What makes a DVD worth keeping?

I started assessing each of my DVDs several weeks ago and found myself splitting them into three groups: definitely keep, definitely dispose, and need to watch to decide.  I’ll provide a summary of my conclusions and associated rationales, in a later post. First, however, I want to go into some detail about two DVDs in that final, ‘need to watch to decide’, category because I think they highlight many of the key points about keeping DVDS. They are the two sets of DVDS of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The Olympic games set consists of 5 DVDs (approx. 15 hours running time) produced by the BBC; and the Paralympic set has three DVDs (approx. 7 hours) produced by Channel Four. I had Blu-Ray versions of both which my DVD player will not play. So, I bought ordinary DVD sets in eBay. This is a salient point about DVDS: they were very cheap – just £3.18 and £1.99 respectively inclusive of postage.

To provide the context for my subsequent remarks, you should be aware I’ve been a big athletics fan all my life. I did athletics at school, culminating in doing a decathlon at university. I also used to live next to Stoke Mandeville Hospital where the paralympics movement was born, and I took my young children out onto its track quite regularly. So, having the Olympics come to the UK in 2012, was a dream come true. I attended the Torch procession as it made its way through Aylesbury; and I got tickets to the Rowing, Boxing, Table Tennis, and the evening in the Athletics stadium when Rudisha broke the world 800m record and Bolt won the 200m. For the rest of the time, I watched the television coverage. It was all high octave and memorable. I specifically asked for the DVDs as birthday or Christmas presents because I knew I’d want to watch it all again. But I never did. They just sat on the shelf and my memories remained fond but grew dimmer. Until, that is, It came to this point at which I have to decide if it’s going to be worth keeping at least 8 very large files.

The first thing to say is that the Handbrake conversion was trouble free and produced results which had nothing to indicate they weren’t being played directly from the original DVDs. Secondly, streaming it over the home WiFi into the TV in the lounge from my laptop upstairs in my study also worked without a hitch: I just had to make sure that the power saving settings on my laptop were switched off to prevent the machine closing down during the running of the DVD. Thirdly – and this is a significant point – I found that being able to watch a spectacle like the Olympics on our large 65-inch LG OLED screen is an order of magnitude better than watching on a smaller screen. The screen size and clarity doesn’t just enhance the experience; it turns it into something much closer to a lived experience.

Now, let’s talk about the contents: the sport, of course, is the focal point of the Olympics and Paralympics, and it is undoubtedly very good to watch again – especially as only the highlights of the many days of competition are included. However, the sport is sandwiched between Opening and Closing ceremonies for both Olympics and Paralympics, and these were extraordinarily good. I had forgotten just how good. The themes, the costumes, the lighting shows across the seating areas, the ability to bring on innumerable well-known musicians and other celebrated people (including Stephen Hawking and Tim Berners-Lee), the innovative and daring expositions of our culture – well, it was all breathtaking. The Olympics Opening ceremony actually had a cricket match being played adjacent to a field with sheep in, and another field with wheat in which was being hand-cut – really; and shortly afterwards all that had been replaced with large factory chimneys. And so it went on, the standard being maintained across all four openings/closings. The scale of the productions and the coordination required across hundreds of performers and many different elements (including lighting, performers on wire suspensions, sound, and stage prop movement) was hugely demanding and yet seemed to be carried out flawlessly (though there must, surely, have been some hiccups?). The amount of design work that had been undertaken to underpin the final results was illustrated in one short extra file explaining the thinking behind the ‘House’ scene in the Olympics Opening ceremony in which the last 50 years culture of a typical family is represented over 10 minutes with laser projections onto the house.

With the big screen exploding with activity and colour and the sound turned up to reproduce the roars of the crowd, I became immersed in these 22 hours of extraordinary entertainment. I had forgotten most of the detail of the opening and closing ceremonies so I was reliving and enjoying the experiences again as though they were new. Having watched the Paralympics Closing Ceremony yesterday afternoon, I feel as though I’ve just attended the whole 2012 Olympics/Paralympics again; and what a time it was. It demonstrated the huge depths of creative talent the UK has across many different disciplines; it recounted our history and our culture – an open, caring, supportive, and inclusive culture; and the thousands of volunteer helpers did a magnificent job looking after the visitors to the games. It was a massive, triumphant, success; a platform for the nation to move forwards still further in creating a happy and prosperous society. Such a shame that it was all thrown away in the ensuing ten years. However, that’s by-the-by. The point is that I feel I’ve relived the whole extraordinary experience; and perhaps that’s what we want out of a DVD that we might want to watch again. We want to take what we considered to have been an extraordinary experience, and to be able to relive it and to recapture those feelings again.

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