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DVDs Getting Filmmakers’ Attention

July 10, 1999

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Even as they’re shooting, filmmakers are looking ahead at the extras they can offer viewers on DVD that they won’t get in theaters or on videotape.

Directors including Robert Altman, Werner Herzog and Bill Condon said Friday they are enthralled with the possibilities of digital video discs, which allow studios to enhance films with commentary, widescreen and TV-formatted versions and documentaries on the making of the movies.

``Most directors nowadays, even those who haven’t paid much attention to video, now are forced to,″ said movie critic Leonard Maltin, who moderated a panel on the new format at the Video Software Dealers Association convention.

``A lot of them are thinking ahead about video even as they’re making the film,″ Maltin said.

While shooting ``Kansas City,″ Altman worked up a 75-minute documentary on the jazz music used in the movie. Altman said he hopes to include the documentary on the DVD release.

``A great thing about this is that you can see other aspects of the film you didn’t see in the theater,″ he said. ``If they want that, they can have it.″

The DVD release for Herzog’s 1982 film ``Fitzcarraldo″ allowed him to enhance the sound and add a German-language version.

DVDs resemble compact disks but can hold far more information, with room for such added footage as director and actor interviews, movie trailers and scenes from the cutting-room floor. They offer sharper sound and images than VHS videos, and viewers can skip around easily, without having to fast-forward or rewind a tape.

DVDs are expected to eventually displace videotapes in the same way CDs replaced vinyl records.

The number of DVD players in U.S. homes has quadrupled in the last year to about 2 million, according to the Consumer Electronics Manufacturing Association. Some industry analysts say the number could reach 4 million by the end of the year.

Sales of DVD movies are running at about 10 percent of the $8 billion videotape market, according to industry estimates, while DVD rentals lag behind that.

DVD critics say that until an affordable player that also can record comes on the market, videotapes will not go the way of vinyl records. Low-end DVD players cost $300 or less, but those that can record onto disks remain out of most consumers’ price range.

Some retailers also say customers will not trade in their videotape libraries as readily as they did vinyl records.

``I’ve got customers who own thousands of videos,″ said Ray Hoving, who owns Rodeo Video in Victorville, Calif. ``They’re not going to dispose of them just like that because of a new format.″

Some in the industry say there could be a peaceful coexistence between videotapes and DVDs for a number of years, with consumers having both types of machines wired to their televisions.

``People are still happy with VHS,″ said Bo Andersen, president of the video association. ``I think it’s going to be a dual invention for some time.″

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