* For those of you who have been wondering why it has been so quiet around here over the past week, we are pleased to announce that we have just returned from yet another eye-opening visit to Tinseltown. Earlier this year, Parker and I decided that we would make a yearly ritual of visiting our contacts at all the studios. Although we have ceased to do the sort of National Meets we have done in the past, this year we decided to bring our Moderating staff along with us. Though it will take me a good two weeks to write a full report of our visit (as well as uploading dozens of pictures), I thought I'd briefly comment about our week out in Hollywood. When you think of what is being released on DVD this fall, two major studios come to mind. We had the opportunity to spend some time with the DVD folks at Columbia Studios and Fox Studios. What we saw there was nothing short of an eye-opening experience. The folks at Columbia Pictures treated us to a full studio tour that took us into their many sound stages where we saw sets from the upcoming Charlie's Angels 2 and Homicide (Harrison Ford) films. We also had the opportunity to visit their transfer facility where we got a pretty cool preview of their upcoming Spider-man, Men in Black 2 and Stuart Little 2 DVD releases. While we were certainly impressed with the transfer quality of Spider-man, it was the extra features on Men In Black 2 and Stuart Little 2 that got the most oohs and aaahs from our group. In particular, Stuart Little 2 impressed us the most with its gorgeous transfer and voice navigated menus. The disc features some impressive supplemental material that can be accessed during the film's playback. Through an icon that regularly appears on the corner of the screen, you can click and access upon branched material. This material is quite extensive, mostly touching upon the film's CGI material, including a live camera sweep through Central Park that was used for an airplane chase. Perhaps the highlight of our visit to Columbia was their invite to lunch, which included a chat session with representatives of the Columbia Home Video team. I can honestly tell all of you that the folks at Columbia were genuinely interested in our feedback as well as the feedback of our membership. The studios is particularly proud of the fact that our membership regards the transfers out of their studio as being one of the best out there. They also made a point to comment that while they would love to do everything that members of this forum ask of them, there are reasons why some of their films lack the extras that have been requested from time to time as well as reasons why they are forced to released Pan & Scan only product. Unfortunately, we are not at liberty to discuss everything that was told to us, but I politely ask members of this board to give the studio a break with some of the nitpicking complaints as of late. The folks at Columbia Home Entertainment are DVD enthusiasts like yourself, and unfortunately, there are just reasons why DVDs cannot always be released in a manner that will appease everyone. The one person that most all of us enjoy spending time with during our visits to LA is Peter Staddon of Fox Home Entertainment. Once again, Mr. Staddon invited us all out to the studio lot for lunch and screening. We were proud to be among the first to have a look at the upcoming release of the Episode II DVD and its many supplements. I am pleased to tell all of you that the transfer of this DVD has set a new benchmark. Transferred directly from its digital source with absolutely no film middleman, this transfer looks almost as good as high-definition. Certainly, no live-action DVD to date can match the purity of this transfer. As for supplements, well, there was plenty for us to watch including nearly 10 deleted scenes. Most of those scenes included extended dialogue that slowed the pacing of the film, but two scenes in particular were of immense interest. The first was a scene between Obi-Wan and Mace Windu along a elevated ramp, where the young Obi-Wan expresses concern for Anakin's attitude changes and the fact that he has shown emotional interest in Senator Amidala. The second sequence of interest involves Amidala bringing Anakin home to her parents and sister. It is here that we begin to see how much closer to a boyfriend Anakin is becoming to the Senator. All of these deleted sequences contain lengthy introductions from George Lucas and Rick McCallum. There is an absolutely hilarious R2D2 mockumentary called Beneath The Dome, which chronicles the rise and fall of our droid friend. Did you know that R2D2 used to hang out with Richard Dreyfuss in his early years, only to snub the actor after becoming jealous of Richard's success? How about the years where R2D2 performed in dance recitals and stage shows? You'll be amazed as Francis Ford Coppola talks about how he begged R2D2 to play Michael Corleone in The Godfather, only to be turned down by the droid. Of course, fame comes with a price, as we see a down-and-out R2D2 on skid row living beneath newspapers. This will certainly be a feature of the DVD that will be talked about for months to come. Of course, there are the usual Easter Eggs. One of those eggs can be found in the exact same manner as The Phantom Menace DVD. Here you'll find a collection of side-splitting outtakes including lots of clumsy falls by Hayden Christensen. We also had the opportunity to watch a few supplements from the upcoming Ice Age DVD. Be sure to look for a newly animated adventure short featuring Scrat that had the attendees of our screening room howling with laughter. It's an incredibly funny short that simply compliments the entire DVD package. Final Thoughts I think most of us were startled by the fact that the attitude of the studios and DVD format in general has drastically changed over the past year. First of all, it is apparent that the Internet and forums such as ours no longer play as vital a role to the studios as they once did. This format now belongs to the mainstream consumers, and until HD-DVD comes along, the Internet will not be as closely watched as it has. We have also come to full realization that Walmart controls the DVD industry more than ever. This is the main reason why studios are being forced to release Pan & Scan product -- especially with sales figures showing that Walmart sells more DVDs in P&S than Widescreen. The good news is that the studios are indeed gearing up toward HD-DVD. While we do hope that all the studios pick one format, Sony has promised us that their players will be backward compatible. It is estimated that by year's end 2003, we will be seeing the first High-definition DVD titles hit the shelves. One thing I need to stress to this membership.... The studios have pulled away from participating on Internet forums. One of the reasons personally conveyed to me was the fact that the Internet has become a breeding ground for vicious negativity toward the studios. An overwhelming majority of people just don't understand the politics at the studios and the immense pressure that these DVD enthusiasts are put under to cut corners and appease the mainstream consumer over the hardcore enthusiasts that helped launch the format. There are specific and legitimate reasons why the studios are not meeting the demands of this forum's membership. While we are not at liberty to discuss everything that was told to us in confidence, I think the entire Moderating staff who was on hand to hear what studio executives had to say will all back me up in saying that there are legitimate reasons for what the membership may cite as bad decision making. I have become quite saddened by the attitudes expressed by this membership in post after post that attack studios and their representatives on an almost daily basis. These attacks are done without any real knowledge of why studio decisions are made. As a result of these attacks, studio representatives no longer feel comfortable participating on many of the Internet forums. Today alone, I read quite a few threads in this forum that attacked studio reps by name, implying that they were making stupid decisions. It's sad see that the professional reputation of this forum is dumbed down by these sort of remarks that are made by individuals who have no clue as to how and why studio decisions are made. As a result, we will be actively doing whatever we can to tone down that sort of negativity in this forum over the next few months. You should be seeing quite a few posts by the staff of Moderators who came out to LA with us. If you have any specific questions about what we saw and learned, please feel free to ask. Once again, our thanks to both Columbia Home Video and Fox Home Entertainment for the generosity that was shown during our visit to LA.