Inequality comes from many directions. Editorial – February 2013.

Deferred selection is control not choice.

Hello everyone

Inequality comes from many directions. One of my current bugbears is the differences between US and UK DVD releases by the various production companies, saying that so I don’t discriminate against just one or two involved here. I can understand why censor cuts might mean slight time variations of the lengths of films in different countries. It’s well known that when films are made that where there is going to be some conflict with a country’s censorship rules, the scene will be filmed two different ways. As the USA is the biggest consumer, you Americans out there get an adjusted version to avoid further cuts where the rest of the world, for all intents and purposes, get the preferred director’s cut. This doesn’t happen with all films but it mostly affects Science Fiction and horror films. I have to confess from our side of the pond, we find that a little confusing, especially considering the real life carnage over there has to be far worse than anything shown on the screen.

Considering how the Internet is allowing people to see films on-line now, you would think that the differences between different versions allowed would be changing and there would be some equality in what can and can’t be allowed, at least in the western world. Granted I don’t watch films on-line, this has to be an inevitable as anything else in the world. If you know there’s a longer or uncut or uncensored version, as a genre fan, which film are you going to watch for choice? You see my point.

That being the case, why should there be such a discrepancy when it comes to DVDs and why do we British often get the shoddy end of the deal with the number of extras those of you people over the pond in America get? What we might gain in film length, and often it’s only a change in scenes, length we lose in extras. I’ve heard the argument that there is a delay caused in the manufacturing process but just how long does it take to get a master copy across the Atlantic? No doubt someone will say that if you want the US version and you have a multi-region DVD player which is still a big ‘if’ for some folk, then order the US version and totally miss the point. Namely, that the studios are forever scoring own goals when it would be easier to have everything equal, which ultimately means extras, unless, of course, they want people like us to buy from their homeland. Not quite sure on that one, as once in the hands of the distributors, they aren’t the ones making the profit nor do we pay US taxes as far as I can see. It’s hardly as though the extras and their rights are going to cost a great deal of extra money if it’s already been released in one country.

I commented back at the end of November about neither ‘Marvel’s Avengers (Assemble!)’ or ‘Prometheus’ DVDs on both sides of the Atlantic were carrying all the extras, nor including an extra DVD as their predecessors had and if you wanted those, you would have to splash out on a Blu-ray player/recorder to watch them. This is the first time, both sides of the pond are in the same boat.

It’s been accepted for some time that the bigger capacity Blu-ray disks can carry a lot more material but usually we get at least a decent sampling with the blockbusters on an extra DVD. There’s even been a single choice DVD for the normal folk who just want to own the film. The problem then really applies to mostly us genre fans. Do we buy early with the initial release and then have to buy again when a DVD special edition is released or just wait until it does? With money tight and given the choice, I would rather wait a few months just in case than buy a second time. If we all followed suit, I’m sure it would give the people in charge pause for thought as to why their product sales wasn’t going quite the way intended, even if it slows it down somewhat. Saying that, there is a risky situation in that they might believe no one was interested in their product anymore but no less risky that discrimination at only targeting a particular audience statistic, which is where the element of geekiness comes about is you, the reader, reading this today. It’s hardly as though Blu-ray is a massive seller yet and surely how can all the extras be chucked there than at least a decent offering on the DVD release.

It’s also interesting to note that both ‘Marvel’s Avengers (Assemble!)’ and ‘Prometheus’ DVDs having longer running times Stateside than in the UK, which is unusual in itself. If ever there was a reason to believe that there will be a director’s cut version out later than sooner, then that’s where I will wait with my money. After all, it’s hardly unknown for Ridley Scott not to have done a director’s cut or three, although Joss Whedon remains to be seen in that regard. Either way, considering the success of both films, for whatever reasons, both seem likely than unlikely for this to happen. Interestingly, the Blu-ray version of both films is the UK print, so even British Blu-ray buyers seeking the complete version will have to buy the US DVD version. This will no doubt mean for future genre blockbusters, a wait, check and double-check on comments from those who took the first dip before buying anyway. Ultimately, this will mean you’ll be doing my suggestion above of waiting to see what is dished out before choosing which version to buy. Do the various film studios not want to sell their product on DVD or Blu-ray?!

Inequality comes from many directions
Inequality comes from many directions

Although I can accept that director’s cuts of films can come a little while later down the line after the main release for the specialist market, which is still us by the way, as most of them are within our genre means we are the ultimate buyers, it does seem like we’re being short-changed in other respects. Even the new ‘Spider-Man’ and ‘Dark Knight Rises’ films have suffered a similar fate as far as the extras are concerned, most of which are left to Blu-ray, leaving the DVDs to pretty much bog standard as if they are a sub-standard product. If this is accepted as the new norm, then we’ll be either forced to up-grade or miss the extras or I suspect some of you will just download off the Net. Ultimately, the studios lose again.

We have freedom of choice but not the right of the medium we prefer or the supplied extras, simply because we’re being denied it. Unlike the change from video tape to DVD, the change from DVD to Blu-ray isn’t quite the same as both disks, short of a fire or a deep scratch, are a lot more durable. As I’ve commented in the past about computer speed, when you upgrade a computer, after a week, you don’t really notice the difference. Any better picture quality is something you get used to and is still dependent on the quality of television you process than either a DVD or Blu-ray machine. The only thing in its favour is the Blu-ray player or recorder can play or record on both sorts of disks, but will the same be same for its successor? After all, sooner or later, someone or company will come up with what they regard as a better product and offer another version upgrade. Maybe the next version will be even more indestructible, capable of surviving fire damage or being scratched or considering how many people download, dispense with the hardcopy version completely. As with digital music, so much for the secondary collateral market if it all turns into a digital cloud. Not sure if that latter example will happen yet, mostly because there is still a very large proportion of the population who aren’t or likely to be computer-orientated.

For the present, that’s in the future (sic). What is more worrying is whether or not the current situation is going to be the norm for all future film releases. Are the companies deciding that the DVD is on the way out and only support a Blu-ray with extras release? The price of a Blu-ray player has dropped to something closer to that of the DVD player now so the jump over is far more likely to happen. However, the Blu-ray recorder is still more vastly expensive, it still makes the DVD recorder the machine of choice, so why buy two different machines?

Would this be affected if the Blu-ray recorder is of similar price to the DVD recorder? Probably not. We’d turn to Blu-ray simply because it can do both, although I suspect we’d choose to record on DVD than Blu-ray simply to spread material over several than a single disk just in case a recording ever went wrong. Undoubtedly, with Blu-ray recorder prices nearly double still, that’s still a few years off yet, let alone it being a standard option to be installed in computers. Until it’s the norm for computers as well, computer DVD recorders will be the norm still and people will be reluctant to change their machines.

From that perspective, the DVD player and recorder are going to be around for some time to come yet. It is something for the studios to remember when they choose where to put the associated film extras.

Every alternative, opens up other odd questions. I’m a lateral thinker, I think in all directions at the same time. If you feel I’ve made a valid point here, polite emails to the companies concerned and tell them what you think.

Thank you, take care, good night and consider the implications.

Geoff Willmetts

editor: SFCrowsnest.co.uk

December 2012, even though I hadn’t left an active link to my email address, it got solidly attacked and then blocked from everyone, including myself. By necessity, having a form of open contact to me comes as part of the editor’s job, so alternative means have now been set up to contact me. We still seek reviewers and new material so follow the paths through the website and go where no spam-bot dares. I’ve yet to see them write anything.

A Zen thought: A feather in the sky shows where a bird flew by.





Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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