The Videodisc Medium
To some extent, videodiscs would appear to be the film enthusiast's dream come true. They are light, portable, easy to store. With the growth of the market, a larger catalogue of titles is available. While not cheap, the retail price is well below fees for print rental, not to mention the astronomical sums for purchase. Moreover, discs are (at least in theory) permanent, unlike either videotape or film, which deteriorate with each use.
Film never wears out faster than when run through a flatbed editing machine, the condition best suited for close analysis. Videotape offers fast-forward and rewind, but is much slower than the nearly instantaneous access available with videodisc players. Consumer-level VCRs, in addition, cannot offer the true freeze frame that a CAV videodisc offers. Disc players can also interact with computers and offer higher picture resolution than most commercially available tape gauges. And there is, finally, the greater attention paid to the video transfer true of at least some videodisc publishers.
Still, with videodiscs there are trade-offs and underlying ideological assumptions. For example, unlike compact audiodisc players (a related technology), which usually have a feature to play songs in random order, videodisc players cannot randomly "scramble" the chapter encoding included on some discs. Presumably this lack of scrambling ability is based on the assumption that the film viewer will not be interested in mixing up the linear flow of the narrative. The players also do not have a feature to play sound at anything other than regular speed, which obviously assumes that only the picture is worthy of multispeed analysis.
These features are designed into (or out of) the medium. Some are more beneficial to the user than others; all are ideologically dictated. But the limitations of the machinery itself and the assumptions that go into its design must be considered (if only in the background) in any discussion of the use of discs for pedagogical, analytical, or substitute cinematic viewing purposes. We must also consider the strategies of moving the text from film to video.