New DVDs move audiences from the couch to the director's chair
"Open!" shouts an enraptured 11-year-old peering at the front door of Hogwarts, the wizard magic school in the newly released interactive DVD, "Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone." He's watching the film on his computer DVD drive, using a PC microphone to control the trip. The tour unfolds as the child unlocks secret hallways and wizard's spells, all with only a word or two.
On the other side of the house, his parents create their own digital version of the Oscar-winning "Moulin Rouge," by toggling through different camera angles and rearranging scenes, using their computer keyboard. All this is with the blessing of director Baz Luhrmann, who actually filmed the movie with the upcoming interactive DVD in mind.
"There's much more material I can use," the Australian says, "and I like the fact that a DVD allows the viewer into your backstage life."
This is the promise of the interactive DVD, a relatively new technology launched five years ago, and just now beginning to spread to mainstream America. The possibilities to interact with or modify digital material in a movie are just starting to open up to filmmakers and audiences as film classics such as "Apocalypse Now" and "Cinema Paradiso" arrive in substantially different versions from the award-winning originals. Both films have added footage, including new endings.
As even more old movies make their way onto DVD and new releases are created with interactive DVDs in mind, the entertainment available with the purchase of a single movie title could soon fill the waking hours of a day. Consider this:
The DVD version of "Ocean's Eleven" cut viewers in on an online game version of the movie that ran May 6 to June 18.
Beside the now-standard commentaries, screenplays, and subtitle options, "Die Hard" offers viewers the option to cut and edit their own version of the film.
"Shrek" taps voice recognition technology to let viewers sing songs from the film, which their home computer will synchronize with scenes from the movie.
"Spy Game" boasts more than "10 hours of DVD entertainment," including a clandestine operations game, outtakes, multiple commentaries, and a CIA test to determine whether you have what it takes to be a spy.