Before the introduction of DVDs, audiences had no choice but to buy films in their VHS format. Although it is fair to say that some films have been released on VHS with bonus material (‘American Pie’, for example) the majority have not been, and DVD format offers this. DVD was released with an aim to create home cinema-style audio and visual entertainment in a single digital format. But are some DVDs being released with countless unneccessary extras that just pad out their extras count?
The way DVDs are now marketed; you can buy almost any film – whether it’s a new release or a classic – and as well as the film you are given ‘bonus’ footage and additional material to accompany it. Some viewers find this to be a burden, when all they want is the film.
Among the countless ‘extra features’ available on DVD to date, includes interactive menus, directors’ and/or actors’ commentary, deleted/extended scenes, alternative endings, “making-of” documentaries, original theatrical trailers and storyboards. These are to name just the most common. The big debate is whether all these added features enhance an audience’s viewing. As far as the film is concerned, most DVD reviewers tend to rate the film and the DVD (including extras) seperately, which could serve to suggest that extra features may or may not have a significant impact on an audience’s experience.
Some people argue that deleted scenes are deleted for a reason, and that these as well as other extras can often be a distraction, interrupting the flow of the film itself. They also dispute that watching the original theatrical trailer(s) and TV spot(s) the first time around was bad enough, without watching the again on DVD release. This, they say, is what is to blame for the higher prices of DVD format – the fact is that you pay extra for all these extras that are called ‘bonus material’, whether you want them or not.
What seem to be found as most useless by these viewers, are the storyboards and stills galleries on certain DVDs, for example ‘Seven’ to name just one. I asked people what DVD extras they didn’t like and the majority said storyboards and stills galleries. When I asked them why, the most common answer was along the lines of: “why look through stills and storyboards of a film you’ve just watched?” These types of viewers have raised concern by stressing how a good film can stand on its own without all the extras, which may be true, but many others disagree by saying extras may not only enhance viewing pleasure, but merit an inside look into the technological breakthroughs of films such as ‘Star Wars’.
However, at the other end of the heated discussion, the majority of viewers find extra features do add extra value to a film. Other people I spoke to explained how they thought storyboards were very practical because for wannabe filmakers, they can be used as a starting point to learn from.
For some, directors’ commentary is deemed invaluable, whereas for others it is rendered pointless, the argument is that whether the directors, producers and/or actors are providing the commentary, it can often be a more insightful experience finding out how they were supposed to make certain scene, how they were trying to make they audience feel and the emotions they were trying to create; they, alongside other extras such as deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes documentaries and outtakes put the whole film into it’s perspective. Being ‘behind-the-scenes’ and finding out where the film either went right or wrong can be as equally as enjoyable for some as it may not be enjoyable for another.
Many behind-the-scenes documentaries and ‘featurettes’ allow viewers to sort of get to know the people behind on a more personal level. On the ‘Charlie’s Angels’ DVD for example, there are six featurettes. Each one looks at a different aspect of behind-the-scenes (they look at costume, the martial arts/stunts, about the director McG, the special effects, the deconstruction of one of the most action-packed scene, and one featurettes that puts the film into perspective). On top of all that there were three deleted scenes, outtakes, music videos, filmographies or the principal cast and crew, five trailers and a web link. It is fair to say that this DVD is packed, but some people find that this is too much for one film on DVD.
Films including ‘Terminator 2’ and ‘Seven’ were released as Special Editions and came with a bonus disc that was packed full of extras. It can take more than two days to work your way through so much extra footage and features. At the end of the day, the extra features and footage is there whether the audience wants to watch it. As well as offering further insight into the film’s background and how and why certain things were done in the way they were.