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Irrelevant Indifference

23 Dec, 2005 By: Erik Gruenwedel

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the hard sell will be in overdrive, and not just at the 2006 Adult Video News confab held concurrently through Sunday, Jan. 8, at the Sands Expo Center.

That's because both Blu-ray Disc and rival HD DVD will pull out the stops showcasing their respective next-generation optical disc software and hardware products. This long-running sequel to the Sony/Betamax VCR battle of 25 years ago will supposedly determine who controls the patents (and royalties) on tomorrow's packaged media.

The Blu-ray Disc Association is holding an invitation-only celebratory event Thursday evening at “Jet at the Mirage.” Guests include Sony executives, computer entrepreneur Michael Dell and filmmaker Kevin Smith (Clerks, Dogma, Chasing Amy, Jersey Girl).

I'm intrigued with Smith's invite. His “take-no-prisoners” opinions and stand-up comic's ability to amuse and insult could provide the much-needed reality to the biggest backroom tug-of-war nobody outside the industry cares about.

To begin with, I'm not sure what Blu-ray is celebrating. There is no Blu-ray (or HD DVD) product available at retail, and nailing down an official launch date for either format is akin to picking winning lottery numbers: Pointless.

National Public Radio before Christmas aired a report on the debate with Toshiba's Mark Knox and former Warner Home Video president Warren Lieberfarb, among others, citing the usual cost vs. capacity vs. interactivity vs. copy protection benefits of either format.

Does the consumer really care about features if they aren't yet available and no one can tell me why I should want them? I was reminded of this irrelevance when writing about the pending DVD release of the Cartoon Network's “Justice League” on DVD from Warner Home Video in widescreen (16.9 aspect ratio) — not in full-frame (4x3 aspect ratio).

Fans of the show rejoiced that every square inch of the original image would be preserved, but concerns surfaced about viewers without HDTV being subjected to black bars on top and bottom of a widescreen DVD.

This is an issue? I've watched plenty of programming on DVD in widescreen and full-screen and never gave much thought I was missing something. I guess I was.

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