Jumpy DVDs
January 9, 2004 10:56 PM   Subscribe

It's happened again tonight. We rent a DVD from National Chain Video, and right in the middle of the movie we get a 10 minute period of jittery video, and then a bit later the picture inexplicably jumps ahead in the story. We're left wondering what we missed.

Are we the only ones wondering secretly if this whole DVD thing is ready for prime time? DVDs I've bought new, no problem. But can a rental DVD hold up to the casual abuse of multiple rentals, and still play? I don't think it's the DVD player, we're on our third, and the problem has been consistent. Our current player is a Toshiba combination VCR/DVD player, about 2.5 years old. Should we upgrade? Or is this always going to be a problem with rental DVDs? And how does Vanilla Sky end, anyway? We never found out. Grrrr.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders to Technology (19 answers total)
You might want to see this discussion on kuro5hin.

DVD is an unprotected media unlike videocassettes where you normally dont touch or see the actual media (the tape itself)

Protected DVD's are possible (see these DVD-RAM disks) they're just not the standard.
posted by vacapinta at 12:34 AM on January 10, 2004

i was a manager at blockbuster for 3 years. With dvd's you really have to be careful, they get scratched a lot and very quickly. probably 3-4 rents out and most will have at least some visible scratching. people don't take care of someone else's dvd at all, and they are not nearly as durable as vhs. sometimes visible scratching doesn't give errors when you play it, sometimes it does. i would always check the dvd before you go home, or ask the cashier to; they won't hate you, god knows they check theirs before they go home. this also applies to playstation, gamecube, everything else like that.

i would be very hesitant to buy used dvd's from rental stores, with bbv you can check them and return them if you want, so if you're willing to do all that go for it i guess.

VHS is very durable on the other hand, we had tapes in inventory for years, the old category tapes that are starting to show wear from usage have been rented hundreds of times, i can't imagine a dvd standing up to that sort of usage.

it's almost certainly not your dvd player, if you're talking about blockbuster take the dvd back and tell them, they will believe you and you can get another one, ask them to check for scratches.

here's a hint as well, when grabbing a dvd off the shelf they are in lock boxes so you can't check for scratches yourself, but you can increase your odds of getting one that has been rented less. if a movie has a lot of cover boxes, go for a copy in the back and farthest to the left. due to how they are re-shelved these have probably been rented less. if the movie is taking up a whole bay and the top row is full, take one from there, they probably haven't been rented at all.
posted by rhyax at 12:37 AM on January 10, 2004

I'll probably get whacked on the nuckles for suggesting this but here's what I do: keep a bottle of pledge and soft cloth (I use J-Cloth) near the DVD player. Each time you rent a disc, checck the play surface. If you see anything visible (a hair, a speck of dirt, etc.) blow on the disc to get it off. Then, spray one burst of Pledge onto the disc's surface and then wipe it off from the center to the outside--do not wipe circular around the disc! This will fix the majority of problems of this type. You're essentially wiping off any fingerprints or other residue that will affect the laser.

Overall, I find DVD to be a much stabler format than VHS. I worked in video (running shops) for 12 years and saw way more problems with tape format than laser format.
posted by dobbs at 1:37 AM on January 10, 2004

I buy tons of pre-viewed DVDs and rarely have a lick of trouble. When I do, I tend to suspect something in the DVD coding (ie: usually some lame-ass copy protection scheme) more than scratches from previous viewers.

I recently bought a previewed copy of "A Mighty Wind" (love Christopher Guest movies!) and was dismayed to discover that it skipped at several strategic points. I exchanged it and got a copy that skipped less -- but still did it enough to be annoying. Oddly, these skips were all in the same place as the first. I finally have a watchable copy after exchangig again -- but I noted several people online describing a similar experience with that particular DVD. Odd.
posted by RavinDave at 2:58 AM on January 10, 2004

Vanilla Sky never, ever ends. I bought it on DVD, having never seen it, and I'll almost certainly never expose myself to such an ordeal again. It's worse than AI.

"Just FINISH dammit!"

posted by armoured-ant at 5:53 AM on January 10, 2004

I polished a DVD with toothpaste once. It looked okay but skipped badly before I started; it looked like hell when I finished but it played perfectly.
posted by sudama at 6:57 AM on January 10, 2004

If the Pledge method still doesn't do the trick, those "Skip Dr." devices are supposed to work wonders. They get rid of surface scratches on the DVD (or CD) by buffing the whole surface of the disc.
posted by zsazsa at 7:27 AM on January 10, 2004

Is rental DVD always going to suck? Yes. DVDs are optical media and a look at how your average Joe and Jane carelessly handle CDs ("it just started skpping!") is a perfect example of why. More so with lendable media which is a good commons for tragedy.

Optical media is delicate, and unless we switch the world over to caddy drives for CD and DVD, it's going to stay delicate. People are not going to be careful with delicate things that they have little to no investment in, and a $1.99 movie rental is something most people seem quite free to trash. You should see the condition of media at your local library -- it's even worse off with CDs, audio cassetes, and videotapes all at death's door.
posted by majick at 7:45 AM on January 10, 2004

Vanilla Sky never, ever ends. I bought it on DVD, having never seen it, and I'll almost certainly never expose myself to such an ordeal again. It's worse than AI.

Agreed. Never have I left a movie theater so enraged. The public deserves personal apologies from Tom Cruise and Cameron Crowe.
posted by jerseygirl at 8:31 AM on January 10, 2004

What's odd pursuant to rhyax's explanation above is that when I rent DVDs from Blockbuster, particlarly popular titles, they will skip at last in some minor degree about one out of every three titles. I also rent DVDs from NetFlix, including popular titles that I'm willing to wait a little while to see, and seldom if ever have had one skip...
posted by JollyWanker at 8:38 AM on January 10, 2004

Jolly, it's possible netflix polishes the dvds upon return. We used to do this with Laserdiscs at Art & Trash, one of the stores I used to work at. Codename was "Tart it up." I doubt blockbuster does this ever.
posted by dobbs at 9:55 AM on January 10, 2004

We rent many netflix DVDs which range from pristine to quite thoroughly mauled. Our first DVD player (an expensive Philips DVD/DVD-R/DVD+RW/DVD-BYOB player) rarely got through a movie without skipping at least once, if not hard crashing and needing a reboot. (And I hate the idea that appliances other than the computer have learned how to crash and need a reboot.)

Our second DVD player (a cheapo no-frills Philips DVD-only player) occasionally skips on the most damaged discs, but works fine most of the time. Might be worth the $99 to try the DVD727, if you're not completely turned off by the idea of a fourth player...

My theory is that video glitches just as often as DVD, but not as catastrophically: a videotape may fuzz out or have tracking problems for a moment, but usually sorts itself out on its own; a DVD tends to stop completely and require lots of time-consuming and blood pressure-raising open the tray blow on the disc close the tray try it again crash reboot open the tray wipe the disc on your shirt close the tray try it again crash reboot aw screw it skip to the next scene and at least see how the damn thing ends.
posted by ook at 10:44 AM on January 10, 2004

You can also buy disk cleaning kits, $20 or so for a kit.
posted by stbalbach at 11:08 AM on January 10, 2004

blockbuster never polishes the dvd, ha. i rented from netflix for a while too, i always kinda thought it was just a better clientele. I mean, I've seen the people that damage dvd's and they don't look like they could use a computer, so...

These aren't people who accidentally drop a dvd on the floor, i'm talking about people who throw a naked dvd (no cover box) into the drop return slot, then 50 movies get thrown in on top of it.

"I don't like dvds cuz they gots them damn black bars on the top and bottom of my show, i wasted my money on a dvd player!"
posted by rhyax at 11:54 AM on January 10, 2004

I watched Vanilla Sky last night and in several places laughed out loud at how bad it was. Too bad, though. Visiually it's got some great moments, the soundtrack is really excellent, and the story could have been really good.
posted by jpoulos at 1:14 PM on January 10, 2004

Vanilla Sky is a great movie. You people don't know what you're talking about. How is it not a good film. At which point did you lose interest?

My Wharfdale DVD player has start to skip about on some DVDs. The wierd thing is if I pop the disk out then play the particular section through on my DVD-Rom drive (during which is doesn't skip at all) then put it back in my Wharfdale the same section plays absolutely fine.
posted by feelinglistless at 5:00 PM on January 10, 2004

Without trying to sound snobbish, I thought the original Spanish film (Abre Los Ojos) was better, and that the two films were so identical that I became bored easily with Vanilla Sky. As usual, Cameron Crowe casted the supporting characters very well, and used music most excellently.

As for what happens:
- short answer
- long answer
posted by John Shaft at 6:34 PM on January 10, 2004

Feelinglistless, that's not super strange behaviour at all. Basically, your laser is losing its tracking. I'm betting that if you pushed stop (not pause) on your Wharfdale when it starts to skip and then pushed play again after 5 seconds or so it would play fine through that section as well.

As for Vanilla Sky, I thought it got the first half right--or, more accurately, Cruise's character was established very well, much better than Abre Los Ojos--but the original Spanish film had an infinitely better closing act. Cruise yelling Tech Support was indeed laughable.
posted by dobbs at 8:22 PM on January 10, 2004

I have a cheapo Apex and it only rarely skips on newer dvds. I never have a problem with svcds and mpegs, so I'm just going to try and use copies when possible.

Disclaimer: I watch DVDs on a 13" tv set that cost $30 used. So pristine image quality is not a big consideration.
posted by mecran01 at 6:27 AM on January 11, 2004

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