A Quick Note to Universal Home Entertainment

Dear Universal Home Entertainment:

You know, when your Blu-Ray discs take several minutes to load (because apparently you’re downloading trailers from the Internet, which I don’t want to watch) only to open up to a menu screen that doesn’t actually work, so that I have to start the disc halfway through the film and then track back to the opening using the “skip” button, you really aren’t making a compelling argument for me to buy a Blu-Ray disc from you ever again.

Beyond this, I’m generally not one for overbearing government regulation in entertainment, but if someone were to introduce legislation requiring home entertainment companies to have a “just play the damn movie” button at the start of every DVD, Blu-Ray or any other future movie-playing technology, I would call my Senators and representative every fifteen minutes until they voted “yes” on that bill.

That is all.

46 Comments on “A Quick Note to Universal Home Entertainment”

  1. If you had said Sony Home Entertainment, I’d have assumed you were trying to watch “District 9”.

    And I’d vote ‘yes’ to the proposal in paragraph 2.

  2. It’s probably taking forever to start up because it uses BD Live for the menus, and pretty much everything that isn’t a PlayStation 3 has incredibly long BD Live start times.

    The menu not actually working is probably related to BD Live, too. You should check to see if there’s a firmware update for your player.

  3. Piracy is the answer.

    Well, not really, but once again we see the situation where “good” customers are inconvenienced and “bad” customers have no problems whatsoever. It’s a real shame.

    Note that I am not actually seriously endorsing IP infringement, merely taking the Doctorow Position.

  4. I take it the Sony rootkit(tm) wasn’t warning enough about the unwisdom of buying anything from Sony?

  5. Nicholas:

    “pretty much everything that isn’t a PlayStation 3 has incredibly long BD Live start times.”

    Ironically, I use a Playstation 3 for my Blu-Ray player.

    I’ll check my firmware, and thank you for the suggestion, but you know what? From the point of view of not absolutely pissing off your consumers, the consumer should be able to watch a disc right out of the box without having to check the firmware.

  6. Universal never seems to learn… they were the studio that brought us unskippable trailers on standard-def DVDs, too. I find their TV sets especially frustrating, since every single episode has the big long Uni logo at the beginning. Yes, yes, I know this series is owned by Universal, because I’ve watched three other episodes tonight. Can we just get to Rockford or Magnum or whatever already? (Sadly, most of the TV series I really, really love are under the Universal banner. Sigh.)

    Another vote for that legislation here.

  7. My latest experience with long Blu-Ray menu loads was Ponyo. That film took for-frickin’-ever.

  8. Max @ 6: seconded.

    Also, Blue Ray, 3D, HD–it’s shiny eye candy to distract from the fact they’re shoveling shit. I want to watch a movie for the story, not because you have a piece of tech that makes everything look hyperreal. If the story’s good, I don’t care if the monster is a guy in a rubber suit and the lasers are made of silly string. I want to push play and be told a story. The End.

  9. I’m not upgrading. Hell, I still have some VHS tapes on the shelves (mostly stuff that hasn’t hit DVD or that I can’t afford on DVD as yet).

    As soon as I’m in a place with enough space, I’m hooking my turntable up to the old desktop under the TV and listening to my still fine LP collection. I haven’t replaced most of those, either.

  10. You get the “yes” vote to make this International law too :)

    Having only recently obtained a PS3 and seen a few of these rays of blue, I now tend to disconnect the ethernet cable before a movie session. (I have hideously slow broadband).

    I think I shall be saving for a PC blu-ray drive now so I can quasi-illegally rip my movies, as I have my DVDs and say goodbye to “This operation cannot be performed right now”

    If I bought a book and hated the introduction/ad section at the end so much I could tear it out and burn it if I so wished. But I settle for flipping past it. I’d gladly settle for the same with movies. Currently we can but wish.

  11. It’s not just Blu-Ray, and it’s not just Universal. My recent rental of UP (distributed by Disney) had half a dozen trailers on it. Yes, I could skip them, but I had to do so individually and could not just mash the Menu button to get to the menu as it had been disabled.

    Is it wrong that I want a hacked media player just to prevent the disabling of buttons? I don’t want to pirate anything, I just want to be able to watch a movie without being subjected to previews and adverts first.

  12. I fully support your call for legislative action on this matter. My daughter discovered that if you hit “stop” twice during the previews, then push “play ” our DVD player immediately starts the movie, no preview, no menu, just movie. She is brilliant like that.

  13. Absolutely. I just got a $110 Blu-Ray reader/DVD+-R/W combo drive from Newegg, and I intend on copying them to HD first, ripping out the nonsense, then watching. I buy my discs (movies and music); this is insanity.

  14. So Right! Sign me up for the lynch mob..Or the petetion…Or at least for griping on the internet..

  15. Try getting in touch with such sites as thedigitalbits.com and bitching about this. They’ve actually had some pull with studios when they try to foist crap product upon us. It’s in part of vicious internet watchdogging that we’ve managed to get good reissues of many subpar Blu-rays like Gladiator, Gangs of New York and Let the Right One In. Don’t limit complaining to your own blog, high-traffic though it may be. Let the studios have it directly.

  16. I’m on board. Which senator could 40,000 readers per day contribute to who might introduce such legislation?

    What irritates the crap out of me is that movies I buy are movies I want to watch more than once. After the first viewing, the irritation increases exponentially.

  17. Oh – could I add, I don’t mind the movie trailers so much as the adverts. But if a film rental starts to try and sell me confectionery… gah, I’m watching a movie – I bought snacks ALREADY!

    I don’t know a huge amount about video compression, but on DVD certainly, I always wondered “how much better would this look if someone hadn’t tried to sell me Maltesers etc at the start?”

  18. lol, yes just play the movie. I feel the same about entertainers, celebs or any other type of creative person, just shut up and entertain me.

    I do agree with that it is a pain, but really would you never watch a blu-ray from them every again, really?

  19. Piracy is the answer.

    Well, not really, but once again we see the situation where “good” customers are inconvenienced and “bad” customers have no problems whatsoever. It’s a real shame.

    Yup. AVIs really are more convenient than DVDs. In our case we do actually own DVDs for most of our movies, but we don’t bother with the discs and just play the AVIs. Ironically I’ve had less trouble with copy protection ripping DVDs than with just playing them.
    What I find really bizarre is the DVD-zone system. Why would a company go out of their way not to sell me their product? Ah well, there’s always the Internet.

  20. Andrew@23: The claimed purpose of the zone system is so that they can correctly create language/etc. options for each area. The *real* purpose of the zone system is so that they can vary the price of DVDs depending on what different world markets will bear.

    Jerome@3: This isn’t really about piracy. The whole point behind Blu Ray having this phone home capability is so that it can download current trailers, as opposed to DVDs, which only has whatever the marketers wanted when the DVD was sold.

    BD-Live did enable the cool PS3 Netflix service anti-Microsoft contract hack, so that’s cool at least.

  21. Me, I’d be happy if we got *rid* of the current government regulation that prevents me from buying players with a clearly marked “just play the movie already” button. With the relevant section of the DMCA gone, I suspect the hardware market would move rather quickly to give customers what they want.

    (I realize that some DVD players, particularly some of the cheap imports, can already be set this way if you know the “maintenance code” to put in. But those aren’t always easy to buy; and I don’t know offhand if any Blu-Ray players commonly found in stores can; it sounds like Blu-Ray tends to be quite a bit more locked down than standard DVD. One reason I’m happy not to “upgrade” for now.)

  22. Seems to be an ongoing theme: let’s piss off our customers. A week back, someone blogged their thrills with attempting to legally check out an ebook from their library. Yesterday, Ubisoft’s DRM servers took a dive, cutting off all the paying customers (but not the pirates). Then last month on Boing Boing:
    Why pirated DVDs are better

  23. I always disable bd-live before playing Universal titles after having to wait to watch 9 while my PS3 downloaded an ad for an Ipod app and Universal advertising crawl.

    Recently I decided not to watch Zombieland because the disc demanded that I update my firmware to a newer version which has been known to brick older 60gb PS3 like mine.

    I’m tired of feeling screwed when I play by the rules.

  24. I’ve not tried it myself but I have been told that if you press “Stop” “Stop” “Play” on your remote it will skip you straight to the movie. At least for DVDs not sure about Blu-Ray.

  25. If you’re looking for entertainment, it’s always good to ask a free-market fundamentalist to explain something like this.

  26. I’ve got the 60″ screen, 5.1 and HD/Blu-Ray players. I usually just buy regular DVD’s. There aren’t too many films that greatly benefit from the enhanced format. There have been a couple of films where I could see the difference, but not many.

    Frankly, the increased price for increased hassle just doesn’t grok.

  27. Yes, yes, yes! Can we have that menu selection on our DVDs please?? I forgot which dist. it was, but a disc I rented the other day drove me fracking insane. Way too many trailers and even a CM or two, and I couldn’t move to the main menu any other way than hitting the “next chapter” button through each of them. Thankfully, it was only a rental disc, because I swore right then I would not buy that DVD if my life depended on it.

    To be fair, I could *maybe* understand that if the companies could distinguish between rental DVDs and purchased ones, I wouldn’t mind the trailers and such as much on just the rental. But for the disc I own, I do not want to pop it into my player 2 years from now and see trailers from now-dated films.

  28. just unplug the playstation 3 from the internet before you pop in the blue ray DVD?

    btw, you realize you need the more experience High Def TVs to get the better quality from Blue Ray DVDs.

  29. The ultimate joke is when the DVD spec was created it provided for an unskipable track as the first on the disk. In concept it was for the FBI warning. The studios repurposed it for the damn trailers. Its partly because the trailers that discs get ripped to get rid of the trailers!

  30. Guess@34

    What’s the xp curve on those things anyway? I can’t seem to get mine off level 1.

  31. I’ve recently moved to blu-ray and noticed that Warner discs (at least those I’ve played) will more-or-less go straight to the movie. There’s the usual FBI piracy warnings and maybe a bit of loading, but then the movie starts. The Matrix and the Nolan/Bale Batman films did this at least. I’m hoping it’s everything Warner publishes.

  32. Good luck with that. I’m still waiting for the “I’ll reboot Windows when I damn well feel like it and not a moment before” button.

  33. Word! They bitch and moan about theft and then when you purchase a DVD/BluRay they force you to skip through previews and warnings and other baloney. It’s insulting.

  34. I bought a new laptop a month ago. It had Microsoft Works on it. I opened it up to start using it, who would bother with Word unless they are a professional?

    Apparently for Microsoft Works SE (Special Edition or Sucker Edition?) I have to watch adverts interrupting my wordprocessing to help offset the costs of producing such a high-end word processor. No “give me the old one, you bastards” button. No mention on the advert for the laptop. So, Word Pad will do for me.

  35. You kidding me? They’re still stinging from the invention of the remote control and channel surfing. This is mere retribution.

  36. I have BDlive disabled on my PS3. It still asks me if I want to enable BDlive every time I put in a new disc, that takes about a millisecond to dismiss. In video settings choose BD Internet connection and change from “Allow” to “Confirm”. I’m surprised that after 43 comments, no one else gave you the easy answer. On a completely unrelated topic, I just finished “The Last Colony” less than 24 hours. I don’t have “Zoe’s Tale” close at hand so I decided to read Whatever until my closest bookstore opens.

  37. Personally, my biggest gripe with Universal is their hideous policy of releasing HALF a season for $45! I love SGU, but I cant see paying quite so much for a HALF SEASON…if the FULL season was under $40, I would go for it…but $90/season seem like a ripoff of epic proportions…

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