Studios' HD-DVD choice miffs director

The decision by Paramount and DreamWorks Animation to exclusively back HD DVD may have garnered the studios financial incentives valued at a reported $150 million, but it seems to have irked at least one high-profile filmmaker in the process.

“No ‘Transformers 2′ for me!” wrote helmer Michael Bay in a post on his personal Web forum (headline: “Paramount pisses me off!”) that was widely circulated Tuesday. “I want people to see my movies in the best formats possible. For them to deny people who have Blu-ray sucks!”

By the end of the day, however, Bay had softened his stance after speaking to Par brass and taken down his original post, replacing it with the following:

“Last night at dinner I was having dinner with three Blu-ray owners, they were pissed about no ‘Transformers’ Blu-ray and I drank the Kool-Aid hook, line and sinker. So at 1:30 in the morning I posted — nothing good ever comes out of early a.m. posts mind you — I overreacted. I heard where Paramount is coming from and the future of HD and players that will be close to the $200 mark which is the magic number. I like what I heard.

“As a director, I’m all about people seeing films in the best quality possible, and I saw and heard first-hand people upset about a corporate decision.

“So today I saw ‘300’ on HD, it rocks!

“So I think I might be back on to do Transformers 2!”

Bay was unavailable for comment.

Other directors have expressed a preference for Blu-ray, the format with which Par and DreamWorks officially cut ties Monday. Notable in the studios’ announcement was fine printexempting Steven Spielberg’s films from HD DVD exclusivity.

“Steven is a supporter of Blu-ray, but he is not exclusive to either format,” said DreamWorks marketing exec Marvin Levy, who has worked extensively with Spielberg in the past. Still, Levy confirmed that Spielberg has blessed Sony’s 30th anniversary release of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” on Blu-ray.

In February, the HD DVD Promotions Group issued an apology for listing three of Spielberg’s films as upcoming HD DVD releases.

Adding additional support for Blu-ray has come from Jerry Bruckheimer, whose first two “Pirates of the Caribbean” installments have already been released in the format.

Bruckheimer, commenting recently on the Blu-ray cheerleading blog Hollywoodinhidef.com, noted the format’s “flawless presentation of picture and sound that far surpasses any other format.”

Notwithstanding the myriad allegiances, incentives and grudges that motivate Hollywood, consumer electronics analyst Richard Doherty says Blu-ray’s larger disc capacity is the key reason for the technology’s greater traction among filmmakers so far.

“For directors who are always vexed by the question, ‘How do I get this down to two hours?,’ having that extra disc capacity creates a lot of peace of mind,” said Doherty, who added that helmers covet those extra megabytes to deliver reams of extra linear footage in high-def.

HD DVD backers, meanwhile, tout their format’s superior ability to provide interactive applications. But studios also like it because the manufacturing costs are lower.

Paramount and DreamWorks were reportedly inspired to go HD DVD-only after following the commitment of promotional considerations that totaled $50 million for Par and $100 million for DreamWorks, although neither studio would confirm these dealings.

“It could be a commitment to purchase X number of ‘Shrek 3’s for an Xbox promotion or a special holiday Toshiba promotion,” Doherty said. “For DreamWorks, $100 million is a sizable shot.”

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