I'd like to declare that my foray into homemade moviemaking yet again confirmed I am a genius, but I can’t elaborate. It’s not that I won’t or am unwilling; it’s that, when it comes to this particular endeavor, I don’t have the first clue and am therefore midly more gifted than a doorknob.
You see, armed with a relatively new PC, I opted to convert some of the family's home movies from years past (most home movies are in the “years past” vein) from their newly-spawned DVD’s to "combined" DVD’s. So, armed with a burner, lots of RAM and some free time (what’s that?), I decided to dabble a bit.
Unfortunately, I need to do a lot more dabbling before I decide my career as a professional film editor can indeed be a reality. There's no Apex Tech waiting for this future mechanic to call in when it comes to video editing, I can assure you. Aside from my lack of patience in finding a millisecond in a haystack (comprising more than five hours of video), I wasn’t and am not currently satisfied with the software out there. It’s clunky, shaky and anything but intuitive. That last part isn’t a problem, actually; it “scares off any pain-in-the-ass innocent bystanders” (thanks, Clemenza, I’ll take the connoli). But the problem isn’t that it’s difficult, the problem is it’s mystifying.
Make a long story short: I took a Simpsons video (a collection of four DVD’s comprising that show’s second season) and, using a nifty piece of unnamed software, “ripped” (electronically copied all of the data thereon) the second disc onto my hard drive. Then I fed it through another program – a “video frameserver” – and got that sucker ready for yet another program to clean it up, size it up and serve it up so I could put it yet elsewhere – on my Palm.
Yep, all this work for basically nothing. But – much like the little blue fizzy thing that undulates to the bottom of a flushing toilet, I’m getting closer to converting the family movies to full-on DVD status.
As I alluded yesterday, and as Damian Kulash suggested in the piece to which I linked yesterday, this copy protection stuff – in a word – stinks. First of all, it really makes watching/listening/enjoying the media you own, whether on DVD, CD or online – a pain in the ass. For those of you who don’t know, DVD’s sold in this country are – for the most part – region-coded. That means that if you drag your ass over to J&R Music World and buy Madagascar on DVD, it will likely work just fine in your Aunt Edna’s home theater DVD player. But take that disc on a trip overseas – to England, for example – and that disc is more worthless than an Ethiopian at a Sumo Wrestling tournament.
And before any of you smartasses respond with a “Yeah, but Boogie, that’s because England has a different type of TV setup over there – called PAL.” Yeah, and they also have an inferior comprehension of cosmetic dentistry. But the PAL/NTSC disparity has nothing to do with it. Discs to be used in England have a “Region 2” coding, which means if I buy Madagascar there and bring it here, it will be unplayable.
The reason why I have devoted bandwidth and time to this less-than-enticing slice of my life is simple: I wound up buying a DVD of a film released only in England, and it took me the better part of a couple years (and a couple of weeks’ at night and weekends) to convert the thing so I could painlessly watch this disc – that I legitimately own – at my leisure.
I understand the problems inherent with digital reproduction and file-sharing and profit and margin and the fact that one kid in Sweden who figured out how to crack DVD copy protection probably cost Sony and the other multi-media conglomerates $50 to $100 million a year. I understand that record companies are desperate to ebb the flow of pirated music floating around file-sharing networks all over the place. And I understand the fact that people, given the opportunity to do the right thing, find a way not to.
Having said all that, I think it boils down to the question of whether people will accept excessive prices for media – CD’s, movies, software – or if they will let record companies know they are willing to pay if the cost is reasonable. Google the stats on Apple’s iTunes store, which enables a user to pay $1.28 (incl. tax) to download a song. Instant gratification – no waiting for UPS, FedEx, DHL or Mike’s Courier and Pizza Service, to show up with a banged-up cardboard box containing a CD you’ll absolutely adore for about four minutes and seventeen seconds. I’ve tried iTunes – for the most part, I don’t find a need for it (I’ve got about 8,000 cd’s littered around my apartment in boxes, racks, shelves and drawers). But I did download a few tunes I’d been searching for – I even considered buying the albums on which said tunes were released. But who the hell would pay $12 for The Best of The Tubes when all I really wanted – don’t ask me why – is “She’s a Beauty?” Ditto for Weird Al Yankovic’s “Dare To Be Stupid” for the tune “Yoda.” Again, don’t ask me why – trust me, I’m well aware revealing these two degenerative musical choices don’t earn me cache in anyone’s book, save a 14-year-old acne-riddled pre-pubescent babysitter from Topeka (yeah, I know you’re reading).
Short and long: until we find a way to make digital media – DVD’s, CD’s, e-books and TV – relatively usable under some auspice of protection, it’s going to be difficult, painful and pricey to own and enjoy. I can understand why there is a legitimate need – and there is – to curb the flow of piracy of this stuff. But I also think that if it’s done poorly, or adds ridiculous hoops through which the average, legitimate buyer must pass through to get to his/her e-media, then the problems will remain.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go listen to the best of Abba.
Yes, I’m kidding – and thank god for that.