Why LaserDiscs are still my favorite video format

So, after all of these years, why are LaserDiscs still my favorite video format to watch and collect?  One of the reasons I enjoy watching movies on LaserDisc so much is probably because I also grew up listening to and collecting music on vinyl LPs and 45s. There’s just something that resonates with me concerning the whole hands on experience that LaserDisc viewing involves.

Just like listening to music on vinyl, it’s more than just pressing play on a DVD or BluRay player, then sitting back for a couple of hours while your movie plays.  You have to handle a movie on LD with care and attention. You have to get up and flip or change discs every so often.  Just like listening to music on vinyl LPs, watching a movie on LaserDisc is an “experience” that involves it’s own special rituals and traditions. It’s something special and out of the ordinary from today’s modern world of “convenience”.

If you are an admirer of movie poster and cover art, then there’s no other format out there better than LaserDisc.  Again, much like music LPs, LaserDiscs are 12″ in diameter, which means their protective jackets are a fantastic canvas for rich and colourful movie art.  And if the LD release happens to span two discs, then there’s a chance that the publisher used a double sized “gate-fold” jacket.  You just don’t get this sort of thing with DVD or BluRay, let alone streaming video services.

Magnificent Seven Gate-Fold Cover
Magnificent Seven Gate-Fold Cover

One of the things I’ve always liked about watching movies on LaserDisc is that, when you load up your video disc and press play, you are watching your movie.  There’s no FBI / Anti Privacy warning screens that you are prohibited from skipping through, no annoying menu systems to navigate, and no lengthy previews you’re forced to watch.  There’s no regional lockouts that you have to worry about, either.  There’s nothing between you and your movie.

LaserDiscs sound fantastic and (I think) are far superior to even today’s most modern technologies.  There’s just no home media format that can produce sound as good as what you’ll hear on a LaserDisc.

There’s also quite a bit of content produced on LaserDisc that is still no where to be seen on other modern formats.  I’m not just talking about special movie commentary tracks or special feature content; I mean there’s entire movies and programs out there that only exist (and probably will only ever be) on LaserDisc.

In my experience, LaserDiscs are also the most robust video format ever produced.  There has to be pretty extensive damage done to a LaserDisc before it causes problems during playback.  I cannot say the same for DVDs.  I’ve had many problems trying to watch a DVD, with it’s skipping and freezing up during playback all because of a minor smudge, scratch or fingerprint on the disc.  I have bought a few LDs off of eBay over the years that do have a few scuffs and scratches on their surfaces; a couple of them are bad enough that I thought they’d have problems.  But, I can watch even these discs and not see anything abnormal appear on screen.

Although movies on VHS also have pretty reliable playback, there’s a chance of the delicate video tape getting damaged at some point during playback.  The only chance of damaging a LaserDisc is by mis-handling from it’s owner.

I’ll always preferred my movies to be on LaserDiscs, just like I prefer my music to be on vinyl.  If I can’t get a movie on LaserDisc, then VHS is my next format of choice.  But that’s another story.

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  1. I also prefer my music on LP, and the wonderful cover-art it brings. I also love the whole ritual, which causes you to give your attention to the music and really focus instead of it being the distracting noise in the background. I often think “convenience” and streaming is why we have moved towards “content” not artwork, and quality has diminished for the sake of quantity. Back when we only had 4 TV channels, our VHS recorder was in constant use, and friends/relatives would tape things for each other if recording-schedules clashed. We now have several hundred channels, and I barely watch the TV anymore and don’t use any streaming services. A few people I know don’t even own a TV anymore.

    I also get exasperated at the annoying menus, unskippable adverts and unskippable anti-piracy screens. The ironic thing is that if you get hold of a pirate copy, all that cruft is gone, and you can just put the DVD in and press play.

    I love it when you find those gems that never made it to more modern recording formats. One of my favourite LPs is a compilation released by Island records in 1970, entitled “Bumpers”. Whilst a lot of the Island compilations have been released digitally (I think “You can all join in” and “nice enough to eat” were), Bumpers never was. It’s a shame because it was such an outstanding album, but it makes it a bit more special too. As far as I can tell, the Mott the Hoople track on the UK version (Thunderbuck Ram) differs very slightly from the album version and seems to be unique to the compilation. I also have a 78 record from the 1930s/40s with a very familiar tune and lyrics, that people often mistakenly think was first composed in 1968. It’s entitled “dream a little dream”…

    1. I agree completely! We’ve certainly lost something with the convenience of streaming/on demand media. And those little treasures that never made the transition are certainly one of the reasons I enjoy collecting “dead” media. The history you have there in your record collection is so rare and unique. Unfortunately, people like you and I seem to be an endangered species. Much of what we have in our care is in danger of being lost, once we’ve passed. Finding someone to carry the torch and care for what we have is getting very difficult to do.

      With the recent passing of my father, only a small amount of his (and my mother’s) possessions could be shipped out to me for preservation. It made me very sad to know that I couldn’t save it all. I was fortunate enough to get their collection of vinyl records, though. We’ve played and enjoy them very much. Lots of good memories locked up in those records.

      The only content we watch on our T.V. these days is what we’ve collected. We haven’t watched broadcast television for about eight years, now. We also don’t subscribe to any streaming/on demand services. There’s just nothing modern out there that we find is worth our time and attention.