SuperBit Phase 2 Event

Wednesday 25th June 2003


Columbia TriStar celebrated the launch of their new range of SuperBit DVD titles at Sony Style, Fox Studios yesterday by putting on a presentation for the media. BrandonV, RobG and Doctor were able to attend. Below are Brandon's and Doctor's reports on the event.

Brandon's Report | Doctor's Report

Brandon's Report

Sydney, 25 June 2003: Columbia TriStar celebrated the launch of their new range of SuperBit DVD titles at Sony Style, Fox Studios.

The evening began with a short speech by the Managing Director of Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment (CTHE), Michele Garra. Ms Garra noted that Superbit DVDs are about choice, in that they were "designed to give DVD enthusiasts a choice between buying into unsurpassed audio and visual quality, versus the superb packages of special features currently available on DVD".

Ms Garra also noted that DVD was the fastest growing entertainment format on the planet, and that it set a new benchmark in quality. While there was a lot of "talk" about blue and red laser technology, Ms Garra claimed that she did not foresee a new entertainment format becoming mainstream until about 2007.

Ms Garra's speech was followed by a presentation by Strategic Marketing Manager for CTHE, Emma Pemberton. Ms Pemberton noted that surveys on revealed that 78% of DVD owners would sacrifice extras for improved video and audio quality. She also noted that they had released SuperBit titles in Australia in two stages: Phase 1, January 2003, which included eight titles at an RRP of $49.95, with exclusive distribution through HMV.; and Phase 2, July 2003, with an additional four titles, an RRP of $39.95, and a wider retail distribution. Ms Pemberton observed that following their recent drop in price, sales of SuperBit titles shot up by 30%.

The latest DVD titles to get the SuperBit treatment are Das Boot (2 disc set), Shakespeare In Love, The Fast & The Furious, and Gladiator. Das Boot will be the pricing exception, with an RRP of $43.95. In September, more titles will be released in R4, including Hannibal, The Mummy Returns, MIB 2, and Bad Boys. It is interesting to note that neither Hannibal nor Shakespeare In Love will be available as SuperBit titles in R1.

Doctor's Report

As the rain started to fall around Fox Studios at 5PM on Wednesday, George Lucas was directing the 3rd day of Star Wars Episode 3 using second generation Hi-Def digital cameras which avoid the use of compression to record the video image. Two hundred metres away, the DVD and technology press gathered at the Fox Studios Sony Style store for Columbia Tristar's launch of the second phase of Superbit low-compression DVD releases. 

For those that came in late, Superbit titles utilise the disc space usually used for extras and additional audio tracks to minimize compression and offer a higher data rate video transfer and DTS audio, the aim of which is to provide the highest quality presentation of a movie for the discerning upper end of the DVD marketplace.

The most compelling factor for DVD adoption is the higher quality video and audio. After presentation quality, DVD users become hungry for extras such as commentary tracks and documentaries. Add to that the fact that a substantial fraction of the marketplace resists dividing a film over two discs, in a similar way to the rejection of 'flippers' (where a movie is divided over two sides of one disc). To create a product package that satisfies most of the people, most of the time and at a reasonable unit price, the standard DVD "Special Edition" of film and special features evolved.

However, by creating a good all-round package and keeping the number of discs down, sacrifices to the data rate and quality of the presentation are often made. As a result, these product development decisions for the mainstream market erode the reasons why people embraced the medium in the first place, especially those who are now upgrading to more revealing playback systems starting with widescreen televisions, surround sound decoders and projectors.

So there is a new market pressure to get back to basics and offer a higher quality movie-only release in addition to the standard DVD 'Special Edition'. This is the aim of Superbit.

Some interesting findings about the marketplace were communicated at the presentation. Whilst Superbit is being aimed at the upper end of the market, research shows that 78% of online Australian DVD viewers would prefer higher quality video and audio at the sacrifice of extras. High end users were noted to be a critical force in DVD take-up. They are the ones who buy the most DVDs, are the most vocal evangelists and are providing the requirements for the evolution of the medium.

Changes are also afoot for Superbit distribution. Currently HMV exclusively sell Superbit titles in Australia. This will soon change as additional resellers will be selected to carry Superbit. No one specific was announced and it was implied that these additional resellers have not yet been finalised.

The second tier of R4 Superbit releases is due early in July:

Most of the target market for these titles would already be aware that these were released in R2 eight weeks ago along with "Dark Crystal" and "Labyrinth", which are curiously missing from the R4 schedule. At the same time that we get the second tier of R4 Superbit releases in early July, R2 will get "Legends of the Fall", "Hannibal", "MIB2" and "Mummy Returns" followed in August by "Bad Boys" and "Lawrence of Arabia".

However, we don't have to wait too long for the majority of these titles to be released in the R4 September line-up:

Over in Region 1, the number of Superbit titles totals 33, with another 4 titles due in August. Despite this comparatively high number, the second tier of R4 Superbit releases contains titles which have not been released in R1. The reason for this comes down to the patchwork of worldwide distribution arrangements. This is the reason why we will get Superbit releases of Gladiator and Shakespeare in Love and the R1 USA market will not. Likewise, Japan has Superbit versions of "Jurassic Park", "Jumanji" and "A Few Good Men", releases which no other country enjoys.

It would be remiss of me to not comment on a few last things before closing.

The bad: The projected image of the presentation was terrible. Not only was the projector not calibrated with poor colour rendering, and sharpness turned on, it was connected with S-Video cables, not the expected RGB or component connection. It was the worst way of communicating the the concept of quality as it looked closer to VHS and did no justice to the true quality obtainable from Superbit discs. (Ed. This is amazingly common at these sorts of industry launches.)

The good: The Columbia Tristar and Bay Street staff were excellent. They were approachable, helpful and passionate about movies and the quality of their product. They are also extremely sensitive about learning what the marketplace wants and meeting those expectations. Top marks to the marketing staff who more than compensated for the terrible projector quality.

Brandon's Report | Doctor's Report