Wednesday, September 9, 2009

From The Archives of Rex Saigon: Gump goes video CD (1994)

Few among today's digital cognoscenti may remember that the Video CD format—still popular today in Hong Kong and parts of Asia, where few households circa 1993 had VCRs when this low-priced, climate-friendly format made its debut—almost became the successor to VHS. Almost. This ad from Philips appeared in the November 1994 issue of Premiere Magazine, touting the "CD-quality audio" and "digital picture quality" of the then-nascent format. Notice they don't say "VHS-quality" or "laserdisc-quality", since the VCD generally landed somewhere in between those formats—or, just as often, beneath both of them—on the home theatre presentation scale. It may have died a quick and quiet death in North America, but the format's resilience in Hong Kong, in particular, means any fan of the city's cinema who truly wants to wear the badge must indulge the format on a regular basis or risk leaving a considerable segment of Hong Kong's diverse film offerings undiscovered due to its lack of availability on DVD or any other format.


dleedlee said...

I can't remember ever seeing an American vcd. How'd I miss them?

But hear, hear for the humble vcd!

Rex Saigon said...

They were easy to miss. I recall browsing a small display of them—Gump included—in a U.S. Best Buy that year. It wasn't much, just an endcap, and it wasn't there for very long. All of the titles were from Paramount; no other studios signed on. Of course, now, they all use the format, just not in North America! ;) Give the folks at Paramount some credit, though; they saw something in little shiny discs . . .

An archived press release (partial):

More here, from 1994 (scroll down a bit):

dleedlee said...

Hmm, the 80's? I don't think I lived near any big box stores at the time. My video hoarding instinct came later, after a respite from LPs.

dleedlee said...

Ignore last comment, realize article was '94, not '84! :}

Rex Saigon said...

Heck, if they had them in '84, perhaps we would've had DVDs a lot sooner!

It would be cool to stumble across some of these old Paramount VCDs some day, preferably super cheap, just to see what the quality was like barely a year into the format.

In all likelihood, they'd still play fine, depending on the player of course. Frankly, after that initial roll-out, I never saw them or heard about them ever again; for that matter, there was little ado over them when they first appeared.

Still, it's rather cool to go into certain Chinatown shops here and see the latest Hollywood releases on VCD, imported "back" to the same continent that rejected the format 15 years ago.