Isn’t it amazing how many people have DVD players? The DVD is replacing the VCR far faster than anyone expected. DVD player sales have grown about 30% when comparing 2002 to 2003, while VCR sales have dropped by 50%. These are pretty dramatic changes.

One key factor is the rapid fall in the retail price of DVD players. Some retailers offer simple, inexpensive DVD players for as low as $50. Unlike the VHS format, which is owned by JVC, one company does not control the DVD format. DVD is a "negotiated standard" with multiple participants. This allows a great number of companies to compete in offering DVD players at very low retail prices. And today, much of the cutthroat pricing is due to small, relatively unknown companies attempting to establish a brand. The cost of manufacturing a DVD player can’t be much below $50, so the profit margins must be razor thin.

Another key factor in the rise of the DVD player is portability. The discs are small, flat and easy to carry around. More importantly, many companies are making battery-powered portable DVD players, which are easy to carry for a walk in the park, a drive in the car, a trip on the train, in a bus or by a plane. Most modern computers play DVDs as well. While this may not be the most enjoyable way to watch a movie, many travelers find it convenient if they don’t have a DVD player available.

Most DVD creators ignore what is perhaps the most important and interesting aspect of the medium: random access. The random access and the non-linear nature of DVD story telling is a true artistic paradigm shift. Since the inception of the recording of moving images and sound, the presentation has been linear. (Of course, there was a technology called LaserDisc that never quite caught on.) The production of motion pictures and television was limited to stories with a beginning, a middle and an end. The VCR was revolutionary, but it’s still linear.

We are all familiar with the two basic methods of experiencing non-linear playback of video. The video gaming industry is an extreme example of this. The X-Box and the Sony PS2 allow the player to make navigation choices every few milliseconds. This is random access taken to the extreme.

Another basic method of experiencing non-linear playback of video is the chapterization of a linear movie. This allows the viewer to "jump" to the chapter with the flying monkeys in The Wizard of Oz. Random accessibility has limited applications for what are, essentially, linear stories. Additional (or bonus) content on the DVD really requires random access. The additional content on that disc includes theatrical trailers, documentaries, outtakes, interviews, a portrait gallery, stills, sketches, storyboards, costume designs, make-up tests and audio supplements.

These are all great examples of how you can exploit the DVD format. The challenge is to dream up or dig up additional content for your next DVD.

Matthew York is Videomaker‘s Publisher/Editor.

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