Thursday, November 20, 2008

Sins of DVD Menus

As I was trying to watch "The Spy Who Loved Me" today, it dawned on me all of the ways DVD companies torture their loyal customers. I am, as a video store employee, acutely aware of these atrocities, and would like to vent my frustrations upon you. I implore you to share your own stories, which I may not yet have encountered in my daily struggle.

1. Complicated menus trying to mimic or associate with the accompanying movie: "The Spy Who Loved Me", along with all of the recent Bond releases, goes directly to a screen with only one button, which says "activate" or "initiate" or something to that effect. This is before you get to the actual menu screen which takes 15 seconds to load due to all of its fancy digital effects!
Sinners: James Bond; lots of Sci-fi and action flicks.

The most common DVD crimes force me to walk back and forth between the back room where the player is located and the center of the store where I can see the TV. If I have to do this more than once, it's another soul off to compact disc hell.

2. It seems alot of DVDs want to show you 15-30 seconds worth of clips highlighting the movie you're about to watch. TV series are especially bad. As a viewer, I've already bought or rented the film, I don't need to see out of context bits of what I am literally seconds away from watching. As a video store employee, I really just want to get the movie started so I can get back to the register.
Sinners: Generally comedies, especially ones starring Dane Cook or Ashton Kutcher, which shoot their entire comic wad during the menu loop; Family Guy

3. Almost all DVD menus have a repetitive loop of audio and or visuals over their main menu, and it is almost always inexcusable. If a movie ends at workduring a busy time, a single 16 second loop can repeat for up to 20 minutes. I cannot think of a specific DVD where this is acceptable, although I remember noticing a few where the loop is an entire song, or something ambient and mellow, which is bearable at best.
Sinners: Again, TV shows seem to love this feature, which is ironic seeing as they play the show's theme song, which also plays at the beginning of every fucking episode; Mythbusters

4. No "Play All" feature. This has been been widely remedied in later years, but damn it's a stinker. Another TV specific complaint (and store specific-- not such a big deal at home), it means you simply have to walk all over the store every 21 minutes. The Twilight Zone is the worst. Their menu tree is as such:

Main Menu-Episode Selection-Episode (with special features)-Episode Scene Selection

With each episode ending on the same episode's scene selection. I think you have to press the arrow button on the remote something like 6 times to get to the previous menu, then back another screen to the episode selection, down to the next episode, ad nauseam. I'm getting red in the face just writing about it.
Sinners: Early Simpsons, Family Guy, Twilight Zone

I should mention season 5 of Aqua Teen Hunger Force. That DVD features a play all button which begins all13+ episodes simultaneously in thumbnail-size boxes on the screen. Really obnoxious, I know, but I kind of have to laugh every time I see it.

There have been a few strides forward in DVD setup since their introduction. The hugest boon to the home viewing market was the almost industry-wide abandonment of mandatory previews. Nearly any DVD that does still feature previews makes you access them from the menu, or at least lets you skip through them. That alone was reason enough to drop VHS.

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