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Feedback about Premiere Issue of DVD ETC. Magazine

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#1 of 57 OFFLINE   David Lambert

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Posted May 25 2002 - 12:46 AM

[c]Posted Image[/c]

Since the HTF doesn't have a section for "DVD Literature", and since the precedent of using the Software section was set here, with the magazine's announcement, and here again with the "Anyone Subscribe yet?" thread, I decided that this is the right place for this feedback thread. Admins can move it if they think it's necessary.

I took up the challenge of being one of the first 10 to respond, and was rewarded yesterday when I received my complimentary issue of DVD ETC.'s Premiere Issue in the mail.

I will start by stating that I will definately take advantage of the special HTF Membership offer of 2-year's-subscription for the price of one. I expect to do that before this Memorial Day holiday weekend is over.

The magazine is all-glossy, standard magazine size, 130 pages, cover price $4.99 ($6.99 Canadian). Seems to be not-too-overrun with ads (a common complaint these days is that a periodical will be over 50% ads...this one MIGHT be right at 50% at most, but definately not more than that).

The first issue ("June/July 2002") seems to cover more of the hardware side than the software side, but the mag looks designed so that the mix ratio is rather flexible. Hopefully we'll see more of a balance between the two on a normal basis, with the occassional shift as appropriate for special occassions (perhaps higher on the hardware side in the aftermath of CES shows, and then leaning a bit more on the software side for the winter holidays and the avalanche of new titles).

It was said that the HTF would be prominent in this magazine. Well, we were mentioned in the "Fade In" column on Page 12, which is the introduction by editor Clint Walker. The results of our "The First DVDs You Should Purchase" poll are on Page 82 (more on that shortly). And on Page 93 it is evident that we are linked to on their BargainCenter site (which doesn't appear to be live as of this writing); the example shot posted shows a nice large link in the upper left of the page, next to the masthead! We should get some lurkers and new members as a result of this, folks! Be patient with them and play nice... Posted Image

I enjoyed looking through the different features aimed at all levels of skill, from the "Cable 2002" (which might help some of us to convince the missus that it's not a bad idea to spend more than the cost of 3 special editions to get the gold-plated component video cables instead of continuing to use the tin-plated S-Video connection) to the in-depth look at high-end toys like the Fujitsu 50" HD Plasma display! Posted Image Someone in another thread compared this to Total Movie magazine on a "fun factor" level. I agree that it's a lot more straight than TM, but TM got carried away with it and has gotten left in the dust as a result. Also, I'm confident that these guys will loosen up as time goes on, but right now they are taking the exact right tact to kick things off, if you ask me. In the meantime, both my wife and I got a kick out of the "Seen And Noted" portion of Page 24! Posted Image

On to the "Collections" article on Page 82. It features the Top 10 DVDs "chosen by the experts at the HTF". I cannot say that I'm suprised at any of these choices; they are all top notch! And, I won't mention them here yet out of respect for the publishers (I figure that if the results were meant to be published here then Terry Carroll and Ron Epstein would have already seen to it, so I won't contradict that without permission). I will say this: I own 8 of the 10 titles on that list. One I don't own because I just haven't gotten around to it yet (#8), and the other we just haven't been interested in the film's subject matter (#5, and I will get blasted for this one, I'm sure...though I may have to get it now, both because of this new recommendation and because it is rumored to be unavailable soon in it's current form, as HTF members already know).

#1 and #4 are titles I voted for. I'm a tad surprised that #1 beat #'s 2-4, but not VERY surprised. But I *am* concerned that they showed the correct cover art for #1; I thought that the correctly voted-for version would have been more "ultimate". Posted Image

Even more confusing is the bottom of the column stating this: "Next Issue: The HTF's Top music DVDs". I don't recall seeing a music- (or even musical-) related poll, do you guys? I did a search and didn't find one. Maybe I'm just getting senile, but the only other poll I could find for DVD Etc. was the "Top 10 Videos You Can't Get On DVD" poll. Did I miss something?

One possible explanation here is that maybe the only error is stating that it is the "HTF's" top music DVDs...the "Next Issue" section on the last past says this (all spelling/grammer errors quoted are theirs):
[quote]..... [quote]

I still have yet to read the in-depth Harry Potter review, or the discussion with the director of I Am Sam, but skimming both makes them each seem like a good read. If I have anything more to add after I'm through with the mag top-to-bottom then I'll post more.

I'll close with a just couple of criticisms, both in the spirit of helping improve the product (I'm not looking for arguments here, these are just "from my heart"):

1) I have to agree with another HTFer who mentioned that none of the DVDs reviewed got less than a "B" rating (and only one of those, everything else got a "B+" or better. Of the 15 reviews, 3 were music (Gimme Shelter, Last Waltz, Rattle And Hum), 1 film (Harry Potter), and the other 11 were TV-on-DVD product (items close to my heart, as you see by the right side of my signature). I agree with all the reviews of the items I've seen, let me make that clear. But it should be noted that the average person *may* question the credibility of a magazine that never has anything bad to say in the DVD reviews. And I don't just mean in the given scores, I also mean in the details. Buffy's "B" review basically indicates (to me) that the reason it's rated so low is because not enough extras were included with the set. No other criticisms are made. However, it has been noted often here on HTF that this first season's video was dark and grainy, due to the fact that the show was shot and aired that way. Could this have contributed to the score? If so, SAY so. If it's defensible as not being part of the DVD's responsibility, then maybe the final score should be higher? Food for thought. Also, why does both Larry Sanders and Spongebob Squarepants get B+ ratings? Same reason or different reasons? Because the text of the reviews show only positive things about both!

All 11 TV-on-DVD product reviews were written by the same person (perhaps this person is an HTF member, but if so a search doesn't turn up the name), so I'm unsure if this is a writing thing or an editing thing. Just food-for-thought.

On to the other criticism:
#2) The picture on page 54. That should be all I need to say. If the OAR enthusiasts on this forum can't figure out what's wrong with this picture, then I don't suppose explaining it will help anyone. While it is an extremely effective shot, it never really happened on-air. It's about as real as the shot (using the same Zenith 56" 16:9 HDTV) as on Page 12.

How about we just stick to shots that are plausibly real, instead of definately unreal? The HTFers will spot 'em a mile away! Posted Image

Thanks for the great magazine. As I said, I'm convinced enough to subscribe! Two ideas for future articles that would have HTF involvement: 1) Home Theaters of members, like the one owned by Robert A. Fowkes, and featured in the Wall Street Journal a while back! Or Scooter's! 2) Storage ideas for big libraries, like the ones discussed in this thread.

Also, maybe in the future you can do a more in-depth look at the portable DVD players. I'm staring at page 124 and asking myself, "What the difference between the Panasonic LV50 and LV65 models?". Off to go find out the answer...
DAVE/Memphis, TN

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#2 of 57 OFFLINE   MartinTeller



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Posted May 25 2002 - 03:27 AM

I'll repost my comments here:

[quote] Note to editors: too many mentions of the Eagles. I spotted mentions in three different hardware reviews by three different reviewers. It was rather weird and jarring.

I'm still reading the mag, but overall I'd say it's kind of dry. No need to get all "Total Movie", but maybe have a LITTLE more fun with it?

I like the way the hardware reviews were done. Very informative. The software reviews need more detail, IMO. [quote]

I own #1-#8 of the Top 10. The other two I have no interest in owning.

I'm still not sure if I'll subscribe. I probably will, but it seems like it's geared more towards people who have a lot more money than I do. Well, maybe if I didn't spend so much on movies, I could afford some of this juicy-looking HT equipment Posted Image

#3 of 57 OFFLINE   David Lambert

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Posted May 25 2002 - 01:10 PM

Aha! So *you* were the HTFer I was quoting about nothing being rated worse than a "B"! I couldn't track down your name to give you credit! Posted Image Sorry!
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#4 of 57 OFFLINE   Kelly W

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Posted May 30 2002 - 05:14 AM

MartinTeller posted:
[quote] I'm still not sure if I'll subscribe. I probably will, but it seems like it's geared more towards people who have a lot more money than I do. [quote] That's EXACTLY the way I feel. I'll subscribe, but I'd like to see less focus on the hardware side of home theater. I would like to see reviews of new and noteworthy components (like the DVD recorder), but I don't want to read reviews of five different DVD players each month. It was interesting to read the review of the Rotel (don't they sell canned tomatoes? Posted Image) DVD player, but I doubt that I will EVER spend $1500 on such a machine. I think it would be more beneficial to have occasional "buyers guides" devoted to one piece of HT equipment. For example, once a year, they could have a DVD player "round-up", and on another month, they could review several different speaker types and brands.

What I really like is the professionalism, for this is a magazine I would not be embarrassed to leave out on my coffee table (unlike the aforementioned Total Movie, which I also fairly-happily subscribe to). I'm truly looking forward to the next issue(s). I think the editors are doing a great job. I just hope they don't forget about us "regular people" with modest budgets. Posted Image


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Posted June 04 2002 - 09:07 AM

Well I found a copy of DVD ETC in Barnes & Noble the other day. I was considering subscribing to it with the deal here. Well after reading the first Issue I was very disappointed with the magazine overall. Sure it hase the Neato Factor of including HTF in some of the polls and stuff. Which is absoultely a fantastic Idea. HTF is a great resource for info about Home Theater users It was only a matter of time before some magazine thought of gathering info here and catering to the online users. My problem with the magazine comes from the hardware reviews. They have some top notch writers, that should be getting paid big bucks by a Madison Ave firm writing advert copy. The reviews hardly even resemble reviews, they seem more like a Hardware companies web site info pages or those fancy product sheets some companies make. I found the reviews to be superficial at best, and actually to be worse then Home Theater Magazine which used to be the king of talking glowingly about every product they ever reviewed. There is no depth to them at all. At leat Home Theater Mag has nice pictures of the review units. In one review there was some Blatant mistakes. Several times The reviewer refered to a DVD player as supporting HCCD playback using the HCCD term in a couple of places and then going on to claim that it will actually improve the playback on NON-HCCD enhanced DVDs. Well sorry but it is HDCD not HCCD and it has no effect at all on CD playback of Non HDCD enhanced CDs. It is to bad, as I was really hoping for something more like Perfect Vision with HTF membership particaption. I urge anyone thinking of subscribing to BUY one issue first to decide if this is what you want in a magazine before making a long term commitment. I really hope they improve, but this first issue seemed really poor and a step in the wrong direction from what is already out there on the market. Max

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Posted June 05 2002 - 12:49 AM

Didn't anyone else find a copy of DVD ETC yet on the newstands. I think this is like the first time I posted something here and not gottan any replies. Max

#7 of 57 OFFLINE   David Lambert

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Posted June 05 2002 - 01:16 AM

I didn't mean to ignore you, Max! I also saw these in BN. Nowhere else, though. I looked thoroughly in Borders & Waldenbooks; no dice.
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#8 of 57 OFFLINE   Kyle McKnight

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Posted June 05 2002 - 01:19 AM

Ya, they were in my B&N by my work, and by my house.
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#9 of 57 OFFLINE   Michael Silla

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Posted June 05 2002 - 01:36 AM

I have to agree with you Max. I picked the first issue up last week at B&N. I also thought the reviews lacked any real meat to them. Everything seemed to garner a 90 or better score. Granted, when such high scores are registered I guess it's reasonable to expect to find less criticism. That said, most of the articles had a "preview" feel to them. It's almost as if they were looking at the products at CES without the benefit of a review unit. I also felt that I was reading part of the Manufacturer's ad in some of the reviews. I don't think I'll be making a repeat purchase. Michael.

#10 of 57 OFFLINE   Brajesh Upadhyay

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Posted June 05 2002 - 01:52 AM

I'd also agree. Almost bought it, but after reading their reviews of DVDs & hardware, I didn't learn anything that I didn't know already. It's mostly fluff -- entertaining fluff, but fluff nonetheless. With the web these days, I feel that most mags are already outdated by the time they arrive. For DVD reviews, you can't beat the HTF, DVDFile, The Digital Bits, etc. For hardware reviews/info., AVS & HTSpot are terrific. For hardware reviews, I still find Sound & Vision (I know some here hate S&V, but IMO it's a very good mag) & The Perfect Vision pretty useful.
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#11 of 57 OFFLINE   CamiloCamacho


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Posted June 05 2002 - 03:07 AM

Well, the web is a great resource, but a hard copy that you can read everywhere is also a pleasure. S&V was, not a long time ago very bad, but today i think they have improved their content a lot.

#12 of 57 OFFLINE   Ted Lee

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Posted June 05 2002 - 04:46 AM

yeah...i posted a thread about who was going to pick this up a while ago. i checked out a hard-copy and wasn't impressed. the magazine is pretty slick, but content-wise there was nothing there that really floored me. although 20 bucks for two years is a steal, i won't be subscribing. i've already got too many magazines going on...

#13 of 57 OFFLINE   Ted Kontos

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Posted June 05 2002 - 08:23 AM

I picked up the issue too and was disappointed. In addition to the "HCCD" errors, there were others in the disc reviews. "The Prisoner" in DD 5.1? I think not! The reviewer even raves about hearing the theme in 5.1! What kind of decoder is he using?
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Posted June 05 2002 - 08:29 AM

Ted, i noticed that stuff too. I mean most of the DVD reviews could have been written without having watched the DVD they were reviewing and in the case of The Prisonor it looked as though they did not copy the info off the box correctly. I honesly expect certain mistakes like that in the first issue and am sure they will get those taken care of as they tighten up the editing, but to review speakers and not even mention the manufactuers claimed frequency response let alone measuring them to see if the company was being honest is just awful reporting. Max

#15 of 57 OFFLINE   David Lambert

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Posted June 05 2002 - 10:21 AM

Well, as I mentioned in my separate post about this issue, all the DVD reviews of TV Series product were written by the same person...
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#16 of 57 OFFLINE   Michael Lee

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Posted June 05 2002 - 01:10 PM

I picked up a copy yesterday also. I found it at a local DVD shop amidst the other HiFi mags. It seems very light and fluffy in general.

#17 of 57 OFFLINE   Brian Glaeske

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Posted June 05 2002 - 02:20 PM

To continue the nits on errors, within the Harry Potter DVD review they say, "And as exiting as the movie itself is (which is found on disc 1 in both 16x9 anamorphic widescreen as well as 2.35:1 "TV" pan and scan versions..." What disc did they review? One could construe this sentence to imply seperate releases, but it certainly is not clear that there are two different SKU's. I myself, would love to see the 2:35:1 "TV" pan and scan. That must be pretty special. However, despite these mistakes, I find myself drawn to subscribing. Brian G.

#18 of 57 OFFLINE   Jason Harbaugh

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Posted June 05 2002 - 02:47 PM

I ended up subscribing through this website. Figured I should support this site one way or another. Posted Image I usually get all my info from the web anyway but it is nice to have a hardcopy of some stuff.

The second year free was a nice touch too. Posted Image

#19 of 57 OFFLINE   terry malibu

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Posted June 05 2002 - 02:55 PM

First, let me thank all of you for taking the time to comment on our new magazine. Interestingly enough, your comments about the magazine being 'light' are right on target, and exactly what we are going for. With over 20,000,000 players expected to be sold this year, our goal is to try and reach and inform the non-enthusiast consumer as they are the majority of the buying public and they need a place to get good information. As the former publisher of HT, SGHT and other enthusiast magazines I felt it important to offer a product that speaks to everyman. Solid concise reviews are what we are going for, not spec's and lingo. As to our scoring process, I would ask that you please read the legend and understand that a 90 is the base and that products gain or lose points based on the reviewers findings. My guess is that companies like Pioneer were not pleased with their score. The fact is, most of these companies build pretty darn good product. Will we trash a product? If it deserves it, absolutely. As most of you know, there are many options as it regards publications out there and for you enthusiasts, you have quite a few to chose from. Support them and enjoy them. I must admit that there were a few too many errors in the issue and I assure that this will get much, much better in our coming issues as we have added additional staff. Lastly, if any of you feel qualified to review products and can take your knowledge and express it in such a way as to appeal to your next door neighbor while keeping the enthusiast interested, please drop me a line at terry@dvdetc.com., we would love to hear from you. Thanks for your opinions. Terry Carroll Publisher DVD ETC. Magazine

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Posted June 06 2002 - 02:50 AM

Thank you for deciding to speak up here.

As you know from my previous posts, I think that tapping the people of this forum was a wonderful idea and one that was a long time in coming.I am hoping that you will not only get info from this forum just for your HTF Poll Page in the mag. I see that Ron's article is going to be in the next issue. Ron's article about widescreen was really an excellent article, and it is great that you have picked it up and put it out there.

I would like to suggest that you also discuss your magazine and it's style and format with the readers as well.

[quote] Interestingly enough, your comments about the magazine being 'light' are right on target, and exactly what we are going for [quote]

You will be riding a couple of fine lines with that kind of outlook. If we start with the idea that you want your magazine to sell well, then the next question would be to who?

Who do you want to buy your magazine?

For someone to pick up your magazine on a newsstand, based on the title, you would be looking for people that are interested in DVDs and from other words used on the front Home Theater as well. Now you say that you would rather court a larger market then just enthusiasts. The problem with that is that generally the only person that will subscribe to such a magazine is an enthusiast. If they are not then they may buy an issue or two on the newsstand at most, once they do more then that, then they are obviously enthusiasts. Posted Image

Now I am not saying you need to have an MIT degree to read or write good hardware reviews, but I am saying there needs to be some sort of content to the reviews. Pretty much the same is true of the software reviews. I am going to be blunt here, because I feel this might help the magazine improve and I always like good DVD/HT mags. Posted Image

I willing to forgive typos and the minor mistakes in your current issue as this kind of stuff is expected as you get off the ground. That stuff is typical for a first issue.

The problem comes in content or lack there of, in the reviews. No matter who you are aiming at, there needs to be content in the reviews. By Content I mean something above and beyond what you could learn about a unit by simply reading the companies web site or the back of a DVD case.

In your current issue, the hardware reviews were nearly completely empty and I don't just mean of hard numbers that an engineer would want to see. When I read the reviews I learned very little more then someone had confirmed the player actually worked, or such and such reviewer had a high opinion of Rotel, even though they had never actually gotten to use Rotel gear before.

Even worse were erroneous statements quoted as facts. If you are not going to give us new info, then at least make sure the info you give is correct. Forgetting the Typo on the HDCD issue, the reviewer goes on to say that the HDCD decoding circuitry will actually improve the playback of non HDCD enhanced CDs. Funny HDCD never claims this and if the manufacturer does then you should know enough not to believe them. Also stuff like saying this is a DVD Changer with a difference, it is the first that decodes MP3s? I don't think so, there have been several from a few companies. I do believe that JVC and others have had changers that do MP3 that were on the market first. You need to get your facts straight, so make sure you have a fact checker that will read and confirm stuff before it goes to press.

Next Your DVD reviews. Now you would think that a Magazine that goes by the name DVD ETC would take some pride in their DVD reviews. However, in the first issue the reviews contained nothing for the most part that you could not learn by pick the disc up and reading it. There was not real discussion of the programing on the DVD and no real discussion on the quality of the DVD. The closest it came to that was in the Gimme Shelter review the person mentioned enjoying the 5.1 DTS track.

What I am saying is that if the review could be written without actually watching the DVD in question then you need to consider dumping it.

If I walked in to a store not knowing anything about the mags and the online world of HT and DVD and saw a magazine called DVD Etc I would expect that at a minimum they DVD reviews in the mag would be of some depth, not just a rehash of the features listed on the back.

You see my problem is I would like to see the Magazine that has tied itself to Home Theater Forum be a success.

So while you might want to keep it light, if you want people to continue to buy it, there needs to be some content. If you review speakers you need to include some frequency response numbers and preferably test them and confirm them, if you review a receiver I would expect some actual confirmation that the unit is capable of doing what it claims in the way of Watts per channel.

If you don't start adding some real content to the mag, then I fear you won't be in business long enough to honor their 2 years for the price of one subscription deal you are currently offering.

So I guess what I am saying is not to aim too light or low with your mag because the people you would be aiming at are doubtful to ever read your magazine and if they did pick it up on the chance of reading good DVD reviews, even if they are not technically minded people, they will find nothing there to make it worth trying again.

Remember I would like you succeed, I would love to see a Mag that taps the great resource known as HTF, but I also suggest you do some serious overhauling right now before it is to late.

I suggest that you maybe poll the members that have read your mag for honest answers about what direction you need to move in and move swiftly.

I would also suggest that members here respond with their honest comments on the magazine and try to offer some sort of constructive advice, unless of course you happened to like it, in which case I would say then you need to speak up and say so.

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