The Dark Knight on Blu-ray: Informational Sprawl


The Dark Knight will be released on DVD and Blu-ray December 9th, and the latest issue of Rolling Stone has it at the top of its new release list for 2008. One line of the review jumped out at me:

“Factor in BD-Live, which connects your Blu-ray player to the Internet, and countless hours of BD extras, and you’ll never need to go out again.”

This is on top of two discs worth of the movie + special bonus features. Everyone knows that the capacity of Blu-ray discs is allowing for higher quality video, but what is the quality of these bonus features? More importantly, how many people are actually going to watch them?

I would be interested to see a graph that plots the correlation between media storage capacity and the quality of the material being stored, namely for music and movies. Start with LPs, an analog format that, initially, was capable of holding 45 minutes worth of music, and culminating in today’s Blu-ray format that can hold up to 50 GB worth of information (any type of data can be stored, including music and video). Blu-ray could equate to hundreds upon hundreds of hours of audio, but is currently used as a format for films. It can handle high quality video and audio, with plenty of room left over for deleted scenes, alternate endings, behind-the-scenes featurettes… and anything else the filmmakers can think to add.

When given a large amount of space, people desperately try to find a way to fill it. After all, nature abhors a vacuum.
But I argue that that as capacity increases, the aesthetic and artistic quality of the material stored tends to decrease and lose impact.

If you give an filmmaker 1 hour’s worth of film to create a masterpiece, and give another filmmaker 10 hours worth of film, the first filmmaker is likely to create the more impressive result. The reason is because people become more creative when they are faced with limitations. With more space to fill, an artist will start to reach for the second- and third-best takes simply to fill that space–not necessarily to create a better work of art. (A fact that Coldplay is illustrating nicely these days…)

The Dark Knight Blu-ray disc increased its Informational Sprawl infinitely by utilizing the internet to expand its storage capacity. Consumers now have more features than they know what to do with and, as a result, most won’t even bother to watch them at all. Informational Sprawl leads to paralysis. When faced with too many choices, the path of least resistance is to choose none.

And there lies the irony of the format wars. We now have the highest quality video that no one is looking at.


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