Is Your Local Distributor An Idiot?

a spot of humour by Dean McIntosh

The Quality Of Products

    Idiots love taking the customer's money - never mind about providing a quality product in return. Often, when a widescreen source is available, they will choose to present a customer's favourite film in Pan And Scan, believing that this is OK since the film was never available in this country on home video in its proper aspect ratio. Or they will decide that optimised compression is too much of a bother, possibly even deciding to compress too much material into too little space because the expense of a second layer is too great. Idiots see this as doing the Australian customer a favour - they don't live in the United States of America, so they should be grateful they get any DVD-Videos at all to spend their thirty-odd dollars on.

Special Features?

    Some idiots believe that special features such as audio commentaries, in-depth making-of featurettes, and in some cases the uncensored version of the film, don't need to be included on the Australian DVD-Video, even when they are present on the American, or even British, equivalent. Other idiots seem to believe that such things as a 16x9 widescreen transfer, Dolby Digital 5.1 audio for films that were released as such in theatres, or even chapter selection menus, are special features. Some of the idiots out there believe that alternate languages constitute special features, and while there is no compulsory standard for their inclusion, the fact that they often only take vital space away from the video transfer precludes them from being considered special.

Source Materials

    An idiot believes that a transfer downconverted into PAL or NTSC from a high-definition telecine is too much of an expense. Any old material, such as an old laserdisc master, or even a VHS master in some really bad cases, will do. If the viewer in this country is lucky enough, they might even think of springing for an unrestored theatrical print with reel change markings that look like they were carved into the picture with a knife. Fans of esoteric old films that fared poorly at the box office should be grateful they get their favourite films on DVD at all, right?

To DTS Or Not To DTS

    DTS soundtracks are highly demanded by users of the DVD-Video format, although the reason why seems to be beyond the grasp of idiots. Never mind that this format consistently delivers a noticeably more immersive sound experience, often making such films as Enemy At The Gates even more frighteningly realistic, the idiots seem to believe that people who buy their products should be glad they get sound at all. This reviewer's general apprehension about having to view a film twice or more to assess all of the soundtracks aside, it seems a little odd that distributors fail to understand the demand for a soundtrack format with a maximum bitrate comparable to the uncompressed Compact Disc, as opposed to one that discards more than four times as much information.

Dual-Disc Formatting

    Idiots believe that stuffing as much content onto a single disc as they can fit is a perfectly acceptable method of authoring, never mind that the format relies upon a lossy compression method to fit video information on a disc. Why should they spring for the cost of transferring their four-hour epic onto two discs when they can get it on the one disc, although it looks noticeably worse as a result? If a DVD can hold eight hours of information, then why not stick eight hours of information on it, even if our source material looks like it was dug out of a dumpster?

Flipping Is Very Good

    Idiots also have this crazy belief that in cases where they are willing to spring for the cost of two glass masters, a dual-sided DVD or a flipper is an acceptable way to present a feature. So what if the disc gets smeared fingerprint oil on it every time the consumer picks it up? So what if the disc is much easier to scratch from the occasional slip-ups in normal handling that some users, such as your humble author, experience as a result of tremors they cannot always predict? The buying public should be grateful they get these products at all, leave alone expecting them formatted in such a way that they get attractive labelling or formatting that makes them easier to handle.

In Closing

    I hope you have enjoyed this insight into what seems to make a lot of the distributors in Region 4 tick. Sometimes it is easy to forget that the people responsible for some of the most gawd-awful transfers the format has yet seen have a thought process and some feelings, too, so it was a pleasure to delve into those things for a few paragraphs. Hopefully, as time marches on, this listing will become less and less relevant.

Dean McIntosh (my bio... read it)
April 28th, 2002