Originally created 06/08/01

DVD is fast becoming MVP



On a warm Augusta evening, a steady stream of customers enter and exit a video store in Columbia County. Most carry the familiar bulky video boxes, but a few leave with a more streamlined package.

That marks them as revolutionaries.

In strip malls across America and around the world, a quiet rebellion against videotape has slowly taken hold. The weapon of choice is the DVD, or digital video disk.

Since its introduction in 1997, DVD has taken hold in a gadget-hungry marketplace in a way the laser disk and the eight track, Betamax and quadraphonic sound were never able to. In DVD's first three years on the market, player sales outpaced initial compact disc player sales four to one and initial VCR sales five to one.

Much of the credit for DVD's success must be given to a rare meeting of technological minds. The love child of two fledgling digital storage systems, Super Disc, or SD, and Multimedia CD, or MMCD, DVD technology was developed by a consortium of high tech companies eager to avoid the format wars that plagued the videocassette industry's early years. Because DVD was introduced as the standard, retail outlets were quick to jump on the bandwagon.

"It wasn't hard for us to see the vision of what DVD would do," said Mickey Hamilton, operations manager at the Augusta Best Buy store. "It is the next step technology because of the picture quality and the sound and convenience it offers."

Today, less than five years after its introduction, 5 million players and more than 100 million discs have been sold. More than 5,000 DVD film titles are available, and those numbers are increasing daily.

Unlike the analog recording technology that videotape utilizes, DVD's digital storage techniques allow for superior picture reproduction, sound and the ability to include extras, such as featurettes, alternate soundtracks with director or actor commentaries, outtakes and deleted scenes.

North Augustan Joel Hodges bought a DVD player for his family three months ago. He said he was frustrated by video after seeing his brother-in-law's DVD player.

"I really liked the way the picture and sound jumped out," he said. "I really believe that you can enjoy the films more with this media."

Mr. Hodges said that he has become quite a fan of some of the extras studios include with DVDs.

"I think it adds something to the movie," he said. "You get a better feel for what the actors, producers and directors are thinking when they make a movie. Sure, it's a marketing ploy, but it's one that people really enjoy."

So why haven't DVDs taken over the market. Well, despite the large number of DVD titles available, there are still relatively few compared with videocassettes. There also is the expense. While prices have dropped drastically since DVD's early years, when players retailed for $700-$800, a middle-of-the-road machine still costs about $300. And even Mr. Hodges said his family still hasn't given up entirely on video.

"I will still rent some VHS, just because it is available," he said. "There are some of the children's movies that are on VHS but not on DVD yet, so we still rent some of the old videos. But it really does generally irritate me to watch anything on the VCR after watching a DVD."

Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or suhles@hotmail.com.