Under the Radar

The Bourne Trilogy Hacks the Digital Transition


Back in the late '80s when I worked my first record company job, one of my co-workers used to talk about getting "full service" on promo copies of new releases.

Big Time was the happening independent label in Los Angeles, so we could trade our new releases for just about any major-label stuff we wanted. "Full service" meant you asked for (and got) three copies of the same title: a vinyl LP to play at home, a cassette tape for the car and a compact disc for "when I get a CD player."

CD players cost $600 back in 1987 and the CDs themselves were selling for $18-20 at retail. None of us could afford to buy them, but we knew they were going to eventually take over. Two years later, vinyl had almost disappeared from stores and cassettes didn't hang around much longer.

Movie studios realize they're in a similar technology transition. Consumers are eventually going to stream anything they want to rent directly to a TV and occasionally download a digital copy to a laptop or a phone. That moment's not quite here yet, but it's coming.

No one's yet figured out how they're going to make money from that business model, something that those of us who've lived through the last ten years in the music business find both depressing and entertaining.

All of which leads us to the "Flipper" disc, a Blu-ray Hi-Def/DVD hybrid that's Universal's attempt to create a modern equivalent of "full service" with Blu-ray on one side and DVD on the other. If you still own a DVD player and haven't upgraded to Blu-ray, you can stop worrying that your discs will be obsolete once you upgrade your system.

If you've got Blu-ray in the living room and DVD in the bedroom, you can watch the disc both places with no complaints from your spouse about why you didn't just stick with the DVD player in both rooms.

Universal has introduced the technology with new release of The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum. The DVD side includes all the bonus features you'd find on a single-DVD release, but the Blu-ray version of each disc adds the kind of interactive and online features that are supposed to be the format's big selling point.

The transfers look great and the discs are priced like a regular Blu-ray new release. This would have been a fantastic idea a couple of years ago, before everyone got a taste of streaming from Netflix and Hulu. "Flipper" will definite be a footnote in five years, but they just might be a good deal if you're stuck in a transition between formats.

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