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Real world article
(written from a Production point of view)

DVD (short for Digital Versatile [or Video] Disc) is a digital standard-definition (SD) optical disc home video entertainment format in the standard 120mm optical disc size format. Enjoying its market introduction in late 1996, the digital format was developed in the early 1990s by Sony and Philips, and constituted a giant leap forward over the Betamax or VHS magnetic videotape formats where picture resolution and sound quality were concerned. In the sound department the DVD was able to incorporate a 5.1 surround sound track, a huge improvement over Betamax/VHS as that magnetic tape format was only able to integrate a stereo audio track. Additionally, the format allowed for special features to be added alongside the main feature. These advantages over VHS ultimately led to the decline of that format, as indeed it did for the contemporary optical disc format contenders VCD (ironically also from Philips) and LaserDisc for similar reasons.

Despite the fact that a consumer needed to operate a new playback devise to access a DVD, the format became a breakout success from the time it was introduced. This was, aside from the intrinsic picture and sound quality, in equal measure due to the physical characteristics of the new format. Ease of disc handling and accessibility of a film or television production on the disc was greatly enhanced over the more cumbersome magnetic videotape, whereas the physical size of the medium was only a fraction of that of a videotape with both disc storage capacity and longevity being far superior to that of a videotape, which was susceptible to mechanical wear and tear, causing picture and sound quality to degrade over time contrary to the constant quality of a DVD (provided a disc was properly stored as an optical disc is moist and natural light sensitive, something a magnetic tape is also and in even greater measure susceptible to). For collectors, such as those of Star Trek, size and greater disc storage capacity meant that substantial physical space savings could be realized in their homes. Whereas a full season of a Star Trek series comprised of around thirteen two-episode videotapes, the series on DVD would only take up six or seven of the much smaller four-episode discs; a full seven season series of, for example, Star Trek: The Next Generation on DVD, took up the same, or, depending on the packaging, even less space than one of its respective seasons on VHS. These were the same qualities that had also played a substantial part in the break-out success its preceding and similar music Compact Disc (CD) format enjoyed in equal measure a decade earlier. Add to this the increasingly elaborate array of included special features, and the success of the format was almost from the very start assured as far as (Star Trek) motion picture collectors were concerned. [1]

Adoption of the new format was accelerated as it also used the same dissemination method that had made its magnetic tape predecessor so successful, the (physical) video rental circuit. Netflix in effect, before it evolved a decade later into the full-fledged streaming service it became renowned as, actually started out in 1997 as a DVD (later complemented with the Blu-ray Disc as well) mail rental service and a quite successful one at that, having been the first company to employ the mailing rental business model hard on the heels of the introduction of the then still newfangled DVD home video format. [2] Most classic (retail) rental companies also carried basic players, customers, not yet owning one of their own, could borrow to watch their rented products, strongly aiding the acceptance of the format. However, it also made the rental circuit increasingly redundant, when prices of both discs and players started to drop to the point where the home video rental circuit had all but disappeared – it was only in September 2023, long after the classic rental circuit had passed into history, that Netflix ceased their mail rental activities as well, thereby becoming not only the first but also the last home video disc format rental company. [3] The videotape format did not disappear overnight though, as it continued to exist a while longer as television recording devise (in the process serving to preserve many Star Trek TV specials not included on any of the later home media formats, with many of them later posted on YouTube), a feature not carried by the DVD format, until digital alternatives became available in the 2000s. However, as a prerecorded home video entertainment consumable, the era of the magnetic videotape format was over, the moment the DVD became widely available. In this, the DVD format has also greatly benefited from the rise of the online retailer in the same era, of which was one of the more conspicuous ones, and the ease of which in combination with with the price-fall, becoming the additional reason for the disappearance of the classic rental circuit.

A commercial success story for the better part of two decades in which it became a near universal standard and home presence, the DVD went into (a slow) decline itself with the advent of the even more superior Blu-ray disc format in 2006 – though its acceptance was hindered by the universal success of its predecessor, acknowledged as such by Hollywood studios, who as of 2019 still concurrently release their new productions in both formats, and Blu-ray player manufacturers whose products are virtually all capable to play DVD discs as well – causing the DVD-only players being taken out of production.

Preceded by their music CD counterpart a decade earlier, both however, also started to suffer far more significantly from the more recent, late 2000s/early 2010s, advent of the increasingly popular digital video-on-demand (VoD) streaming services as provided by such companies as, most conspicuously, Netflix, and where Star Trek was concerned on the home market, CBS All Access [4] becoming in essence the successor to the classic (retail) rental circuit. It has become this circumstance in particular which became the primary cause for the DVD-era finally starting to draw to a close as producers, emboldened to do so henceforth, began to increasingly dispense with DVD counterparts for their Blu-ray releases. In Star Trek's case the first known such instance concerned the 2013 Star Trek: The Original Series - Origins Blu-ray release, followed in 2016 by those for Star Trek 50th Anniversary TV and Movie Collection (save for a single Australian Region 4 DVD one), 10 Movie Star Trek Collector's Set - Limited Edition Steelbook Collection, and Star Trek: The Original Series - The Roddenberry Vault. More recently, Star Trek Trilogy: The Kelvin Timeline became one such release in 2019.

The Walt Disney Company became the very first major producer to start sounding the death knell of the physical home video format when it announced on 31 July 2023 that it would cease any and all DVD and Blu-ray disc sales of their productions in Australia, expressly emphasizing that it was done to further favor the digital streaming format. [5][6][7] As already indicated above, this was two months later followed by the disappearance of the last disc rental outlet operated by Netflix, its demise in no small part due to the success of the company's very own streaming services.


DVD releases are divided into separate regions, to restrict the areas specific discs can be played. The following is a guide to the regions and which areas of the world they relate to:

Region Country Map
"Region free" releases
A map of the world's DVD regions.
1 US, Canada, US territories
2 Japan, Europe, South Africa, Middle East (including Egypt), French Guiana
3 East and South East Asia (including Hong Kong and Macau)
4 Oceania, Central and South America, the Caribbean
5 Russia, former Soviet republics, the Indian sub-continent, Africa, North Korea, Mongolia
6 China

While consumers and collectors in particular deeply loathed the geo-restriction format, there had been valid business reasons involved for its usage initially; at the time of the introduction of the DVD, the near simultaneously worldwide roll-out of a new Hollywood production as currently employed, was not yet in place, meaning a production (and therefore its derivative home video formats) debuted in different places at different times. Japan and other eastern Asian countries, for example could habitually lag for almost up to a year behind the USA where theatrical film premieres were concerned. The geo-restriction was intended as a protection measure for not only theater owners and broadcasters who still had to show these productions in the lagging territories, but also for Hollywood studio affiliated local branches of home video entertainment distributors, such as CIC Video, justifying their existence. In the latter case, these local branches enjoyed a certain measure of autonomy in regard to regional marketing strategies, often resulting in regional differences in DVD releases, especially where the inclusion, or, more grievously, exclusion of special features was concerned, not rarely to the frustration of collectors located in other regions, those of Star Trek included.

DVD player manufacturers were enforced by Hollywood studios to build these restrictions into their marketed players as well – either by software, hardware or, ideally, both – , so that for example a Region 2 player was only able to play a Region 2 disc, that is in theory at least as less scrupulous dealers were able to quite easily circumvent (whether or not surreptitiously aided by the manufacturers themselves as software patches in particular were regularly leaked on the internet in the DVD-era) the restricting player measures for their customers. Geo-restriction became a major contributing factor to the pervasive problem of piracy – combating this having most ironically been one of the primary reasons for the employment of the region encoding format to begin with – , especially in regions 3, 5 and 6, and one of the reasons why the non-restricted VCD format held out for so long in these regions, long after it went defunct elsewhere in the world. The VCD had in the intervening years become the medium of choice for pirated copies in these regions, which in turn, alongside the proliferating (illegal) digital dissemination possibilities through the internet, forced Hollywood, including Paramount Pictures and CBS Studios Inc., to eventually adopt the for them more expensive near simultaneous worldwide roll-out format for both their productions and resultant home media formats, essentially conceding the ultimate failure of the geo-restriction format.

This in turn has led to the increasing redundancy of geo-restricting the home media releases, as is evidenced for the Blu-ray successor. While still employed – with keeping local distributors alive as the only remaining rationale – more and more regular releases are in effect becoming region-free (regardless of what the packaging might state as was the case with the more recent Star Trek films Blu-ray releases) with contents standardized for the entire world. This however, is not the case for the DVD where the geo-restriction format is still upheld in full force, and which can not be otherwise explained as an additional release policy by impatient production companies to coerce consumers further to make the switch from DVD to Blu-ray already. Ironically though – and utterly negating the coercing policies of production companies – an increasing number of Blu-ray player manufacturers, among others Panasonic and Philips, endow their more recent, high-end models with the standard built-in ability to play DVDs from all regions while maintaining the Blu-ray region restriction, which is hardly an issue of note anymore as of late. No longer actively enforced by Hollywood, it is yet another concession that region restriction has all but become obsolete.

History of Star Trek on DVD[]

Star Trek DVDs first emerged in 1998 in Region 1, when Paramount Home Video began releasing basic, "vanilla" releases of the first nine Star Trek films – usually containing the film and its associated trailers only. The films were released in a mostly reverse chronological order, starting with Star Trek: First Contact. Star Trek: Insurrection saw release during this time (slotting in between Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home), and the last prime universe film, Star Trek Nemesis, was released in 2003. The majority of these releases included very limited special features, typically only comprised of theatrical teasers and trailers, though televised franchise promotional production shorts were, one each, added on Insurrection and The Voyage Home, whereas Nemesis even featured a modest selection of especially produced special features.

As it turned out however, more Nemesis special features had been produced for the hereafter mentioned "special edition" film collection (which by the time of the Nemesis "vanilla" release was already up and running), but part of the remainder was only offered on a separate disc through the by the franchise selected preferred chain store retailer Best Buy [8], a market discrimination strategy called the "retailer exclusive format", and one that is particularly loathed by film buffs and "Trekkies" alike – especially by those who had only access to the "vanilla" releases. [9] At the time several scrupulous Best Buy patrons bought the Nemesis release in bulk and subsequently offered the special feature disc up at premium prices on eBay, the market site that was at the time rapidly becoming a force to be reckoned with. [10]

The following year, in 1999, the Star Trek television series premiered on DVD with the release of Star Trek: The Original Series in a two-episode-per-disc format, actually, and despite the far greater storage capacity of the new medium, in essence continuing the inefficient release format as utilized for the VHS predecessor. Like the films, essentially "vanilla" releases, these had virtually no bonus features to speak of, and were presented in a cardboard sleeve. The episodes were released in production order, with "The Cage" (in both black & white and colorized versions) being included on the final volume, and presented as a "bonus feature". These releases were Region 1 only; the rest of the world would have to wait until 2004 for an Original Series release on the new format, but they were spared the inefficient release format, as the new per season boxed release format had by then become the norm – which irked American collectors who had invested in the "vanilla" release to no end, and who, after having replaced their Betamax/VHS collection, had to "double-dip" yet again to get the far superior boxed season releases.

Left out of the original film "vanilla" release run, Paramount released Star Trek: The Motion Picture on DVD in 2001. For this release, the studio was persuaded to have the film reappraised as a whole, introducing new CGI visual effects, and re-cutting the film to better reflect Director Robert Wise's original intentions, resulting in that a theatrical cut of the film was not released on DVD until the 2009 Region 2 Star Trek: Original Motion Picture Collection. This "Star Trek: The Motion Picture (The Director's Edition)" was a two-disc release featuring for the first time newly-produced extensive special features. These were specifically created for the release by the DVD's co-producers David C. Fein and Michael Matessino, who actually were the pioneers of the special feature phenomenon when their company Sharpline Arts produced these for inclusion on the preceding LaserDisc format of popular genre films, much to the acclaim of collectors and film buffs. Building upon their experience gained, the ones on The Director's Edition were likewise favorably received by fans. Noteworthy was that it was this release that introduced Star Trek fans to the phenomena of text (written by "Treksperts" Mike and Denise Okuda) and audio commentaries, which went on to become a staple on subsequent DVD releases. The Director's Edition therefore became the first Star Trek DVD title to make the fullest use of the physical qualities of the DVD format. While having received the blessing and support from Paramount Pictures, the studio has had itself no production input; rather the DVD project was an initiative of Robert Wise Productions, Wise's own production company, on the suggestion of Fein and Matessino under whose aegis the project was ultimately realized. (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 2, Issue 8, p. 25) As such, Wise's company is the officially credited one, not Paramount whose role was limited to the promotion and distribution of the release – just like it had previously been for Star Trek: The Animated Series in the 1970s.

Following the enormous success of The Motion Picture Director's Edition however, Paramount was motivated to re-release the other nine prime universe films on their own accord in a similar fashion in the era 2002-2005 as the two-disc "special editions" collection – into which the originally intended stand-alone Director's Edition was retrofitted as the first one. As with the Director's Edition, these also included many newly produced special features (now primarily produced under the auspices of Patricia Rose Duignan, Donald R. Beck and Stephen R. Wolcott), along with the few ones that were previously featured on the "vanilla" releases, including those for Nemesis (which had been produced for the two year later release in this collection to begin with), redressing the perceived injustice as far as the fanbase was concerned, but still having to "double-dip", again, if they wanted the superior release. Various film collection box sets have followed suit in the wake of the original individual releases.

The next phase of Star Trek DVD releases saw the focus shift from individual volumes to season box sets for the television series. These box sets contained a decent number of special features (again produced under the aegis of Duignan, Beck and Wolcott), including documentaries, galleries and "Easter eggs". Each series was released separately, with one series release finishing before the next would begin. The first series to receive the box set treatment was Star Trek: The Next Generation, which began its release in 2002. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine followed in 2003, with Star Trek: Voyager being released in 2004. A re-release of The Original Series in season box sets was intertwined with the Voyager release. The series release of Star Trek: Enterprise in 2005, saw audio commentaries, bloopers and deleted scenes additionally included as first-time special features on a series release. Over the years, several complete collections of all seasons were released as well, pursuant the original per season releases, the more recent ones reissued in even more efficient space-saving packagings. The final series of the Roddenberry/Berman-era to be released was Star Trek: The Animated Series, which received a DVD release in late 2006.

In Region 2, two special box sets were released in 2003: the Star Trek: The Next Generation - Jean-Luc Picard Collection, and Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Complete TV Movies were unusual, in that they collected 'themed' episodes together – the latter also unusual in that it has yet to be released in Region 1. The sales of these led to Paramount announcing in 2005 that it was considering releasing DVD boxed sets containing episodes from any of the live-action Star Trek series, and polling fans via as to the episodes to be released. The result of this was the Star Trek: Fan Collective box sets. The Collective releases were notable for several newly recorded audio commentaries and some especially produced production featurettes, most of these left out of the later released home video formats.

Following the success of the season box sets in Region 2, Paramount Home Entertainment chose to re-release the sets in new, "slimline" packaging at a much lower price – Next Generation in 2006, Deep Space Nine and Voyager in 2007, and Enterprise in 2008. In some territories such as Germany these were at first released as half-season sets though in Germany full-season sets were later made available in 2014.

In 2007, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of The Next Generation, a special complete series box set was released, containing the original discs released, plus a special retrospective bonus disc, the contents of the latter also left out of the later released home video formats.

The Original Series Remastered project saw the first release using next-generation optical technologies. The first season release in November 2007 was designed as a DVD/HD DVD combination, allowing it to be viewed on players of both formats. However, the collapse of the HD DVD industry in the wake of the format war with the Blu-ray format, meant that the remaining two seasons were released in DVD-only format throughout 2008, followed a year later by their Blu-ray counterparts.

Starting in 2009, the three alternate universe films began their release run, with the first one, Star Trek, becoming the last one to see both "vanilla" and "special" edition as of 2019. Concurrently, the ten original films saw the start of a re-release in the same year as remastered editions (the remastering actually done for their Blu-ray counterparts), featuring a selection of new special features as produced by Tim King – actually done for their Blu-ray counterparts, and these in effect featuring all available special features, including the ones originally done for the "special editions" DVD collection, albeit in standard definition contrary to the new ones which were produced in high definition.

With the revival of the Kurtzman-era Star Trek television franchise in 2017, series releases started up again when Star Trek: Discovery saw its first season released on DVD in November 2018, alongside its Blu-ray counterpart, remarkably featuring the same amount of special features, constituting something of a break in release policies as the franchise had up to that point in time favored the Blu-ray format with the inclusion of more special features. Quite possibly this had been an intentional franchise attempt to avoid the 2014 "second "VAM controversy" that had followed the home video format releases of the first two alternate reality films. It is concurrently feasible that the franchise simply had no choice left due to the recent harsh economic realities of rapidly declining physical home video format sales; simply put, it could by 2023 no longer afford to even loose a single collector in the still considerable DVD market on account of alienating them by their prior market discrimination tactics.

Outside of film/series releases, DVDs are also used as components for board games. The game/toy companies Screenlife and Mattel co-released Star Trek Scene It?, an all-Trek edition of the trivia game series.

Easter eggs[]

A popular feature in the early decades of the DVD had been the inclusion of so-called "Easter eggs", hidden special features, not accessible through the main DVD menu. Instead, these features had to be found by either entering a "secret" code on the remote control, or by searching for an Easter egg indicator on the menu graphic where a section would light up, indicating its presence. Typically, these features were under five minutes shorts, usually comprised of cast and/or crew interview snippets, delving into subject matters not covered in the standard features.

As far as Star Trek was concerned, the best known of these were the "Red Shirt Logs" on the Original Series season DVD releases, and the "Section 31 Files" on the Deep Space Nine season DVD releases. Some of the "special edition" Star Trek film DVD releases also contained Easter eggs, which were particularly hard to find. [11](X) Something of a fad at the time, the gimmick has all but lost its appeal in the Blu-ray Disc age (despite the 2014 Star Trek: The Compendium Blu-ray release containing two), and in many cases the easily overlooked Easter eggs were not ported over to their Blu-ray counterpart re-releases, as had been the case with all of these from the Star Trek films, and as it had with the "Red Shirt Logs".

Typically though, Kurtzma-era Star Trek had in the 2020s tentatively reintroduced the Easter egg phenomenon for some of their latter-day television series home video formats (both DVD and Blu-ray) releases, conceivably as a nostalgic gimmick for the older fanbase. These concerned the Discovery Season 2 and 3, as well as the Star Trek: Picard Season 3 home video format releases.

DVD release chronology[]

See DVD release chronology.


See also[]

External links[]