“Do you have (insert movie title here) on Blu-ray?”
“No, but we still have plenty of DVD copies available to rent.”
“Oh, ok, nevermind… I won’t get anything today, I guess, thanks.”
Wait, what? This is a conversation I’ve been having more and more at work, lately, and it confuses me every time. I can understand if someone just set up a high-definition home theater system and they want to check it out for the first time, but these people are asking for specific movies because they want to see them, yet… not enough to see them on the now apparently lowly format of DVD.
So, I’ve decided to consider here which is more important (and is there also an intermediary combination): format or content?
I grew up with VHS, however, the only footage we have of me as a baby is on 8mm film. It wasn’t until my sister was born in 1985 that my dad purchased a new, VHS camera. To see my childhood from 1982-85 involves quite a process of setting up the projector, screen, etc. To see the years after that is as easy as popping a tape into the VCR. So, here we have a case of format winning over content, for reason of simplicity. Old home movies, though, aren’t about high-definition or digital sound, so this is also a case of content over format. Hmmm.
This example is not completely similar to our current situation, however. The leap from film to VHS was huge in terms of simplicity and use. Likewise, the leap from VHS to DVD was just as huge in terms of quality as well as durability. The current leap from DVD to Blu-ray, however, just isn’t as phenomenal. High definition tends to not impress me, I’ll be honest, but that’s not my point here. If you have a Blu-ray player and think watching movies in high-definition is amazing, than by all means enjoy it. What I’m talking about here isn’t the format – it’s the difference between. Yes, there is a difference between DVD and Blu-ray, I’m not a dolt, but how much is that difference worth to you?
Let’s take a movie I love – say, Garden State. If I were away from home, and had a strong desire to see the movie (perhaps with a friend who had never seen it), and our only choice was a VHS copy, would I still watch it? Of course I would, because I love the story, the dialogue, the characters, the music – the movie itself. Ok, ok… but that’s a drama. What about in the case of an action movie? I grew up watching the Star Wars trilogy on VHS recorded off of cable TV – and if the same situation arose, where video was my only option, I would still rather watch it than go without. Like I said in the intro, the customers of mine that spawned this entry are not coming in looking for something JUST to watch on their new Blu-ray player to admire the visuals. No, these customers are seeing what titles are new, and asking for them specifically – because they want to see the movie. Yet, when DVD is their only option, they choose not to watch anything. The difference between VHS and DVD is greater than DVD and Blu-ray, so why would I watch the lesser format when these people won’t? It all comes down to the Joneses.
With my home movie analogy, there were two outcomes of which was better; content or format – both for different reasons. However, I have to say that in the situation these customers find themselves in, the reasons are not the same. Blu-ray is a great technology, but more than that – it’s the newest. Folks like to believe that the newest is always the best… because that’s what the Joneses think 😉 Even placing a regular ol’ DVD into a Blu-ray player makes it look better than it ever has before, but still – it’s not a REAL Blu-ray, so it’s not special. These people are a minority in this instance, and most customers will just as much rent a DVD as Blu-ray, but this is hardly the only case of form taking priority over content. People are always intrigued by what is new and shiny. Take CD’s for example. I love CD’s for their ease of use, but if you compare the audio of a CD to a vinyl record, there will be no competition for which sounds best – the analog record will always win. Records have a wider tonal range, yet if you were to ask most people without audio examples – most would choose the CD. Although DVD is not a superior format to Blu-ray, it IS an older format – which these modern consumers equate with garbage.
It is interesting to see that in varying situations either content OR format can be the more important factor, but I do not see that as the case in this situation. Sure, Babylon A.D. will probably be just as bad on DVD or Blu-ray, but if some crazy customer wants to pay money to see it, what is stopping them from watching it on DVD when that’s their only option? Is it purely pride/vanity? I can’t seem to decipher any other reasons, myself, but if you have any of your own theories, leave a comment and let me know!