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VERY IMPORTANT. These links take you to the product, however Amazon have three different ways of selling. There's Amazon Direct - This means that you are only dealing with Amazon themselves, then there's other sellers that use Amazon's facilities - these show as Fulfilled By Amazon and finally there's Market Place sellers that advertise on Amazon, but operate independently.  I strongly recommend that you only use the first...the Amazon Direct - Sold By Amazon option. Even if it appears that you are paying a couple of £/$ more it is more than likely you are comparing the price of a real item against the price of a fake.

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Monday
Oct122015

It's finally time I take a good look at Laserdisc

I believe that I first became aware of the existence of laserdisc in the late 70s or early 80's. I probably saw it on Tomorrows World. It was a lot tricker to see in person. Living in the North West of the UK in the 1980s you didn't get to see the latest tech easily. In London I would imagine I'd have been able to pop into Harrods where someone would be showing it off to passing customers, but I can't recall ever seeing a Laserdisc in person until 1992. I was working in HMV in Manchester (briefly) in the video & games department. They had a small rack of laserdiscs in a corner, I can't recall anyone buying one. The smart buyer at the time used the much cheaper mail order companies advertising in the back of film magazines.

I saw Laserdisc again in 1998 when I bought my DVD player from a shop that sprung up overnight in a small unit in the Manchester Arndale shopping centre. The store was importing DVD players and DVD/LD combos alongside films from Japan and the US before any DVD machines were available in the UK. I paid a deposit of £100 for my DVD player and promised to return and pay the remaining £300 over the next three months. The next time I returned a notice on the shutter explained that the trading standards office had shut the business down for selling films that hadn't gone through the BBFC certification process. It was a win for me though as I ended up paying just £100 for my £400 DVD player. I also recall that even in 1999 when I had a DVD delivered to the office some people were amazed - D....V.....D? they said, in the most surprised way you could pronounce three letters. How could you get a film on a silver disc someone else asked, as if it was a magic trick. A trick first performed by Laserdisc in the late 1970s.

Back the present. Over the last few years I've enjoyed learning about and experiencing tech I never had the chance to own when it was first available. Although I've deliberately concentrated on HiFi. Age is kind to audio, my 1976 Elcaset sounds as good as anything I've ever heard. Video is a very different story, old video basically just looks worse than new video. I find I now that I only watch the HD channels on TV and I've long since abandoned DVD as a format to purchase films on. When it comes to video, the past is the past and rose tinted glasses will just make it look worse. 

However since I've coverered all the audio formats that I was interested in, it's time I dipped my toe into video and take a look at Laserdisc. Watch the video below to see if it's now totally unwatchable or a pleasant surprise.

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Reader Comments (28)

Very nice, I'm surprised you didn't mention full bitrate dts.

Strangely, this weekend my parents told me they are about to offload my/their laserdisc collection to the local skip. I would be happy to donate if you are interested (About 100 discs inc a definitive collection)

October 13, 2015 | Unregistered Commenteral

My collection of Laserdiscs number 103 pieces and is all from "back then". I had one more disc but I sold it off - it was the big Star Wars box and I got £100 for it. This was just before the Special editions were released on DVD.
I still have my player in the loft but I wonder if it even works after a decade of temperature changes.
I once estimated the value of my discs at about £5000, but today they're sadly only worth a fraction of that - and even though they take up a lot of room and I'd rather get rid of them - I can't bear to get rid of them for next to no money.
One disc I'd never get rid off though, is my Collectors Edition of "Jason and the Argonauts" that I had signed by Ray Harryhausen personally. That's one of my prize posessions. :-)

October 13, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSøren

Thanks, finally saw a great demonstration of Laserdisc :) Never owned one but it always interested me how it is compared to VHS and DVD, now I know :)

October 13, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterFinnish_guy

Al,
Definitely don't throw them away. Unless you are in the North West the postage costs will be crazy. If you are local please send me an email using the form on the About Tab and we'll discuss this further.

October 13, 2015 | Registered CommenterTechmoan

Well worth finding a copy of Dragons Lair, or Space Ace, if only just for curiosity value. There was another video disc format prior to Laser Disc, the CED (Capacitance Electronic Disc), these used A stylus, but suffered problems with wear and dust.

October 13, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterCG

fascinating 20 minutes. Thank you. And your production values are really getting top-notch. How many hours to make this 20 mins of magic?

October 14, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterBiddy

It was spread out across a few months, but I'd guess at perhaps 30 hours (and I still didn't mention DTS soundtracks).

October 14, 2015 | Registered CommenterTechmoan

Nice and unexpected review of the LaserDisc system! ;)

Believe it or not, but I still have about >1000 LD's! All US imported, the Euro LD business was something of a joke....VHS transfers repacked etc...

(I'm in Sweden) Seldom watch them, but many are special editions and limited-edition boxes so I still have them around. As you concluded, there is something special with LD!

Also still have a working Japanese Pioneer CLD-959 (Elite CLD-97 in the US), modified by me for AC3 RF sound.
A real beast and cost-no-object player, only NSTC and 100V, weights a ton!

The best looking disc I have is the Star Wars The Phantom Menace, Japan import with seaweed! ;) (hard coded Japanese subs)
The AC3 sound is also very good, check out the Pod race!

Also the Criterion CAV edition of Goldfinger which was one of the hard-to-find-LD's since it got banned - is very good, picture wise.
But I do think you should try to get you player connected via the S-video Y/C connection, you get separate chominance/lumance with less blur and a somewhat crispier looking picture quality. More stable.

You could also connect a cheap US CC (Closed Caption) converter for english substitles for most discs, useful back then since english is not my first language.


CLD-959 info:
http://www.laserdiscarchive.co.uk/laserdisc_archive/pioneer/pioneer_cld-959/pioneer_cld-959.htm

Thanks for the view!

October 15, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMatte

If you really what to get something rare and compare The Abyss to it dvd and blu Ray. If I remember right the LD was long that the tape ver and the DVDs and blu Ray are missing the one part of the making of where one of the actor swore at Cameron because he was almost killed. Worth checking out. Btw high point cover was the CN Tower in Toronto, Canada, I should know since I live in the GTA

October 22, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRon

Yes one of the things that made me want to see the film High Point again was because of the ludicrously dangerous stunt where Dar Robinson made his name, by jumping off the top of the CN Tower. With CG no stuntman will ever have a need to do something like this ever again.

October 22, 2015 | Registered CommenterTechmoan

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