Wednesday, July 22, 2009

DVD rant

It's been a while since I had a good old-fashioned rant. Now you may be reading this scratching your head saying "but you just posted a rant about ADV's no-longer-existent manga division!" That's true. That's a rant. But it's not a "good old-fashioned rant".

A good old-fashioned rant is one that's well thought out and is generally guaranteed to be a wall of text. Furthermore, I consider each point a lot more than with a regular spur-of-the-moment rant. There are positive points as well as negative ones. I present examples. There's less random fucking cussing. And I ignore the "rules" of grammar and make bad jokes. There's also text formatting such as boldface, italics, and strikethrough for emphasis in various parts, and some things have a dotted underline to indicate that you can hover your mouse over them to view more info in a tooltip. So if you're reading this as a Facebook note, keep that in mind since Facebook removes all of that. View it on my blog for the full experience.

The subject for today's rant is DVDs. This was inspired by James Rolfe's "You Know What's Bullshit?" episode about DVDs, since I have many of the same complaints. Just warning you, if you watch that before reading any portion of this, you may very well read a complaint that's almost the same as one of his. It doesn't change the fact that I have the same complaint too. I hate bandwagoning so much I jumped on the paradoxial bandwagon hate bandwagon. Then I got off with everyone else that realized they were bandwagoning.

So let's dive right in, shall we?

I own a fair number of DVDs. I don't have pockets lined with cash, or I'd have more. Which I guess is my first point: the price. $30 for one DVD. It seems to be the norm. Yeah, I know, only losers pay MSRP, buy at a sale or get them online where you're practically guaranteed a better price. Deep Discount is awesome for that. But what you get for that $30 or more seems to be random. Most of those things lead into other points in my rant.

Liner notes. When was the last time you opened a DVD case and saw a decent set of liner notes? I'm not asking for something like a game manual with pages upon pages of information with pictures interspersed. A simple piece of glossy paper with movie pictures on one side and a bullshit chapter list on the other would suffice. You can even take it a step further and have it unfold into a poster. That would be awesome, and I have a few that do that, but none of them are American movies. Hell, none of them are even movies, it's all anime.

One series that actually has decent liner notes is the complete season releases of The Simpsons. Each season has a booklet listing every episode with various useful bits of information such as the run length of the episode, its guest stars, which disc of the set it's on, and a summary of the episode so I can read it and go "Oh yeah, I remember that episode! Let's watch that one!" Those right there are good liner notes. But for the most part, a piece of paper with pictures and stuff or a fold-out poster would suffice.

Moving on, the packaging itself. It's so random what you're going to get. Sometimes the case will stay closed by itself, other times it will randomly open while you're carrying it. The bit of plastic holding the disc in will either be lenient and let you remove the disc without trouble, or it'll be like the one in the case for the éX-Driver (im)Perfect Collection that holds on so tightly the disc is cracking from me having the audacity to try to remove and watch it a few times. Then there's those weird cases with the extra snapping bits. They're just redundant.

Now that we're inside the case again, the inventory control tags annoy me. They're almost always the same color as the plastic, and every single DVD case has one, even in a box set. Even if you ordered the damn thing online. Now I actually have an explanation for that. Since the production company packaging the discs up and shipping them has no easy way of telling if the recipient is a warehouse for an online shop or a 3D shop, they stick all the security bullshit on all of them. Better that than stolen merchandise. But still, I went on a crusade a while back and removed all of them from every DVD case I own, and I still find them in cases I swore I looked through before.

Before we go any further into the contents of the discs, let's talk some more about the cases. Normal DVD cases are thick. Then there's those thin ones that do pretty much the same thing but take up half the space. Those are awesome. I even have one anime series that has dual disc thin cases. But why in the shit do they remove ALL THE EXTRAS from the discs when making the thin-case sets? Does putting the disc in a thinner case reduce its capacity? No. Bastards.

Now that I can plausibly segue to the contents of the discs themselves, let's do so. Since I was just talking about them, I'll continue: extras. Sure, they're nice. Extra things like "making of" features, the occasional deleted scene or outtake, hilarious alternate endings, and much more are really great things to shove in a DVD release of whatever.

But why, in multi-disc sets, are the extras separated out per disc? It makes no sense. The case doesn't usually say "oh this disc has these extras on it" so unless by some shred of luck I actually remember which disc a specific extra I want to watch is on, I have to pop them all in and check. If you know you're going to have a multi-disc set, do us all a favor and put the extras on a disc all to themselves. That gives you more space on the feature disc for the actual feature. That translates into more episodes per disc of anime.

Don't give me this bullshit 3 or 4 episodes per disc, or worse, Furi Kuri, which was two episodes per disc for a 6 episode OAV. Yeah, I know anime DVDs in Japan are, with the exchange rate, approximately $RAPE for two episodes. I don't care. $10/episode is no. Try $5/episode. That gives us 6 episodes per disc, which DVDs are indeed capable of (ever hear of dual layer discs?).

There's the next thing. Dual layer DVDs are nice in general since they can hold twice the amount of content as a single layer disc. However, some of them I guess aren't manufactured as well as others and have a slight pause at the layer transition. I have plenty of dual layer movies where there is no pause at all at the transition; I don't even know where it is on all but one of them. Attack The Gas Station's layer transition is readily apparent and is extra annoying since it happens just as a police car starts moving out of the gas station. You expect it to keep rolling butPAUSEokay now it's going. I don't know how avoidable this is to the DVD player from a technical standpoint, but as previously stated, I have other dual layer movies where I don't notice the transition at all. The Last Samurai comes to mind.

Mentioning movies with foreign language dialogue reminded me of this: subtitles. Now, I'm not complaining about translation quality here, rather, the subtitles themselves. I know you have captions for the hearing impaired, but holy shit they're the worst subtitles ever. They just leave things out. Words, entire lines, etc. It doesn't make sense. What also doesn't make sense is that they put in sound effects. Like a deaf person is going to know what something sounds like.

Captions for the Hearing Impaired® also have extra things such as character names when a character's line starts while they're offscreen, and hyphens indicating the beginning of each line of dialogue. That's nice if you're deaf, but isn't needed if you can hear. Do us all a favor and include proper English subtitles in addition to the captions. Some of us turn the things on to try and understand what someone's saying on the more difficult lines. Sounds kind of strange being that English is my native language, but a lot of people butcher it in speech, sometimes unintentionally. So I go and turn on the subtitlescaptions and discover that whoever did them decided that line didn't need to be captioned. FFFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUU--

Moving right along, we've got the disc in our player, so what's it doing? Playing unskippable logos, trailers, ads, and warnings describing just how badly you would have been sodomized if you had pirated the movie that you've legally obtained. Sometimes these things can in fact be skipped, sometimes you have to hit Next to skip them instead of Menu, and sometimes they're not there at all and the disc starts right up with the main menu. It's completely random, even within production company. Sometimes they put the warnings and capitalistic unskippables at the beginning of the feature instead of at the beginning of the disc. I'd actually prefer them not present at all, since I didn't pay money to be treated like a criminal or a consumer whore.

Anyway, so you get to the main menu. If it's anime, you may at this point be headed to the setup menu if you happen to prefer your audio in Japanese and your subtitles, which are 99.999999% of the time real subtitles instead of captions, in English. Or maybe you've already gone into your DVD player's settings and changed it so that it automatically chooses the language settings you desire, so you just hit Play or whatever and discover that it's ignored your player's settings entirely. This too is completely random even within production company. I used to have a database of all my anime DVDs just to keep track of this, but I lost it when I hastily reformatted when my network card died and I'm too lazy to reinstall mySQL and re-build it, so the PHP frontend just sits there nonfunctional on my server. It's another story entirely as to why my server wasn't holding the database.

Aside from the disc being full of itself and ignoring your language preferences, sometimes the disc is fubar'd to the point where the setup menu doesn't work. I first encountered this on the Read or Die OAV. Its setup menu doesn't change jack shit. I have to change the options quickly before the first line of dialogue.

Another thing I'm just reminded of happens on the Hand Maid May discs. The menus are dubbed over entirely, as in when you have Japanese selected, you hear May's Japanese voice, and when you have English selected, or are just starting it up and haven't had the opportunity to change it yet, you get assaulted with "THIS IS THE MAIN MENU!" from May's English voice actress. Once you get it into Japanese it's a much less shouted "main menu desu". What's weird is during the logos before the menu you can set the audio and subtitle languages using their respective buttons on your remote. So if you're fast enough, you can avoid the show's English audio adaptation entirely.

Depending on the movie, there's something I also notice that drives me crazy. I think I'm just a part of a small portion of the population that sees things like this, because I can see the DLP rainbows too. Single chip DLPs are unwatchable for me. Anyway, this generally happens with older movies made before DVDs came around that have been given DVD releases, and I guess is just an issue of the transfer or remaster or whatever. I can see the flicker of the frames being illuminated. Off the top of my head, I've noticed it in Blazing Saddles as well as Monty Python and The Holy Grail. Generally it's easy for me to ignore since it's most noticable on flat textures like walls, floors, ceilings, tables, etc., but it's there and I see it. These are official DVD releases, not bootlegs.

Blazing Saddles, and as I've found, many other Warner Brothers movies, if not all of them, also exhibit an interesting phenomenon. The movie will start automatically after the main menu loops precisely four times. I guess maybe they think you're sticking the disc in the player and then heading to the kitchen to get popcorn and root beer, so they give you time to do that and then start the movie for you so you don't have to touch a thing after putting the disc in. I've actually started using it for that purpose, though I have Coke Zero (sometimes Cherry Coke Zero) (sometimes with rum added) instead of root beer.

I actually meant to mention this back up near where I was talking about dual layer discs, but I segue'd into something else instead. I already forgot what it was and I'm too lazy to scroll back up there to see. Dual sided discs. WHY? Now both sides of the disc are susceptible to damage, and you have to inspect a tiny ring around the middle of the disc to see which side is which. What's worse is in these cases usually both sides are single layer. Just make it a dual layer disc and get it over with. Also in most cases movies released on dual sided DVDs don't have liner notes.

Sad thing is, most often dual sided discs are used to hold both the Widescreen version of a movie where you can view it as intended, and the Fullscreen version, where you get shit cut out off the sides of the picture. Why put the fullscreen version in there at all? Oh noes the widescreen version gets letterboxed on 4:3 televisions. So what? It's better than having portions of the movie's picture brazenly chopped off just so all the pixels can be used.

Furthermore, I own a DVD version of It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World, possibly one of the best comedies out there. It was originally released as a dual sided disc, but mine isn't and has a proper label on one side. You'd think I'd be happy, having just read the bit about dual sided discs, but the main menu says "For special features turn disc over". I'd care about actually being able to see the special features a little more if I watched the movie regularly, but the thing is TWO HOURS AND FORTY ONE MINUTES LONG. Seriously a comedy just drags on if it's longer than an hour and a half or so. Cut out five or six of the useless subplots before releasing it.

No good segue here, but now we're talking about region restrictions. As far as I can tell these only exist to protect the profits of companies whose execs' pockets are already lined with gold. In all honesty, tell me why if I buy a movie in or from another country that happens to be in another arbitrarily-defined region, why I can't play it on a DVD player I purchased in my home country. In your response you are not allowed to mention the following words or their synonyms, other forms, or any euphemisms or rephrasings thereof: "rights", "distribution", "profit", "sales", "revenue", "piracy", "copying", "theft", "illegal", or the phrase "just because". "Piracy", "copying", "theft", and "illegal" are disallowed because it's so easy to just bullshit a response containing them.

Can't do it?

That's because it's impossible. Outside of different video standards (those wacky Europeans and their PAL video standard), there's no legitimate justifiable reason, and there can very easily be a separate flag on the disc for that. Or if you design your player properly you can have it convert so you can actually watch the movie.

Last but not least, some (most?) DVDs contain software that they try to install on autorun when the disc is inserted in the DVD drive of a computer. This usually installs some bullshit DRM scheme and a custom player full of glitzy graphics and lacking such essential features as fullscreen mode that's made to use it. Sometimes they don't give you a choice, the shit is installed without your will or desire. As you can readily see by popping the disc in your DVD player, the movie is perfectly playable without this crap, and it's trivial to avoid. Simply disable autoplay.

Companies: I don't care what you think your best interests are, they're not in my best interests, nor are they in my computer's best interests. I already have a software player to watch DVDs that I like and would like to use with everything thank you very much. I don't need your DRM'd bloatware clogging up my computer. If I want to skip warnings, trailers, commercials, logos, and watch it fullscreen with the ability to screencap in the full resolution of the video frame at opportune moments, I have that right. You hear that MAFIAA? It's my right, not my privelege, and nobody can take that away.

Holy crap I started writing this at 7:14 AM and now it's 9:26 AM.

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