November 27th, 2003 • 5:43 am
Go to Amazon.ca. Search for “Solaris” in the DVD section. Look at the list of results. Today, I am only interested in the new version of Solaris by Steven Soderbergh. There are no fewer than three different versions of the same thing:
- a widescreen version
- a full-screen version
- a widescreen English/French version for Quebec
This doesn’t make any sense. As far as I know, the DVD format is flexible enough to provide both the widescreen version and the full-screen version on the same disc. Most DVD titles I buy from Europe come in a single version that contains both the widescreen and the full-screen version. Why not in North America? Is the North American audience really so DVD-illiterate that they need to be provided with two separate packages, in order to avoid any confusion?
And then there is the language issue. Here again, the DVD format is flexible enough to accommodate more than one audio track. In fact, many DVD titles include both a 5.1 audio track and a traditional stereo track. They can also include more than one language on the same DVD. So why the need for a separate version for Quebec? Couldn’t they just include the French audio track on the English DVD? (That’s how it’s done for many other titles, even in North America. It’s then just a matter of slapping some vaguely bilingual packaging on it.)
It is always so disappointing to see a technological advance that becomes hugely popular — and DVDs certainly are such an advance — and yet remains used in ways that far from realizing its full potential.
We have the same problem with our pay-per-view satellite TV provider. It has something like 17 different pay-per-view channels that show typical Hollywood fare non-stop 24 hours a day… and then it has 17 other channels that show the exact same Hollywood fare dubbed in French. What a colossal waste of bandwidth!