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Those, er, piracy guys sure move fast! This morning (16 May 2002) I checked out a local, er, supplier of DVDs and there it was: DVD copies of Star Wars: Episode 2 - Attack of the Clones. Stacks of them in fact. This was about three hours or so after glimpsing a report on CNN on how the movie started in the States with midnight shows the previous evening!

And there it was, probably all the way from Malaysia: the "Special Edition" of Episode Two on DVD, complete with subtitles function and menu. So I asked for the owner of this, ehm, suspect establishment to pop a copy into the DVD player and he played a few snippets from it for me. (It even has scene access!)

Why am I mentioning this? Because, well, if you have the patience you can download this particular "special edition" from the Internet if you come across the right links and so forth.

In fact, the hits on my web site have skyrocketed because of people looking for "Attack of the Clones VCD" on the Google search engine. I just have one message for these guys: don't bother . . .

The video and audio quality despite my, erm, supplier's best assurances that it is "quite watchable" is terrible. One can clearly see that it is a case of someone pointing a video camera at a cinema screen during a show. The image is really blurry and the sound is weak. I'm sure that if I watched a bit longer then I would have heard people in the audience clapping hands, farting, booing, hissing, talking, sneezing, whatever.

Obviously this is not the way to watch a movie that depends on its special effects such as the fifth Star Wars instalment.

Despite this, I must admit that I was quite tempted. Attack of the Clones only starts here in South Africa in a month's time and there probably is something satisfying about telling people that you have already seen it. But the point is, that I would have seen it in a way that probably would spoiled it for one.

WORTH IT? From early reviews, it would seem that once again one doesn't watch a Star Wars movie for its dialogue (I must say I cringed at the lines from the movie I heard in the trailer), acting or plot. That leaves one with the special effects, sound and production designs: the very things lost with this DVD version. (In fact an inferior videocassette would have sufficed: it doesn't make use of any of the format's strengths.)

RECOMMENDATION: So don't go downloading the Attack of the Clones VCD: it sucks and is a waste of bandwidth. Don't buy it either, unless you are shown a snippet from it to see if you're happy with the image and sound quality. You'll be doing yourself a disservice otherwise. I put the DVD away, deciding that I'll wait a month with everyone else.

No, this isn't a question of me condemning buying such pirated material. To be honest I think that CDs and DVDs are overpriced and that multi-million dollar corporations are simply being greedy. But I still buy CDs - even though I can download MP3s from the Internet and burn them as CDs because, well, the quality is better. Digital reproduction isn't all it's made out to be to be honest. I did however buy Spider-man on such a DVD as a present for someone I know who has already seen it on the big screen.

This Spider-man version is quite good even though it was made with a method similar to the way the Clones VCD was made: by pointing a camera at a screen. But in this case, there was no cinema audience and microphones were attached to the cinema speakers resulting in a superior quality. Pirates call this method "Telesync".

The Clones VCD was made using "CAM." Will I be watching it this way instead of checking it out on the big screen? I don't know, but I'm mightily tempted . . .

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