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Universal Vault Series - Amazon.com exclusive DVD-Rs

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Marcel H., Jan 12, 2010.

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  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder
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    I only read the initial replies on the first page. Have no
    idea what has transpired since because I felt that I
    needed to point out something about these Video On
    Demand programs....

    There are members complaining about subpar quality
    and the lack of attention being given to these titles.
    Some think that DVD sales are on the decline to the
    point that this is the future of selling them to the public.

    I hope people will understand that these programs
    run by Warner, Universal and MGM are fantastic for
    the fact that they offer consumers the opportuntity to
    buy titles that, for the most part, would probably never
    see the light of day under any other circumstances.

    The studios have spent a lot of money putting out
    obscure titles on regular DVD only to see those sales
    go down the toilet. Retailers don't have the room anymore
    to stock obscure titles among the new ones.

    What a great idea to put out stuff that would probably
    only appeal to a niche market and produce the discs
    according to consumer demand.

    I understand there have been complications along the
    way with Warner's launch of the program. They really
    have tried to fix their wrong. I also understand that minimal
    cleanup is being done on these films. However, I also
    understand that the studios can't spend a lot of time and
    money on these very small titles that may only sell a
    few hundred copies.

    Someone on page one said if we don't support these
    programs then we will never have some of these titles
    in our hands. That's a correct asssumption.

    As far as the DVD-R media is concerned, I don't have
    any hard data on the durability of the media that the
    studios are issuing these films on. That's something
    that I have no comment on.

    And listen, I'm not sticking up for the studios for the
    sake of doing so. We know that mistakes have been
    made along the way. I just personally like what is being
    done here. Being a fan of THE GONG SHOW (see my
    Avatar) you can imagine how optimistic I am that
    Universal might use this program to release THE
    GONG SHOW MOVIE which has never been released
    to any home video format that I am aware of.
     
  2. BrianRi

    BrianRi Stunt Coordinator

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    I really like your post. Balanced and relistic, and not quick to jump to conclusions. In fact, you don't jump to any conclusions, which is even better. You don't theorize, hypothesize, or make an assumption that would cause a thread-wide panic.
     
  3. Thomas T

    Thomas T Producer

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    Spot on, Mr. Epstein! Would the naysayers be happier if Warners and Universal went the route that Fox and Paramount took, which is basically abandoning catalogue product all together? I have over 120 Warner Archive titles so far and only 2 discs were unplayable and Warners credited my credit card on one and sent me a replacement on the other (which played fine).

    Warners is upfront about no restoration work being done on these releases so complaints about picture "quality" are a moot point. I'm already chomping on the bit for the next batch of titles from the Universal Vault series.
     
  4. JoHud

    JoHud Producer

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    Watched Ruggles of Red Gap. About on par with the usual film quality of Paramount titles of that period. Less sharp that The House of Seven Gables, but still decent enough. Sound was very clear and very few blemishes on the print.
     
  5. Douglas Monce

    Douglas Monce Producer

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    Well said Ron.

    My only problem I don't know of a way to find out what is coming, or even what is available so far from Universal. Other than to check here.

    Doug
     
  6. Nebiroth

    Nebiroth Supporting Actor

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    I can see where you're coming from, but I can't agree with what you say.
    I think it's too easy to get caught up with enthusiasm that you're finally getting some titles you want out onto DVD and to forget the huge downsides that accompany the way it's being done.
    And there are undoubtedly downsides. The bare-bones quality. The question mark that hangs over the long term viability of the media. The way that these titles are tied up with studio-only or retailer exclusive deals that make them inaccessible to international buyers. But for me the biggest thing of all is the damn expense. The studios are arguing that standard DVD releases for obscure and niche titles just have too much capital cost, carry too much risk of leaving them with unsold stock and so on. So they come up with a a method that allows them to produce small runs that they know are sold - there's no advertising, minimum duplication runs, third party production costs, no distribution to store costs. Great so far. So it really burns when I see that premium price tag.
    So - while I agree, it's nice to see these obscure titles, I feel as a consumer that the whole MOD thing is a step into the past. Maybe I'm wrong, I probably am, but my gut reaction has been that the studios are exploiting my enthusiasm for owning niche films to hold me over a barrel and then stiff me by charging such high prices. OK, they're businesses that operate to make profit but even so this practise leaves a nasty taste in the mouth.
    If the prices were to come down somewhat, and the titles made accessible to me as a non-US resident, then I could embrace the concept with anthusiasm.
    It's as though the gas companies stopped delivering for a week. Then they open special gas stations, owned and run by themselves which are the only place you can buy gas but at five times the price. Then we hear "but life without gas is awful, your eyes should be wet with gratitude that we're selling it at all"
    Is MOD better thannothing. Yes. Barely. I just can't subscribe to it being "fantastic".
     
  7. Simon Howson

    Simon Howson Screenwriter

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    Well, this is what Warner said about international sales from Warner Archive during the last chat:
    So why don't they just get the best existing element and do a new transfer without any digital restoration? That would produce a better looking transfer than using something 15 years old. That's what Criterion does for their Eclipse sets which seem to be profitable.
     
  8. David Mahlan

    David Mahlan Stunt Coordinator

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    Doug,
    In another thread,GregoryMesh posted a nice set of links to pages at DVD Afficionado that tracks what's been released by Warners Archive, Universal Vault, TMC Vault, and MGM DVD-R. His post is here:
    http://www.hometheaterforum.com/forum/thread/283916/warner-archive-discussion-thread-feedback/3090#post_3654597
     
  9. Patrick Mason

    Patrick Mason Stunt Coordinator

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    I just watched Gambit with Michael Caine, Shirley MacLaine and Herbert Lom. What a great heist film. I wasn't entirely sure what to expect as far as the DVD's quality, but the transfer was surprisingly decent. On the strength of this transfer I today purchased The Ruggles of Red Gap, Death Takes a Holiday, and The List of Adrian Messenger.

    In a perfect world these releases would be on pressed discs. However, taking economic reality into account, I am grateful that Universal (and Warner & MGM) have found a way of releasing these niche films to a small but grateful audience. I hope Warner can also take a few hints from Universal on how to make some improvements to their pioneering program. The transfer for Gambit (admittedly a more recent film) is far superior to anything I have so far viewed from the Warner Archive. Also, the navigation, pricing and shipping options available at Amazon are much preferred to those offered at Warner's often frustrating website. Here's hoping for a similar team up between the Warner Archive and Amazon in the future (and no, I don't really count the few releases that have been offered on Amazon at a substantial mark-up.)
     
  10. ahollis

    ahollis Lead Actor
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    I was very happy with the transfer of THE LIST OF ADRIAN MESSENGER. And it is a good movie too.
     
  11. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder
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    My guess. Even the best existing elements don't hold a candle
    to the high bar that has been raised for classic releases on DVD.

    So, these are absolutely best for Archive releases.

    Also, getting back to a point I made before, you can't just put
    anything out on DVD unless you think it will be profitable and
    that retailers will make space for them. The archive program
    is the perfect opportunity for titles that would never make it in
    the big time to be made available to the few collectors that want them.

    As far as the Warner international sales is concerned.

    You think they are intentionally screwing their international
    market? Why would they do that? Don't you think they want
    to cater to this market?

    Seems very obvious to me that they ran into an obstacle
    from which they cannot overcome. Gee, I know they made
    a promise but bad things happen to promises that are out
    of the control of the person that made that promise. I am
    guessing this is EXACTLY what is going on with Warner.
     
  12. Nebiroth

    Nebiroth Supporting Actor

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    The studios have never cared for the international market. If they did they wouldn't have pushed DVD region coding - something that exists only because the major studios insisted that it be included.

    My guess is that they don't do international because the small number of sales don't justify the extra trouble and expense of handling them.
     
  13. GlennH

    GlennH Cinematographer

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    I understand not restoring film and just going with existing elements. But they should at least do a new transfer from those existing elements if a recent one using up-to-date technology doesn't already exist.

    Old transfers from the days of analog technologies just are not acceptable for DVD, period. The cost for a new transfer should not be that great.

    Modern, progressive (not interlaced) transfers from best-available elements should be a minimum standard, IMO. If for some reason that's not possible, they should not charge the same price for those very inferior transfers.

    As to the lack of international availability for Warners Archive, they did promise early on that it would happen very soon. So, fair enough, something obviously happened to make that not possible. But they at least owe an explanation of the reason to those who were led astray by their own statements. Complete silence on the matter only breeds contempt.
     
  14. Livius

    Livius Second Unit

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    It's worth mentioning that both Gambit and The List of Adrian Messenger are available on pressed discs in the UK with top notch transfers. Gambit even features a commentary track with Ronald Neame.
     
  15. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    How much do you think a new transfer would cost? I agree about the pricing being an issue which is why I don't pay 19.95 for any title, whether from Warner Archive or Universal. Also, I thought the issue of interlaced transfers hasn't been an issue lately. Are there some more recent releases with that issue?
    Crawdaddy
     
  16. GlennH

    GlennH Cinematographer

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    I have no idea of the dollar cost of a new transfer, or any other phase of the production process. But I gather from what I've read here and elsewhere that it isn't anything near the cost of actual film element restoration, or even frame-by-frame cleanup in the digital realm. Knowledgeable folks here can probably weigh in on that. I just think the minimum standard for issuance on a digital medium should be a modern transfer, not a rehash of a 15 or 20 year old VHS or LD master. Of course, if that's what they put out and folks are willing to buy it, so be it.
    Re: interlaced, I think Warners may have a handle on that now, because I can't recall any recent complaints about it there. But this thread (post 49) reports that the new Universal Vault release of The Chalk Garden is interlaced and non-anamorphic. This is 2010. Such shoddy production should not be tolerated.
     
  17. Simon Howson

    Simon Howson Screenwriter

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  18. MLamarre

    MLamarre Second Unit

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    They could explain the reason why in an upcoming chat, but I have a bad feeling there won't be one this year. I sincerely hope that I am wrong, though.
     
  19. Douglas Monce

    Douglas Monce Producer

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    Yes but gas is a necessary commodity like food. Movies are a luxury. Honestly I’ve been very impressed so far with the films that I’ve gotten from both Warner and Universal. The discs don’t feel like a cheap dvd-r. They have high quality labels printed on the discs. In some cases better labels than on some pressed, mass produced discs. Just because a transfer is not brand new, doesn’t mean that its bad. Is it state of the art? No. But most of them are perfectly watchable.
    Doug
     
  20. Douglas Monce

    Douglas Monce Producer

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    David,
    Thanks for the link. Very helpful.
    Doug
     

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