Fear of a Dead Format

The advent of analog and digital recording media brought with it a new kind of problem: dead media formats. Scrolls, tapestries, paintings and books never had the problems that media from the last 150 years have had: lack of reproduction devices, lack of playback devices and life spans measured in decades, not centuries.

Last week’s announcement that Paramount and Dreamworks were going to be moving from an HD media neutral stance to only support HD-DVD called to mind all sorts of past format and media battles that have ended in wasted money and discarded collections and devices. Of course there is the legendary tale of VHS vs. Betamax but at least Betamax lived on in professional circles for a couple of decades after losing to VHS in the consumer space. In the early days of video, my family made what turned out to be the right choice and went with VHS. We stayed clear of dead ends like RCA’s SpectraVision, even when it looked pretty high tech in comparison to VHS and had a smattering of Star Trek titles available at launch. We stumbled a couple of years later when we picked up a Disc film Kodak camera, which I cursed at a young age not only for grainy photos but because I would often take pictures including part of my index finger when holding the camera with two hands. Today, Disc film has been dead for more than a decade and I’d have to mail in the negatives to one of a handful of processing facilities if I ever craved reprints. Even scanning Disc film is an issue due to the center plastic ring that makes it impossible to lie the negatives flat.

With these and countless other tales of short lived media, I’ve yet to truly commit to a new HD format. While I have Blu-ray playback with my PS3 and thoroughly enjoy watching highdef BD movies, I’ve been a poor supporter of the BD as a format by not actually investing in any discs. Shame on me. I’ve pretty much just rented through Netflix. Given both the number of DVDs in my current collection that often don’t get watched very often and that for those that do get watched it’s usually in the bedroom where only a DVD player resides, I’m hesitant to spend money on a format whose future isn’t wholly certain.

Of course, the upcoming Spider-Man High Definition Trilogy looks to be changing my mind on not purchasing any Blu-ray discs.