Chinese-language DVDs--are any legit?

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Eric Stewart, Jun 10, 2003.

  1. Eric Stewart

    Eric Stewart Stunt Coordinator

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    Friends showed me two DVDs their college-age daughter had bought on eBay. One, "The Bourne Identity," looked on screen like a legit copy: good video, the regular soundtrack, the usual menus and chapter stops, etc.

    But it had Chinese subtitles that were on by default, though they could be turned off or replaced with English or Spanish subtitles in the usual way.

    It also came with no case, just flat packaging with what seemed to be the standard American cover-art insert for a case that you might furnish yourself. The cover-art insert specified Region 1 and seemed to be of high reproduction quality. I do not know if the disk itself was Region 1, but it played in a Region 1 player.

    I can say that the DVD I saw is obviously not just a pirated "bit copy" of an American "Bourne Identity" DVD -- or it wouldn't have Chinese subtitles.

    The other DVD I did not inspect as carefully (and I did not note its title) but it seemed to have a similar flat packaging style, contained in a clear plastic envelope. In this case, my impression was that it was not the usual U.S. cover art for the DVD. The cover wrapper had what seemed to be Chinese characters written on it. (Is that what you call the printed insert in a DVD case: a wrapper?)

    I haven't gotten in touch with the young lady who bought these DVDs yet to ask her more questions, though I am trying to. But her parents told me these DVDs were quite cheap to buy. As the DVD I viewed did not seem to be of shoddy quality in any way, I wondered if it and others like it might possibly be legal DVDs -- maybe not here, but in (say) Hong Kong. (But why would it play in a Region 1 player, then?)

    So I'd like to know more. Can anyone say: Where do these DVDs come from? For what legal market (if any) are they made? Given that the product is not at all low in quality (at least, not the particular one I saw, examined cursorially), how can it be sold here so much cheaper than American DVDs?

    Is this kind of product the same thing as a "bootleg DVD"? (I think of the latter as involving a hasty and substandard video transfer, which was apparently not the case here.)

    Also, if this is a legitimate foreign product, are legitimate American DVD producers ripping us off with unnecessarily high DVD prices? If so, is there any defensible ethical reason for us not to buy these cheaper but essentially equivalent DVDs from abroad?

    I went out on eBay to find the same or similar DVDs and found some that may or may not be the same -- it was very hard to tell exactly what was being offered. If the ones I want are not true bootlegs, some of the ones I found seemed to be.

    I searched the Web, too, but couldn't figure out what keywords to search for. "Bootleg DVD" seemed wrong, but the likes of "Chinese DVD" and "Hong Kong DVD" turned up a subculture of films from those lands, not manistream films I'm interested in.

    I'd very much appreciate hearing what information and opinions people have about this topic. I already know that most HTF posters are against bootlegs, so the question of whether these are bootlegs is a key one. Thanks in advance.
     
  2. Jeff Kleist

    Jeff Kleist Executive Producer

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  3. Aaron Cohen

    Aaron Cohen Second Unit

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    Yep, those are most definitely bootlegs. When I went to Vietnam I purchased about 20 dvd's exactly like what you described (in flat slips with just the cover art). They were 6000 Dong each (roughly 30 cents). They all had Chinese subtitles on the screen, some of them removable, others not. They all also had menus. The quality on some was okay while on others it was horrid. I ended up throwing them all away though as the official releases of each was much more satisfying in terms of audio/video quality and extras. But they can certainly be made with exact audio/video quality and extras. Just because it has an excellent picture doesn't mean it's not a bootleg.
     
  4. Chris_Morris

    Chris_Morris Screenwriter

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  5. Eric Stewart

    Eric Stewart Stunt Coordinator

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    A reply to Jeff Kleist in particular:

    Thanks. Your post was an eye-opener.

     
  6. Aaron Cohen

    Aaron Cohen Second Unit

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    A digipak is that fold out cardboard packaging. Think Saturday Night Fever.

    Am I right or way off here?
     
  7. Woo Jae

    Woo Jae Screenwriter

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  8. Yee-Ming

    Yee-Ming Producer

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  9. HienD

    HienD Stunt Coordinator

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    Yes. They do have legit, original english movies with chinese subtitles. That's how they are shown in Hong kong. However, those chinese subtitled movies are always region 3 and priced in the $15-$20usd range. The bootleg one is usually copied from a legit version, so the video/audio quality should be the same. I sometime buy legit copies of english movies in vcd format.
     
  10. JeremyFr

    JeremyFr Supporting Actor

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    You know I do not condone Bootleging/Pirateing whatever you want to call it but I have to laugh at all the people that throw up there arms saying that people downloading MP3's is killing the music industry. In a recent article I believe it was in Sound & Vision they had a very interesting article with a man who had done quite extensive research on the whole MP3 is killing the Music Industry claim.

    The man in question has his own band they make there own cd's they are not with any label. His band tried to sell there cd's on sites like ebay & Yahoo among others who promptly told him they were forbidden due to the fact that they were on CD-R disc's which are often used for "piracy".

    After running into this problem and essentially have no means of distributing his bands music online he decided to do extensive research and find the true numbers behind the music industrys claims. In a nutshell this is what he found. Since 1998 the average price of a retail cd has risen from around $13 to $17 if I remember correctly my numbers may be off but you'll get the point. The average amount of new releases has fallen 25%, also since 1998 DVD and other entertainment i.e. X-Box,Gamecube,PS2 etc have become very large contendors. In short the music industry has raised the average price of a CD nearly 33% has released 25% percent less CD's and in reality most people like myself would rather spend our money on a DVD than spend almost the same amout on a CD that unfortunately I'll probably like one song on and has sub par recording quality. The article is in this months S&V and I'd recommend that anyone who can pick it up and read it do so its an eye opener.

    And one more thing if MP3 is so Bad why are more and more artist's supporting and sueing the record companys because they get paid penny's on the dollar for what the record company charges for there cd's.
     
  11. Woo Jae

    Woo Jae Screenwriter

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    Jeremy Fr:

    http://www.salon.com/tech/feature/20...acy/index.html

    Just click on the link, then choose to see the advertisement for a free day pass to read the full article.



    THAT is the scary part. That most - even my sister or mom or dad - don't see the impact that this will have on legitimate artists or creativity in general...

    True, the correct term for these are different. But the act of theft is essentially the same. Anyone curious about piracy should try this fine faq...

    http://www.digital.anime.org.uk/piratefaq.html

    And a good article on software piracy :

    http://www.gamespy.com/legacy/articles/piracy.shtm
     
  12. Jeff Kleist

    Jeff Kleist Executive Producer

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  13. Eric Stewart

    Eric Stewart Stunt Coordinator

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    Some quick responses:

    To Woo Jae: “Envy/jealousy” may be a part of it, I admit, as I’m human -- but my disdain of the “fancy expense account lunches in posh Hollywood eateries” that are built into the cost of legal DVDs is more political than personal. Intellectual property rights should protect creative artists, yes. In fact, they protect the “suits” disproportionately.

    To Yee-Ming: I’ll have to check for the round “D9” logo -- never knew it existed as a badge of dual-layer. Where exactly is it? You are suggesting that illegal DVDs are limited to single-layer, right? What are “the triads,” BTW? I think your distinction between “bootlegs” on the one hand and “rip-offs” or “pirate copies” on the other is a good one. The migration of Hong Kong talent to Hollywood is not, I think, a good argument against buying black-market Asian DVDs, though. Out of the frying pan, into the fire, that situation is. See my later comments about artists, “suits,” hands, and throats.

    To HienD: Thanks for confirming that the bootleg version of a Chinese-subtitled Western DVD is “usually copied from a legit version, so the video/audio quality should be the same.” In fact, I wonder why some of the illegal DVDs are not the same. What is the vcd format, BTW? I have noticed it at some of the Asian entertainment sites Jeff Kleist mentioned. Movies on vcd seem cheaper than on DVD. It vcd as high-quality as DVD?

    To JeremyFr: I agree: CDs cost too much. The record industry is shooting itself in the foot and driving people to MP3s. The artists (most recently, Pearl Jam) are trying to find a way to circumvent the record companies. More power to them.

    Back to Woo Jae:

     
  14. Chris_Morris

    Chris_Morris Screenwriter

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  15. Woo Jae

    Woo Jae Screenwriter

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    Eric:

    Maybe I was too harsh there...

    But take a look at how much DVDs are versus, say, VHS cassettes. I cannot think of a consumer format that is cheap as DVD anywhere. Before DVDs, I was collecting used VHS at a store for 10~15 was thinking that THAT was cheap and affordable. Now NEW DVDs can be had for 10 or less. And they have MORE value than a VHS does through menus, chapter stops, and many special features NOT available on VHS.

    On artists' rights: True, the internet can offer endless distribution possibilities - but can it make money for the artist? Can it insure the right of the artist to produce and be confident that their works are protected via law? You may speak of artist's rights, and argue here that the "suits" are driving artists into penury. I am not so sure about that.

    Copyright and intellectual property law are vital to creativity.

    If it protects the legal flows of income to artists, why should artists oppose it? Is it so that they can get a bigger piece of the "pie"? If I am not mistaken, some of the mega artists artists have started their own labels and companies to protect their own interests - as is their right. Your argument is over the allocation of the profits to the artists versus the "suits". That is something the two parties - recording artist and producers - create a contract on.

    If you'd like, you can explain your point a bit better to get through to a brickhead like me... [​IMG]
     
  16. John_Berger

    John_Berger Cinematographer

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  17. Jeff Kleist

    Jeff Kleist Executive Producer

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    Episode 1 and the SW trilogy ARE on VCD in Asia, however they are all P&S and from PAL masters
     
  18. Yee-Ming

    Yee-Ming Producer

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  19. Dan Rudolph

    Dan Rudolph Producer

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    Another big giveaway is typos and crappy fonts on the packaging. I have a bootleg Braveheart where the maker apparently scanned it, btu the text came out illegible, so they used a blur tool to get rid of it an retyped everything without using spell check or a decent font.
     
  20. Eric Stewart

    Eric Stewart Stunt Coordinator

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    To Woo Jae:

    You’re surely no “brickhead” to believe so strongly that “Copyright and intellectual property law are vital to creativity.” Many people agree with you. I’d just make the point that the law can also be abused – and I think the bottom-liners and the “suits” in the movie and record industries abuse them. Here’s my argument.

    For all the talk of DVDs under $10, most of them cost about the same ($15 to $25) as they did when the format was still new. And CDs have gone markedly up in price during that time.

    Why are DVDs not much cheaper? An economics lesson:

    Jeff Kleist posted earlier in this thread a list of legitimate cost items DVD bootleggers bypass, among them compression, menu design, extras creation, etc. These are, economists would say, “fixed costs” of producing the first DVD of a particular title run.

    From that point on, the costs of producing each unit of product – each DVD that is pressed – are “variable costs.” Each unit made costs a certain amount of money to make, package, transport, etc. While variable costs per unit manufactured will tend to remain fairly constant at the usual DVD production volumes, the fixed costs will be spread over a larger volume of DVDs as the size of the production runs increases. So the more DVDs of a given title that are made and sold, the lower the total cost of making the DVDs (fixed costs plus variable costs per unit) should be.

    With the rapid expansion of the DVD market since 1997, there should be huge per-unit cost savings, taking both fixed and variable costs into account. But prices are about the same. Economists allocate sellers’ revenues to production costs, fixed and variable; overhead (those West L.A. power lunches are included here); taxes; reasonable profit or return on investment; and excess profit that would disappear if the market were more competitive.

    The movie and record industries use copyright law to secure monopolies on their products. That’s both good and bad. It’s good to the extent that the companies really need monopoly rights to induce them to make and release movies, records, etc. – which I very much doubt, in the world of popular mass culture. It’s bad to the extent that it underwrites excess profits and inefficiencies of overhead that a more competitive market would squeeze out.

    I feel that the “suits” who drive Mercedes automobiles to Capitol Hill to whine about copyright infringement are just being greedy. Under their play-it-safe, boffo-box-office hegemony, fewer and fewer break-the-mold artists and less and less novelty and creativity are the norm. If anything, hiding behind copyright and intellectual property law is the enemy of creativity today.

    This (in addition to wanting to be able to buy good DVDs cheap) is why I recommend HTF denizens think again about any knee-jerk resistance to so-called rip-off DVDs from other lands – as long as they are of high quality, that is. I would like to see a forum opened up to discuss how to locate the acceptable-quality “bootleg” products and avoid the stinkers.

    P.S. After I posted this, it occurred to me that in the 1950s there was a lot of what we might today call piracy in the record industry. When it came to the then-new rock and roll genre, 45 rpm singles were generally sold by local and regional independent record producers, sometimes out of trunks of automobiles. The producer would find an act that had a good sound and hire a recording studio to cut a record. He would have the performers sign a contract giving him rights to the recording and to the song, as if he had written it. He would then promote the record.

    If it hit big in, say, Philadelphia, a producer in Chicago would find a local performer or band that could "cover" the original, making a record that for all intents and purposes sounded the same. (Often the original artist was black and the cover artist was white.) There was very little national distribution of rock and roll hits at the time, so it's not clear that Producer #1 lost any money because of Producer #2's "piracy" -- but it was that much harder to go national with a hit because of rampant multi-regional copying of the original record's sound.

    Still, it was a period of great artistic originality, the Golden Age of rock and roll. It ended at about the time Elvis moved from local independent label Sun Records to national RCA Victor. I don't think Sun founder Sam Phillips was all that concerned with the homogenized Elvis soundalikes that soon popped up all over. Elvis (and Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Roy Orbison) had given him his day in the sun. But he never got hugely rich, either. Would he have preferred today's bottom-line mentality, though? I think not.
     

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