DVDActive: A Look Back
Chris Gould takes a look back at the last ten years of DVDActive's Internet history
As some of our long-time readers might remember, DVDActive started life as an entirely different website call DVDBlokes. Originally conceived and created by two young individuals—designer Tom Woodward and programmer Malcolm Campbell—DVDBlokes opened its doors to the public on the 1st of June 2001 and aimed to bring an informal, ‘bloke in the pub’ style to the DVD news and reviews game. With the aid of a small but dedicated editorial team the fledgling website quickly gained a following among DVD enthusiasts all over the world.
Back then one of the biggest releases was Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which was to make its region one DVD debut that very month. We actually had a review of the region three release of the film ready for the site’s launch thanks to the wonders of importing. Other big titles released around that time included Platoon, 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Stanley Kubrick Collection, although films such as Dogma, Dude, Where’s My Car? and Unbreakable also arrived on the format in that month.
As the months went by the format saw the release of some major titles, including the Die Hard Collection, The Goonies, The Silence of the Lambs, Memento, The Terminator, The Godfather Collection and Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, among others. As we moved into 2002 the site’s popularity went from strength to strength as the DVD format really started to move into the mainstream with the arrival of titles such as Ghost World, A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, Donnie Darko, Mulholland Drive, Traffic, Black Hawk Down and The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring.
In light of the increased traffic and wider variety of visitors the site was enjoying, the team decided that DVDBlokes needed a visual makeover. The result of this was the less gender-biased DVDAnswers, which came into being in July of 2002 to almost universally positive approval thanks to its slicker design and more professional approach to content. During this time the ranks of the staff swelled to include more reviewers, allowing senior members to spend more time concentrating other editorial content. As a result DVDAnswers became even more popular, as readers flocked to the site to get the scoop on new releases.
With the DVD format now firmly entrenched as the consumer home video format of choice and VHS was largely on the way out (if not already gone), DVDAnswers enjoyed great success for a number of years. As more and more of people’s favourite films found their way onto those shiny discs it was an exciting time to be in the DVD reporting business, and almost every week seemed to bring news of a major release of some description. We had everything from E.T., Spider-Man, Attack of the Clones and the Back to the Future trilogy, to Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Gangs of New York, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and the Indiana Jones trilogy. Patient DVD fans were eventually rewarded with what many saw as the Holy Grail of DVD releases, the original (well, almost original) Star Wars trilogy, which brought about a personal labour of love in the form of my comparison of the differing versions of all three films.
November 2005 saw the launch of the site as you now know it. DVDActive was born out of the desire to streamline content delivery and add a lot more colour and interactivity to the site. The new design also allowed us to bring you much larger images, perfect for review screen captures and those debates about the latest ‘giant floating heads’ cover artwork.
In 2006 things changed dramatically with the emergence of the Blu-ray and HD DVD high-definition formats. It was an exciting time, as it was the biggest shake-up in the home video market since the introduction of DVD a decade earlier. Although the site reported on releases from both camps most of us sat the early stages of the format war out, waiting for the technology to mature and maybe for a victor to emerge. I jumped on the HD bandwagon in late 2007 and was both impressed and depressed by the state of the hardware and software, so much so that it inspired me to write an article comparing the formats with as little hyperbole as possible (at least that was the idea).
I stand by the comments I made in that article, and while Blu-ray is certainly more advanced now than HD DVD was at the time it wasn’t until the third or fourth generation of hardware that it really started to perform as I expected. Still, these days BD is the format of choice for most serious movie enthusiasts and I wouldn’t be without my high-definition library. It’s interesting to note how the focus has shifted from DVD to Blu-ray in recent times, with studios now concentrating most of their efforts on the hi-def versions of their releases. This has resulted in a corresponding shift of focus for DVDActive, although we haven’t forgotten our DVD-owning readers! Of course we now have Blu-ray 3D, which aims to bring the latest movie watching craze into the home. I haven’t yet bought into this particular technology and to be perfectly honest I’m not sure if I ever will. I’ve yet to be convinced that 3D really adds anything to the movie-going experience, and I’m actually of the opinion that some directors are using it as an excuse not to deliver where it really counts—the story. Think of it like videogames that have amazing graphics but take two hours to complete on the hardest difficulty. My thoughts aside it looks like 3D is here to stay for the time being at least, so I’m sure I’ll eventually spend another few grand on the necessary kit—just not in the middle of a recession!
Well there you have it, ten years of DVDActive—where did the time go? It’s been an interesting journey and one that I am happy to have been involved with for over a decade now. Everyone here at DVDActive would like to take the opportunity to extend our thanks to our readers and everyone who’s supported us over the years. We hope you have enjoyed and will continue to enjoy the site. No one knows what the future brings, but fate willing we’ll be here to bring you the latest news and reviews for all those new-fangled Holodeck programmes. Hey, a man can dream!
Editorial by Chris Gould
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