The Digital Bits: Insider's Guide To DVD Introduction Anyone that has spent time here on Home Theater Forum and other forums like it know the value of the information these sites provide. Practically anyone with little or no Home Theater experience can arrive here, post a few messages and ultimately walk away from this forum well educated. What if someone took all the essential information that every person should know about DVD and Home Theater and put it into book form? Well, this is exactly what Bill Hunt and Todd Doogan have accomplished with their newly authored book, The Digital Bits: Insider's Guide To DVD. I'll talk about this book in a moment, but first I want to talk a little about Bill Hunt, Todd Doogan and THE DIGITAL BITS website. When Home Theater Forum set up shop in 1997 the Internet was still something most people knew little about. While we were settling into our new digs and enjoying the smell of the Internet's fresh paint, we came in contact with Bill Hunt, who had recently launched The Digital Bits website which was at the time covering the launch of the DVD format. After a few friendly conversations on the phone, Bill Hunt took HOME THEATER FORUM under his wing and made us his official discussion forum. This joining of forces sparked a close friendship amongst us and potential for growth that would never have happened without each other's support. Thanks to the efforts of Bill Hunt and Todd Doogan, The Digital Bits has been the Internet's premiere venue for the latest DVD news, views and reviews. Run by DVD fans themselves, The Digital Bits has consistently been a reliable source for those seeking the latest "insider" DVD news and latest DVD release reviews. I personally visit the website on a daily basis just to catch up on The Rumor Mill, which teasingly gives us a hint at titles that are in the pipeline for release. I consider Bill Hunt to be a good friend. Both he and I seem to cross paths every time I am out in Los Angeles. Two years ago when I had the opportunity to visit Skywalker Ranch, I knew I wanted Bill Hunt to come along. Spending the day with Bill, I found him to be extremely knowledgeable about film, Home Theater, and the DVD industry. He's also a very friendly, down-to-earth individual. I don't think I have had the pleasure of meeting Todd Doogan, though I have been an avid reader of Doogan's Views, which often takes a humorous look at what is happening within the industry, while providing some of the best DVD reviews the Internet has to offer. Insider's Guide To DVD I first became aware of this book that Bill Hunt and Todd Doogan were writing over a year ago. While spending some time out in Los Angeles, Bill talked about his efforts to put together an essential guide for DVD newbies and established enthusiasts. Both Bill and Todd have been feverishly working on this book over the past two years while at the same time maintaining The Digital Bits website. Nobody ever said writing a book would be easy! Their efforts seems to have paid off. Just starting to arrive on bookstore shelves, The Digital Bits: Insider's Guide To DVD is the very first publication of its kind to explore the DVD format from history to future. You'll not only learn how DVD discs are manufactured and compressed, but learn about about the authoring process in creating some of the great menu designs we have come to appreciate over the years. One of the greatest benefits of this book for DVD "newbies" is the fact that it clearly explains aspect ratios. Through the use of many comparison film stills, a reader can not only see how a 1.85:1 ratio compares to 2.35:1, but how Full Frame greatly compromises the widescreen scale. If there is one thing I hope this book accomplishes is to educate people as to why widescreen is so important in preserving the filmmaker's intended vision. For anyone just getting into Home Theater, this book provides valuable information on how best to begin building a theater based on a particular budget. The authors are very careful in making certain that readers wisely spend their budget, finding the right compromise between features and price. Those of you on a limited budget can actually do better than buying a "home theater in a box," and you'll find some invaluable advice on how you can better spend your money. The book manages to answer just about every question I have ever seen posted on HOME THEATER FORUM, including... * What does anamorphic mean? * What is the difference between Dolby Digital and DTS? * What is THX? Page by page, this book carefully decrypts all those numerous logos that adorn the back of a DVD box. You'll decipher the differences between DTS and DTS-ES as well as learn what those strange DVD sound icons really mean. At this point, many of you reading this review who are established DVD enthusiasts may be wondering what's in this book for ME? While the book does spend a good deal of its first 84 pages on material already familiar to most of you, Bill and Todd have included eye-opening material that will keep readers glued to their seats. This book contains comprehensive reviews of the Top 100 DVDs of all time. I particularly find these reviews to be valuable as there are so many great films crossing all genres that I have yet to become aware of. The book examines the very BEST of both Film and TV on DVD, with reviews that contain background history on its subject matter as well as giving us detailed information on its transfer and included supplements. With all this book has to offer, I saved the best for last.... As many of you are aware, Fox Home Video is about to release The Alien Quadrilogy to DVD. The Digital Bits had the opportunity to go behind-the-scenes in the production of this amazing 9-disc DVD that contains never-before- seen versions of these films as well as all-new supplemental materials. The book introduces you to Charles de Lauzirika, one of the hottest working DVD producers. His credits include Hannibal, Legend, Gladiator and a slew of Fox DVD releases. Members of HOME THEATER FORUM should already be familiar with Charlie -- he is an active member of this forum, often graciously taking personal time to reply to numerous posts. The Digital Bits sits down with Charlie in an extensive interview that takes us through the entire creation process of the Alien Quadrilogy, a project that had not quite-too- seriously been tossed around by Fox over the past few years. It was originally Charlie's passion to do something special with David Fincher's Alien 3, but never dreamed that Fox would offer him the massive job of putting together a 9-disc Special Edition that covered all 4 films. Through interviews and photos, you'll be taken to the film archives at Fox Studios where Charlie searches through boxes of film reels and original production artwork. You'll be carefully taken through the day when Harry Dean Stanton, Veronica Cartwright and Tom Skerritt met at P.O.P. Sound in Santa Monica to record the DVD commentary. From the moment these actors walked into the building till they all bid their final goodbye, I felt as if I had just been placed in the middle of the action bearing witness to every intricate detail of what happened during the commentary sessions. This is a rare opportunity for most everyone that has never witnessed how one of these commentary sessions come together. In addition, we take a look at the people and processes in putting together the Special Edition content for Alien Quadrilogy. As would be expected, there's a lot of digging into archives, trying to connect with the talent and creators involved with the film, and the challenge of meeting the alloted timeframe and budget of the studio. Anyone who has ever questioned why a Special Edition DVD doesn't contain a certain deleted scene or element that fans have wanted, will now understand the politics involved in obtaining this material in the first place. The book clearly talks about Charlie's efforts to persuade director David Fincher to participate in the Alien Quadrilogy project -- especially since it was a film that the director was not very proud of. Charlie never had the opportunity to meet Mr. Fincher in person nor get him personally involved, but there's an amazing story about a "close encounter" with the director at a local Mexican restaurant. I found the entire Alien Quadrilogy piece to be a fascinating read. It gave me the opportunity to appreciate the work that goes into these massive DVD projects, and understand the reason why we can't always have everything we want included in these Special Editions. Final Thoughts At just over 400 pages, The Digital Bits: Insider's Guide To DVD is a very easy read. You can pretty much flip through the pages and find something that will catch your eye. Newbies to the DVD/Home Theater experience will spend more time scouring through the first 84 pages of the book. These pages provide a thorough look at everything anyone needs to know about DVD and building a Home Theater. Established enthusiasts will fully enjoy the in-depth look at the creation of this year's anticipated release of Twentieth Century Fox's nine-disc Alien Quadrilogy. The fact that this book contains comprehensive reviews of the Top 100 DVDs of all time is reason enough to keep a copy next to your favorite sitting chair. It certainly takes the guesswork out of "What are we watching tonight?!" The book lists at $17.95, about the cost of a single DVD. AMAZON is offering the book for a discounted price of $12.57. Click Here for Purchase Information This book not only makes a GREAT Christmas stocking stuffer for any DVD enthusiast, but more importantly, your purchase helps support the survival of The Digital Bits website. Many of you should already be aware that websites like ours cost more to run than the advertising revenue we take in. Purchasing this book makes a "win win" situation for both you and The Bits. This review isn't just support for a great bunch of guys that we have gotten to know over the years -- but support for a book that is well worth its purchase price.