Urban Cinefile
"What I do ends up as what's called Method Acting, although I'm not a notable proponent of it. I let the emotions be the motor."  -Gregory Peck
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Thursday July 12, 2018 

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There are now some 60,000 DVD players in Australian homes - by Christmas 2002, there will be 2.5 million, ready to play any one of 11 million DVD discs that will be sold that year. Just as we embraced the benefits of digital sound on CD, we are about to fall in love with the cinema-like quality of DVD for home enjoyment of movies. In this special feature, ANDREW L. URBAN takes an overview for the layman, marking the launch of our ongoing coverage of this new platform through selected reviews and news updates; he finds Decidedly Volatile Demand in the market.

Her satin skin glows in the moonlight as she turns her face towards the camera, a single, shiny teardrop rolling slowly down that smooth face towards her sensuous lips - her eyes pore into yours as the deep well of their dark brown centre plunges into the mists of eternal longing . . . and she sighs, as the violins echo her anguish... With a picture twice as sharp as your VHS and CD quality digital sound, DVD brings near- cinema quality into your lounge room. OK, so you miss the roar/sob/groan/cheer/ scream of the crowd next to you, but for home entertainment, DVD is to VHS what your cassettes were to your CDs: superior.

"you'll be instantly hooked"

Just play the first few minutes of Amadeus on DVD and you'll be instantly hooked on the medium - like we were at Urban Cinefile; the music, the images. . . the Mozart…. the marvellousness….the madness !

The improvement in technology leads directly to an increase in enjoyment: the clarity of the picture, the saturation of the colours and the excellence of the sound combine to involve you in the whole movie experience far more than a standard video. Not that the day of the video is over: far from it. Excellent quality videos are available and will be for years. But . . . once you've seen A Bugs' Life on DVD or Priscilla, for that matter, you will be reluctant to settle for the analogue alternative. And we have good news on that front….later on.

But the benefits of DVD technology don't stop at higher quality movie replication: with the 5 - 9 gigabyte of memory on a DVD, extra features can be stored to create a better 'context' for the movie, ranging from the director's voice over narrative (as with Ronin) as an option, to seeing how the original storyboards for the James Bond film, Tomorrow Never Dies, match the finished film.

"other instantly available features"

Extended 'Making of…' features (with star and director interviews), tv spots and theatrical trailers - as well as language and subtitling options, especially useful in a multicultural society like ours - are some of the other instantly available features on most DVDs. Scene selection is pretty well standard, too, so if you have a favourite bit you want to jump to - or show your aunt - you can do so with a click.

Oh yes, talking about clicks, if you have a DVD Rom on your PC (fairly common now) you can watch DVD movies on your computer; this is useful if you a) don't have a DVD player plugged into your tv, b) you are pretending to be working at your desk (with earphones).

Some films, like Thelma & Louise for instance and Message in a Bottle, even have alternate endings; these are endings that were shot but rejected - either by the studio, the test audience or the director.

The industry - DVD disc distributors and DVD player manufacturers - have formed a joint task force to promote DVD to us consumers, using a combination of key media and direct promotions. Recently released VHS movie videos carry a 56-second DVD trailer, and in October, the first of one million new flyers will be distributed through video stores.

Wayne Borg, Commercial Director at Warner Home Video, says the arrival of DVD coincides with a shift to ownership of movies by consumers; hence the 11 million units that we in Australia buy each year, a figure that will be matched by DVD in three years - hopes Borg and his colleagues.

"the joys of superb picture and sound."

At prices from $25 to $35, DVD is an option for the dedicated and the well paid - although not much more than a music CD. But first, you need a player, and here's the good news we promised. The manufacturers have committed to rapidly reduce the price of their entry models to roughly the same level ($600 -$750) as the top of the range VCRs. This is seen as a key to the mass uptake of DVD as a home entertainment system. As Borg and his Managing Director, Mark Gareton point out, a $2,000 'home theatre' upgrade can turn your lounge (or bedroom) into a mini-movie theatre, with the glories of perfect freeze frame added to the joys of superb picture and sound.

But there is no indication that DVD is cannibalising VHS sales: even as Warner Home Video celebrated its first $1 million in retail DVD sales through Myer Grace stores this week, they also recorded a 20% rise in VHS movie sales.

Of all the distributors, Fox was the least confident until they started counting the orders for Titanic. Ken Taylor, Marketing Manager at Fox, says "It exceeded our wildest expectations; we're actually out of stock waiting for new copies. The interest took us completely by surprise."

"DVD... Decidedly Volatile Demand"

Following this experience, Fox is far more open to the potential of DVD and is likely to be eyeing the 51% market share that Warner Bros currently claims (the figures includes Buena Vista titles from the Disney empire), or the 24% that Columbia TriStar (including its Universal titles) has carved out already. Roadshow is the third major player, with 18% of what is obviously a Decidedly Volatile Demand in the market.

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23/September 10, 1999: The 10,000th DVD copy of Titanic was shipped to retailers, one of over 350 movies then available in Australia on DVD - over 500 by Christmas. Tomorrow, the DVD of A Bug's Life will be released, simultaneously with the VHS release - and the first ever digitally created movie to be offered in a digital format to consumers.


DVD stands for Digital Versatile Disc.


A DVD disc looks like a CD disc but with the storage capacity up to 9 times that of a CD.


Our first DVD reviews:



(DVD discs viewed courtesy a Philips DVD player.)


A selection of 350+ titles already released:
Dangerous Liaisons
Das Boot
Max Max Beyond Thunderdome
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
The Cable Guy
Man in the Iron Mask
Little Women
Mr Bean
Yellow Submarine
As Good As It Gets


One of the special features of DVD is the wide screen option for films shot in wide aspect ratio, which avoids the need for pan and scan encoding that has been the bane of the transfer process from cinema to the tv screen. Many movies are issued on DVD in a choice of 'full frame' or 'wide screen', so you can select your preference.

Oscar winning director Sydney Pollack, on his visit to Sydney in September 1999, praised DVD for this, saying it mean he could revert to shooting films in wide screen format as DVD meant it could be seen at home without losing its visual essence.



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