17 September 2009

It Can't Be Any Clearer, Can It?

The first job I ever had that I would actually say I LOVED was working at a store called Video Express. It was a local chain with three stores within a 15 mile radius. It was 1997 and some films, like Heat and Casino, came to the store on two VHS tapes. Our bread and butter were porn and children’s films-we must have had the entire Nickelodeon collection. Oddly enough, both types were the only VHS tapes that came in red and orange.

The new films would come in on Monday nights and I would take one of each home and dub them onto blank tapes so when I got back to school I’d have days and days of free content to watch. To maximize the number of films in the total collection, I recorded everything on SLP so I could get three films onto each tape. Those of you old enough to even know what SLP (and dare I say it, even VHS) means are probably cringing at the thought of the picture quality.

I’ve moved at least a dozen times since making these compilation VHS tapes (I’d say I had at least 70 or so), and for some nostalgic reason I’ve actually held onto a few of them. Last month, it was time to clean out the basement and make room for baby #2. In order to justify keeping the remaining tapes I popped in one into the VCR/DVD combo and watched and entire film that hadn’t physically been played in a VCR since the early 00’s. It was a compilation that included The Dreamlife of Angels, The Funeral and Wendigo. When was the last time you had to adjust tracking when watching a film?

Flash forward to last weekend. I ended up drunk in Justin’s living room and he asked me if I wanted to check out his new “entertainment system”. I think he actually called it “his new best friend”. It contained a Blu-Ray player and the most obscene television I’ve ever seen-a 40something inch Samsung LCD TV. Now, I’m not a big tech person at all. I still watch a 19” Apex tube television with one speaker and the aforementioned VCR/DVD combo. The thought of spending over a grand on a television actually makes me a little nauseous. Justin popped in The Dark Knight and I’d swear you could zoom into office windows during night scenes and see office furniture.

I’m mentioning this contrast not to rave about the picture quality, there’s nothing to argue about (as I mentioned in Episode #17). It’s unbelievable. And this is the point of the contrast. It’s too damned good. It’s better than human vision good. It’s unreal and takes me out of the film. This is the point. Back in the late 1990’s when I was renting pornography and Nickelodeon VHS tapes to customers, no one ever complained about the poor picture quality and how they wish something would be invented that was crisper and clearer than human vision.

But Samsung (or whoever) did it. And now my question is, what is next? I’ve read rumors about 3D televisions coming out (I’ll be the movie studios and theatres are doing everything they can to slow that down). But, what is next for picture quality? Are we done? Are plasma and LED televisions then end? How can it get any crisper and clearer? And why is The Dark Knight to Blu-Ray what The Matrix was to the original DVD players?

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