The Player Formerly Known As Universal
My month-old laserdisc player blog ( Things To Do with Your Laser Disc Player When You're Dead ) is still generating traffic as recently as yesterday. Thanks for your comments. It's nice to know I'm not alone in the Ether(net).
This morning while I was packing my lunch (two kids in college – I'm lucky I have a lunch to pack) and the 13" Magnavox in the kitchen was belching out its morning quotient of drivel courtesy of the AutomaTron KateMattDi. Normally, I don't respond (talking back to the TV only seems to encourage them), but this morning I caught a few words that interested me.
"But the Sony console will also play hi-definition DVDs called Blu-Ray . . . . "
Yup, and so goes the "Universal Player."
Not that it plays my laserdiscs or my 7" and 12" vinyl records or the 8-track tape adorned by the naked John and Yoko I found at a garage sale, but the Pioneer DV-45A universal player in my system has served well (and cheaply) for a few years, pumping out DVD-Videos with Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks and a great picture, as well as letting me play my favorite six channel DVD-Audio and SACD discs through my system. Both of them.
If you're not familiar with those last two high quality audio formats, they were all the rage for about two hours in 2005. Now of course, they're dead, but the stench of decay they brought is still fresh in the minds of consumer electronic manufacturers.
The DV-45A officially lost its title as Universal Player a few weeks ago when HD-DVDs hit the shelves. My favorite web site (well, besides this one of course), where Dads like me shop for their movies on the cheap ( DVDPriceSearch.com ), now lists HD-DVDs in their get-em-while-they're-hot database. It won't be long until you see Blu-Rays there as well. Then we'll have those two new formats for a while. This is actually worse than the Widescreen / Full Screen debacle that confuses the shoppers at Walmart (serves them right). At least you could play a full screen DVD on your widescreen plasma, clothes-pin gingerly applied to your nostrils (there's that stench again!)
Feta cheese (a stench of a different sort), pita and parsley all squared away for the mid-day meal, my attention wandered back to the TV.
"…except that won't last forever. After all, when's the last time you saw a Betamax tape at Blockbusters?"
So the question is, how useful are these Universal players in the long run? My DV-45A has yesterday's news written all over it now. How long will it be before receivers and processors won't even offer multi-channel analog inputs. Like the AC-3 RF demodulators that graced some receivers in the latter days of the laserdisc, the fifteen minutes of fame and fortune allotted six channels analog audio is over. That wail you hear on a foggy night when the moon is full and air is crisp is just the latest cable manufacturer to be given the bad news.
Should manufacturers even bother trying to build a new universal player that will accommodate DVDs and the two new high-def formats? There were never two standard definition format DVDs and that's one of the reasons DVD succeeded in the marketplace. What are we to do with two high definition formats? We tried two videotape formats with VHS and Beta and by all accounts, the better one lost. So what was the point?
Why should we expect both HD-DVD and Blu-Ray to have a future? If the recent history of SACD and DVD-Audio is any indication, we'll be lucky if even one format survives. Perhaps it's in poor taste to mention this so close to Mother's day, but did you know that the Kingsnooker Penguin lays two eggs but will only squat on one. So much for the anthropomorphism of that genus in "March of the Heartless Egg Beaters." Perhaps it's the only kind thing to do with one of the hi-def formats. Roll it out of the nest and let a sea lion crush it.
A few things have to happen before matters are settled. For starters, the $35 price of either hi-def format is too high. Multiple SKU's will only dilute a title's presence in the marketplace, not to mention the havoc it will cause for retailers who already are up to their eyeballs with widescreen and full screen DVD returns. We just got rid of tape, and some Johnny-come-lately wants more shelf space?
So when one of the new hi-def format consortiums, and I don't much care which, comes out with a $25 MSRP hybrid DVD / high-definition disc in a single SKU (and simultaneously withdraws support and manufacturing of DVD only disks for any new releases, at least), then we'll have a winner.
Then manufacturers can finally hunker down and figure out how to make players for the winner and sell them for under $200. Office fans, it's a Win-Win-Win.
I'm having a deja-vu.