Movie Collection part 4: High Definition

Many of you may remember the high definition format war that occured between HD-DVD and Blu-Ray. It was a confusing time that I would equate to Betamax and VHS (although my family had plenty of both) back in the eighties but not something that I had to deal with directly; I was a child, after all. The high definition wars had me at my prime: I had money, I had knowledge, and I had a love for movies. So which one do I go with?

It came down to dollars, initially. Since I had an Xbox 360 it was cheapest for me to get the HD-DVD add on, and with it, I bought a slew of movies. Many of them were upgrades of DVDs, so I was able to continue to get rid of the original DVD collection. One of the first movies I recall playing was TRAINING DAY. The scene I remember as a standout of high definition was an interior shot of a car driving in the rain; the rain drops collected on the window, while the actors inside remained sharp. The detail throughout was amazing, and you could see the depth of the picture: the actors, the window and the world outside. HD-DVD really impressed me, especially on the 50 inch DLP television I was able to pick up around the same time, which was a set that would last me years and never failed to impress with quality. It was very sad to let go of.

Blu-ray players were very expensive. And it looked like Sony was going to pull the same trick with the PS3 as they did with the PS2, and it worked. The PS3 came out and ended up being the most inexpensive player around, not to mention the best one on the market. It’s also worth noting that it has withstood the test of standards through the ages: as the Blu-ray spec was bumped, the PS3 was able to accommodate. It was future proof, so I bought one for the cool price of $500. Being a bit of a gamer, the decision was a no brainer: getting Blu-ray capability plus the ability to play the PS2 and PS3 library of game made it a great addition to my collection. Then, I started buying Blu-ray movies.

Every day I watched the news on the wars. It flipped back and forth a bit, but it looked like Blu-ray was going to win out. Then, the adult industry declared support for HD-DVD, which in the past, has been a deciding factor in format decisions. However, as I imagine digital/internet distribution being the major source for that industry, that their support lent very little to the war. In the end, it was the announcement coming from Warner Bros to support Blu-ray, that led to a quick demise for HD-DVD. If you will recall, Warner was a huge supporter of DVD, so yet again, many of my initial HD-DVDs were from Warner and their affiliate studios. With the war over, I was able to happily invest in Blu-ray, and after a couple of years, I parted with all of them, giving them to a friend who owned a dedicated HD-DVD player (the only person I know who did, actually). They have a good home.

The vigor that took place when collecting DVDs was gone. It was difficult for me to part with my money in most instances, although some movies were purchased immediately. One of the contributing factors was the idea that I had spent money on the DVD beforehand, and this is essentially a “double-dip.” The initial run of Blu-rays being released were often bare-bone releases, with little to no special features, and terrible packaging that wasn’t going to stand the test of time. Another factor was downloading. No, I’m not particularly proud of it, but I did partake and it made the idea of purchasing a skeletal release that much harder. I invested a lot of money in HTPCs, hard drives and saw the collecting of digital movies become a hobby upon itself that combined my love for movies with my love for technology. In the end though, it felt empty, and I’m happy that I was purchasing my most beloved movies on physical medium all the time throughout.

Services like Netflix also seemed to negate the purpose of buying these movies, as they were available for streaming immediately. It didn’t take long to notice though that titles would disappear after but a few months, and it was definitely clear that this wasn’t your collection of movies. They wouldn’t always be available at times for reasons beyond your control.

Having dealt with movie-only digital formats for a while, my interest toward special features begun swinging back into focus. The industry began releasing collector-focused editions that grabbed my attention and sparked an interest in the medium that hadn’t been around since DVDs were in their prime. I stumbled across CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, in an ‘ultimate’ edition, gorgeous box that included multiple cuts of the film, a delightful book and a low price point. My love for digibooks was born as I found BATMAN, SE7EN and killer editions of JAWS and FULL METAL JACKET. The hunt in stores and online for these kinds of editions is tremendous fun.

Unlike DVD, Blu-ray movies would come down in price fairly quickly. It would be foolish to buy a new movie within the first four or six months, as they always came down. There was also a multitude of movies coming in under $10, which made any lack of features or special packaging nearly irrelevant. Indeed, $10 seemed to become the magic price point, at which I could happily purchase a movie that I’ve owned before, or take a chance on one I maybe haven’t seen.

Collecting Blu-ray has become quite exciting: there are lots of editions of movies coming out, new masters being struck and released, and different packaging becoming available. At first, I wasn’t a fan of Steelbook releases, viewing them as a cheap way to grab a buck: often they contained less content than their standard counterparts at the trade-off of beautiful cover art and presentation.

I was also going to approach things differently, with a philosophy and some rules in mind. I didn’t want to buy new releases: if I loved the movie I could wait a year after release. This could help clear my mind on the quality of the film itself, but also allow for any new editions to come out or be released. Most importantly, it would save money. I wanted to collect what was important to me, and suppress the impulse purchases. What I end up with is a solid collection that I’m proud of.