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THE MORNING BUZZ: New Line's Infinifilm Pushes DVD's Potential

2 May, 2002 By: Kurt Indvik

On the drive home earlier this week I heard an NPR news story about legislators and regulators looking for a way of developing some system of compensation for persons who are willing and able to donate bodily organs. (Stick with me here, there is a home video angle.) There is a huge demand for transplant donors and not nearly enough organs to go around. It is against the law to sell one's bodily parts to be harvested either while you're alive or at death, and other than the altruistic satisfaction of voluntarily providing a non-life-sustaining organ to a relative or friend in great need, or simply offering your bodily parts at death, our society has no way of encouraging people to donate them. Our national transplant system right now is win-win-lose. The patient wins, the doctor performing (and being paid for) the surgery wins, and the donor, well, loses an organ. Our society needs to find some way to reward or compensate donors, short of hard cash, and those options are being explored.

Made sense to me.

I hadn't given this issue much more thought until I saw a press release announcing New Line Home Entertainment's July 18 release of John Q. on VHS and in the company's unique Infinifilm DVD (prebook June 18) format. John Q. is the story of a hardworking family man whose health insurance does not cover the heart transplant his dying son needs. Needless to say, the father cannot afford the likely six-figure surgery either, so he takes desperate measures to do what it takes to save his son's life.

I believe that DVD will continue to evolve into an art and media form all its own, and the New Line's Infinifilm approach is a terrific example of this evolution, especially as it relates to filmed entertainment whose plot and themes revolve around a social issue or historical moment. The result is a richer, more deeply layered entertainment experience.

If you have not had a chance to sample one of the four films New Line has put out under this brand, Infinifilm essentially marries the linear storyline format of a film with the nonlinear infotainment format of a CD-ROM or Web site and lets viewers elegantly and fairly seamlessly pause the entertainment to access supporting information related to a particular moment in the film. Each time there is an Infinifilm element to access, a low-key menu appears at the bottom as the film plays (including how much time each element lasts, which I found very helpful) and if none is selected, the menu soon disappears.

For John Q., for instance, New Line has created several Infinifilm documentaries on the organ donor system in our country, elements of which viewers can access during key and related moments in the film. Now, I have not seen the John Q. DVD yet, so I cannot vouch for the quality of the documentaries. But if they are similar to several Infinifilm DVDs I have seen, like Thirteen Days or Blow, both of which tackled historical and social issues that New Line explored with interesting and credible infobytes, then I think the Infinifilm application here will lend more meaning to this film.

The future of home entertainment will likely see Internet-enabled set-top boxes that also include DVD players, which will usher in a new generation of DVD/Web interactivity that will allow for all sorts of exciting integration between filmed entertainment and infotainment. Meanwhile, my hat's off to New Line and others who are pushing the envelope a bit and exploring DVD's potential as a new art form.

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