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Interactivity Adding to Perceived Value of DVD

23 Nov, 2003 By: Kurt Indvik

Fantasy is what the movie business was built on, and on which it continues to thrive today.

We go to the movies for a lot of reasons, but the primary visceral experience of immersing ourselves in another made-up world for a few hours lies at the heart of why the big screen and the tremendous strides in sound have such a draw for us. Though home theater systems with surround sound and higher-quality TVs are better than ever at creating the movie experience in the home, creators of DVD have another opportunity to add to that immersive experience through the various bonus materials they develop.

The point is to add layers of information and emotion to our passive experience of the actual film. And one of the best ways to do that is to engage us directly in the film by interactivity -- getting us to “lean forward” and interact with the characters and story line rather than just lean back and watch.

There has been, over the course of the past couple of years, a definite advance in the level and quality of these bonus materials, with the most notable, in my opinion, being some of the more “lean forward” interactive extras studios have spent considerable time and effort in developing. Being a digital medium, it certainly makes sense to develop interactivity on DVDs, but the catch is always, of course, time and expense versus how much perceived value it adds to the total product. That has always been the challenge for studios, and it continues today.

But it is heartening to see, as senior reporter Enrique Rivero outlines in his report in this week's issue of Video Store Magazine, that studios are pursuing greater advances in interactivity on DVD when it makes sense to do so. As one would expect, it makes most sense for high-profile kids and fantasy/action films where developers can easily re-create and manipulate characters and images, and create lots of side story lines, to carry an interactive element. Games, of course, are the popular interactive element here, and now with The Hulk, there is a closer synergy between the branded console game and the DVD-related game than ever before.

Others, and I have to admit this includes one of my favorites, are more about creating something new based on the movie or program. I have always been smitten by DreamWorks' bonus feature on last year's Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, in which one could build their own movie scene using segments from the movie and recording one's own voice and even putting in one's own photos. I just thought that was the coolest thing I had ever seen.

I was a bit puzzled that when the ads for Spirit broke, at least what I saw on TV, nary a mention of this very nifty and unique extra was made.

I think consumers take it for granted that most DVDs will have bonus features, but I hope that as suppliers continue to push the envelope on interactivity they take more time in their marketing to promote some of the truly great stuff that's being developed and that adds to the perceived value of DVD.

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