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Packaging Is Not Just a Pretty Case

2 Jan, 2008 By: John Latchem

Unlike some others in my office who prefer to do away with packaging altogether to save space, I think packaging is a pretty important aspect of the DVD experience. It's not just about catching the consumer's eye, but also about making it convenient to keep on a shelf. Above all else, the packaging needs to protect the discs.

I tend to favor the traditional plastic cases and trays to house the discs. Many studios, citing shelf space or environmental concerns, are using cardboard sleeves. In my experience, the cardboard sleeves don't protect the discs as well, scratching the surface every time the discs are handled.

In many cases, the scratches are superficial and don't hamper playback on most DVD players. Sometimes, though, they're pretty badly gouged, and some scenes won't play no matter what player you use.

The recent “Roots” collection, for example, is packaged in a cardboard booklet, loosely set within a larger box. Before opening it, I could hear the inner box rattling around. Sure enough, all the discs had slipped out of their sleeves and were scratched.

And that was only 10 discs. With boxed sets getting bigger, especially for TV DVD complete-series sets, packaging seems even more of an issue.

As a case in point, let's compare two recent complete-series sets. The “M*A*S*H” and “Seinfeld” boxed sets are about the same size (“M*A*S*H” has 36 discs and “Seinfeld” has 33 discs).

The “Seinfeld” box is a classy, elegant design with plastic trays for the discs, and enough room for a hardcover coffee table book.

“M*A*S*H” is cool, with an army-style canvas covering and medical clipboard, but the discs come in cardboard fold-out sleeves that don't protect them as well. A few of the discs in my set were marked up, and some skipped regardless of the player.

A lot of care goes into making these boxed sets pleasing to both the fan and collector. But content is king, and if consumers are spending their hard-earned dollars on these elaborate, multidisc collections, I would hope the packaging doesn't negate their investment.

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