DVD Copying In Court Again – RealNetworks is fighting a suit from the major movie studios that could determine the fate of copying DVDs. The Motion Picture Association of America won a temporary injunction preventing them from selling their RealDVD software ($30). It allows Windows users to back up their commercial DVDs to the hard drive of their PCs for archival purposes. The copies retain protection and cannot be burned to DVD-Rs. The movie studios say RealNetworks is in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The question is, once you purchase something on an optical disc, is it or isn’t it yours to do with as you please? If the “fair use” doctrine wins out, media firms fear they’ll go out of business because their products will be pirated everywhere in the world. There is need for a more logical and workable approach to copyright protection.
China’s Consumer Spending Grows – Retails sales in China have climbed for the past four months. Private consumption is only 37% of China’s GDP, so there is lots of room to grow. A financial expert says that domestic spending rather than exports will drive China’s economic growth. One of the biggest sales items is LCD TV displays – 4.9 million were sold in the first quarter of this year, more than double the amount sold during the same period last year. The government offers a cash subsidy to the country’s rural residents to buy TV sets imported from LG Electronics. Taxes have also been lowered on compact cars and sales are up as a result.
Over 5000 3D Theatrical Screens Worldwide – A hint that the ongoing discussions about 3D telecasts and DVDs for home viewing aren’t just a 3D fad this time around is the fact that there are now over 5000 digital 3D screens displaying movies worldwide. The companies making the two competing 3D systems and the associated equipment all report hundreds of orders backed up. And the “golden age” of 3D back in the early 1950s is back in spades with over 30 digital 3D movie titles in the works for next year. The technology has finally been perfected, viewers don’t get headaches, the colors in color 3D films are not destroyed by red/green glasses, and the movies are better too – not a series of “stick in your eye” 3D showoff shots. Pixar/Disney’s “Up” 3D animated feature opened the recent Cannes film festival. The studios and theaters have learned that digital 3D makes more money in the theaters. But before it becomes a huge market, there are some challenges to solve. Then there is the different and totally chaotic effort to bring 3D into the home.
2009 – The Year of the Touch Screen – Speaking of screens, this is the year of the touch screen. Originally used mostly at mall kiosks and on super-high-end home theater controlers, touch screens are now appearing on mobile phones, digital players, digital cameras, laptops, GPS units and simpler remote controls for various components. A Palm executive said “The opportunity is to take all that information wherever it is and put it all in one place – in your hands.” Applications appear on a touch screen like a deck of cards and users can cycle thru them with a flick of their finger. Samsung has an MP3/video player with a touch screen that vibrates when pressed, known as “haptic feedback.” Stevie Wonder visited the January CES in Las Vegas to point out that the blind may miss a whole generation of consumer electronics as a result, and argued for simpler user interfaces which would benefit even sighted people.
Impressive Animation on Blu-ray – When Blu-ray discs first same out I was of the opinion that animation benefitted the least from the improved resolution of the images on the screen since they are all so sharp-edged and colorful compared to live action films. Now that I’ve viewed quite a few Blu-ray animated features, I take that back. Also, there’s a reason many of the video displays in stores are of animated movies on Blu-ray. It’s because they are mostly created on computers and transferred entirely in the digital domain, so every single image stays perfectly clear and sharp. Figures in the foreground seem to pop right off the screen, even though not 3D. Even reissues of classic animated features such as Disney’s classic Pinocchio go back to the original materials for the highest quality transfers. Add to the visual enhancements the remixed lossless surround soundtracks with plenty of appropriate subwoofer action, and you have a generally upgraded viewing experience. Jonathan Takiff of the Philadelphia Daily News recommended some animated features that dazzle the eye on Blu-ray. They included: Ratatouille, A Bug’s Life, Wall-E, The Tale of Despereaux, Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!, and Futurama: In the Wild Green Yonder.