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Look behind the DVD

Many viewers don't know that such interactive extras as games and puzzles can be found when the disc is played on a PC.

September 02, 2003|Marc Saltzman | Special to The Times

In "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," the young wizard and his schoolmate chums face off against a mysterious force bent on terrorizing the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Viewers are then instructed to use their voice to navigate through supernatural worlds to create spells, print magic trading cards, play computer games and access an animated Harry Potter timeline with video clips from the films.

What's that? Don't recall the latter? You won't if you watched the film in a movie theater or in your video or DVD player. These interactive extras are only accessible when watching the disc on a PC.

From digital comic books in "Spider-Man" to a morphing studio in "Terminator 2" to printable school assignments in "Bowling for Columbine," hundreds of DVD movies feature compelling DVD-ROM content -- extras made exclusively for computers -- though most consumers aren't even aware they exist.

In fact, a recent report from consumer research firm Centris claims just 15% to 20% of those who buy or rent a DVD movie will access exclusive DVD-ROM features -- even though 23 of the 25 bestselling DVD movies released last year included these PC-only extras.

"What makes a difference is how this extra content is advertised on the packaging or presented on the menu screen," says Chris Brown, founder and executive creative director at InterActual Technologies, a company that develops exclusive DVD-ROM content for movie studios. "But the trend is growing as consumers are beginning to see what they've been missing, not to mention more and more households have access to PCs with DVD-ROM drives," Brown adds.

The following are a few examples of DVD-ROM content to be found on many of today's (and yesterday's) DVD movies:

"Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" -- There is certainly no shortage of magical extras on this disc. The "Extra Credit" portion lets users command the DVD-ROM features using their voice (PC microphone required), which includes a screen-saver, printable mazes, folding posters and cutouts, jigsaw puzzles, trivia contests, a Hogwarts timeline, a photo hunt and a playable game-demo for Electronic Arts' latest "Harry Potter" adventure.

"T2: Extreme DVD" -- His platform for fixing California may remain murky, but Arnold Schwarzenegger is available in high-definition. This recent Artisan re-release of "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" includes a high-resolution version of the film viewable only in Microsoft's Windows Media Player 9 on a PC. Additional DVD-ROM-only features include special effects software to "terminate" your own digital photos, an "Ah-nold" slogan generator, an interactive morphing studio and an online robot-building program.

"Lara Croft: Tomb Raider" -- DVD-ROM-only extras include a "DVD Online Challenge" that combines the film and a video game together; players must complete various tasks at specific points in the movie to rack up as many points as possible. Other features include an extensive timeline of the franchise (beginning in 1995 with the conception of the first video game), a video game demo for Eidos' "Tomb Raider: Chronicles," the archived Tomb Raider Web site, and an extended IPIX gallery.

"Die Another Day" -- The second DVD in this set offers exclusive material that would even make Q proud. This includes a secret entrance to a James Bond Web page, 16 exclusive photos, trailers and TV spots, a behind-the-scenes video clip titled "Inside 'Die Another Day' " and a first look at the upcoming Electronic Arts video game, "007: Everything or Nothing."

"Spider-Man" -- A handful of DVD-ROM-only extras can be found here, such as three complete Marvel Dot.Comics, a Spider-Man screen-saver, a demo for Activision's "Spider-Man" PC game, Web links that include a sneak peak at "Spider-Man 2" (due next July 2) and Windows software that lets Spider-Man move to MP3 music on a computer.

"Stuart Little 2" -- The DVD-ROM content includes a Read-Along Storybook feature so users can listen to narrated stories such as "Soccer Season" or record and e-mail their own voice reading this tale. Moreover, the disc contains a ReVoice Studio to record voice-overs to classic moments in the film, links to online content and a playable demo of Infogrames/Atari's "Stuart Little 2: Roof Skate" Windows game.

"Men in Black II" -- Pop the second DVD into the PC and click the words "Drop Into MIB Headquarters." Fans of the film can play around with the "Nanospace In-flight Entertainment System" to retrieve a handful of goodies including a full script to the film, two dozen conceptual drawings of space-age vehicles (with descriptions), an "MIB II" screen-saver and a demo for a "MIB Crossfire" computer game (Windows only).

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