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Back from Hollywood: A brief summary of our trip, plus: CLONES, SPIDER-MAN and MORE!

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ronald Epstein, Sep 23, 2002.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein

    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
    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
    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.
  2. Michael Ballack

    Michael Ballack Second Unit

    May 30, 2000
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    Great news about Episode 2. Very sad news indeed about the DVD Industry being under J6P's control. [​IMG] [​IMG]
  3. Jay Mitchosky

    Jay Mitchosky Producer

    Sep 6, 1998
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    That sounds like it was a really great time. Wish I could have been there. Glad to hear Peter is doing well.
  4. Lou Sytsma

    Lou Sytsma Producer

    Nov 1, 1998
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    Lou Sytsma
    Ron I read your post with sadness. This forum's membership has lost it's clout with the studios. Truly sad.

    As to your comments on studios are no longer being willing to browse internet sites - that is even more saddening.

    Part of the criticism comes from the fact that the studio presence here seemed to disappear without a trace. Certain studio reps that posted here - all of a sudden stopped. With no explanation. We feel abandoned. That is frustrating for us having valuable input to the industry and then loosing it.

    I'm not dwelling on it. Things change, people move on.

    Thankfully there are many great people that post here. That is where my focus lies now.

    Any info you can provide through your studio links is great. I'll take your reports gratefully but honestly I'm severely disappointed that the studios are so thin skinned.

  5. Tim Glover

    Tim Glover Lead Actor

    Jan 12, 1999
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    Monroe, LA
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    Tim Glover
    Yes Ron, great news about the video quality of Episode II. Can't wait for Nov. 12th. When the studios like Fox give a demo of Episode II, what equipment do they use to show this off to you all? Just curious. Thanks!
  6. Brian Kidd

    Brian Kidd Cinematographer

    Nov 14, 2000
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    I think it's a shame that the studios (all of them) feel the need to dumb-down their product for the general masses. The truth is, the masses were buying dvd when it was supposedly being designed for the enthusiasts. Why stop now? I don't blame an individual person. I know full well that any corporation is run by groups of people. I just wish that decisions didn't rely entirely on "focus groups" and statistics and instead were made with the intention of producing the finest quality products possible. Quality does matter, I don't care what the consultants have told the studios. It's just sad.
  7. John Berggren

    John Berggren Producer

    Jun 17, 1999
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    It really is a sad day when we are to accept pan and scan only releases of titles from studios. As unlikely as I was before to buy a film if not released in OAR, I'm that much more unlikely now that I have a widescreen TV.

    Walmart is not good for DVD. It's really too bad that a more widescreen friendly retailer could not dominate instead. Their clientele may seek pan and scan, but Walmart does not educate, and quite nearly promotes pan and scan as the best option.

    I'm glad to hear there are good things on the horizon. I certainly look forward to a well launched HD-DVD. The more DVD gets hijacked by the "common consumer", the more likely I am to early-adopt HD-DVD. Of course studios probably know this. They ought to also know that I won't be pushing HD-DVD on my less educated associates like I did with DVD.
  8. Jeff

    Jeff Supporting Actor

    Jun 30, 1997
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    I'm not defending anyone who has said anything negative to a studio but how are these people to know what goes on at the studios and why those decisions are made? Maybe if there was some sort of general outline as to how things work at them, the comments would greatly diminish.

    I'm not saying the studios have to supply us with this info but I'm just saying if they are truly bothered by the comments then maybe they could educate us a little.

    As far as the negative comments to studio reps, themselves, is concerned, that's a competely different matter.

  9. Dan Brecher

    Dan Brecher Producer

    Jan 8, 1999
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    Tim, this year, and in fact for all previous years, Fox have always opted to run DVDs for us via a super high end 3 chip DLP projector. What the audio hardware was in the theatre on Friday I have no idea, it was the third of forth different screening room the HTF had been given access too in all our visits, and they are forever upgrading their hardware at the studio. Some obscene video scaler to get DVD to hold up so well at 25+ feet is also put to good use at these events.

    Attack of the Clones and Ice Age really are, for lack of a better word, disgustingly impressive in every way. What we watched of Clones just showed it off to be flawless on all counts, audio and video. The detail in clothing especially is really a sight to behold, but what must be said is that the CG REALLY stands out, more so than I found theatrically 5 times (4 of those viewings of which were the DLP). In watching the Yoda vs Dooku duel, I was noticing the little CG Dooku tweaks that went over my head in theatres.

    The DVD transfer holds up better with the films darker scenes than both 35mm and DLP presentations did. Everything is a lot more balanced for the DVD presentation, and the sound too feels far more impressive in the confines of a small screening room (and eventually our HTs) than it did in a large theatre auditorium. Impressive, most impressive.

    The deleted scenes on disc 2 are all uninspiring save for maybe the one with Obi and Mace on the landing platform, which I liked really only for the inventive set up of the hangar and how the Jedi Starfighter platform stretches out into the open allowing the ship to take off. This scene is actually an alternate/early version of the scene that exists in the film with Obi, Mace and Yoda in which Obi Wan questions Anakin's field of thought. It was changed because this original doesnt have Yoda, though much of the dialogue is the same. Visualy, this scene was going in a nice direction...

    I don't know if the missconceptions (read; fanboy lies) about additional deleted scenes of the "lost 20" "expanded duel" and "expanded Jedi raid on geonosis" have continued on during our being away last week, but if they have, put them to rest now, they aint there. Like Ep1, we're not given all the deleted material which I foresee being the example use by those fans who truly feel they must have something to complain about with this release (no one will dare knock the transfer and sound). I am happy enough with that is here, and the Analaysis Droid scene, whilst utterly pointless, was nice visuall nevertheless (even if they do look like Jonny 5!).

    The 3 minor tweaks to the actual film I am rather fond of. The 2 line extension to Anakin's confession to Padme is not really needed to be sure, but it's nice and does no harm. The fix to Padme in the sand now just plays out SOOOOOOO much better. You'll wonder why it was never like this in the first place. The other tweak is a cg tweak most wont even notice...

    Van Ling has done another nice job in producing the DVD. Again we're treated to 3 alternating menus, this time Coruscant, Kamino and Geonosis. Coruscant remains my favorite of the three variations. Disc one plays host to what must now be the obligatory 1138 easter egg and proves you can never stop laughing at Hayden Christensen falling over.

    We watched about 15 minues of the 45 min From Puppets to Pixels documentary (one of a few docs on disc 2) and this is shaping up REALLY nicely. I think those who have reservations over there being now single lengthy documentary this time round will be very pleased with what's on offer here. It's all shaping up to be MORE extensive than anything on TPM given we now have some solid in depth material focusing on indivudual elements of production.

    And finally, as Ron said, R2 Beneath the Dome is an absolute hoot. The screening room was roaring with laughter watching this 5 minute preview for what will be a series of spoof web documentaries. Funny, FUNNY stuff. Oh my!

    In addition to AOTC then, Fox's second winter direct digital gem is coming in the form of Ice Age, my want for which was boosted significantly on Friday having watched some of the supplements. There's some neat and funny stuff going on with this title, and it's sure to turn a lot of heads.

  10. DaveBB

    DaveBB Supporting Actor

    May 24, 1999
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    Thanks for all the information Ron: I always look forward your reports.
    Sorry to hear you got so much negative feedback from the studios about the rudeness found on this and other forums. I still remember the good ol' days when I would post a question, a positive feedback or a constructive criticism and get a response. Then again I know if I was a studio rep and saw a thread like this one that I would stop showing up. It sucks when one person or a small group messes it up for everyone else.
  11. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

    Feb 12, 1998
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  12. Dharmesh C

    Dharmesh C Supporting Actor

    Jul 25, 2000
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    What was the AOTC sound like? Especially the charges [​IMG] I bet the LFE channel got a major workout!!! [​IMG]
  13. Todd Phillips

    Todd Phillips Second Unit

    Oct 15, 2000
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    Thanks for the info, Ron. Maybe Walmart should be the focus of the energy spent criticizing the studios?

    I've got a genuine question, though:

  14. Jeff Jacobson

    Jeff Jacobson Cinematographer

    Dec 24, 2001
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    Were there any discussions with the studio reps about any plans to educate consumers about OAR?
  15. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator

    Dec 9, 1998
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    If you follow the old adage "it's not what you say, but how you say it" then constructive criticism would more likely be accepted by the studios as valid concerns rather than insults from disgruntled fanatics. Furthermore, some members are a little too caught up in specific dvd features instead of concentrating their concern on getting a good dvd presentation of their favorite films.

  16. dpippel

    dpippel HTF Premium Member

    Feb 24, 2000
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    Yoyodyne Propulsion Systems
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    You know, I detest rudeness, personal attacks and uninformed criticism as much as the next guy. There's no need and no place for schoolyard dialog and name calling to get a point across. However, I do think that the studios are partly to blame for some of the badmouthing they've been subjected to on the net regarding some of their DVD policies. Let's take HTF for example. In the ABSENCE of any participation or input from the studios on the issues that have been discussed here what do they really expect? In an information vacuum people's imaginations run wild, rumors spread, and the worst case scenario can be presented as fact.

    I would put forth to the big players in the DVD business that ignoring the concerns of the internet community is not an answer. Their long-term corporate interests and the interests of their customers would be better served by offering more information to consumers of their products, not less. The enthusiasts who became early adopters of this format were an integral part of its *overwhelming* success. In my opinion the studios should acknowledge and respect that contribution.

    It is also my opinion that educating the public about the differences between original aspect ratios and full frame/pan-n-scan presentations should become a major priority for these companies. By neglecting this issue now they are only postponing the next perception problem, when widescreen HDTV capable sets are the norm and everyone's 4:3 material "doesn't fill the screen."

    There's a lot that can be accomplished on both sides of this fence.
  17. aldamon

    aldamon Second Unit

    Mar 26, 2002
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    Thanks for the exciting post! You guys have an amazing job.
    On another note, it saddens me that the studios' response to flaming in the HTF is to leave the scene cold turkey. Every major online forum has flamers in it. It's a fact of life any reasonable Internet user can recognize and handle with ease. If all it takes is a few flames to repel the studios from the HTF, then I believe that they were looking for a reason to leave anyway. Certainly, some stricter moderation will clean up the place for the better, but the underlying negativity will only continue to fester if left unchecked. If the studios find it awkward to post here in person, then perhaps the HTF staff can continue to pass news along, officially or unofficially instead of leaving us, the consumers, alone to contemplate conspiracies and innuendos and pseudo economics. We ARE, after all, cinema fans. With the ability to suspend disbelief, comes a vivid imagination. That can be a good or a bad thing [​IMG]
  18. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Ronald Epstein
    Again, Crawdaddy has put things into
    proper perspective...

    It's not what you say against the
    studios and their product but how those
    opinions are being expressed on this forum.

    The folks at Columbia made it very clear that
    they want to hear the opinions of their consumers.
    In the same voice, they made it clear that doing
    so in a rude manner often falls on deaf ears.

    We aren't going to control constructive criticism
    on this forum. The studios want that criticism
    in order to produce better product when they are
    able to. What we are going to control are posts
    that are filled with personal attacks.

    Someone asked for direction? Okay, here's
    something to think about. The people who run
    DVD Home Entertainment at most all the studios
    are DVD enthusiasts just like us. They know
    exactly the type of material we want included
    in Special Edition products. If it were solely
    up to them, we would be getting 3-disc
    sets filled with every extra imaginable. In
    the real world, however, there are legal
    restrictions attached to just about every piece
    of added material that needs clearance. In most
    all cases (without being specific), the studios
    cannot clear everything they wish to include on
    a DVD. Furthermore, the window between theatrical
    and DVD release has greatly shortened. Studios
    are under immense time constraints to get product
    out. This often results in material not being able
    to be included the first time around, but perhaps
    in a later re-release. In addition, the studios
    are under pressure from the likes of Walmart who
    make up the bulk of their DVD purchase orders.
    It's Walmart that dictates the format films are
    released in.

    The direction I am pointing all of you in is to
    back off on complaining about every little demand
    that is not met. Some of you guys see a piece of
    material that is excluded from a release and you
    start pointing fingers at the studio, referring to
    them as "stupid" or otherwise, and in the process,
    have no clue whatsoever as to why a decision had
    to be made to exclude that material.

    None of you are in a position here to demand
    anything from the studios. Personally, this trip
    has opened all our eyes in realizing that the
    studios are doing everything to put out the best
    product possible when their hands are usually
    always tied.

    So you want direction? Kindly back off.

    The studios owe us nothing. We were very, very
    fortunate to have representatives here for a
    very long time. The fact that a minority of this
    forum's membership took it upon themselves to take
    personal shots at these representatives and their
    studios has resulted in a noticeable absence of
    these individuals.

    You can bet that we are going to do everything
    we can to get these reps back on our forum. This
    means an assurance from us that the membership
    will treat them with the utmost respect at all
    times. We can easily remove any member who feels
    that they have demands that have to be met by a
    studio that owes us nothing.
  19. Brian Kidd

    Brian Kidd Cinematographer

    Nov 14, 2000
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  20. Dave Anderson

    Dave Anderson Second Unit

    Apr 8, 1999
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