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Qflix, The future of Independent Direct to Video Content?

In previous entries I’ve discussed DVD rental kiosks allowing storefronts to offer for more titles than they offered in the physical form. This is great for major film studios which can only put out a small fraction of the content they have available. Take for example entertainment giant Warner Bros. Jim Wuthrich, senior vice president of digital distribution at Warner Bros., notes that of the company’s 6600 films, only 1500 have been released on DVD. At any given moment, only 300 of Warner’s 1500 DVD titles may be available on a store shelf. That’s a staggering number of titles that are not released or even available for sale, limiting the company’s profitability. By allowing a retailer to carry all movie titles on a hard drive, which can be burnt right away with copy protection, then its extra money in the pockets of the retailer and the studios.

That’s great for the major studios and retailers, but what about the “little guy”? How does this benefit the independent film producer trying to distribute their productions? That’s where a new technology called Qflix comes into play. Qflix is a new technology which should be available within the 1st or 2nd quarter of 2008 that allows anyone to burn projects onto Qflix DVD media from a Qflix capable DVD burner with copy protection. The basic concept is that the Qflix media holds one part of the Content Scramble System (CSS), which is the industry standard for copy protection on DVD discs, and the burner encodes the remaining CSS code onto the burnt disc. The Qflix enabled CSS DVD’s are 99% compatible with all DVD players on the market.

So why does Qflix give an advantage to the small producer? The concept is simple, with advances in video cameras and home editing systems, almost anyone can create a major studio quality product on a budget. The problem was always production and distribution. In order to make a DVD with copy protection, one would have to have all the copies made through replication. In order for most replicators to even startup their equipment they would need to make a minimum quantity of 1000 pieces. Being independent, it’s near impossible to find shelf space in major retailers, meaning they need to create their own retail channels.

Now imagine that this independent producer can make only the copies they need when they need them. That gives them the flexibility to make small quantity runs or large volume runs depending on the demand for their project. This puts the power back in their hands and should encourage many more bourgeoning film makers to become the next Steven Spielberg.

To Be or Not To Be; GREEN?

There is a lot of discussion about being “Green” these days and protecting the environment. With various countries, states, cities, and even companies enacting eco friendly regulations for CE products, it looks as though we’ve turned a corner in environmental protection. These changes are showing up everywhere from bans on using unhealthy substances in the manufacturer of products to companies sending holiday eCards as apposed to paper cards to save trees. This is a wonderful change to the days of excess and pollution from days gone by.

My question is, how much are we really saving the environment when the lifespan of many CE products like computers, televisions, and gaming consoles are getting shorter and shorter. Maybe the products are more eco friendly, but when it’s cheaper for consumers to purchase a new TV then fix an older model, we are finding that older equipment (many of which are not that old) are ending up in our landfills rather than in living rooms. Today’s society is hungry for the latest and greatest and we don’t want to pay very much for it. So retailers need lower pricing and force the manufacturers to find cheaper sources of parts and labor to accommodate thereby reducing the number of blue collar jobs in the developed Western Nations, reducing the size and disposable income of the middle class. With less money to spend on discretionary purchases, they demand lower prices and the cycle repeats itself.

In the duplicator industry I see this a lot with optical disc drives. Early on, the drives were very expensive but they would last longer. Not only would the physical drive last longer, but each particular model would have a longer lifespan. Now we’re lucky if a particular drive model lasts more than 6 months. Innovation is not a bad thing, but when production of a specific model is shorter than the warranty period for that item, it causes plenty of headache and complications. Plus the fact that the drives have become so inexpensive, consumers would rather throw them away and buy new ones than try to fix them.

So my point is, even though the CE products are more eco friendly in their construction and design, how environmentally friendly are they when they are filling up our landfills? Although, more and more companies are participating in a recycling program, I just hope the consumers are willing to cooperate.

Two for one with the same quality.

Since Vinpower Digital offers an array of Blu-ray capable duplication products and media, I often get questions asking, “what’s the best Blu-ray player on the market?” The answer is actually surprising, yet it shouldn’t be. The best player is misleading because the drive used inside the players for Blu-ray discs is basically universal across all units. So the true question should be which Blu-ray player offers the most additional features at the best price? The answer is the Sony Play Station 3 (PS3).

This may be surprising because it’s essentially seen as a gaming console with the Blu-ray player as an add-on. In reality, it should be obvious. Sony is one of the chief architects of the Blu-ray technology and obviously the developer for the Play Station gaming console. So it only stands to reason that they should have the best of both products. Since the PS3 games are on Blu-ray discs, then the Blu-ray reader in the gaming console has to be strong enough to stand up to constant usage. Anyone who knows a gamer knows that when they get hooked on a game, they go into a time vortex where day and night cease to exist.

With Sony competing heavily in the gaming market against Microsoft and Nintendo, the price of a PS3 is below most other Blu-ray players on the market and it has the added benefit of being able to play video games at the same time! Automatically the buyer gets a 2 for 1 advantage over any other Blu-ray player. Even if you rarely or never play video games, why not take advantage of the added feature, you never know when it will come in handy. Since the movies and games are in hi-def, the picture quality and sound (assuming the A/V equipment has HD capability and a surround sound tuner) are top notch. So if you’re in the market for a Blu-ray player, then stop by your local electronics store or shop online and just pick up the PS3.

Duplicating Kiosks create a greater need for reliable robotic autoloaders.

From my previous blog I discussed how DVD kiosks will be the future for movie purchases and rentals. It was mentioned that this process has become more of a reality because the method by which the content protection encoded in the discs has been relaxed to incorporate newer technology. What I didn’t mention was the most important feature in this whole process, the robotic duplicator “autoloader” which controls the entire process.

If you’re reading this blog, chances are that you’ve burned a disc at least once through your computer or a dedicated duplicator like the Vinpower Digital SharkCopier or TITAN series. The basic principal is simple enough, load a blank disc into a writer drive and information from an alternative source (HDD or reader) is burned onto the blank disc. This is a simplified explanation, but gives one the basic principal of how a duplicated disc is created. However, to build a kiosk, you can’t count on a user loading and unloading the blank disc that is meant to be duplicated. That’s where the autoloader comes in.

An autoloader is a duplicator with a robotic arm that can be programmed to pick up blank discs from a specified stack, load them into the corresponding writer drives and or printer and then remove the finished disc and place them in a specific location. It all sounds so very simple, there are so many variables that come into play that it’s actually far more complicated than one may imagine.

That’s why the number of autoloaders on the market is dwarfed compared to the number of manual towers available. Manual towers are easy to build given the right parts, but autoloaders are extremely complicated to build if you don’t have the knowledge and experience to do so. If done right, the autoloader is extremely easy to operate and runs flawlessly 24/7 as intended. If not, the user ends up working harder to get the unit to work than if they had just made the copies manually on a tower. The whole purpose of an autoloader is to make duplication easier and capable of producing higher volumes than humans who need to eat, sleep, and take bathroom breaks.

So when you see one of these DVD kiosks in the future, now that inside there’s an autoloader like a Vinpower Digital TITAN working hard and tirelessly to provide you with the content you want.