Tools

Slugline. Simple, elegant screenwriting.

Red Giant Color Suite, with Magic Bullet Looks 2.5 and Colorista II

Needables
  • Sony Alpha a7S Compact Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera
    Sony Alpha a7S Compact Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera
    Sony
  • Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GH4KBODY 16.05MP Digital Single Lens Mirrorless Camera with 4K Cinematic Video (Body Only)
    Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GH4KBODY 16.05MP Digital Single Lens Mirrorless Camera with 4K Cinematic Video (Body Only)
    Panasonic
  • TASCAM DR-100mkII 2-Channel Portable Digital Recorder
    TASCAM DR-100mkII 2-Channel Portable Digital Recorder
    TASCAM
  • The DV Rebel's Guide: An All-Digital Approach to Making Killer Action Movies on the Cheap (Peachpit)
    The DV Rebel's Guide: An All-Digital Approach to Making Killer Action Movies on the Cheap (Peachpit)
    by Stu Maschwitz
Thursday
Sep152011

Stripped-Down Blu-rays Selling Blu-ray Are Making Me Hate Blu-ray

I just rented Unknown from Netflix, on Blu-ray.

The first thing you see when you pop in the disk is a big, long, loud ad—for Blu-ray.

Hello. I own a Blu-ray player. I’m watching a Blu-ray. Why are you trying to sell me Blu-ray?

Skip.

Oops. Can’t skip. “This feature is not available here.”

So let’s see. I’m a Blu-ray owner, and you’re trying to sell me on Blu-ray by demonstrating Blu-ray’s ability to force me to watch an ad.

Fast forward maybe? Success!

But wait, now I’m curious. Let’s watch this Blu-ray ad.

It talks about image and sound quality. Yep, those are important to me.

Now it’s going into a big section about special features. “Go deeper into the movie.” Yes, this is the main reason I love Blu-ray so much. Picture-in-picture commentaries. Behind-the-scenes stuff. Awesome.

OK, ad over. Now some trailers.

Wow, lots and lots of trailers. For movies, and TV shows, and games, and…

Skip. Oops, nope. Fast forward.

Fast forward fast forward fast forward.

Aha. The menu.

And here are the two options:

  • Play Movie
  • Languages

Let me get this straight. After forcing me to watch an ad touting the amazing special features of Blu-ray, a thing of which I am already clearly a fan having spent hundreds of dollars on a player, you present me with a movie featuring exactly one “special feature”:

Spanish.

One of the most prominently featured movies in that unskippable ad was Sherlock Holmes. I rented that too. It also featured a stripped-down menu with only two options and none of the special features advertised. Except, of course, for the unskippable ads.

I get it. These minimized disks are pressed specifically for the rental market. I’m supposed to buy the “real” Blu-ray to see the good stuff. I actually do buy tons of Blu-rays—usually after renting them and experiencing how great all the special features are (Universal, ironically a late adopter of Blu-ray having supported HDDVD, doesn’t do the bare-bones thing). Looking back at my Amazon buying habits, turns out I buy a lot fewer movies these days—with “these days” coresponding precicely to the advent of these stripped-down “rental only” disks.

I’m a filmmaker and movie fan with a 1080p projector, 100-inch screen, and surround sound. Everyone I know streams nearly all their movies, but I specifically seek out the quality and extra features of Blu-ray without a second thought to the expense. But my love affair with the format is being killed by these bare-bones disks.

Here’s a crazy idea. How about instead of forcing people to watch an ad that talks about how Blu-ray provides a great movie watching experience—and then providing a shitty movie watching experience—how about just providing a great movie watching experience?

Let the experience be the ad.

Or, like Seth Godin says, “the product is the marketing.”

After all, look at the enormous popularity of the easiest way to have a high-quality movie watching experience at home, without any ads, trailers, FBI warnings, or firmware updates.

Talk about a successful product.

Reader Comments (11)

BANG!
…on the head!

My thoughts exactly.

Same setup (mines 108" LOL), same attitude, streaming as last resort because I'm a quality nut, etc.

What Stu said.

September 15, 2011 | Registered CommenterCarey Dissmore

Way to go Stu. I second the sentiment!

Do you remember the mid-90's TV commercial campaign (from GE, I believe) that showed us the home of the future? Any movie you wanted to watch would be instantly accessible to your home theatre?

Sitll waiting for that day, but I'm afraid Hollywood's marketing departments will get their grubby hands on that experience as well!

September 15, 2011 | Registered CommenterVictor De Anda

Our Netflix routine. Turn on the TV, turn down the sound, load the disk, press play,go to the kitchen, make a snack, pop popcorn, fix a drink, take a shower and put on jambes if necessary, then, and only then, return to the TV, turn up the audio and select either Engilsh or Spanish and play.

September 15, 2011 | Registered CommenterRick Gerard

Couldn't have said it better. Absolutely love the flowchart! Thanks for starting my day with smile, Stu!

September 16, 2011 | Registered CommenterKen Lowrie

Deaf ears my boy, deaf ears.

I wonder if anybody is still making the bonus features. I seldom buy any disks of any kind so I don't really know. Maybe someone should pirate the bonus features so we can bit torrent them. Not me, mind you, but "someone".

I hate BD because of the huge license fee if you want to press a bunch.

By the way, I think the director commentary on Hollywoodland, directed by Allen Coulter, was one of the best for filmmakers. He talked a lot about why he shot the way he did. Gave me some ideas that were new to me.

September 16, 2011 | Registered CommenterRob Shaver

Couldn't agree more. This is why i read your blog, Stu. I authored the BD and DVD for our new movie, The Art of Flight, and I designed them so the user could get the menu as fast as possible. The only thing that plays first is the FBI warning and it can be skipped. I hired another authoring company in LA to double check my work (it was the first BD replication project I'd done). The main author there was amazed that I made the FBI warning skippable and that i didn't add anything before the menu (like the endless trailers you describe). He said he never sees that with his regular clients.

September 16, 2011 | Registered CommenterEric Hansen

Hi Stu

The problem here is that the people who release and distribute this content wear suits. They are in marketing and advertising and though they may think they are creative in fact they probably will never know true creativity.

Bill Hicks famously once said "...if you work in marketing or advertising.....kill yourself..." That may seem a bit harsh but the guy had a point. Non creative morons in suits run the majority of the film business as a business. This is counterpoint to the creative process and integrity of creative people in this business. When a bunch of jerks in a test audience can decide the ending of the film because, hey, they are way more qualified than the writer, director, cinematographer or editor of that film, right?.....of course not but if the morons in suits keep forcing FBI warnings and endless adverts down our throats people will run in droves right into the arms of the digital buccaneers. And you know what, I don't blame them one bit. They rip us off and force us to look at bullshit and wonder why the pirate industry is booming.

September 16, 2011 | Registered CommenterAlan Eddy

Stu,

I think that you have witnessed a subsidy being played out in front of your eyes.

Unknown did ok in the worldwide box office...

Courtesy of Box Office Mojo.com:

Unknown
Production Budget: $30 million

Domestic: $63,686,397 48.7%
+ Foreign: $67,100,000 51.3%
= Worldwide: $130,786,397

So they did 100million on top which seems quite good actually. Very respectable for a movie with a modest budget.

Problems are:

Many of the revenue points awarded to talent and production people award with the release of the DVD and BR disc and the amount of revenue for both is declining.

Most of what Blue ray is gaining is being stripped from regular DVD users instead of grabbing new market share. In order for subsidizing the cost of the DVD and BR marketing, production and distribution most of this is paid and subsidized by the add revenue they put in front of you. Which it is designed to be un-skipable in order to be in line with the people who paid for the adds which is the same studio most of the time.

So the studios want a subsidized disc for maximizing revenue and a way to sometimes hook people into other rentals of low quality or independent pictures which might target the viewer of the original movie.

While a skip function could be an easy fix I don't see Blue Ray surviving another 5 years on the market. Streaming will probably absorb that market with its inability to skip adds and or content protection controls at the server side for playback. DVD and BR are the last standing formats that made a collector happy. In the near future will be inundated with more un-skipable advertizing and limited time rentals for streaming media.

Compression will get better in time due to faster internet pipes and quality will get very close to Blue Ray in the next decade. Who looses? The viewer that wants the full experience of extra features but as you point out those are few and far between releases of most movies.

If you want to own classics on BR to play in a completely un-networked to the outside environment then get them while you can, because digital streaming and locked content will bury that avenue in the near future.

September 16, 2011 | Registered CommenterJames Benet

Totally agree. Same set up, same problem. It is deeply frustrating and sad. I _want_ to give these people money and they make it so miserable when I get the product I now think twice, and sometimes don't even bother.

I never think twice about buying Criterion disks. In fact, I often buy those without thinking at all, not even knowing anything about the movie.

The solution is, of course, to rip all the bluray's you buy and use an htpc such as Plex or xbmc instead of playing it through the disk player - just keep the disks as back up. Time consuming and irritating though - I've not done it yet for that reason. I'm tempted though. It would probably increase my purchases of Bluray disks.

@ErikHansen - just saw the trailer for Art of Flight - very excited about it. Definitely going to buy it on bluray!

September 17, 2011 | Registered CommenterDavid Thomson

Hi Stu,
this is one of my favourite posts. I hope you're still writing your script! You can quit your day job now.

George

September 20, 2011 | Registered CommenterGeorge Tyszkiewicz

Stu, you might want to try MakeMkv. i have used it with dvds to make mkv files, but you can it can also do blueray. it is very fast and you can use the files with Plex or other video server software. it is currently free during beta.

it is lossless because it does no compression and that is why it is so fast.
you can also select which titles to make. if you want the movie only or any of the extras and leave out all the previews.

also, i saw you on fxguide a while ago with the red epic shoot in New Zealand. that looked like a lot of fun!

September 24, 2011 | Registered CommenterDaniel M
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