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Widescreen, EZ-D, and More

December 2003


Well, I have good news on the personal front. For the past few weeks I have been employed my a large medical insurance company in nearby Maryland, and it's been made clear by my manager (now the director of Information Technology) that I'm exceeding expectations. So, it looks like this job is solid. I certainly can't complain either since I'm getting to work with some major Sun Microsystems hardware that I never would have had a chance to work with at my old employer.

The 26% increase in salary and completely casual environment (yes, jeans and t-shirts are acceptable) certainly don't hurt either.

DIVX, PART II

You are all aware of DIVX redux. (I'm referring to the Circuit City bastardization, not the compression codec, of course.) The now-Roy-Disney-less Disney EZ-D is barely selling. Can we all say “DUH!” (I still would love to get my hands on one of these abominations to see if it's possible to prevent the discoloration of the disc by opening the case in clear polyurethane.)

The slow sales are certainly no surprise and we can't expect it to catch on any time soon. As a promotional item, such as “Get a free limited-view movie with your Grease-a Hut pizza,” it holds a lot of promise. The other side of that equation, however, is that genuine DVDs now come with some cereals! If cereal companies can afford to give away real DVDs, EZ-D even as a promotional product will have comparatively limited appeal.

In truth, the economics of EZ-D are what will kill it. A $7 48-hour purchase as opposed to a $3 5-day rental. Gee. Which one would you choose even if it means having to actually get out of your chair?

WIDESCREEN EVENLY AVAILABLE?

Several months ago, I mentioned that I sent an e-mail to the local headquarters of a huge grocery chain that I will not buy any pan-and-scan DVDs period and that they are making a huge mistake by selling only P&S DVDs. I also mentioned shortly thereafter that I saw that they started to offer widescreen DVDs, but in small amounts.

I recently went into one of their stores and noticed that for those releases where the studios released separate versions this particular store stocked widescreen and pan-and-scan almost 50/50! Needless to say I was very happy, even though I wasn't happy that they still were charging a premium for their DVDs. A major grocery chain who at one point claimed “Low prices. Honest.”offers higher prices than a 25-50% markup convenience store? That's one to make you roll your eyes for certain.

There are still a smattering of stores that I see offering only pan-and-scan. (Note that I continually try to stay away from the inaccurate and obnoxious term “full frame”.) They're usually out-of-the-way stores who only offer DVDs as pure impulse shopping and hide the DVDs in a corner of the store. So I don't worry too much about the impact that such stores are having.

With respect to predatory Big Brother Wal-Mart, I'm hearing reports that go all over the spectrum. One person says that his local Microsoft .. er .. Wal-Mart offers more widescreen than not. Another says his store offers very little widescreen, although that could be an indication of strong widescreen sales. Another says that the availability of each is generally even.

Wal-Mart has pushed the studios to do dual releases. This is not conjecture as I have friends in the business who were told this directly from the studios. So, I'm not sure what to make of this except that there is no global policy on what Wal-Mart sells. So, if your local store offers a majority of pan-and-scan DVDs, make sure that the store manager knows that you will not buy any DVDs there until he start to order more widescreen DVDs.

I've also heard stories from people who said that they actually rearranged store shelves so that widescreen copies (when they're available) are in the front of the display and the pan-and-scan are in the back. Sorry, but I find this to be very amusing. Even I don't do that, and I've been called “militant” by some places that link to my site. One manager even threatened vandalism according to one person. Yes, vandalism. (No, I can't explain the reasoning behind that either.)

SOME WIDESCREEN STATISTICS

As one who is involved in the DVD industry (sort of) I get Video Business magazine, which is dedicated to (what else?) the business of video, including movies and video games.

I thought that some of you who think that pan-and-scan is winning or gaining ground would like to hear the latest statistics on DVD sales.

In the top 20 DVD sales, two possibly three DVDs are either TV shows or pre-widescreen movies (cartoons in this case) shown in an aspect ratio of 4:3, so there is no widescreen version. However, it is clear which movies are dual-releases (courtesy of Wal-Mart, no doubt) because they are specifically listed as either “full” or “wide”.

There are only two pan-and-scan releases in this particular week that make it into the top 20 - “Bruce Almighty” comes in 13th place and “X2: X-Men United” comes in 15th place. Don't fret, though. Their widescreen counterparts come in at 3rd and 2nd places, respectively. Of the other DVDs in the top 20 that were dual-releases, 10 of them are widescreen, including the “Indiana Jones” trilogy and “The Two Towers” (the theatrical edition).

So, only two dual-release, pan-and-scan DVDs cracked the top 20. Let's try to drop that number to zero in the future, shall we?

BY SPECIAL REQUEST

I'm rather surprised, but I've had more than one of my neighbors to the north ask if I planned on hooking up with Amazon.ca. Yes, I am an associate with Amazon.com, but since they live in Canada they want to purchase from Amazon.ca, which is completely understandable. However, since Amazon.com and Amazon.ca are not exactly the same, my Canadian guests have not been able to support widscreen.org that way.

At the request of others, I am now an associate of Amazon.ca. (The link is available from my Support section.) By clicking on the appropriate banner for either the U.S. or Canada and then proceeding to make your selections and purchases, a small percentage of your purchase will go to offset the costs of running widescreen.org with no extra expense to you. It's NAFTA-esque without the political poison. (That's a joke, son.)

ONE LAST THING

This is totally non-widescreen, but I think that is is something that should be said.

As a full-time (and more) computer and electronics geek and good-natured soul, I want to ask this of you for the holiday season. Many of you will be getting new computers or electronics this Christmas. Instead of letting your old electronics go into the landfills, please consider donating them. There are many organizations that take old computers (even 486s!) and give them to the less fortunate or give them to non-profit organizations that have no computers. There are also many towns and cities with electronics recycling programs to properly dispose of the harmful chemicals and elements that go into electronics.

Please. Don't just toss your old hardware. There are people who can use it. If you still plan on throwing it away, please do it responsibly by getting your equipment to the proper recycling agencies.

Whatever holiday you celebrate this time of year, may it be joyous and peaceful. Let us all hope that 2004 reigns in an era of peace such as this world has never seen.

Until next time...