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TK's Morning Buzz: How Far Can DVD Producers Stretch the Special Features Envelope?

6 Sep, 2000 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Since DVD was officially launched in March 1997, special features have gone from a nice extra to a driving force.

Early advocates of adding commentaries, deleted footage, and other DVD exclusives, like New Line Home Video's Stephen Einhorn, are not only vindicated, but are being hailed for their vision and foresight. And consumers who still remember the days when the only special features on most discs consisted of subtitles, language tracks and the original theatrical trailer are now feeling short-changed if their discs don't include detailed cast bios, made-for-DVD music videos and at least one commentary track and "making of" featurette.

Looking at extras-packed discs like Artisan Home Entertainment's Terminator 2: Judgment Day, which includes more minutes of added goodies than the original film, makes you wonder where it's all going to end up. How far can DVD producers stretch the special features envelope? How high is the bar ultimately going to be raised, and in which direction will it lean?

I have to admit, when I first began getting DVDs, the movie came first. If I had time, I'd watch a few deleted scenes. Now, the extras are required viewing--and not just for me, but for other members of my family.

The other night, I watched Universal's excellent Creature from the Black Lagoon with my 4-year-old. Knowing it was a DVD, as soon as the closing credits came on the screen, he turned to me and asked, "Is that all?" I clicked onto "Back to the Black Lagoon," a historical look at the film that includes interviews with surviving cast members and mock-ups of alternative Creature costumes, and we both sat mesmerized for another 20 minutes or so.

Special features are changing our home entertainment viewing habits. We're no longer content with watching the movie--we want more. The only question, at this point, is how much more--and of what type?

I already see a trend developing--more and more, special features are taking the ROM route. Consumers watch all the extras on their disc on their TVs, and then stick it into their computer for more fun.

Columbia TriStar Home Video's innovative Men in Black disc is a harbinger of things to come--special features are going interactive, and involve the Web.

When Sony and Microsoft come out with their respective DVD-playing game machines, the PlayStation2 and the X-Box, I expect this trend to accelerate.

There will soon come a day when watching a movie is an all-day (or all-night) pursuit.

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

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