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Whoa Déjà vu

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I remember when DVD first launched. I remember watching it struggling with first generation players that were buggy, under-featured and massively overpriced. I remember the early Region 2 discs being of particularly poor quality, with many of them needing to be flipped over halfway through the movie. Most of all, I remember there being little incentive for me to switch from Laserdisc to DVD, and for the general consumer, even less incentive to switch from VHS.

But there was a definite turning point for DVD in the UK and that turning point was due to the release of one movie; The Matrix. I believe that no single movie release did more to drive mass adoption of the DVD format than The Matrix. I personally know several people who bought The Matrix on DVD before they even had a player, while many others chose that moment to invest in a player, just so that they could watch that disc.

There were several reasons why The Matrix acted as a catalyst for the DVD format. First up was the fact that it was a stunningly good movie and one that truly broke new ground when it came to visual effects. This alone meant that movie fans wanted to be able to watch The Matrix in as high a quality format as possible, even if that meant investing in new hardware.

Adding to the undeniable quality of the film itself, Warner also created what was probably the best DVD disc ever seen at the time and one that wasn’t to be bettered for quite a while. The print of the film on the disc was first rate, something that’s vitally important with a movie that’s particularly dark and often quite monochromatic. But Warner didn’t stop with putting a superb print of the movie on the disc, it also showed consumers what DVD extras were supposed to look like.

The “follow the white rabbit” option on The Matrix disc was the first true example of seamless branching on a DVD, and to be honest I’d be hard pushed to think of a disc that’s done it better since then. Being able to hit a button on the remote while watching the movie and be transported to an in depth documentary about how the effects in that particular scene were created was a big hit with movie buffs and general consumers alike. It’s often said that most consumers never watch any extras on their DVDs, despite citing the extras as a reason for purchase, but I’m fairly certain that everyone who bought The Matrix DVD followed the white rabbit, at least once.

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