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Downloadable Film Commentaries Becoming Popular? 101

FilmFan writes "Now that Kevin Smith is offering a downloadable commentary for Clerks 2, will other Directors follow in his footsteps? Some studios think so and are already offering similar content for shows such as Battlestar Galactica, Dr. Who, and Star Trek: Enterprise. Other websites offer fan-created content and even offer a free DVD player capable of playing these downloaded commentaries in sync with a DVD."
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Downloadable Film Commentaries Becoming Popular?

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  • by sammy baby ( 14909 ) on Friday June 30, 2006 @09:24PM (#15640877) Journal
    The commentary for Enterprise must have been great.

    "We really liked the way the "spreading the goo" scene... uh... brought out the... um..."


    "Yeah! The characters, and their, um... personalities."

    "Yeah. It really heightened the dramatic..."


    "Or something."
    • At least its not: "Here's a scene where we.. um, intended Leonard to show us some emotion" "Yeah, but Shatner stole it" "Again"
    • by Russ Steffen ( 263 ) on Saturday July 01, 2006 @12:56AM (#15641571) Homepage
      You think that's bad, check out some of the commentary from the DVD....

      Director 1 : (snoring)

      Director 2 : (snoring)

      Recording Tech: Are you guys going to do some commentary, or just sleep out the rest of the episode?

      D1: *wakes up* What?

      D2: *wakes up" Where am I?

      RT: You're recording comentary for "Enterprise", Season 4, Episode 11, titled "Observer Effect"

      D2: Hey, are like one of those super-nerd fans that has every episode memorized?

      RT: No. I've got it written on a fucking sticky-note so that there's at least a chance it will end up attached to the right episode on the DVD. No one - and I mean no one - has your show memorized.

      D2: (Dejected) Oh

      D1: Wait, so what was happening before we nodded off?

      RT: Well, we got through the opening credits okay.

      D1: Excellent.

      RT: Then 3 minutes into act 1 you both got bored and wandered out to the parking lot and played hacky-sack for a while. Then you came back in here and slept for 20 minutes.

      D1: Hmmm.

      RT: I kept the audio track rolling the whole time.

      D2: Really? Why?

      RT: Frankly, the snoring was the most interesting thing I've heard come out of either of you.

      D1: Can I have you fired?

      RT: No. I don't work for you. And besides, I'm in The Union. I could piss in your coffee and all my boss could do is come in here and give me a stern look.

      D1: Odd that he's standing right next to you, giving you a stern look right now...

      D2: (distant slurp) Hey, does this coffee taste funny to anyone else?

      RT: Okay guys, we've got 3 minutes left in this episode. Either of you want to share any of your "razor wit" before we put this one in the can?

      D1: Yeah I got something to add.

      (Clears throat)

      At this point in the show I had the writing process nailed down to a science. It used to be that writers for Star Trek would use a little placeholder word, "tech," which would be filled in with other words, like "anomaly" or "photon torpedo", by the production staff.

      I went one step further. I fired all the writers and replaced them chimps. Chimps chained to typewriters. And those typewriters, had just two keys - "dialog" and "tech".

      And those chimps produced page after page of glorious manuscripts. They were like two-note symphonies of "dialog" and "tech". And those chimps did all of this for me out respect for my talent as a director. And fear of getting hit with a cattle prod. But mostly respect. And fear.

      So I would take these manuscripts and I'd have them sent off to some third-world country where 8 year old children, who spoke not a word of English, would slave away 20 hours a day in squalid and dangerous conditions to replace those "dialog" and "tech" placeholders with the dialog you hear in the show.

      D2: And the quality of that process really shows in the finished product.

      RT: Why, exactly are child labor and "squalid and dangerous" conditions necessary for this?

      D1: You have to suffer to produce great art!


      Anyway, someone has to suffer for my art.

      RT: Well, we are all suffering because of your art.

      D1: Yes, well. The streamlining of this process really helped me manage my time. I'm a very busy man.

      D2: Why don't you tell us all what keeps you so busy.

      D1: Ah yes. You see, I'm destroying science fiction. I buy the original master prints of classic science fiction films, and then I burn them.

      D2: You burn them?

      D1: Yes. Sometimes I shit on them first. But mostly I just burn them.

      In fact, while filming this episode I spent most of my time on the Paramount backlot burning the last master copy of "2001: A Space Odyssey".

      Actually, I didn't burn the whole copy, though. The makeup for the alien in this episode is made from little fragments of the famous "Starchild" scene. It gives the eyebrow ridges a

  • Scrubs did this too (Score:5, Interesting)

    by the_unknown_soldier ( 675161 ) on Friday June 30, 2006 @09:26PM (#15640884)
    Scrubs did this too, except while the show was on air. They released the commentary of a repeat and then you were meant to listen to the commentary while it was on NBC. It was a cool idea but I could never quite get it to sync up perfectly. The mp3's are still [] online too.
  • iPod + Movie (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MassEnergySpaceTime ( 957330 ) on Friday June 30, 2006 @09:30PM (#15640899)
    I guess having an iPod would drown out the noise from the crying babies, the ringing cell phones, and the talking loudmouth.

    More seriously (and less grumpily) though, it's definitely a neat way for fans who really enjoyed the movie the first time to get more out of it the second time. I give them credit for coming up with a new *positive* experience for watching movies, instead of advertisements and commercials, and etc etc.

    Prepare for the next buzzword: Moviecasts!
    • Even that (as stupid as it sounds) is going to be better than what ends up as the "accepted" term, which clearly will be commentary podcast or codcast or something. Who idiot thought up "podcast" and how are we going to hold those responsible to account for spreading it? Dumbest-buzzword-ever.
    • They're still not getting rid of the half-hour of crap before the feature, so I'm much happier watching DVDs. What a waste of time.

      I think most people will come to see it (downloadable commentaries) as a cash grab by the ever-faltering MPAA. Go see the same movie twice at the *shudder* theatre? Not a chance. Wait for the DVD commentary if I care that much.

      It's already hard enough to enjoy a movie in a theatre. Apparently, the majority of parents have failed to raise respectful, considerate people.
  • Second Aduio Program (Score:5, Interesting)

    by redphive ( 175243 ) on Friday June 30, 2006 @09:50PM (#15640969) Homepage
    This would be an excellent use of Second Audio Program (SAP) for TV shows. It would always be in sync, it wouldn't require anything to download/play, and most modern TVs support it any way. Everyone speaks english, so what is the big deal?
    • "Everyone speaks english, so what is the big deal?" Except for, you know, those people who haven't learned English yet.
    • Ummm, SAP is not always Spanish. It's also sometimes used to provide descriptive audio
      about events on the screen (increaaing the "watchability" of a show for the blind).
      This use might be more prevalent on PBS though.
    • My apologies to those who, for obvious reasons, didn't appreciate my sense of humor, I should have put a bit more thought into it.

      The thing about 'Everyone speaking english' was meant to be funny, and I suppose wasn't.

      That said, it did raise a few interesting discussions. Most programs that I view do not have any SAP information, and rarely provide French programming.

      My bad
    • Actually I experienced a creative use of SAP a couple years back. I was channel surfing and landed on some very young children's show. It was one of those ones where it was basically an adaptation of a kids book in to a 10 minute animated show.

      Anyway, I can't remember why I switched on SAP, but when I did, I was surprised to find out that all it did was add narration to the whole thing. Whereas the normal show just has the dialog, the SAP added what I assume was the original text from whatever book this
  • by yndrd ( 529288 ) on Friday June 30, 2006 @09:54PM (#15640981) Homepage
    Maybe. Depending upon who does the recording.

    I always thought it would be interesting to have different people commenting on movies than those involved with making them. Critics, sure, but maybe directors influenced by the film or historians or other knowledgeable folks.

    It'd be like watching the movie in the company of someone interesting.

    Wow. That is such a Slashdot comment. "Uh...I have a date with Natalie Portman tonight. We're watching...uh...Casablanca."

    That said, I do sometimes prefer the "Pop-Up Video" style commentaries (formatted like a subtitle, maybe).
  • a really nifty player. I just tried it. I can't believe I never heard of this before. Anyone else like it? I was using Media Player Classic but that still makes things awkward: like reverse is simple to do on my set top DVD player yet a pain with MPC. It's a frickin' breeze with this program. It works more like a normal DVD player. The only problem is the skin is ugly, but I'm sure I can change that.
  • This is great for those studying filmography, animation, or acting; depending of course on the quality of the commentary. The director talking about what kind of doughnoughts were on the snack table the day they shot a certain scene is obviously no help, but commentaries where the director or other cast/crew talk about the process of making the film can be very insightful to students.
    • I can think of pegagogical uses, too. For instance, it sounds like a useful way for students to do their own critiques of films/TV shows.

      I teach film/TV studies and I could see an assignment in which students create an audio version of an analysis of, say, Citizen Kane. They could talk about the film's visual and sound style right over the film itself.

      I don't suppose Sharecrow (or another DVD player) allows you to program in pauses in the playback. That would make it even more useful for analytical purpo

  • Shiny! (Score:4, Informative)

    by peacefinder ( 469349 ) <> on Friday June 30, 2006 @10:18PM (#15641065) Journal
    Don't forget the downloadable commentaries for Firefly. []
    • Don't forget the downloadable commentaries for Firefly.

      Pitty these have nothing to do with Firefly at all. I started listening to the first one and it sounds like a few guys doing a radio show on geek related topics.
      • No warranty expressed or implied, including warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose. Product may not actually be the smoothest ride from here to Boros for them that can pay, but is generally accepted as smooth enough. Caveat emptor. Offer void where prohibited. Your mileage may vary. See dealer for details.
  • I generaly like commentaries on my DVDs so that after I watch it 'clean, I can listen to people talk about it while I watch it again. I find it adds a great deal of value to a DVD. Do I want to pay another $10 to watch a movie while I listen, no, I'll save it to buy the DVD. That said, commentaires to older movies are generally better then hearing what anyone has to say about a film that just came out. Especially when some commentaries are just love fests between all the actors and crew so they don't pi
  • by kyc ( 984418 )

    I think this is a pretty cool idea. Most of the time, I am sure, most of us try (while watching a film we adore maybe for the 5th time ) to look through the glasses of the director(of an impressive film). I don't think that this will apply to mediocre action films or romantic comedies, however imagine that there is a thorough documentation by Kubrick ( with his lively and agressive style) while you are wathcing Clockwork Orange. OR imagine what Lynch had to say about the bizarre final of Mul
  • I've downloaded a couple of commentaries for different things, and some of them are pretty well done. The Leaky Cauldron [] did a commentary for the Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire DVD, which came with no commentary. It was nice to have a commentary by people who were actually on the set.
    In general, I've found that some of them are really good, and add a lot to the experience- especially if the commentary is by people who have some clue as to what was going on during the filming. Other times unfortunat
  • Well, I guess it depends on the audience. The "American Beauty" commentary is an excellent insight as far as cinematography is concerned. It really appeals to potential moviemakers -- you pay attention to a lot of detail. It's like a free seminar. The commentary for Ghostbusters is excellent (including shadows). You appreciate the elements of writing and how they are translated into a good movie. I wish I had a commentary track for Eyes Wide Shut with Stanley, for instance.

    They are not for everyone, I ag
  • Now everyone can be a smartass and make fun of movies.
    • How 'bout an over-under for the date the MPAA sues somebody who makes a wildly popular negative commentary that becomes more popular than the film? I'll also lay 3:2 they try to use copyright to enjoin the commentators.
      • If the software doesn't let you script a cross-fade between the commentary and the movie audio requiring the commentary to be premixed with the movie's soundtrack, then yes, it is very likely that the MPAA would sue, and the RIAA as well over any included music.

        They'll have to buy some new laws though that prevent you from scripting a performance atop an existing performance.

        How did that case about Clean Flicks go? I haven't seen anything new since [] 2002 [].

        Another related story [].
  • Fantastic. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TheNoxx ( 412624 ) on Friday June 30, 2006 @10:50PM (#15641163) Homepage Journal
    I don't know about the average man or slashdotter, but one of my favorite things in this world are commentaries on DVDs for good movies.... particularly for Kurosawa movies.

    One wierd thing I've noticed on commentaries for movies that were released before the invention of DVDs is that they, too, were recorded years before the DVD came onto market... I've heard several introductions for commentaries mark that they were created in '92 or so. I've always wondered why film studios would go to the trouble of booking notable figures in the film industry as well as prominent actors for commentaries before they knew what the hell kind of format would support them. Just a thought.
    • ...The original (not the abomination of a remake that had no soul, no purpose, & no message) "Rollerball". I own the DVD for this and it comes with a fantastic commentary track, including all kinds of depth. I'd always loved the movie, and I found that what I loved about it dovetailed nicely with what the director had been trying to do.

    • That is the upside of signing a contract with the devil.
    • They did know: the commentaries were for Laserdisc [].
      • Yeah, LaserDisc. You know, that format that many people dump on as being a failure (sometimes saying BluRay or HD-DVD will be a failure like LaserDisc).

        LaserDisc may not have been huge, but it lasted a long time and it was WAY ahead of its time. The industry learned a lot from LaserDisc, not the least of which was how to soak top videophiles for enormous amounts of dough. LaserDisc players were expensive, and the discs also. And top tier of LD people went from composite to component and from stereo to digit
    • Of which my favourite is the commentary for (Kevin Smith movie) 'Chasing Amy' - recorded for the Criterion Laserdisc, and included on the Criterion DVD (which you should all buy, by the way)...

      It's well summed up by the specially recorded new intro, in which Kevin Smith says 'and on the commentary you might hear someone who sounds a lot like me saying"fuck DVD" - I would like to go on the record as saying it wasn't me, I never said it, I love DVDs' in his usual dead-pan style.

      Sure enough the commentary refe
    • recorded years before the DVD came onto market... I've heard several introductions for commentaries mark that they were created in '92 or so. I've always wondered why film studios would go to the trouble...

      For the (Pioneer) laserdisc release. These were available from the late 70s; especially popular in Japan. Criterion did a lot of laserdiscs movies with exras like commentary tracks.

    • The fact that someone posted this...and that it took several more comments before someone remembered laserdisc...makes me feel really, really ooooooold...
  • One of the most interesting DVD filmmaker commentaries I've ever heard was for a bad movie. On the Lost in Space movie DVD, the filmmakers went into detail about what they'd aimed for in a given scene, why it didn't work, and what they originally planned -- which always sounded more interesting than what made it onscreen. That commentary told as much about the realities of filmmaking as do the commentaries you hear on far better films.

    I'm not talking about an MST3K-style lampoon of terrible films, but m

    • You jest about mst3k style commentaries, but with hi capacity DVD's there is no reason they couldn't use the extra room to do a number of commentary tracks, including one by the guys from MST3K. I'd buy more cruddy films on DVD if I knew it had an MST3K track built in. Could be a new revenue stream.
    • How about a commentary track of Highlander II? It'd be painful to spend 90 minutes seeing that turd and listening to Russell Mulcahy bitch about how the producers forced him to use that stupid bad sci-fi plot and pretty much ruined his career (though he's now doing the 3rd Resident Evil movie).
  • There are fans who do MST3K-style riffing, something like "commentaries". It would be cool to download some formatted overlays.

    Tragically, it's never the same of course..... I miss that show.

  • Petfly (Danny Bilson and Paul DeMeo), the producers of "The Flash" and "The Sentinel", are providing episode commentary in the form of podcasts ( It's a pretty interesting concept - who wouldn't love to hear, say, Bob Newhart commenting on episodes of both "The Bob Newhart Show" and "Newhart", for example?
  • My first thought reading this was, "Hey... anybody could make one of those!" Just sit there with a microphone while you watch the movie (with the sound in headphones to avoid bleed in to the commentary track), and you too can explain why Matrix Reloaded was the best movie of the trilogy, scene by scene.

    Ok, not so exciting. But, it might be more interesting to hear extra commentary from the actors or crew after the DVD release, or from other interesting people (like, say, Kevin Smith or Joss Whedon's take
    • Well yeah, anybody CAN make their own commentary tracks. As the original article said, sites like Sharecrow are doing a great job keeping track of the growing alternate commentary community out there.

      We already have big groups like Renegade Commentaries, MMM Commentaries, DVD Podblast, Sonic Cinema et al all doing their own thing, with styles ranging from the serious (MMM Commentaries) to the totally irreverant (DVD Podblast).
  • This seems like the perfect opportunity for Kevin Smith to make a small portion of the audience laugh during a "serious" scene and ruin the movie for the people who haven't seen it yet. Great prank. Wish I thought of that. At least, that's what I would have done if I were Kevin Smith, but then again, I'm an asshole.
  • It's Doctor Who, not Dr. Who.
  • [] A guy I met at church is working on this project.

    I really enjoyed watching firefly and battlestar galactica with my friends.. our emotional responces built on eachothers. buddytv may allow friends to give commentaries to other friends? I haven't looked into it that much...
  • While I don't think just any random person should be making commentary on every movie they can think of (but if they want to, that's cool), I know a lot of people who know *way* more about film than I do, and would like to hear some of them rambling in a TrackZero style during some of my favourite movies. [] has been doing this for a while, and sometimes it's funny, sometimes it's not, but hey, they're doing it.
  • was doing these in 2003 ... old news. :)
  • by thedbp ( 443047 ) on Saturday July 01, 2006 @02:05AM (#15641725)
    Shameless plug for a great piece of software for Mac OS X called Peanut Gallery [] from RONIN NO SAKURA KAI SOFTRONICS.

    Basically, it makes inventive use of some Mac OS X video technologies to allow people to do running MST3K-style commentary in real time over a LAN or the internet, complete w/ shadow avatars and a theatre-like presentation. It even comes with a bunch of public domain movies like Night of the Living Dead and Refer Madness so you can start heckling right away. Unfortunately, my Mac isn't powerful enough to use this software (my old ass 1999 vintage B&W is finally starting to get long in the tooth) but I've seen it demoed and it is KILLER. Tons of fun.

    From the site:
    "You and up to 7 guests can enjoy video or audio from local files, your .Mac iDisk, or the World Wide web, complete with pre-rolls, intermission and Core Video-Powered theater-like visual effects.
    Interact with each other via Maya-rendered 30fps* animated characters, inline real-time text chat, and voice.
    Peanut Gallery isn't just a video player - it's a Shared Media Experience!"

    Check it out! Its quite a lot of fun.
  • Err, no it isn't.

    Requirements: ...
    A directshow compatible DVD player installed

    It's a free add-on to an existing DVD player. It can't play DVDs by itself.

    (This is an important correction, as I've been looking for a free DVD player for windows other than Media Player Classic for a while, and don't have a directshow DVD player installed)
    • I've been looking for a free DVD player for windows other than Media Player Classic for a while, and don't have a directshow DVD player installed

      Have you tried VLC? I use it on OS X and FreeBSD to play DVDs, and it works on Windows too.

    • The ability to play DVDs should be free. If you buy a DVD, why should you have to buy the right to view it? Shouldn't it be implied that you're going to view it when you buy the disc? So why should you have to pay extra to "license" the DVD decryption scheme to play the DVD you already bought? This whole "pay to buy protected media and then pay for a player that can get past the protection so you can play it" thing is bullshit.
      • Well, that doesn't make sense at all. Are you saying they should hand you a free DVD player each time you purchase a DVD movie? Give you a free car when you attain your licence?
        • No, I'm saying they shouldn't charge you for the ability. For example, if you have a DVD player on Linux such as Totem, you should be able to play DVDs without having to pay for the ability to decrypt them. Right now, distros don't include libdvdcss because you have to pay to do this. The DVD player itself is free software, and you paid for a DVD, but you allegedly have to pay a second time, for the use of the IP in libdvdcss presumably (or something in its place), to play the DVD you already paid for.
  • So I'm watching the movie the first time and I'm sitting next to someone listening to the commentary on their ipod? Yes, it could truly achieve the impossible - and make me hate Clerks II even than I hated Clerks I...
  • Just to note, the blurb suggests that Sharecrow's site is providing the commentaries. While it does aggregate links to a bunch of different commentary sites, the main place where aspiring commentators can have their commentaries hosted (first one is hosted free, others have a small fee--or you can link to files hosted elsewhere for free) is Commentary Central []. This replaces the defunct DVDTracks site that Slashdot covered previously, which went defunct several years ago.

    I'd also like to plug the commentary []
  • Yes, it's nice to get something for free, and the commentaries may be fun, but remember - anything on the internet is temporary. The url is bound to be moved at some point, so these commentaries are nothing on having a commentary on the disc itself.

"I will make no bargains with terrorist hardware." -- Peter da Silva