HD DVD in the House

I own roughly 900 DVDs. Yes, it's a sickness. I started on the format back in the 20th century, and I was even a DVD reviewer for a while and got lots of free review copies. I love my DVD library. Being a huge movie fan, I enjoy perusing the titles and choosing just the right film to rediscover and love all over again. I'm a sucker for extras (particularly the commentaries), and I value excellent video/audio presentation even more. I want that film to look and sound just as fabulous as it did on the big screen, and for nearly 10 years, DVD has been a fantastic media format as far as meeting my film-geek demands.

And now, high-definition DVD is here. I can't deny its presence in the market anymore. For goodness sake, even Wal-Mart is carrying HD DVD and Blu-ray discs. I've watched the number of titles grow, and I've watched sparkling demonstrations at the superstores. The online community still buzzes with the format war, and my frustration with that battle remains. The question for me was always when (not whether) I would jump into the format and start spinning high-def discs. I thought I'd wait for either a decisive winner in the format war or the release of a combo player that I could afford.

But when I found a Toshiba HD-A2 player on sale for less than $100, I could no longer resist. Even better, a mail-in rebate promised five free HD DVDs. Heck, it was like getting the player for free.

As soon as I got home, I connected the player to my HDTV and A/V receiver. I plopped in a sale disc I'd purchased along with the player—Lucky Number Slevin. I was struck at once by the subtle new menu configuration, and then, powerfully, by the image quality. The levels of sharpness and detail are really quite extraordinary, noticeable even on my relatively modest 42" plasma Panasonic. Soon enough, I was off to the local Best Buy to get my hands on other HD DVD discs, including Full Metal Jacket and Corpse Bride. Watching Corpse Bride was like watching those plasticine models actually come to life before my eyes. Animation has always been a particular love of mine, and this disc, quite simply, provided the most pristine, perfect video image I'd ever seen at home.

The bottom line is that I always assumed the differences between standard DVD and HD DVD would be subtle, and to many consumers' eyes, that's probably the case. But for those of us who pay close attention to the details, the difference is breathtaking. You might catch a demo at a store and think Nah, I can live without high-def. But you're fooling yourself. Perform one back-to-back same-title comparison of the formats, and you'll see.

Now, the only question I face is what to do with 900 crappy DVDs. I say that in jest, of course. DVD is still an admirable format, and—at least for now—I hardly envision replacing my existing library with the high-def equivalents. But I can safely say that my eyes have been spoiled.

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