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The “Special Features” Lie on DVDs

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Okay. Dvd’s. Fascinating, right? So much more than VHS right? Well, don’t get excited…

I think there should be some sort of “standard” as to what a “feature” on a dvd is. Saying a dvd has a feature (even if there’s no real feature at all) gets used more than an aspiring actress who can’t say no.

Whoever the mental fart is that decided these were features needs a shot in the gums:
Interactive Menus is not a feature. (Interactive Menus…. as opposed to WHAT? those Non-interactive ones? Oh Gee, thanks. Thanks for helping me spend my hard-earned buck via jamming it straight back up my chute.)
– The movie’s format ratio is NOT a feature. (I already bought the bloody movie, it had better be on there already – “Thanks for purchasing our over-priced movie – as a special bonus, you get — The Movie” – Ugh, idiots.)
Chapter Selection isn’t a feature. (Giving me the option of jumping ahead, when I could technically jump ahead at 32x speed already shouldn’t be considered special. – Sure it’s HANDY, but quit telling me I’m lucky to have it. — If you didn’t include it, your dvd would suck)

Have you ever heard this sentence: “You’re hired, welcome aboard – as a new member of our employment staff, you’ll recieve a very special bonus of washroom breaks, and we’ll even try to cut back on the sexual harrassment” ? Probably not. However, I bet you the people who work at the DVD factory have.

Okay, granted, the example picture I’m using is from my dvd of Action Jackson – not a shiny example of cinema, no – actually it’s complete bung (expect for the fung-fu of Craig T. Nelson – wow, my hero) BUT it’s an example that’s repeated far too much. Anybody have these “empty dvds”? They drive me nuts and haunt my dreams that should normally be filled with various images of ladies and hot tubs full of warm jello.

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About John

  • John,

    The items you mentioned above as bogus special features are essentially holdovers from the DVD’s predecessor, the laser disc. Most DVD purchasers take wide screen images (either letterboxed or anamorphic), chapter encoding and interactive menus for granted–and rightly so, as the vast majority of DVDs have them.

    But back when I routinely spent $50 to $125 per laser disc in the late 1980s through the mid-1990s, each of these items was big deal. I have numerous LDs from the late 1980s still in my collection that don’t have chapter stops because the studios releasing them didn’t consider them important enough to include them (MGM was a particularly bad offender in this department, for some reason). And letterboxing wasn’t commonplace until the early 1990s, even though the vast majority of serious film buffs preferred seeing the film as the director intended.

    So while these items should merely be the start of the features and ancillary material included in a DVD, I’m willing to cut the studios some slack for listing them as features in and of themselves.


  • Something that I’ve commented on before regarding this special features thing with DVD is that often the first DVD release is limited on features and then the follow-up DVD (if it sells well?) brings together the goodies. The DVD producers know what they are doing.

    When a DVD first comes out they are capitalizing on the folks who have to own it (Simpsons Season 3 comes out today in fact, woo-hoo!). Then later they can re-release another version with all the stuff they should have put on to begin with.

    As for what Ed said about laserdisc, this is very true. For those of us who still have a LD player, you can get some good deals these days on discs at eBay. I’ve picked up a few. Don’t see them sold in stores much any more with the proliferation of the smaller (and superior in most cases) DVDs.

  • Ed – For the most part I totally agree with you. I will concede that these little things were at one point considered “special” features. But at the same time, back in 1980, a TV that could handle more than the standard 13 channels was also considered a “special” thing. All things start off as “new” and “special” features, but at some point these features (remote control for the TV, a CD player in the computer, a car with windshield wipers) become universally acknowledged as “STANDARD”. I expect a DVD to have chapter points. You see where I’m going with this. Have a good day.