DVD Rant

When there’s nothing worth watching on TV, we turn to our stack of DVDs. I have a lot of videos too, but when we bought a combi DVD/video recorder we discovered the video side of it doesn’t decode closed captions. I could find no combi DVD/video player that did. That makes the video bit of it useless for us; we would have bought a plain DVD recorder if we’d realized.

I hope the people who designed these useless combi things wake up deaf tomorrow, then try to use their own equipment… only to find they can’t use them any more. It would serve them right.

I mentioned a few posts back that Mum only accepts some of my DVDs, so the pool of DVDs we can watch together is small and rapidly evaporating.

We tried Gosford Park, only to find it had no subtitles. I looked online to see if the Amazon reviews mentioned it, and…

…you know how Amazon customers send in reviews of certain products, and other customers can vote on the helpfulness of these reviews? I never saw much sense in that, but I still give positive votes on reviews that helped me. If I come across the sort of review that says “I’ve only just unpacked it and it seems all right,” or “I recommend it / this sucks” (without explaining why), I tend to ignore it.

A curious fact about Amazon reviews is that the approving ones have lots of people saying “very helpful, thanks”, whereas disapproving reviews are voted down… almost as though other customers automatically consider them negative or nasty.

As I was saying, negative reviews tend to get negative votes, but I was spitting with fury over something on the Amazon UK site (not US). The Gosford Park DVD had several reviews, and at least two said that it was such a quietly-spoken film that even the hearing reach for the subtitles, only to discover there aren’t any. One review was marked ‘4 out of 5 people found this useful’, and the other was marked ‘5 out of 20 people found this useful’.

Perhaps the grumblewarts found those points irrelevant, for whatever reason, or blindly downvoted them because someone had given their favourite film only a few stars (as they saw it)… but those were reviews that people like me would find relevant, and they do not deserve to be buried. I looked to see what the ‘highest rated critical review’ said, (3 out of 3 people found this useful), and it said it’s very quiet and recommended that we watch it the first time round with closed captioning. There were no captions, I thought? Why did it give the impression that there were?

My mouse was hovering over the ‘this is not helpful’ button but I thought I better doublecheck… and the review turned out to be directly attached to a US / Canadian version of the DVD (NTSC). I can’t tell whether or not it has captions as I couldn’t see that piece of information in the technical section.

Which leads me to something else that I don’t find particularly helpful, which is that all the reviews for different versions/editions/printings of the same general item tend to be pooled together, and so you might read a review saying the DVD has captions, when the specific DVD you were considering actually hasn’t… even supposing the reviewer was correct and not just making assumptions. I also find that some of the reviews in there were for videos, and that one reviewer was copying the same review onto different products… that very same review suggesting captions are available, when they aren’t.

Mum kept saying “ALL DVDs are subtitled” and wouldn’t believe me at first that some aren’t. She bought me Gosford Park, My Big Fat Greek Wedding and a boxed set of Creature Comforts, none of which have captions.

At the time of writing, there are 1,895 entries in the Region 2 (UK) DVD Hall of Shame (no English subtitles). It includes a lot of children’s stuff, Cold Comfort Farm (DVD released 2005), earlier DVD releases of Creature Comforts, Due South: the Complete Series, The Far Pavilions, at least some Farscape boxed sets (there’s only information for a couple of them), Flash Gordon: Season One (DVD released 2008), Foyle’s War… I got tired scrolling through the list so I stopped there. If there was more information submitted about some of the DVDs on the site, the list would probably be longer.

Anyway, I don’t want to end on a peevish note, so I direct you to this comical YouTube video: Four Deaf Yorkshire Men. It has subtitles. 🙂

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4 responses

  1. I find customer reviews fascinating. I rent DVDs from Tesco through the post (I recommend this – and it does tell you what subtitles each DVD has, so no worries there). Anyway, I find it so bizarre that so many people think it is a worthwhile exercise to write reviews along the lines of, “What a waste of ninety minutes, complete rubbish!” without any further details. So many of them.

  2. Yes, I suppose that’s why some of the other customers automatically vote down the negative reviews (most of them being the ‘waste of 90 minutes’ type), but I wish they would read them first. 🙂

    I wonder if Psychology students write theses on customer reviews! The internet must be ripe with material.

    I would probably be very bad at sending the DVDs back if I was renting them, so I can’t trust myself to do that; I’m best to buy them outright (at reduced prices), and maybe try selling the ones I don’t want to the local DVD shop. Probably for not very much, but it’s something.

  3. I agree about the subtitles.
    I personally find it odd when the english subtitles are combined with the closed captioning ones (it happens with japanese films occasionally). Usually it’s the plainer “jsut words”, so when I watch a movie in another language and want the english I don’t get the additional stuff (like music cuesand descriptions and such that seem to be a part of the closed captioning).
    It must be very frustrating to have to deal with it- I thought it had to say on a DVD if it was captioned or not? And why wouldn’t it be captioned? If they can go through the bother to have other language tracks made, how hard is it to do some subtitles?

  4. Mum assumed all DVDs had captions and didn’t check them that carefully, whereas I assumed she had checked, and so when we put Gosford Park on, the lack of captions was a surprise, LOL. 🙂

    When buying from an internet listing (which we didn’t in this case) it sometimes says what subtitles it has… but if it’s a product without subtitles, you might not be sure about it (unless it actually says ‘subtitles: none’).

    Ah well, one day everything will be captioned… in fact maybe the entire technology would be different, and somehow it would just be easier. Really good voice recognition software, maybe!

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