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usability nightmare: DVD menus

I am sick and tired of DVD menus.

It has gotten so bad that when I buy a new DVD, the first thing I do is look for it on bittorrent so I have a PLAYABLE version of the movie I just paid for.

Any DVD that locks you out of navigation to force you to watch ads or FBI warnings is utter crap. There should be a law requiring all places selling DVDs to clearly label in big red letters if a DVD has done this, and a warning should be on the case as well.

A DVD should work like this:

1. Insert DVD. DVD Cues to the main menu.
2. Press play. The movie begins.

Main menu can have "Upcoming Attractions", Truck and Coke ads, and all that other crap, but it should be opt-in.

Latest movie I bought has the delightful approach that pressing the "MENU" button at any time moves the DVD back to the very beginning, and restarts with a 30 second FBI warning, then plays 25 minutes of previews, THEN shows the main menu. There is NO way to skip the warning and 25 minutes of previews and instead of disabling navigation, they simply make all navigation buttons during the first 25 minutes restart the damn disk.

Another pisser is when I return BS disks like this, the store refuses to accept the refund.

Long live bittorrent.
Monday, August 25, 2008
About the FBI-warning, I've had a similar experience lately when I went to the movies (they sure are expensive nowadays!) : after having sat through numerous ads and upcoming attractions they fed me a 'piracy is bad, mmm-kay' clip. Talk about insulting...
Cat's whiskers
Monday, August 25, 2008
A few solutions:
1, VLC video player software windows/linux, ignores regions, skips FBI warnigns jumps to any chapter.

2, DVD shrink, rips just the movie to disk. Can recompress it to fit onto a single DVD so you can burn a spare copies for the car/travelling.

3, Next time you are at the front of a long queue in HMV/Blockbuster etc read all the small print on your credit card statement to them before handign the card over. If they interrupt, explain you will have to start again. Then offer to do it again in other languages. You can then offer to read all the brochures for your uISV product as 'coming attractions'.
This doesn't actually help - but does make you feel better!
Martin Send private email
Monday, August 25, 2008
ClearPlay ought to produce a DVD player that knows how to bypass the commercials.
Monday, August 25, 2008
And let's not even get into region codes. As an American living in Japan, it gets really annoying if you don't circumvent that scheme.

We also get those "pirates are bad" shorts before movies in Japan, BTW. I don't really get that thinking -- these are the customers we want to keep, so I know: we'll annoy them before every movie!
(User deleted) Send private email
Monday, August 25, 2008
Disney is the worst.  I have a small child so we repeatedly watch many of their movies, and I always have to skip through multiple ads, trailers and other crap to get to the movie.

I also hate discs that insist on using cutsey animation for the menus themselves.  Having to wait for some complex transition to paint every time you cursor through a menu is maddening.
Jason Send private email
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
"I also hate discs that insist on using cutsey animation for the menus themselves.  Having to wait for some complex transition to paint every time you cursor through a menu is maddening."

I've often wondered about that.  Who designs these?  Maybe the first time (that is, the first DVD you ever watch), the effects are nice, but after that it's just slow and annoying.  Yet years after the DVD debuted, they keep doing it.  Why?
Kyralessa Send private email
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
>We also get those "pirates are bad" shorts
I just bought a DVD for granny, the BBC set of Jeeves and Wooster (obviously  a major target for pirates!)
After every episode it runs a loud scary anti-piracy ad which you can't skip.

It took some effort to convince her that she wasn't being shown these because she has done anything wrong - I can't think of a way of explaining why these have to be shown after every episode, everytime!
Martin Send private email
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
They are simply designed to annoy. I can think of no other explanation. But hey, what did we expact when it came out of the same industry that gave us such marvels of usability as the blinking "12:00" on every box.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Funny they're actually annoying people who don't watch pirated movies rather than those who do.
AqD Send private email
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
"Funny they're actually annoying people who don't watch pirated movies rather than those who do."

That's the point. It makes normal people think "If it wasn't for those darned pirates, our lives would be much better. Let's make pirates social outcasts, and never, ever, be a pirate ourselves".

It's just psychology. And the fact that it's the only place you CAN put anti-piracy material without the pirates stripping it out first.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
> It's just psychology.

I wish they'd use reverse psychology..
Cat's whiskers
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Press play to begin?  Why? 

Why not just start the movie when the DVD is inserted?
Friday, August 29, 2008
It could go either way.

VHS typically autostarts IF the protect tab is set, and doesn't otherwise. DVD has no protect tab.

BUT, it does have a number of choices from the main menu. If it autostarts, then I have to stop, then play, autostarts again, damn, ok, menu, right, surround sound settings, directors commentary, on episode 3, up to that, now play.

Also, it often takes 30 seconds or so to spin up, so I'll put the disc in, go get a beer, come bank and press play.
Monday, September 01, 2008
It greatly amused me that someone ripped the awful UK "Piracy its a crime" advert and uploaded it to YouTube!
Monday, September 01, 2008
I'm one of those weird people who actually like the bloopers, listening to the commentaries, and viewing the deleted scenes. I like having choices at the top menu. Thankfully for the rest of you, the film will usually start by pressing the "select" or "play" button at the main menu. That is, when you insert the disk, it takes a total of ONE button press to get the thing playing.

Maybe that could be eliminated with a timer - it could sit at the menu for 15 seconds or so (please, before it loops) and then automatically start the movie. That gives the user a chance to intervene if they want to fiddle around a bit. It's just like pressing a special key during a computer's POST to enter the BIOS Setup. That is, the menus become somewhat opt-in.

And the navigation restrictions on the ads, FBI warnings, and anti-piracy campaigning has GOT to go.
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
> Maybe that could be eliminated with a timer - it could sit at the menu for 15 seconds or so (please, before it loops) and then automatically start the movie.

Seems a little backwards. Since those who actually like to watch the menu are (in your own words ;-) ) the weird ones, the default should annoy least the majority who just want to see the darned film.

Currently, the state of DVD menus is such that in your BIOS example every computer in the world would automatically load the BIOS setup utility every time you start your computer, then force you to hit a button if you were one of those piratical fools who actually wanted to boot the thing.  Oh, and it would make you watch five minutes of anti-pirate propaganda, too.
Not a fan of DVD menus
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
This is a good discussion.  We can only hope that someone who actually designs these annoying DVD menus actually reads this forum.

I'd like to chime in with a couple of other points about the above:

- "Cutesy" animation is bad enough, but what I really hate is the menus that play part of the movie itself!  Hello -- maybe I am one of the six people who haven't seen this movie yet.  Maybe I'd like to be surprised by the suddenly exploding bus, or the surprise cameo.  Just another example of spoilers being used as marketing material.  (I hate any sort of spoiler, but I realize others may disagree with that opinion.)

- As far as previews go, some people actually like them.  I like the approach I've seen on Paramount discs:  It boots up to a simple screen with two choices:  Previews and Main Menu.  Something for both camps (though they still subject you to the FBI crap when you play the flick).

But on to my MAIN pet peeve:

There are thousands upon thousands of people out there who can just barely navigate Windows and AOL, and they are only successful because they learn it by rote (click here, then here, then select that to get my email).  These are the people who are confused by the complete lack of standards on DVD menus.

One small example:  Think of how many ways there are to indicate the "current" selection:  color change, underline, box-in, moving adjacent icon, font change, shading change, and probably many others I can't remember.  For this single reason, I can't get my shut-in mother to overcome her fear of learning how to watch DVDs.  She always asks me why everything is so different, and how can she ever learn it?  So she just watches her CBS reruns over and over, and the DVDs she got for Christmas just gather dust.

My solution?  DVD player manufacturers and studios could get together and come up with the next big thing in DVDs:  EasyMenu(tm).

The DVD designers would code their menus in something akin to proper content-only HTML, and code all the cutesy/awesome/artistic stuff in something akin to CSS, which adds the styles they feel they need.  But there would also be the industry standard EasyMenu(tm) style, which would appear the same way on every disc on every player.  A more tech-savvy friend could set up the new EasyMenu(tm)-equipped DVD player to always use the EasyMenu(tm) style when available.  Then, voila, an easy-to-learn-AND-use DVD menu system.

PLEASE...  someone steal this idea and implement it!  My mom would probably appreciate being able to watch a movie that was created later than 1992!
No comment
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
>Thankfully for the rest of you, the film will usually start by pressing the "select" or "play" button at the main menu. That is, when you insert the disk, it takes a total of ONE button press to get the thing playing.

Did you even bother to read Scott's post?
This is not how many DVDs work.  Instead they insist on showing you trailers/piracy ads before the main menu, and often these cannot be skipped (the navigation button & menu button are disabled).

Some DVDs have the additional annoyance that the DVD menu takes time to load up and so you cannot just press play.  Instead you have to sit and watch the screen for indeterminate time waiting for the machine to be responsive before pressing play.

It's not hard to get this right, but it seems so many people just don't get it.
not the nonno
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
P.S. until they do get this right, DVD shrink will remain very active on my PC, and I will be avoiding bluray.
not the nonno
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Sorry if this is obvious, and everyone already knows it, but just in case it isn't -- here's a tip:

A lot of DVDs will skip over all the initial garbage if you just hit the STOP button, and then the MENU button.  I know it doesn't work all the time, but it surprises me how often it does work.

(Now I'm hoping the DVD guys AREN'T reading this thread...)
No comment
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
I know I'm dating myself, but I hate DVD's in general. I had and have no problems whatsoever with VHS; it always works, you can FF it past any crap that might be there, and it never loses its place. For DVD, by contrast, none of this is true; in particular, I have gone through at least 5 DVD players in 5 years (regardless of price) and even when the player works I regularly get discs that are screwed up in one spot or another. I think the whole switch to DVD did nothing other than enrich the DVD companies.
Greg Send private email
Monday, September 22, 2008

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