Cinema Psycho

"You know what? You have a losing personality." – Manhattan

I’m starting to think that HD must really stand for “Highly Depressing”.

Posted by CinemaPsycho on December 3, 2004

It was announced this week that 3 of the major studios – Warner, Paramount and Universal – are backing Toshiba on their new HD-DVD technology. This means that their future releases will be in Toshiba’s version of the format. This will directly compete with Sony and their previously announced Blu-Ray technology. (Remember how well Sony did with Betamax?)

In layman’s terms, this means that conventional DVDs are as good as dead. Just like “regular” cable TV, this much-loved format is already on its way out, to be replaced with something more advanced. Sometime in 2008, the big conversion is supposed to take place. The cable companies and networks will switch over to HD permanently, as will the studios and their DVD labels. HD-DVD will take over everything, just as DVD has pretty much destroyed VHS.

So what’s so depressing about all this? Surely HDTV and HD-DVD are much better than the current versions, right? Progress is good, isn’t it?

Well, yeah, I’m sure that HD-DVD will be amazing. I’m certainly no Luddite or anything. I like new technology as much as anybody. I think I would feel better about it if we actually had the option of saying no, thanks anyway.

But we don’t.

Around four years from now, we’re all going to have to shell out hundreds of dollars just to enjoy the same luxuries we have now. You want to watch TV, well, guess what, you have to buy a new HDTV. All the networks and cable channels will be in HDTV. Your current TV will not accommodate that (unless of course you already own a Hi-Def set). You want to buy or rent a new DVD, you’re shit out of luck unless you have an HD-DVD player. Your “regular” DVD player will be considered outdated and useless.

I’m sorry, am I the only one who thinks this deal really sucks?

I don’t know about you guys, but my name doesn’t end with Trump or Hilton. I don’t have tons of cash to throw around, especially to replace something that shouldn’t really be obsolete in the first place. Unless I happen to win the lottery sometime before the next Presidential election, I probably won’t have that kind of money anytime soon. (Considering I don’t play the lottery, that makes it even more unlikely.)

Yes, I realize that the prices for HD sets and DVD players will come down substantially by then. But it’s estimated that an average HD set will be around $500, and an average HD-DVD player around $300. If that estimate is accurate, we’re talking close to a grand (counting taxes, etc.) for things we really shouldn’t need. Most of us already have TV sets and DVD players; we shouldn’t have to buy them all over again.
Not to mention the fact that many people will want to replace much of their DVD collections in the new format. That’s a ton of cash right there, depending on the size of one’s collection. It may seem extravagant now, but just as people replaced their old LPs with cassettes, their cassettes with CDs and their VHS copies with DVDs, this is just inevitable.

(As for me, I’ll probably keep my old player and discs and just buy the new stuff in the new format. I’m not foolish enough to throw away all the cash I’ve spent over the last 4 years of buying DVDs. I still listen to my old cassettes rather than buy the same music on CD. But a lot of people aren’t like that, and you better believe the studios are banking on it.)

Sure, I recognize that a lot of people are going to WANT the new HD technology. Many people already own HDTVs. My problem is that we’re going to HAVE to buy it. There won’t be any choice in the matter. The entertainment industry will expect us to just cough up the dough all of a sudden. Meanwhile, they’ll keep selling conventional TV sets and DVD copies for the next 4 years as if nothing’s going to happen.

We’re not going to have the luxury of adopting a “wait and see if it lasts” attitude. There have been a lot of new formats that have come and gone without making much of an impression on consumers. Most of us can’t afford to just buy into them and cross our fingers. We want to know that this format is going to be around for a long time.

HD will obviously last, because they’re forcing it on us. But how many people waited to buy a DVD player until they were sure the format was going to last? We all saw what happened to laserdiscs. We were assured that DVDs were going to be the ultimate format, that nothing would ever top it for picture quality, sound quality, and convenience. That’s why we all bought our players, and spent heavily on our DVD collections.

Geez, I guess they lied to us, didn’t they?

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’m not looking forward to dropping a wad of cash on this. I already have a TV and a DVD player that I spent money for, as well as a relatively large collection of discs. The idea that it’s all going to be obsolete by the end of the decade kinda pisses me off.

Who knows, maybe the new formats will impress me so much that I won’t mind. Anything’s possible. But until then, maybe I should just stop buying DVDs that I won’t be able to play on the HD player they’re going to force me to shell out for.

Nahhhh…. who am I kidding?

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