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Is DVD-Audio Playing Your Song?

24 Jun, 2003 By: Holly J. Wagner

There are a lot of folks, some around here even, who have already pronounced DVD-Audio DOA.

That would be a terribly sad fate for a format with such promise. Personally I think the idea of sound that puts you on the stage is waaaay cool.

At DVD in 50, a lot of the music panel discussion was devoted to why the format hasn't taken off. Some of the reasons are the expense of a system that gives the full benefit of DVD-Audio sound; artist, consumer and retailer education; pigeonholing and packaging.

The first two are obvious so I'll address just the latter -- the music industry's obsession with categorizing (how many bands have collapsed because nobody could figure out whether to place or play their music in country, rock, gospel, or whatever slot?) and the Super Jewel case, which sends a music message but doesn't complete the pass about the extra features.

Retailers, solve those problems: slot them in the music and DVD sections, and let the fans choose. Put up signs explaining what it means in terms of benefits when you see the Super Jewel case.

But a more interesting point that arose was the DVD-Audio folks not quite knowing what type of extras fans want. I can give you at least two suggestions.

Even if the disc is a studio production, fans love tour backstage footage. It's the music equivalent of a "making of" segment.

My amateur musician friends, people who actually play instruments competently but have no aspirations to professional performance, all want to watch their heroes' hands to play like the pros. Over and over they ask to see the fretwork on "Here Comes the Sun" or "Guenivere."

So here is my best suggestion for a bonus feature that should become standard on DVD-Audio: a branch that shows the musicians' hands. The tree would start with a feature called something like "Chops" or "Skill Track" and branch out to let the viewer select each song in the playlist by musical part (lead guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, etc.). Those tracks would have the same sound features but the entire visual would be a close-up on the musicians' hands (for guitars you could even use a split screen to show both hands).

One of my guitar-playing friends who's rewound many a tape sequence to learn a song said, "That would be so cool! If they put 'em in Guitar Center they'd sell millions of 'em!"

So listen up, DVD-Audio guys. The marketplace is talking and it's up to you to listen. I'm betting my guitar-geek friend is right. Because I know a lot more guitar geeks.

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