A really cool idea.
January 26, 2002 12:01 PM   Subscribe

A really cool idea. This is how new technology is born
posted by delmoi (34 comments total)
Hmn... I'd hate to support the bandwith and/or storage costs, but DAMNED cool idea, and very possible.
posted by SpecialK at 12:13 PM on January 26, 2002

This really is a brilliant idea, and with net-enabled DVD players something that's technologically feasible. Share the commentaries via P2P, cue them up on your player.

Having just sat through one particularly lame chit-chat commentary, I'm all for this. There's actually one more feature that would make this completely killer, a hypertext-enabled commentary track, probably involving visual cues. There are so many times when the commentary -- even when it's good -- glosses over interesting sidetracks because the movie is just barrelling along; and there are aspects (like the Blow-up dead body story) that might not take up an entire movie to explain, but are best located at particular jumping-off points in the film.

And there's so much that could be done with it. A commentary track telling the real Pearl Harbor story using the movie critically would be one; a slight variation would be pinpoint detail of all the mistakes. The possibilities are endless. Naturally such multiplicity of commentaries would be prohibitively expensive; it's very hard to get Criterion Collection level DVDs as it is. But design a technological structure for people to share and plug in their own and you've got something entirely new.
posted by dhartung at 12:23 PM on January 26, 2002

dhartung, that's a really interesting idea. I think it would be pretty cool if you could buy a film on DVD with, say, Laura Mulvey or Baba or another film critic's criticism of it as it plays. Hmm. That is very interesting... I like it! It would be like a Norton Critical edition but with film.

Has anyone done this yet?
posted by Kafkaesque at 12:30 PM on January 26, 2002

How would you monitor what people are saying inside of the voice track, though? Some sort of community-vote system? I could see some fwisted tuck doing a good commentary most of the way through a movie and then doing/saying something inappropriate in the middle.
posted by SpecialK at 12:35 PM on January 26, 2002

SpecialK - isn't that part of the fun?
posted by eyeballkid at 12:39 PM on January 26, 2002

So, we could all become hosts? "Mystery Science Theatre 3000" style?
posted by DBAPaul at 1:02 PM on January 26, 2002

Did anyone notice they're showing that again on SciFi? Or has it been on all along? Now if they'd just show the old Joel episodes!
posted by Kafkaesque at 1:04 PM on January 26, 2002

Roger Ebert continues to kick ass.
posted by billder at 1:05 PM on January 26, 2002

Kafkaesque - Roger Ebert recorded a commentary track for Dark City - his favourite movie of 1998.

I'd like to see more commentary tracks by critics, but it brings up an interesting dilema - should the critic (a journalist) receive an income from their subjects? (Ebert side-stepped this conflict-of-interest issue by refusing payment for his work on the Dark City DVD, doing it purely as a favour to the director.)

posted by Monk at 1:11 PM on January 26, 2002

I love this idea, I haven't gotten that 'Wow, cool' feeling about anything on the net for a long time now.

A community voting system, like amazon or epinions, would be a good way of filtering. Also, I think Netflix, IMDB, or Amazon would be in a good position to make a go of this.

Some other refinements: instead of downloading an entire movie's commentary, just DL a chapter at a time.

Allow the entire library of a movie's commentary to be ordered on CD (cross-sell with the DVD purchase or rental).

I think a subscription model would work well if someone set up a reliable central depository of commentaries.
posted by Mick at 1:21 PM on January 26, 2002

I think it's an excellent idea, but there'd have to be some sort of voting system for most popular etc. Not to sound elitist, but in general, most people won't have fascinating things to say, and instead we'll get tons of only vaguely amusing MST3k-style commentary. Which has its place -- as long as there's a good filtering/rating/classification system.

So what's keeping us from starting this? Does anybody want to hear my deranged rants about 2001? I know the wife doesn't.
posted by muckster at 1:23 PM on January 26, 2002

Heres another idea. If your watching it on a computer which is online, there could be a master server which syncs it up with others in the same "room" so all are watching it at the same time. Then you can have chat-style commentary in another window, or even voice-chat. Obviously this would require an internet-enabled DVD movie chat program on the client side and central server software. This doesnt allready exist?
posted by stbalbach at 2:24 PM on January 26, 2002

stbalbach - No, doesn't... watching DVDs on computers doesn't seem to be too popular right now.
posted by SpecialK at 2:40 PM on January 26, 2002

Hrm. Well, really there's two ways to do this, the most obvious is to have your computer/mp3 player in the same room as your dvd player

The other would be to have the feature as part of the player itself

As far as the cool idea goes, I think a lot of you guys are getting ahead of yourselves. To start with, the idea of having user audiotracks is cool in and of itself, having a complex moderation system is kind of beyond the scope of what we're talking about. And there's no reason why multiple sites cant pop up with diffrent focuses and methods
posted by delmoi at 2:53 PM on January 26, 2002

Oh, god bless $9 domain registration. I just grabed Fancommentaries.com and .org. Anyone intrested in making a site for this?
posted by delmoi at 3:05 PM on January 26, 2002

Not a complex system, delmoi, just the obvious. You'd just sort commentaries by movie, author, date added, perhaps a drop-down category (analytical/historic/silly/hilarious redub etc), and a rating that the community votes for IMDb style. Entries should come with a paragraph by the commentator describing them. Can't be so hard to do?
posted by muckster at 3:24 PM on January 26, 2002

Oh, I think you know what this is really for. Kung Fu movies!

"Haha. Once, I was the student, but now I am the master."
"Yes, a master... a masturbator! You killed my brother. Prepare for the fury of my fists!"
"Ha! Your fists are no match for my pointy thing!"
"Fool! I put my mouth on that pointy thing. I will now hit you with a stick!"

..etc. Anyone see "What's Up, Tiger Lily?"
posted by MonkeyMeat at 3:28 PM on January 26, 2002

Folks, I don't know how familar any of you are with audio/video sync-ing problems, but I will say (from the perspective of someone who is familiar with this) that this will not be as easy as merely putting on the movie and playing your mp3 at the same time. A better example (and probably culturally relevent to all reading this) is the Wizard of Oz/Dark Side of the Moon combo. To all who have tried this, how many times did you have to restart both in order to achieve mediocre sync? While for much commentary this type of lag will be acceptable, others (such as some of the possibilities that are being suggested here) would be lousy when delayed. And (big 'and') most people would not want to bother to sync up some schmo's third-rate rant about Superman III. The idea of developing a software DVD player that can sync Mp3s with film would be the best way to do this, but still there is much demand upon the commentator to reduce lag times in their recordings. An interesting idea, but these problems need to be overcome in order to make it viable.
posted by nonreflectiveobject at 4:02 PM on January 26, 2002

watching DVDs on computers doesn't seem to be too popular

Well, if they had a reason they might. Theres a lot of potential. Additional value-add from the producer, real-time content in the form of flash. Advertising (ick). It could be like a DVD browser with multiple windows of content going at the same time (movie, chat, directors comments, advertising).. perhaps doable in Java not sure about performance. I just read the comment above about timing and lag which would be key, devils in the details.
posted by stbalbach at 4:08 PM on January 26, 2002

You guys do realize that some studio marketing pinhead is reading all this free R&D you're giving him, calling up some design studio, and making $$ of your lightbulbs, eh?

Plenty of journalists have been ripping off recent threads. . . why not post some intriguing techno-concept to a psuedo-reliable site, make it a FPP and watch the ideas/troubleshooting roll in?

Monday morning, Johnny Producer is going to have an *amazing* concept for his boss.
posted by jamesstegall at 6:01 PM on January 26, 2002

You guys do realize that some studio marketing pinhead is reading all this free R&D you're giving him, calling up some design studio, and making $$ of your lightbulbs, eh

I worked with Hollywood types for a year and a half, and trust me - you have nothing to worry about. They are the least innovative and most risk averse group of nervous nellies I've ever seen.

Innovate away, people! Hollywood is at least 10 years behind.
posted by owillis at 7:10 PM on January 26, 2002

I can read the patent now. "Method of syncronizing third party audio to video system. Incorporating multiple media players not necessarily connected. Features including but not limited to mechanism to determine highest quality submissions from community or contributors..."

This might be one application that would get me to buy a DVD drive for my computer and watch them there. I'm not much of a movie person but the added commentary just might be fascinating or entertaining enough to endure the small screen.
posted by mutagen at 7:18 PM on January 26, 2002

There is already software that can fire off an IR blaster. The easiest way to do it would be to come up with some special mp3 recording/playback software that embeds a start playing the movie cue into the audio file.
posted by willnot at 8:20 PM on January 26, 2002

Some guy comes up with an innovative and workable idea, then everybody jumps on and starts adding complex, impractical features. How many of you guys are engineers?
posted by Hildago at 9:19 PM on January 26, 2002

muckster, I'd LOVE to hear your 2001 rant---as long as I don't have to watch the movie ever again. I saw it in first release, while suffering from a contact high that had floated up from the front row floor contingent to my seat in the balcony.
I'm acrophobic and under the unexpected influence I almost upchucked during that final "starchild" sequence. To this day, I can't watch clips from the film without having nauseating flashbacks.
Of course, I also think it's one of the most boring films ever made, and it was the first film I ever saw that SCREAMED !!!PRODUCT PLACEMENT!!! [I'd make that blink in neon pink if I knew how because that's how gawdawfully appalling the brand naming in that film was to me, even under the influence.] And don't get me started on the undertext....
Rant away, by all means. I'd love to hear how your rant differs from mine.
posted by realjanetkagan at 9:42 PM on January 26, 2002

Plenty of journalists have been ripping off recent threads. . .

Really? Like?
posted by verdezza at 9:50 PM on January 26, 2002

adding complex, impractical features

in ideation sessions that's called killing the baby. Let all the ideas flow and then see which one's are to weak too live.
posted by Mick at 10:12 PM on January 26, 2002

Anyone see "What's Up, Tiger Lily?"

MonkeyMeat: That's exactly what I was thinking when I first saw this. Oh, to be a plot-rewriting fiend and have my "repurposed" movies shared with the world at large....
posted by youhas at 1:33 AM on January 27, 2002

I'd like to see it done this way:

Ten or more people from different walks of life each take their own crack at it. Creating not an audio mp3 that coincides with the movie, but textfiles which are 'timestamped' to match the movies. Each of the ten people approach the film from their own unique vantage points. Between the ten of them they can research the areas of interest in the film that they enjoy. Everything from reading books about the movie to researching websites and newsgroups and anything (both online and offline) that offers interesting trivia and rumor about the show. From this information a website can be constructed, which people could access for their own edification either before or during the movie.

Or the ten could join forces, and from their notetaking come up with working scripts. The end result would probably be two or three different scripts that each focused on different subjects. One of the scripts could be more serious behind the scenes information. Another script could be much more light-hearted and silly - like MST3K only funnier. Then they could have competent voiceover talent record the scripts into mp3 format so people could enjoy the information while watching the film.

I don't personally think this would work if it's just one critical mind or fan of the show talking, but if it was a combination of information aquired from several sources and then produced professionally, it would be much more entertaining and enlightening, and THEN you'd be outdoing anything Hollywood has pulled off since the invention of DVD.
posted by ZachsMind at 7:15 AM on January 27, 2002

Is anyone still reading this thread? I got here a little late...

I think this is a great idea and have been thinking about something like this for a while, ever since DVD audio commentaries first came out. Maybe if a bigtime guy like Roger Ebert suggests it, we'll actually see this someday soon. If not, I'd love to be a part of making something like this happen. delmoi, do you still have that domain?

I agree that the syncing problem would be an issue, and needs more thought. The thing that appeals to me most about this idea is that it is in the same flavor as lots of other meta-commentary that you find all over the place these days.

This idea could also work with other types of media besides DVD movies. I remember that several years ago, MTV used to have a show where they would put user comments from their web site up on the screen during videos...the signal to noise ratio was pretty low (Do they still do that?). But, I wonder if applying moderation and user rating types of methods might improve that sort of user commentary.

All in all, a great post.
posted by chos at 6:14 AM on January 29, 2002

"...there is no legal reason why outsiders can't record a commentary track about any movie ever made. It's no more illegal than talking in a theater..."

I'm still reading this thread. I agree it's a great post, and a great idea. What I don't understand is why wouldn't Ebert just jump at this idea? Maybe he's got too much on his plate. He's certainly no multi-billionaire, but I would think combining his clout as a critic and a moderate celebrity in his own right, as well as any financial backing to which he may have access, Ebert could just buy a server with a helluva lotta drivespace, then make a website that's either ad-driven or even subscription-based.

I personally have never had an interest in subscribing to a porn website when there's so much available for free (which is of course common knowledge not that I actively seek any out...*ahem*) but to sign away my credit card to a company sponsored in part by Ebert featuring running commentary on countless movies in audio format, that's something I'd find myself very tempted to do. Provided the price was right. Perhaps ten dollars a month or an annual fee that adds up to a little less than $120 a month to give the illusion that one's saving money by signing up annually.

Perhaps individuals who agree to volunteer their own voice to a running commentary could also get a discount. Maybe a free month for every five mp3s submitted and accepted by some hired committee. Unlike other volunteer-content websites which have little to no editorial limitations, this program would need some kind of in-house editorial system, as well as a volunteer-based critical voting system. If you like a commentary track, it gets voted up but if you didn't like it you can vote it down.

And this shouldn't be limited to DVD. Anyone who has their computer and their VCR in the same room could, with a little trial and error, start the mp3 on their computer as the videotape starts and get a similar experience. I've long wished movie companies would find a way to make those of us who are dragged forward into technological innovations kicking and screaming an opportunity to enjoy audio commentary via VHS. Unfortunately that would mean buying several copies of the same movie with different audio tracks dubbed over. It's simply not cost-effective, but audio files on the computer coupled with VHS tapes is more cost-effective.

I listened to Roger Ebert's audio commentary of Notorious, and now I'm wondering how to get the rest of it. I mean it's only the first five minutes of the film and then the mp3 cuts off unceremoniously. This idea just needs someone with the wherewithal to give it a home. If somebody builds it, they will come.
posted by ZachsMind at 12:47 PM on February 2, 2002

...but then again I thought the tv series Freaky Links was gonna be a breakthru hit.
posted by ZachsMind at 12:48 PM on February 2, 2002

I've been thinking about this more over the last few days and thought of several problems with the idea.

The first thing, is that I think most people would only like to listen to audio commentary for a movie they really like. When I rent a DVD, I usually watch the movie without the commentary. And unless it's a movie I really like, I'm usually renting, not buying. If there's a classic movie or a commentary by someone who I think might be funny or interesting, then I might go out of my way to listen to it. But for the most part, I wonder how frequently those tracks are listened to. I'm thinking that having commentary for certain scenes might be more flexible - since DVDs allow you to go to a chapter anyway, why not have something about some big battle scene, or maybe a blooper reel pointing out funny things that got in the movie.

I'm wondering what the guys at Mystery Science Theater 3000 might think of this - I'd guess that they would love to do lots of movies on the show, but can't get clearance or get by the copyrights. By providing an audio track only, that wouldn't be a problem. And I'd bet there are a lot of MST3K fans who would like to hear their criticism of Star Wars, say, or some other big budget hollywood sci-fi movie.

I haven't listened to the Notorious commentary yet. Why don't you try to email Ebert to see where to get the rest of it?

By the way...FreakyLinks???
posted by chos at 2:09 PM on February 4, 2002

Looks like somebody put together a web site to trade this type of stuff.
posted by willnot at 4:14 PM on March 25, 2002

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