Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The new DVDs?

So I've had this idea for a little while. How long, I'm not really sure. I have a lot of ideas, and they all kinda get jumbled after a while. This one was pretty good though, and when I came up with it wasn't really that cost effective. Things have changed over the last 3-5 years though and I think now is the perfect time for it. So what is it? Well let's start with a little background info....(cue starwipe)

DVDs have been around for several years now, and even the most recent sales numbers show they're the medium that most people still use. DVDs hold approximately 4.7 GB of data. This works well for putting a full movie, along with quite a bit of bonus material. Now since the DVD was born (~1993 in case you were wondering) they've naturally been looking for its successor. Of course if you want to talk high-definition we can discuss blu-ray, etc. But as already mentioned DVD is still selling far more than all high-definition so for the moment we'll say that DVD is king and that will be our first Claymation frame (it's a'll get it later). Not all that long ago Sony came out with the PSP. This nice little portable gaming device had something they called a UMD slot. What is it? Basically it's a DVD on a smaller disc that they call the UMD, which they also could put the games on. They tried hard to make this work and get studios to release movies on it, but people just weren't buying. New hardware and a small market are not easy to do. The most recent rumors suggest that Sony will be releasing a nice upgrade to the PSP, which does not include a UMD slot, but will instead focus on downloadable content. This is the second Claymation frame. And it brings up another point, downloadable content videos. You can now download video at very familiar places like iTunes and among others. You can stream things for free on or most network websites. But are people really buying movies online to watch on their tvs? Well sure, some are. But not that much. We'll call this the third Claymation frame.

So here we are, the debate raging on about the next form of media and will blu-ray take hold and give us that great picture in an affordable way, or will internet providers give us the speed we need to just download media before blu-ray has a chance. Here are my thoughts: Blu-ray is too expensive, at least right now. I'm not paying $200+ for a decent player only to then have to spend between $20-$30 per disc to get a movie. I do now, however, believe that digital downloads are going to be the wave of the future just yet. Eventually, yes. The problem here is that where the music industry was able to make this work came from the portable player (most notably the ipod). At the moment people don't want to watch movies on portable players that much. Unlike music you actually need a nice screen, preferably a big one, and most people have spent enough on their tvs that they aren't going to purchase a super nice video player to watch movies on the go like an ipod. People like to experience their movies on their tvs (Claymation frame 4). Now there are digital video players for your tvs, and even tvs that can hook up to the internet, but there's a problem with that too. I can't take it over to my girlfriends' house to watch on her nice big tv (Claymation frame 5). And thus you have my thoughts.

So where's the solution? Well I have two ideas. First, building off of the 4th frame I metioned before, you could make a digital portable video player. Think ipod with a lot of memory, but mainly you need to give it a video out. Preferably something high end like HDMI so it can play high-def movies on my girlfriends tv with a simple cable plug. That's pretty easy right? There is DEFINITELY room on the market for this item right now. If you're a manufacturer and you want to do this, please please do. And remember, it doesn't need to be fancy, just make it affordable and make it work.

My second idea is I think pretty much golden. Putting together all of our Claymation frames, we start to see our own video (get it yet?) of something affordable, easy to transport, and easy to play on multiple devices. My solution is to create SD card movies. I'll call them SDM (Secure Digital Media) cards. A quick search on Amazon tells me that a 4 GB SD card can easily be found for around $10. I know from my own experience that you can find them cheaper if you look around. So if I were a company and decided to sell movies on these cards and could buy them in bulk for say $5 a piece (which I think is reasonable), then that could work. You could conceivably create these SDMs, have them secured (to prevent copying easily) and sell them for around $20. Probably you could for less, but we'll say this is reasonable. This is a good solution because as they become popular and prices go down they can quickly match the price of most DVDs and you don't have tons of development costs (as with blu-ray). On top of that, as the technology advances the capacity goes up. I bought a 2 GB card a few years ago for $25. This year I bought a 16 GB card for $25. In a couple of years you'll be able to get a 32 GB card for around $10 probably, and that is even a little bigger than a blu-ray disc (25 GB for single layer, single side). Talk about scalable. Without adding anything to the cost of production you can all the sudden have high-def movies. And finally let's talk portability. They're small and stable for sure, more so than DVDs. On top of that is the realization you should be having that you can probably play one of these SDMs in your home right now. You most likely have an SD card slot on that laptop you're reading this on, and if not $10 buys you a reader. Even some tvs have SD slots on them. Now I know that there's no software in there to play these things at the moment, but that is super simple to fix. Plus, you could come out with a player that is about the size of your ipod to hook up to the tv to play them on (which wouldn't cost much at all). And on the topic of ipods, you could even put them on microSD cards and have them playable on phones and other portable media players that already have slots for these cards. Even my own Creative Zen has an SD slot that would play these possibly right now. Both the Nintendo Wii and the new DSi also have SD card slots. Talk about portability and ease of integration.

This was kinda long, and probably doesn't mean much to anyone, but I really like the idea of having movies on a nice small little card that I can take anywhere and watch. It just seems so simple and I can't believe I'm the first one with this idea. I even read an article where they had the idea for CDs to come out this way. Now the article said it's way to late for that with digital music now, which is true, but not for movies! So I say, bring on the SDMs!!!

Update: Two additional things that came to mind. First, the idea of digital downloads doesn't exclude my idea from having a place. Even if digital downloads take off, plenty of people will want to be able to take them on the go (i.e. burn a DVD or put them on a video player). The SDMs could be sold blank and written to with already existing readers.
Second, I talked about this being scalable and that works in another way too. If you don't need the 32, 16, or even 4 GB of space you don't have to get a card that large. On a Blu-ray or DVD when you don't fill up the disc it's wasted space. On an SDM you could just get a 2 GB card (or whatever is appropriate) and not have all the wasted space allowing you to save some money. A lot of "budget" DVDs I've seen have no extra features, just the movie. That should easily fit on a 2 GB card that costs less, allowing for companies to make budget SDMs of the movies that aren't selling like hot cakes.

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