Quick Tip: Suffering Individual Disc Playback Freezes? Clean The Disc!

When you try to play your latest, smash hit, movie disc, does your player "freeze up" part way through?  Does this always seem to happen just as the movie gets to the GOOD part?  Does it then ignore all your desperate efforts to get it playing again?

And are your friends and family now judging you; given all the money you've spent on your Home Theater system, only to have THIS happen?

Is that your problem, Bunky?

Well take heart old chum!  Your problem may have an easy fix:  Clean The Disc!

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"Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles" (2011) on SD-DVD -- A Great Documentary!

Sometime in the mid-1980s, somebody — or some group of people — started installing placards in streets and highways, in cities all over the Eastern half of the US. These placards varied in size from something shaped like a US car’s license plate up to something like a poster board. Cut in mosaic fashion out of a flexible, colored, linoleum-like, tile material, these "Toynbee Tiles" were found to be EMBEDDED into the asphalt!

And over the several decade history of appearance of all of these hundreds of tiles — both in the US and in South America — nobody has ever spotted who's doing it. Or figured out why. Or, for that matter, HOW!

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"Sita Sings the Blues" (2008) <-- Find a Way to See This!

In 2008, Nina Paley completed a 5 year project to create an animated presentation of the “Ramayana” -- the Sanskrit epic which forms such an important part of the cultural heritage of East Asia -- from Hindu traditions in India, through to Buddhist traditions in, for example, Thailand and throughout Indonesia.

And the RESULT is absolutely, staggeringly, mind-blowingly wonderful!

And yet . . . . it ALMOST never even made it out the door!

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"It" (1927) on SD-DVD -- A Tale of Old Hollywood!

How much is a word worth?  In the case of "It", the answer is $50,000, and that in 1920s dollars!  That's how much Paramount Studios paid to "Madame" Elinor Glyn, to use her clever idea of giving polite society a way to talk about sex appeal: By assigning it an innocuous name!

Glyn, described in the Film Historian's Commentary track as, "A hack writer for Cosmopolitan Magazine", also got a cameo appearance out of the deal; portraying herself in the film.  Cosmo also got some "product placement" in the film -- before that concept had even been invented!

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Why do I Have to Watch Ads before my Blu-ray Movie? OR, "Oh Noes! PUOs!"

Movie discs, be they SD-DVD, Blu-ray, or UHD, have many advantages:  Superior picture quality and access to the best audio tracks, for example.  They are also permanent:  Not subject to the temporary nature of Studio content licensing contracts, which can leave you in the lurch when the “streaming” content you thought you had "purchased" suddenly stops being available!

But that doesn't mean discs are entirely free of annoyances!  And right at the top of most anybody's list of complaints would be that most movie and TV show discs try to FORCE you to watch commercials before you get to see your show!

In this post we will discuss the mysterious and frustrating world of Prohibited User Operations (PUOs, or sometimes, confusingly, UOPs).

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Video Compression (SD-DVD Edition!)

All of the Digital Video you watch in your Home Theater is "compressed".  ALL of it!  Whether it comes off an optical disc, or read from a media file you play, or as a program you stream from an Internet service, or even as a program you watch from a local, on-air, Digital TV station.  Compression reduces both the amount of space necessary to store the video, and -- often more important -- the data rate needed to transmit that video or to read it off of storage.

But too MUCH compression will damage picture quality in ways difficult to ignore!  In this post I'll cover the basics of video compression, along with a case study of video compression as applied to SD-DVD movie discs -- where the sins of poorly implemented compression are rife!  I'll end with some recommendations on what to look for when picking up an SD-DVD title to maximize your odds of getting great picture quality.

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