uncertainty about the future of DVD, and, frankly, greed.)  At
present, four Shakespeare movies are slated for DVD:  Branagh's MUCH ADO
(has already appeared), Luhrmann's ROMEO AND JULIET (will appear in the
spring), Olivier's HENRY V (will appear in the spring), and Kaufman's
TROMEO AND JULIET (has already appeared).  It's a virtual certainty that
there will also be a DVD of SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE, but there has been no
official announcement of this. But beyond that, the future of
Shakespeare on DVD is very uncertain, given the dominant business model
currently driving DVD.

You should also know that DVD includes copy protection software that
will prevent you from making a VHS copy to show in your classes;
laserdisc does not include this feature (and so you can make a tape
copy).  There are technical differences in how the image is produced in
laserdisc and DVD, but in most cases the average viewer won't be able to
see the difference.

One more complication: new laserdiscs are being produced primarily for
and in Asian markets, where LD remains strong.  For that reason, many
Shakespeare LDs are falling out of print very quickly.  If you are
interested in buying a Shakespeare title on LD, you should do so NOW.

My advice for those interested in moving to these technologies is to
consider buying a combination laserdisc-DVD player.  That way, you can
have the best of both worlds.  I should add that I have no business
interest in either LD or DVD.

Cheers,
Douglas Lanier
University of New Hampshire

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P.S.  To the list of Shakespeare movies on LD already given, let me add
the following:

Midsummer Night's Dream (dir. Dieterle and Reinhardt)
Romeo and Juliet (dir. Cukor;  dir. Castellani)
As You Like It (dir. Czinner, with Olivier)
Taming of the Shrew (dir. Taylor, with Pickford and Fairbanks)
Othello (dir. Welles)
Macbeth (dir. Welles;  dir. Polanski)
Prospero's Books (dir. Greenaway)
King Lear (dir. Elliot, with Olivier)

In addition, Performing Arts Video did a series of LDs of Shakespeare
plays:  King Lear, Taming of the Shrew, Richard II, Romeo and Juliet,
Othello.

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           William Kemp <
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Date:           Sunday, 07 Mar 1999 13:18:09 -0500
Subject: 10.0380 Re: Video Discs as Obsolete
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0380 Re: Video Discs as Obsolete

Hardy reports the impression that video discs are obsolete, replaced by
DVDs, and wonders whether or not his impression is inaccurate. A nice
question.

As manufactured objects, video discs are more or less permanent; they
don't wear out as you play them, as videotapes do. So the Shakespeare
discs in print are still viable and a worthwhile investment if you have
or can get the machinery to play them (one video disc player, from
Pioneer, is still on the market; it also plays DVDs).

Right now, far more Shakespeare is available on video disc than on DVD,
and the visual/acoustic quality of the discs I listed in my previous
posting is very high. They have the additional advantage (in most cases)
of presenting the films in their original aspect ratios.

In the fullness of time, the catalogue of DVD titles will probably catch
up to what's available on laser disc. But right now the laser disc
titles are more numerous. They're also easy to buy from reliable web
vendors. Laser discs are a bit more expensive than comparable DVDs, but
I can't think of any Shakespeare titles currently available on DVD
(though I'm sure there are a few).

Bill Kemp
Mary Washington College
Fredericksburg, Va.
 

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