Why Laserdiscs Rock

Even with about 400 DVD's on my shelf, there's something about laserdiscs that makes them such a huge collectable. In a recent issue of Video Store Magazine, E-bay reported a significant increase in sales in their laserdisc category. That's not that surprising for a variety of reasons, notably "Star Wars." That's getting a bit ahead of the game though. There's a reason for this resurgence that goes a bit beyond one movie. Actually, there's quite a few:

1. Extra features: Numerous laserdiscs, from "Alien" to "Jaws" have numerous extra features and documentaries not included on the DVD editions. That makes them highly desirable. The documentary on "Jaws" is absolutely wonderful and highly personal. It's far better than anything included on the DVD.

2. They look great: Looking at a shelf of laserdiscs is a might impressive sight, especially with some of the bigger box sets. The "Star Wars Definitive Collection" comes with a ton of extras, including a beautiful book. That "Jaws" set includes the soundtrack and Peter Benchley's book. Sure, some DVD's do this, but hardly with this much regularity or class.

3. Price: Laserdiscs are cheap, period. Yes, some are highly sought after (like that "Star Wars" set mentioned above), but you can amass a large collection in no time for less than $3 a disc. The only real challenge if figuring out a way to get around the shipping charges. Not only are they big, but they're heavy too. Numerous sellers are blowing out their stock via E-bay and other online auction sites. You can find plenty of them offering heavily discounted or even free shipping. Sorry, online retailers are about the only way to go. Pawnshops might not be a bad choice though. Never know what you'll find there.

4. Picture quality: Ok, hooking a player up to your new HDTV is not recommended. They'll look pretty ugly unless you invest some real cash. On a standard set, they'll produce a wonderful picture. There are two formats, CAV and CLV. CAV gives you the slightly better picture of the two but requires more discs (which of course ups the shipping). The second trade off is the amount of extras and features CAV can offer. Even better, some movies, like "War of the Worlds," actually look better on laserdisc than their DVD counterpart (though that is a rare occurrence admittedly).

5. Widescreen/OAR: Ah yes. Thanks to laserdisc, movies finally came around to the proper aspect ratios. There are numerous pan & scan discs out there, but you can easily track down the proper widescreen version. These movies are letterboxed and not anamorphic so they won't stretch to fit that new widescreen TV (actually, a few do, but those are way out of the normal human beings price range and impossible to find). Then again, they shouldn't be hooked up to that new TV anyway.

6. Movies not available on DVD: Want to watch "King Kong" on DVD? Not tonight you won't. There's a brilliant laserdisc Criterion Collection set out there. How about the "real" version of "Star Wars" where Han shoots first? Not on DVD. That's one of the main reasons laserdiscs have seen a surge in popularity. Everyone is clamoring for that latter set (which has also pushed the price up) and must be grabbing a few other discs while their browsing. Either way, you can find quite a few movies out there that are not (and may not be) available on DVD.

Of course laserdiscs are far from perfect. Their insane size makes them hard to handle, their picture simply isn't as good as DVD, they're heavy, they suffer from "laser rot," the players can be loud, and everyone thinks you mean DVD when you say laserdisc (or they just think you're nuts). For more detailed information, here's a great site with a list of FAQ's about the format that can get you started if you find yourself interested in this great format.

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