RE: The beginning of the end?

Mike Tribby (
Mon, 24 Jun 2002 06:28:59 -0700 (PDT)

On Saturday, June 22, an AP article appeared in the Wisconsin State
Journal--probably abridged; the WSJ isn't exactly the regional newspaper of
record--discussing Circuit City's and Borders' decisions regarding DVDs
versus VHS tapes. "Charles Van Horn, president of the International
Recording Media Association ... said the move to phase out VHS is premature.
He said that about 90 percent of U.S. households have at least one VCR,
while only about 30 percent hve a DVD player." Further down, the article
continues, "[Van Horn] does not expect other retailers to phase out video
any time soon."

In the last two weeks, I've seen articles stating that last year, for the
first time, DVDs outsold VHS format releases. After reading the more recent
articles and seeing the statistic that only 30% of homes have DVDs, I'm
wondering exactly *how* DVDs outsold VHS. Was it gross sales? Net? More
units moved? Given the difference in price between new DVDs and new VHS
cassettes, it seems there may be some interpretation to be done with these
figures. Or is Van Horn simply lying? Also, others on the list and
elsewhere state that they prefer the picture quality on DVD, but I'm
reminded of the audiophile backlash to digital music; sometimes the older
technology has advantages. Just as some music critics complained that the
original sound had been greatly altered when the digitally remastered Robert
Johnson recordings surfaced a decade or more ago, I wonder if digital
technology is really better for all video. I think it can sometimes have an
odd cut-out look to it, but maybe that's because of my ancient televisions.
With the Robert Johnson stuff, the sound was cleaned up considerably as far
as white noise and drop-offs, but the sound of his guitar was mixed in at a
level that would have been unlikely for contemporaries to have heard.
Johnson played an acoustic guitar and sang into a microphone. His guitar
playing and thumping was at a considerable disadvantage, volume-wise, but on
the re-mastered recordings they come through quite clearly and at nearly
equal volume to his vocals. This changes the feel of the music
considerably. With video vs DVD, will digital technology positively affect
the rich, dark colors of, say, The Godfather and Once Upon a Time in
America? Heck, will DVD manufacturers even want to do old movies? (I know
that Godfather and sequels are out on DVD--sadly I haven't seen them, but I
intend to, so the above is a serious question.)

While I'm carping about DVD, let me raise a kvetch with which Randy is quite
familar: the amount of preliminary crap DVD manufacturers won't let you
fast-forward through. It's bad enough that you're forced to watch the FBI
warning at preschool phonics pace, but then there's the cavalcade of coming
events. You may be waiting for some uplifting visual experience, but by God
you're gonna sit and PAY ATTENTION to come-ons for treacly soap operas,
pointless action flicks and inane comedies first. At least with VHS you
could fast-forward through all that. And it'll probably get worse. It's
not an accident that DVDs are created so that you can't fast-forward where
the seller doesn't want you to, and over time we're practically assured of
getting more and more preliminary detritus. This is *not* a
cataloger-friendly gambit.

Gee, I feel better now. Maybe I'll take the afternoon off and go look for a
DVD player that ignores the no fast-forward bit like some players apparently
ignore the geographic code. If such a player exists, it'll be illegal soon.

Mike Tribby
Senior Cataloger
Quality Books Inc.
The Best of America's Independent Presses

"This used to be a free country"--Wonder Warthog

-----Original Message-----
From: []
Sent: Friday, June 21, 2002 1:11 PM
To: Multiple recipients of list
Subject: Re: The beginning of the end?

The real end of VHS will come the day the major chains (Blockbuster, etc.)
return all their back-catalog for refunds. The studios and distributors take

a big financial hit and notice what the future has become. It happened in
just one week for Laserdisc and by the next the format was dead.

Personally, it costs an independent distributor up to $10,000 to bring out a

VHS release and a little more for DVD so it will be a great thing to only
have one format -- especially with films that sell only a thousand copies.
I've said it before, however. The true end of VHS and the DVD takeover won't

happen until the video cameras that record DVD becomes affordable. I'm
guessing that will be about two or three years. (This is from a person who
just bought a computer with DVD-R).

Dennis Doros
Milestone Film & Video
PO Box 128
Harrington Park, NJ 07640
Phone: (201) 767-3117 or in the US (800) 603-1104
Fax: (201) 767-3035