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TK's MORNING BUZZ: DVD Awards Screenings Reveal Quality Fare From Independent Companies That Entices, Entertains and Amazes

15 Aug, 2001 By: Thomas K. Arnold

It's exactly ONE WEEK before the fourth annual DVD Awards, which Video Store Magazine this year is producing as part of the International Recording MediaAssociation (IRMA) and Medialine's DVD Entertainment 2001 conference.

And I have this burning desire to share some things I've learned and discovered as I work closely with Advanstar's content guru Bruce Apar in helping to put the show together.

For starters, while an independent panel of judges spent the better part ofthe last two weeks screening the more than 300 entries we received, I took it upon myself to screen some of the entries myself. What amazed me the most was not just the expected DVD extravaganzas from the major studios, but also the quality independent fare from companies like Anchor Bay Entertainment and DVD International.

Anchor Bay's Mr. Bill DVD is a treasure. I grew up with Mr. Bill during my high school and college days, and now my 5-year-old is a certifiable addict, roaming the house screaming "Ooh noooo!!" The credit (blame?) goes to this enticing disc, in which Mr. Bill himself guides the viewer through allsorts of tantalizing special features, including an assortment of games andquizzes. The actual episodes, too, are as funny as I remember them, and the disc does a faithful job of preserving them all in their original splendor.

DVD International's Point of View is an "interactive movie" I've never had the chance to watch until now. I spent a couple of hours with it last nightand was thoroughly entertained -- this disc truly maximizes DVD's potential, literally allowing the viewer to assemble his own movie. David Goodman, DVDInternational's founder, is a veteran of the laserdisc days, but with DVD he's found his true calling. Talk about stretching the bounds -- this is really great stuff, and I urge you all to see for yourself.

I've also gotten the chance to experience, first-hand, what Nuon is all about. The first thing I did was use the "zoom" function to zero in on the anguished face of the woman Sylvester Stallone is trying in vain to rescue inthe opening scene from Cliffhanger. It brought a whole new dimension to the film. And Nuon's "screen fit" function should forever silence fans ofpan-and-scan who complain about all the widescreen-only DVDs coming their way -- it lets you bend the picture to fit your TV screen, and while I much prefer watching a movie the way it appeared on the Big Screen, I realizethere are pan-and-scan zealots out there and this is right up their alley.

I also met a great lady named Samatha Cheng, a veteran broadcast producer who four years ago turned her attention to DVD. She's founder and executiveproducer of the Heritage Series, an independent producer of educational DVDtitles. Cheng has spoken at numerous DVD industry events, including the 1999 and 2001 DVD Pro Conferences, and recently has been receiving much praise for U.S. Capitol: A Vision in Stone, an absolutely fascinating DVD she producedin association with the U.S. Capitol Historical Society.

The disc, the first in a series of interactive DVDs about national treasures, is equally at home in a set-top DVD player and in a computer DVD-ROM drive. There's a version for consumers, and another version, aimed at educators, that comes with a teacher's guide. The latter version's video contents havebeen barcoded for educational and classroom use.

Talk about special features. The disc includes a 16-minute documentary on the history of the Capitol, an interactive graphical timeline that presents significant events since the first meeting of the Continental Congress inPhiladelphia in 1774, a virtual "tour" of the Capitol, a gallery ofnoteworthy pieces of art housed in the Capitol, and much more.

DVD-ROM elements include historical database reports listing all members of the first through the 107th Congresses; officers of the House, Senate and Joint Committees; architects of the Capitol; presidential inaugurations at the Capitol; and, again, much more.

Cool stuff. With only one week to go until this year's DVD Awards, I can't wait for next year's process to begin.

Comments? Contact TK directly at:TKArnold@aol.com

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