see whatever…

jump to menu

February 21, 2010

(pirated) usage of stuff (DVD and BD and other)

Filed under: Data,Death,Film,Usability — see @ 1:49 pm

Reading “buying DVDs vs pirating them” reminded me again that I wanted to rant about this stuff  (again…).

Using DVD as a normal innocent user is a pain (for more see article):

  • handling constrictions preventing the user to skip stuff like unwanted trailers, REALLY unwanted trailers about “copy is a theft” (WTF, I bought this DVD!), long menu animations and the really annoying “warning, do not copy” signs in up to 50 languages or more!
  • region code bullshit
  • not easily (e.g. officially forbidden by law in Germany and elsewhere) being able to make a backup copy (DVDs are delicate, I had a few ones lasting 2 or 3 years only :( )
  • lots more…

Using BDs is about the same if not worse as copy protection handling via HDMI is just unbearably slow.

CDs with copy protection (which seem to get out of fashion finally) and their specific problems (incompatibility with cars, computers, even security problems – I somehow recall a rootkit there) are about the same category. The music industry seem to have (painfully)  learned a bit from the past years but still seem to not fully understand what their customers want :( There are hardly any hidef music downloads available despite more and more users would be able to use and enjoy them (ranting about MP3 music downgrading and people being educated to accept this crap is another story…)

Even stuff like the iPhone could be added to this. Otherwise no one would have developed Jailbreak in the first place…

All share the same annoyance: Having to deal with constrictions which are not technical (these would be understandable even for an ignorant user) but are purely arbitrary.

Mostly I am annoyed that when I do use this stuff normally (no ripping etc) I am being cheated. Pirates have the better experience. And a good experience is what all the media are made for in the first place, are they not? So somehow producers force people to cheat on them which in turn makes producers feel forced to add more constrictions – vicious circle.

Producers seem to ignore what people want but focus on what they the producers need. This may be ok upto a point but totally ignoring the demands of the consumer is just plain stupid.

I don’t think ranting about this stuff will help at all but what can you do?

More and more people seem to not buy CDs anymore, rip their DVDs or even BDs, Jailbreak their iPhones (I guess roughly half the men I know do this, BTW, iPhone seems to be male only anyway…) etc.

But pirating is not my preferred method and actually I wonder why people in the creative business especially (to which I count designers etc but also IT people, who understand the difference between a technical and arbitrary constriction even better) use some kind of pirating which they would strongly argue against when dealing with their own “creations”…

Solution? Highly unlikely to happen but a producer should research what a consumer wants and offer a product which fulfils these wants without destroying the experience. I still naively think the better product will win…

(pirating) usage

May 2, 2009

Blu-ray blues…

Filed under: Death,Film,Usability — see @ 12:20 pm

I do like watching movies. I used to go to the cinema very frequently (there was a time in which I went more than 200 times in a single year). I totally passed on Video as the quality never was good enough (and I also never had the money to buy a decent TV and VHS at the time ;) . And VHS just was not anywhere near cinema quality.

When DVD came out (and became affordable) I got a player and also a projector with which a cinema like experience at home was almost possible. I did not get any high-end player nor projector but still the experience has been worth it and it is affordable. Also starting at that time I like watching movies in their native language which is a real problem in Germany as most films are dubbed and not just subtitled. This is the main reason I do not go to the cinema very often these days. At home I can see movies in their native language (it takes a while until films are released on DVD etc but this time has been getting less and less recently and I think almost bearable now). See also An Epic Fail which is very interesting.

So naturally after HD came about I was thrilled. Even better quality! No way to afford a full HD projector yet but 720p projectors have been quite affordable for some time now and even on these HD makes a difference (depending on the quality of the film of course ;) .

I watched the dreadful battle between HD-DVD and Blu-Ray which is one of those needless but self-destructing things in modern technology it seems. In the end HD-DVD (being the better technology it seemed) lost. But as BD-players were still much too expensive and I did not want to get a noisy power-hungry monster like the PS I waited. HD-DVD players were in sale and the price was as low as a middle class DVD player and so I got one of the last ones. The player was good enough or even better than my old DVD player so it replaced it.

Films on HD-DVD were quite cheap as well (at least not as outrageously priced as BD still sometimes is today – a movie for 30€?!) and near normally priced DVDs (which is somewhere a movie ticket for 2). I got about 5 or 6 movies which I sometimes already had on DVD but all of them were worth the (now sometimes doubled) investment. Very crisp and clear image, films like 2001 are just made for HD. Also the menu system was nice. Nothing too fancy but menus popped up quick and just on top of the film (so a quick change in e.g. subtitles etc was easy). Also for most films each extra showed its duration which sometimes is very interesting. A making-of has a range between maybe 5 and 200 minutes and knowing that beforehand is nice. Of course the player had some drawbacks. It was dead slow until a disc was finally running, sometimes upto a full minute. But all in all the experience was enjoyable. The main stuff – the movie – in good quality, extras were good and easy accessible.

Of course I knew HD-DVD was a dead technology but as the price I paid was hardly more than what I would have paid for the same stuff on DVD it was totally worth it.

Then, I think this year, BD-player prices finally came down to affordable ranges and also movie prices finally came down. Also the range of movies available on BD is high enough that not only last years blockbusters are available now but also classics like Kubrick films, the Bond movies, and generally movies which are not in their kindergarten age but like Planet of the Apes are from the sixties and older. Even some Hitchcock movies are at least announced.

So when a very nice offer came along I finally got a BD-Player. New generation but very decently priced and a player which had good reviews in every magazine and online review.
I don’t think the player is bad and I also don’t think that my player does anything very different than other players on the market (ignoring high-end ones for now). I guess any player from any brand is at least similar. Sometimes a bit slower, sometimes a slightly better image but all in all exchangeable. So my problems with BD are not with my specific player. (One point: My player does not have a subtitle button which I would like to have as I need about 5 clicks to change this. Very annoying).

But I think BD has problems…

First, reading a BD is as slow as reading a HD-DVD. This will improve with new models but it is painful. During the player reading a disc for the initial time it flickers between funny images like a complete blue screen, a wobbly black and green one and other stuff. This is the same when I start up my PC but I want a home consumer technology to hide this.
It seems handling the HDMI HDCP handshake and handling the BD copy protection the player is so busy that it simply is unable to show anything decent.
Also the “Reading” message is shown as frequently as the typical “LOADING” on any PC-game or modern Flash based websites…

So the player is slow but the real problem is that EVERY TIME I press the button to go to the main menu it takes time. It seems the menu has to be read from scratch every time. HD-DVD was much better there, menu popup was almost instantly there.

Generally the menu system is really strange. I guess any publisher does his own menu so there are no best practices yet. So any publisher makes his own mistakes how to structure and navigate the menu. (BTW, no BD I have seen until now had duration information on any extra feature which HD-DVD discs had and which I liked – maybe it is just coincidence). The possibilities in designing a menu for BD are much higher than for e.g. DVDs but with this power also comes a higher responsiblity (sorry for this overused quote ;) . It seems hardly anyone tests if a menu is usable at all.

Two examples:

On X-Men 1 the extras have lists of parts or subfeatures. These are “scrollable” with a click but they do not rotate which is annoying in a list of 12 items and you are at the bottom but want to the top of the list which then takes 12 clicks. Also going back to the menu takes about 3-5 second every time I am finished watching 1 extra which is most tiring when I have like 30-40 extras all in all…

The Zodiac BD menu is much simpler (basically a one screen menu like a sitemap which is actually good) but navigating this menu is not self explaining. The Menu has 3 columns which you navigate up/down by using the cursor up/down keys on the remote. I would expect the highlight cursor on the screen to move to the top of the next column if I am at the bottom of the column before. But that does not work. I have to use the cursor right and left keys to move between columns. Ok, let it be so. But I also have to be on the proper height in a column to move to the left or right! If I am at the bottom on col 2 I cannot use cursor right as the right column has no selectable items at this point… (BTW my player locked up totally once while navigating the menu which is really strange given such a simple menu with no animation or any other fancy stuff. I had to shut the player down completely which took about 30 seconds as it did not wanted to shut down. I am patient so I did not pull the power cable but I wonder what would have happened…)

Another problem is the handling of buttons in the menus. It seems most menus just use the cursor and ok buttons on the remote. The remote also has a “Return” button which is used in the player setup menus. So I expected to be able to use it in disc menus too. Returning from a deeper level of the menu to a higher would be a reasonable function of this key I think. But all I get is a player message “This function is not available at this time”. This seems to be a standard message if a key press it not supported (Also e.g. when trying to get to the menu during the dreadful legal message screens after some movies which are shown in 10-30 languages. But this is a DVD problem too…). But I get this message on almost any second press of a button which is just strange. I simply do not feel comfortable with such a control. And I guess people not familiar with technology generally just think the disc is broken…

These are all minor annoyances. But should a new technology not be better than an older one? Watching a DVD is quite simple, menus are basic but simple to use, menus are generally quick and also loading of a disc is quick. BD is generally slow, sometimes unbearable. And why? One reason is the copy protection which makes the player so busy it cannot even respond at times. And it is known no copy protection is safe forever (not even years) so a IRONY:”feature” I don’t want and does not help anyway does even annoy me?
I don’t copy movies, I do buy them. But I have to live with a handicapped technology. I did not even mention region codes…
The usability problem of dics I guess will not be solved as it would force publishers to test any new menu. Website usability has improved over the years (still not perfect of course) but I think BD menu usability is not even recognized as a problem yet.

In former times products were developed for a need and to help the customer (at least that is what I think). BD just seems to cause problems and being able to watch a movie in good quality is just a side effect. The greatest fear I have is that it will even get worse in the future (BD+ copy protection is on the way but what madness will the next technology after BD have)…

March 27, 2007

Casino Royale on DVD and Blu-Ray

Filed under: Death,Film — see @ 7:53 pm

More or less the day after it came out I got the DVD of Casino Royale, the lastest Bond movie. I was pleasently surprised when it came out last year in the cinema, saw it only once though, guess due to lack of time. So I was quite eager to get the DVD, also because I assumed the extras are as good as the ones on the older Bonds which are about the best DVD extras you can get (Lord of the Rings is fine too, but almost too much…).

Watching the film on DVD is still good but the quality of the DVD picture is not what a good film like this deserves. I noticed during the opening titles that the whole picture is not as sharp as it could be (compaired to other DVDs). The sound is ok, but the picture is really not good.

I have thought before a company which produces Blu-Ray discs (and a BD player/gamestation ;) would not be too eager to produce DVDs as good as technically possible and this seems exactly what happens. The review of both the DVD and Blu-Ray version on german DVD magazine AreaDVD (see google…) sadly affirmed this thought.
The review says that both versions have a strange coloring (so no winner here, but still not a good reference to the DVD producer) but the DVD is really NOT sharp, the BD is…

I know BD being HD should have a sharper picture but a DVD can be better. I guess it makes more sense for a BD and DVD producer to hype BDs, still not good style…

The whole HD thing is quite annoying already. Having copy protection which is only a hassle for me as I do not copy DVDs or CDs at all but like to have the best quality which for example with a copy protected CD is certainly not what I get, maybe even another region code madness (which AFAIK is in the pipeline at least for BD), 2 different HD formats (HD-DVD and BD), expensive players and discs and now it seems DVD gets worse quality just to be able to promote HD better…

BTW, the DVD extras are just lame, nothing compared to the really interesting features on the older Bond films. Maybe I should have bought the single disc version (but of course I got the 2 Disc Special Edition). Maybe next time I should wait for a review first…

November 23, 2006

Casino Royale (and action movie scenes)

Filed under: Film — see @ 1:32 am

Today I saw the Casino Royale preview which will be officially released tomorrow  (saw the  original audio version, not dubbed which is sadly still the standard in Germany).

I did not except anything. I did not expect anything when I first saw Pierce Brosnan and James Bond in Goldeneye and at the time I thought it was ok (saw it again a few month ago and realized it was awful, PB is IMHO the worst bond of all).

But today I was surprised, I guess Casino Royale is the best Bond since Moonraker (on a totally different level of course).

Moonraker was the last Bond I did not watch in the cinema (first one I was allowed to was “For Your Eyes Only”…). All the Bonds in the 80s and 90s were at first ok (the later Roger Moore ones), not completely bad (Timothy Dalton ones) to getting sillier and sillier (Pierce Brosnan ones). When I later (I guess middle of 80s) saw all Bonds from Dr. No on I realized these were the films that built and hold to James Bond’s reputation, the later ones merely marketing vehicles.

Casino Royale has the best (let’s say hard) Bond since Sean Connery (Roger Moore is a different league, I like both approaches). Even the story is good, a bit convoluted and contrived but nevertheless quite exciting and with interesting and new villains. Mads Mikkelsen role is not the classic Bond bad guy but one who has problems himself (BTW a good and sympathetic actor). A bit long but I guess the quite complex story needs it.

Just one point which is not specific to this “action movie” though. For some time I noticed in “modern action movies” the actual action is hardly to grasp. Maybe I am too old for the “style” but I have problems getting what is actually happening during action screnes. To me it seems more empahsis is given to explosions, faster and faster action through even quicker cuts etc. The actual action is shown so fragmented that it is sometimes impossible to get what happens, who is fighting who. Only thing seen are that some guys get killed and the hero lives in the end (mostly by destroying every bad guy, machine, surrounding and whatever). I try to explain this to myself that some film makers forget to actually choreograph the action scenes properly but just need to spend money for explosions.
Notable exception are films like matrix in which action scenes are not “probable” but are actually (mostly) comprehensible (even the extreme slow motion scenes beside).

Anyway, Casino Royale surprised me and is a worthy new Bond movie, I hope they can keep up with the next one(s)…

April 10, 2006

Good Night and Good Luck

Filed under: Film,Music — see @ 9:26 pm

saw the very stylish new film by George Clooney yesterday. I never realized how much I do NOT know about the McCarthy era. Good film but I would like to see a film about the whole history of the events. The only thing I recently saw was a small excerpt of hearings by the McCarthy committee with some people of the film industry on a DVD making of – I forgot which film but kind of remember it may have been a hitchcock movie?

Great music score by the way, instantly got the CD today…

December 19, 2005

king kong or not?

Filed under: Film — see @ 1:09 am

just saw King Kong, Peter Jacksons new film. I guess it was impossible to live up to Lord of the Rings for him and so I even did not expect to see such a good film. Nevertheless I was still a bit disappointed. It is not a bad film but just a bit long, a little bit boring and altogether a bit irrelevant (hard thing to say I guess). You know the end. You know Jurassic Park (which I think was already bad) and even if dinosaurs are in the book you immediately compare it to JP. You know slimy monsters and insects even from Indiana Jones (temple of doom) just that here they are bigger.

Well a bit of wasted time but on the other hand I would have even been unsatisfied not to have seen it…

One thing I wonder though if the the film will live up to its costs. It does not look bad but certainly not 200 million $… and a film not called LOTR will hardly pull enough people for over 3 hours into the cinema. They even had a break…

When watching DVD I don’t mind a break or even need them as I drink to much (limonade) which has to go after a while so I have to go after a while… But in the cinema a break is just awful.

July 22, 2005

movie titles in german…

Filed under: Film — see @ 11:48 am

Saw the second to last Hitchcock movie I got on DVD (which are altogether a whopping 36 at the moment…), “Stage Fright“. I did not expect a lot being from it being a 50s one, around the same time some really good but intense and dark film like “The Wrong Man” and “I Confess” came out which I think are really good but also not films for any day and any mood. But I was totally surprised watching a very funny, ironic, british humored movie which I like very much.

Total insanity is the german title of the film though. There are lots of silly german titles for foreign films but this is one of the stranger ones. German title is “Die rote Lola”, which means something like “the red(haired?) Lola” – where is the connection to the original title “Stage Fright”?! Probably it has something to do with Marlene Dietrich having a major role and the time the film was released in Germany in the 50s but still very strange. Watching it totally out of it “release” context demytifies the german title totally.

I did not even notice the strong connection to the theatre stage the film titles even begin with until watching the making-of on the DVD. It seems I did not really translated the original title in my head to make sense to me although I watched the movie in original language of course but the german title was probably still spooking around my head…

June 24, 2005

hitchhiking Batman

Filed under: Film — see @ 4:45 pm

Just seen “Hitchhikers Guide to the galaxy”. Brilliant, very british and also or therefor lacking all the boring stereotypes some (not all though) Hollywood films and other massive productions use.

I’ve seen “Batman begins” the week before and altough I liked it and think it is in some respects similar to the IMHO really good “Spiderman I” film it had some annoying aspects. The music was the main drawback of Batman as it is almost the same as the music in “Gladiator” or “King Arthur”. It seems composer Hans Zimmer is only able to compose one type of music and it almost seems he uses a template score to which he applies some slight random changes (at least for a certain kind of movie). The dark horns and the usual strings were getting on my nerves even during the film, especially during fight scenes. The music made them boring and I thought no music at all would have been better for some scenes.

I wonder if movie scores have evolved in the last 30 years at all.
Until the 60s there were big orchestral scores including the great ones by Bernhard Herman for the Hitchcock movies in the 50s and 60s.
In the late 60s these scores almost vanished and I remember (not personally at that time though ;) some really strange scores like the one from “Planet of the Apes”.

During the 70s orchestral movie scores came into fashion again (Taxi Driver again by Bernard Herman and the first Star Wars and other scores by John Williams).
But since then I hardly remember (I have not the best memory though ;) any interesting new kind of movie score. John Williams scores for movies like the Indiana Jones trilogy are great and had brilliant themes but nevertheless are “big-orchestral-movie-scores”.

During the 90s with films like Armageddon and the films mentioned above the stereotype-music came up it seems. I kind of remember Gladiator being a good film and the music I liked too, but copying this type and sometimes almost the same music and recycling it for similar-type movies is a bit to safe. I don’t want to bash on Hans Zimmer alone, Batman was just a striking example and the music was really an annoyance.

But also the fight scenes in Batman were annoying. They used a similar kind of camera work I noticed for example in “Episode II” during the massive Jedi Knight fight scene. The camera and editing in these scenes make it impossible to actually see anything. Strangely enough but the rapid MTV-style cutts and extreme near focus on the people actually hinder seeing more then they help seeing…
I remember older movies like fight scenes in “Goldfinger” or the elevator fight in “Diamonds are Forever” that were cut rough and fast too but actually did enable the viewer to actually follow and comprehend what was going on.

Generally it seems bigger films try to play a safe game which I don’t think is nessesary. Good stories do work and can be successful even with a more experimental or maybe just new ideas for music, camera etc.
But maybe I am too naive and people who watch TV the whole day need boring, repeating films…

Anyway, “Hitchhikers…” was not a template film but was original. Maybe easy for a film based on such a strange book (which I did not read though having played only the text adventure in the 80s, and that not even through). But the ideas how to adapt it with all the graphical interludes worked really well. Of course I am a bit biased as I do like the very english accent a lot but the film was fun and I guess I’ll buy the DVD as soon as its out…

Powered by WordPress