Going to the movie theater is a major part of a film lover’s life, but any movie buff worth their salt also has an extensive DVD/Blu-ray collection at home – and these days, the advancements in home theater technology (including big screen HD TVs and Blu-ray discs) have made watching a film in the comfort of your own residence more appealing than making the trip to your local multiplex.
Unfortunately for consumers, movie studios have not handled this element as well as they would hope. Fans and reviewers are criticizing the Blu-ray release of Star Trek Into Darkness due to the four different versions that are available (as opposed to just one) – and this isn’t the first time a home media release has left people unhappy; it probably won’t be the last.
With that in mind, here are 5 ways the movie industry can improve their home media releases in order to make buying a film more rewarding.
The biggest issue regarding the Star Trek Into Darkness Blu-ray is that there are four different versions of the movie available – each with their own set of special features. The iTunes, Target, and Best Buy copies come with content that other retailers don’t have. It’s easy to see how this can be frustrating for fans, especially since bonus materials – such as director’s commentary and behind-the-scenes featurettes – are a main selling point for Blu-rays.
This isn’t a new thing either. The first video release of Transformers: Dark of the Moon infamously included a coupon for the upcoming “deluxe edition,” (released a few months later) which included the additional content. Blu-rays for Argo and Django Unchained were also shipped with store-specific exclusives, indicating that this trend is here to stay. Shortchanging consumers on special features makes more sense when the industry is trying to push a new format, but now that over 40 million U.S. homes own Blu-ray players, it would just be easier to include everything on one release and put this pointless practice to an end.
On most releases, viewers must first sit through a parade of trailers and advertisements for an upcoming slate of movies (and in some rare cases, random PSAs that have nothing to do with the industry) before they can access the main menu and actually watch the film they bought. When movie lovers dream about recreating the theatrical experience at home, this is not what they have in mind.
Usually, a press of the “menu” button will do the trick, but recent Blu-rays have pesky unskippable advertisements. The anti-piracy messages actually serve a point, but there’s no real reason to include that feature on previews as well. In a world where we have YouTube and iTunes Trailers, fans have instant access to these types of things, so it’s antiquated to use home media as a way to promote new projects. Frequently, the ads are available via the bonus features menu, so interested parties can watch them that way instead of being force fed the content as soon as they put the disc in.
While we do not approve of studios giving certain retailers exclusive bonus content, we would like to see them separate the releases in a different way: Make one “collector’s edition” version with as many special features that will fit (and we mean as many. Looking at you, Terminator Blu-ray), and have one with the film by itself, which would be offered at a reduced price.
Additional content may be a major selling point for home media, but there are some consumers who are interested in just the film and would rather not pay for an extra disc’s worth of bonus materials. Unlike the movies, the behind-the-scenes clips that break down the making of the film – while fascinating for cinephiles – do not have high replay value and most times they are watched only once out of curiosity and never seen again. Giving people a stripped-down option could be beneficial.
With people constantly on the go, it’s becoming increasingly popular for consumers to acquire digital copies of their movies in order to view them on laptops, tablets, and smart phones. While this is nice in theory, it’s clear that the movie industry is not quite ready for an iTunes revolution.
Studios are now pushing UltraViolet as the go-to digital format, but the process is a convoluted mess that’s more trouble than it’s worth. Customers must set up accounts at several sites just to stream one film – and they are not accessible on certain iOS devices. Downloading from Apple seems like a better option, but there is no way for users to import DVDs and Blu-rays in their library (like you can for CDs for music) and only select titles are equipped with bonus materials, which could upset some. To get people to completely buy in, someone will have to develop a gadget that allows you to incorporate existing physical copies with new digital purchases.
Back in the day of VHS and DVDs, watching a movie at home was simple. All you did was put the tape or disc in the player, sit back, and enjoy. While the HD picture and sound of Blu-rays are luxuries we enjoy, their players come with an extra wrinkle that can potentially be a giant hassle.
Manufacturers are always developing firmware upgrades to make their Blu-ray players up-to-date and use the most modern software to make their products. Due to this, most Blu-rays come with a notice that informs the consumer that the disc may not be compatible with their player (assuming it’s not updated). Most times, this is a non-issue, but some people have found certain movies don’t work on their player – and there’s no upgrade available. Viewers shouldn’t need new software for their players to perform their most basic function. All discs should work on all players regardless of when it was made.
Home media allows people to have their favorite films available for viewing at any time and gives those interested an opportunity to appreciate the craftsmanship via bonus materials. However, as we have just shown, there’s a long way to go before this element is perfected so it can reach its full potential. Even in 2013, there are still issues.
It will be interesting to see if any of these problems are remedied. Digital downloads in particular is the one key area to watch, as customers continue to look for efficient ways to store their collections.
Of course, our list is not meant to be all-inclusive, so let us know in the comments what changes you would like to see be made to home video releases.
Follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisAgar90
Star Trek Into Darkness is now available on Blu-ray/DVD. Choose your version wisely.