FESTIVAL FILM WATCHING AND THE DEATH OF THE DVD
I always feel odd holed up in my hotel room watching DVDs while at a film festival. After all, a film festival is supposed to be festive, and that means audiences, excitement, buzz. But invariably, once you’ve missed a screening those DVD screeners that weren’t available pre-fest are suddenly pressed into your hands by anxious publicists. Or, maybe you just meet a cool filmmaker on the shuttle bus and agree to watch HIS short that night. If you’re doing your job as a journalist, at least some of your festival stay will be spent watching DVDs in your room, perhaps with a room service tray by your side.
While Netflix recently declared the DVD era over, the company also acknowledged that the format’s demise will take a few years. For travelers, though, DVDs may actually outlive something to watch them on. I know we don’t have to march lockstep to the directives issued by Apple’s product line, but the company does have the capability to declare EOL on features and technologies. (Remember the floppy disk, killed when Apple launched its iMac?) This time out, Apple has its sights set on the DVD. Their latest OS, Lion, is download only. (A USB drive version comes out shortly, but at a much higher price.) Their hottest laptop, the Macbook Air, contains no DVD drive at all. And then, of course, there’s the “post-PC” device, the iPad, which also relies on streaming media.
I took three business trips in the last year using the iPad only. The first trip, to CPH:DOX, was frustrating because I found it really difficult to write meaningfully on the iPad’s glass keyboard. At Sundance, I again decided to leave my laptop — an aging white Macbook — at home and travel with an iPad and Bluetooth keyboard. This combo worked fine, but the WordPress iPad was enormously frustrating. By Cannes, I had bought the iPad camera connector for photos and downloaded Blogsy, which offered a much better way to blog on the iPad. Finally, I had a lightweight mobile writing set-up with long battery life… but no way to watch DVDs. Initially, I didn’t think this would be a big deal, but at both Sundance and Cannes there were times when I wished I had one.
Now, as I think about updating my laptop, I’m debating the Air. Do I need the DVD player? Will filmmakers be ahead of the curve by uploading password-protected streaming versions of their features? (Or, the greater question — will hotel wi-fi networks be robust enough to handle those streams?) Will filmmakers worry less about privacy and bring a bag full of USB thumb drives containing their films? Or will I still be stuffing DVDs in my back jeans pocket, even if I have nothing to watch them on?
In short, are independent filmmakers preparing for the death of the DVD?