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APAR's WORKING WEEKEND: DVD on the Fly and on the Run

17 Nov, 2000 By: Bruce Apar

The versatility of DVD continues to delight me. For one, it travels well.

On a recent flight to London, American Airlines business class passengers were each proffered a portable Panasonic DVD player, a selection of 20 DVDs (19 movies, one concert) and a Bose Acoustic Noise-cancelling Headset that is so pricey, you can buy a couple of low-end DVD players for about the same outlay.

Is the Bose worth it? Put it this way: Plane noise is famous for undercutting the volume and tonal quality of very good conventional earphones and CD players. As I listened to the Roy Orbison Black and White concert, it was like being transported. Okay, so I was being transported--to London-–but I mean the sound, especially on a classic tune like “Sweet Dreams” with Springsteen harmonizing, was easily the best I’ve ever heard at that altitude.

In addition to sampling different disks--for business purposes, of course-–I was able to wile way a few more minutes trying to discern the selection pattern of the films. There were a goodly number of atypically lengthy films, such as Amistad, The Color Purple and Contact, each 2:30 or longer, not to mention The (three-hour) Green Mile. And the players plugged into a seat-side AC outlet, so passengers wouldn’t get all charged up over batteries running out before the movie did.

The marathon movies make sense, since you have over six hours to spend suspended in mid-air as it is. There also was a nice mix of comedy, action, suspense and drama, and of PG, PG-13 and R-rated. And just to keep the customer honest, the DVDs distributed are modified so you can’t play them in any other machine except the customized model made for the airline, and you can’t use other DVDs in the special player. One reason, no doubt, for that safety measure is to shelter unsuspecting fellow passengers from being exposed to some really raunchy DVD brought on board. You get the picture.

And despite the craven pronouncements of those who presume to declare with generic certainty that nobody wants to watch a movie on a PC, I have no problem sliding in a DVD and sizing the image to occupy only a portion of the monitor while I multi-task. Lately, listening to the audio commentaries in this manner of divided attention has yielded interesting nuggets. Such as Jeannot Szwarc, director of Somewhere in Time, casually complaining that the original theatrical marketing campaign “was terrible... a bad trailer... broke my heart.”

Or The Exorcist’s William Friedkin fairly immortalizing DVD thusly: “I feel it’s most important to make this digital video the most definitive version of the picture because this is the one that will last, this is the way the film will be remembered, for a very long time, perhaps forever.”

Then there are the easy-on, easy-off subtitles feature that comes in handy when running on a treadmill, especially a noisy one that might as well be an airplane drowning out earphones. Instead of blasting the volume on the TV while traversing the chattering conveyor belt, I can mute the volume and still follow the action of the fascinating Touch of Evil or the videogame-paced Run Lola Run by displaying the subtitles. Having to focus on the text to follow along also tends to further distract you from noticing how slow the time seems to be going and how much you hate to run just to stay in place.

Is there anything DVD can’t do? Rewind. You can’t have everything.

Comments? Contact Bruce directly at:bapar@advanstar.com

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