I sensed a haunting beauty when watching a movie the other evening. I don't remember which one exactly, because I watched parts of several as I tested a high-definition DVD player--the RCA HDV5000.
The player lived up to the hype and reproduced the gorgeous images and sound that make high definition appealing. But I was preoccupied by the fight that continues, ridiculously, between competing formats in high-definition disks. The RCA model plays one format called--not so creatively--HD DVD. I've not yet seen the other format, more creatively but less clearly labeled Blu-Ray. But I'm sure it also produces filmlike images and lifelike surround sound.
A high-def player could pump up our humble home theater, which for now is our living room after the kids go to bed. I might even accept being gouged as an early adopter, though I'd wait a bit. (RCA's suggested list price of $500 is already being discounted to $450 or less.) I'm also encouraged to see that Netflix, our main source of DVDs, is carrying titles in HD DVD.
But I'm unwilling to pay for what might be expensive brick. It's unlikely that both formats will survive, and unlike the Betamax-VHS fight, this one might be finished in a year or two. If I bet wrong, that isn't enough time to get my money's worth from an orphaned technology, even if Netflix means I won't be stuck with a library of unwatchable flicks.
So I'll sit on the sidelines, as will most of the country. If the two sides don't get their acts together soon, we'll realize we don't need disks, anyway. High-def movies are already available online. I haven't found any yet that are legal, but I suspect I will before I have to invest in a DVD player. And that will be a beautiful thing.