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Industry Needs to Set Sights Beyond Short-Term Formats

4 Feb, 2005 By: Thomas K. Arnold

All of Hollywood is intensely focused on the next-generation, high-definition successor to DVD. Studios are talking publicly and privately to each other about each other, throwing their support behind one of two competing formats, but cleverly couching their commitments with a “nonexclusive” clause.

Some of the entertainment business's leading thinkers and visionaries, meanwhile, are scratching their heads and wondering why all the attention is focused on something that in the grand scheme of things is merely a short-term worry.

What Hollywood's best and brightest should be focusing on, instead, is preparing for future technology rather than formats — technology that one day will let consumers access any movie on the planet via their computers, preview a few clips and then download their choice onto their hard drives or other storage media for broadcast to any TV in the house.

Sure, the concept seems farfetched now, but so did streaming media five years ago, downloadable music 10 years ago, and the very concept of watching a movie outside the theater or late-night TV less than 30 years ago.

Long-range vision, long-term thinking. Sadly, that's always been in short supply in the home video industry, beginning in the days video executives saw themselves as nothing more than sellers and marketers of packaged goods.

I know of one studio president who instructed his entire staff to go to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last month and really educate themselves about technology. He urged them to stay away from the grand Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD displays and, instead, focus on everything having to do with new and future technologies.

Smart guy. While it's true we need to address the problems at hand, we also need to at least be aware of everything within reach — and beyond. The future has a habit of coming around much too quickly. The very least we can do is be prepared.

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