ôTorchwoodö executive producer Julie Gardner (left) and star John Barrowman during a panel.
By Stephanie Prange | Posted: 28 Jul 2008
SAN DIEGO — Studios and retailers including Blockbuster Inc. and Best Buy took to the floor at Comic-Con International 2008 to promote home entertainment to the fan enthusiast — and not just entertainment on DVD and Blu-ray Disc.
Blockbuster had a strong presence at Warner's booth, displaying its previously announced prototype digital file kiosks whereby consumers can rent, download and purchase movies. The kiosks, which are being tested in select Dallas-area Blockbuster stores, let consumers download movies to portable devices in less than two minutes. Currently, downloads work only with Archos portable media devices. However, Blockbuster is aiming to have its kiosks eventually download to most portable media devices. The company hopes to roll out the kiosks to all stores within three years.
“Comic-Con is a great venue to reach a tech-savvy, entertainment-focused audience,” said Blockbuster spokesperson Karen Raskopf. “It's the perfect venue for us to spread the word that … we're the new Blockbuster, and we're reaching out to consumers in new ways.”
Separately, Blockbuster is quietly beta testing its Movielink download service, which will be incorporated into a revamped Blockbuster Web site to be launched later this summer. Subscriptions for downloads are not required. Individual movie rental files start from $1.99; $7.99 for a movie purchase and $1.99 for TV program purchase, payable by credit card.
Meanwhile, Best Buy shared space at the New Line booth, selling DVDs as Tower Records and Video used to do before it dissolved.
Blu-ray demonstrations were ubiquitous on the show floor as well.
On the program was the traditional DVD producers panel hosted by Bill Hunt of TheDigitalBits.com. This year, it focused on Blu-ray.
Panelists said Blu-ray will require a new strategy in restoring movies because of its higher resolution. Film grain and older high-definition transfers in less than 1080p resolution will require studios and DVD producers to take a new look at older films.
“The transfers that they did even a few years ago — high-definition transfers — are not good enough,” Hunt noted.
DVD producer Robert Meyer Burnett agreed: “A lot of movies were done as 1080i transfers. They are not acceptable.”
With some classic movies, film grain is more perceptible on Blu-ray.
“If directors had the same film stock they have today, there would be no grain,” Burnett said.
Some studios are removing some of the grain, but “removing some of the grain removes some of the actual detail,” Hunt said.
Also, Hunt noted, some films, such as gritty war movies, are supposed to show grain.“Recapturing the theatrical experience” should be the goal, Hunt said.
The audience expressed support for Blu-ray, with many of them raising their hands when Hunt asked how many had a player. One panel attendee said she went out and spent $3,500 to buy an HDTV home theater system when Blu-ray won the format war.A fan asked if the producers are doing more extras for Blu-ray.
“There is more discussion about shooting things specifically for Blu-ray,” said DVD producer Charles de Lauzirika.
Picture-in-picture commentaries are requiring that they shoot video instead of just recording audio, they said.
BD Live's Web-connected capabilities may not be used to the best advantage with games and social networking, some said.
“What better social experience with movies is there than going to a packed movie theater?” Lauzirika asked. “I don't want to sit on my couch and watch Bobafet35 saying, ‘Oh, I love that scene.’
Producer Cliff Stephenson noted, “The thing that BD Live can do for you is ... be able to add content,” such as live commentaries.
The home entertainment theme ran throughout the programming and parties at Comic-Con.