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Joone Goes Back on His Original Blu-ray Statements

Porn Valley- [] In some circles, they say Betamax lost to VHS because VHS had more porn titles. Will the adult video industry hold similar sway in the high-def DVD battle?

If so, look no further than Digital Playground, which may not be the most prolific publisher of adult videos, but is probably the most highly regarded, with scores of key awards under its belt–so to speak.

Last year, I spoke with Digital Playground founder Joone–that’s the whole name, just like Cher–after reading that his company would support Blu-ray.

“First and foremost,” he said during the interview, “you get more space with Blu-ray. You usually run out. A person could buy a DVD, and there might be four movies on it. They could just pay to unlock them.”

At the time, he also cited the security of Blu-ray, supposedly superior to HD DVD.

Finally, he said that the Sony Playstation would provide a huge boost to the Blu-ray format, and that “gamers usually buy our stuff a lot.”

Yet, Digital Playground just announced its first four HD titles, and they’re all in HD DVD.

Who cares? Well, a lot of technology developers should. Some $4.28 billion worth of adult videos were sold or rented in 2005, according to Adult Video News. About 1 billion adult videos were rented in 2005. And statistics show that there is affluence among porn aficionados. Some 35% of them have incomes over $75,000. That’s enough to buy a high-def DVD player or two.
Digital Playground on Tech Forefront

Digital Playground is no low-brow porn producer. Joone takes great pride in his cinematography, and in some of the key technologies that emanated from his company.

“It’s so much fun to play with technology,” Joone says. “It’s almost like an R&D place, where you can try new things and not really be worried.”

One of those new things was “interactive sex,” which Joone pioneered in the early 1990s with CD ROM-based videos that put you in the middle of the action.

“You have this girl, and you can put her in any position, change camera angles, change demeanor,” he says. “She can be innocent or nasty. You can record what you’re doing and play it back.”

The folks at Digital Playground were kind enough to send me a care package last year, and the CD ROM isn’t quite as interactive as Joone makes it sound, but still it was pretty darn innovative in its day.

“We pretty much stayed on the forefront of CD ROM, as other companies would basically take their [VHS] titles and put them on a CD ROM. They weren’t creating titles specifically for the format.”

The same would hold true with DVD, as that technology emerged. In 1997, Joone “bet the whole company on DVD. We felt that would be the way. We did not do anything on VHS.”

In fact, the company has been shooting, editing and mastering in HD for more than 3 years. Last year, Joone said, “We have a good library all ready to go.” At the time, Digital Playground had two titles that could be watched in HD via PC: Island Fever 3 and Pirates. Again, Digital Playground was kind enough to send samples, although I didn’t have the gear to watch in HD.

Would I really want to? According to Joone, most definitely.

“People, especially who have never seen high definition, are blown away by it,” he says. “With adult material, when people are having sex in high definition, it feels like they’re in your living room, close to the action.”

That’s a good thing, I guess.

Given Joone’s leanings towards Blu-ray last year, why are his first four titles in HD DVD? I don’t know for sure, but I hope to interview the guy during this week’s Adult Entertainment Expo, held in the Sands Expo next to the Consumer Electronics Show. Yes, I do have a press pass. No, you can’t borrow it.

Last year, Joone said he had a couple of concerns. First, he wondered if Sony, the lead Blu-ray technology developer, would “allow” porn. Initially, there would be few Blu-ray replication houses, and adult video might not be the highest priority. Joone blames Sony for inhibiting porn titles on Betamax way back when.

He also indicated that many of the adult video houses were embracing HD DVD because of that format’s lower cost of production.

The press release announcing Digital Playground’s four HD DVD titles says, “With nearly 500,000 HD DVD players on the market today and more than 2 million expected by the end of 2007, consumers continue to embrace the HD DVD format, buying titles at more than twice the rate of any high definition format.”

By the way, here are the ship dates for Digital Playground’s HD titles: Island Fever 3 ships in HD the week of Jan. 15, followed by Pirates, Jack’s Teen America 3, and Island Fever 4, later in the month.

Digital Playground has over 150 titles on HD.

One reader reminds me that the current Pirates movie that says “HD DVD” on it is just high-resolution format for the PC. It is not the “HD DVD” we know as the standard.

The real HD DVD formatted Pirates has not yet shipped.

By the way, Adult DVD Empire lists only one other HD DVD title, which apparently was the first to ship: Camp Cuddly Pines, winner of AVN’s Best Sex Comedy award.

From Adult DVD’s review:

How much better is the video quality? Well, the biggest complaint I heard (although I didn’t necessarily agree) about the standard version of Camp Cuddly was that all those nighttime scenes were far too dark to see what was going on. If you were one such viewer, you should have no complaints with this hi-def version, since everything is now crisp and clear.

I am reminded that Adult DVD Empire is quite a pioneer in the technology space, doing brisk business with streaming “Porn to go” scenes that are formatted for video iPods and PSPs. The organization also has a Media Center plug-in that allows streaming of titles from their site within the MCE shell. It is downloadable from the Betas section of the site.


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