MWOP DVDS UNWRAPPED IN DEFENSE OF HD DVDS by DeAnn Welker April 4, 2008 11:55 am
I should just go ahead and get this out there: I'm a junkie. I have a problem. An addiction. I can't get enough. Whatever you're thinking I might be addicted to, you're probably wrong. So I'll just go ahead and confess: I'm addicted to HD DVDs. I can hear your responses already: "Isn't that a dead format?" "Why would anyone be addicted to something that lost to Blu-ray?" Or even: "What in the hell is an HD DVD?!" Well, I will tell you: HD DVD is a fantastic product, superior in almost every way to Blu-ray (I say this with experience, because I have both players; own and have watched many, many discs in both formats), but it lost the competition, because most studios decided to go exclusively with Blu-ray. (I have a conspiracy theory that Blu-ray backers Sony and/or Disney paid companies off; I'm looking at you, Netflix! -- but that could just be my own anger at the loss of my favorite format.) When I first bought my HD DVD and Blu-ray players, I received 10 free discs in each format, so I had plenty of time to see which format I liked better. I chose HD DVD for a few reasons: 1. The machine works better. This might just be the Samsung Blu-ray player I bought, but I have had to call Samsung more than once and have to reset my Blu-ray player all the time, because it gets stuck in the "LOAD" mode when I turn it on. (Resetting is a pain; it requires holding down the fast-forward for 11 seconds, turning off the player, unplugging it for a couple minutes, plugging back in, and trying again.) 2. The discs look better. In a side-by-side comparison, HD DVDs just look better -- at least on my TV. I've taken a couple discs that are available on both formats and compared them, and every time, the HD DVD version has been crisper, clearer and more vibrant. 3. Upconversion. Put a standard, old-school DVD into your HD DVD player and it's automatically converted to a higher-definition format. It's not as high-definition as an HD DVD or a Blu-ray, obviously, but it's so much prettier than in standard definition. I can't even watch a DVD on a regular, old DVD player anymore. It hurts my eyes to look at such a bland, colorless format. (I know, I know... some Blu-ray players also upconvert, but for my money, Toshiba's HD DVD players do it better. Again with the side-by-side comparisons.) 4. More and better special features. One aspect of HD DVD that has, without a doubt, surpassed Blu-ray are DVD extras. Many HD DVD and Blu-ray discs offer exclusive features not available on the standard-definition DVD. However, only HD DVD has been offering the "In Movie Experience" and picture-in-picture commentaries since nearly the inception of the format. These extras, which are available on discs too numerous to list here, offer something more than you can get on Blu-ray and DVD, because they let you watch the movie with not just a commentary, but a commentary that can also show you how a scene was shot, or that can break dissect a movie in the corner while the movie's playing. If you watch a special-effects-filled movie such as Beowulf, for example, with the picture-in-picture commentary on, you are going to see what was actually shot in the picture-in-picture window while you'll see what it looks like in its final movie form in the big window. Beowulf isn't exactly a great film, but it's pretty astonishing to see how greatly what the actors wore and did differs from the finished product. HD DVD makes this possible. Even in a movie with very few effects, such as Knocked Up, the picture-in-picture offers something special: You get to watch the filming as it actually happened, with goof-ups, ad-libs, outtakes, interviews with cast and crew, and more. So, feeling the way I did about the two formats, I've long believed HD DVD would have to win out. Unfortunately, I was wrong. The good news is that this has made it possible for me to snatch up more HD DVDs than I care to admit (OK, I'll admit it; since the announcement that the format would come to an end and the price-cutting started, I've bought around 60 HD DVDs -- as many or more that I haven't seen as that I have) at a price of somewhere around $10 a disc. Compare that to Blu-ray prices (the most inexpensive ones I can find are more than $15, and they go way up from there), though, and I've saved boatloads of money. The weird thing is that right now, I'm not even alone. HD DVDs have been topping the HD -- and sometimes even overall -- sales charts since the announcement. Surely this is because other folks have been trying to get their hands on as many titles as they can before there are no more. Lately, retailers have even started raising prices on the discs and the players again, a sign they know they can get more than bargain-basement prices out of them. Still, I realize that eventually I could end up being a lone wolf in the HD DVD wilderness when everyone else relents and embraces Blu-ray, but I'm sticking with it: HD DVD is the best format, the winner in my eyes, and I'll keep buying the discs as long as I can. -- DeAnn Welker