DVD Outsider is soon to be no more. Welcome to Cine Outsider, which is now up and running over at www.cineoutsider.com. And yes, it's essentially DVD Outsider in a slightly different overcoat. So why the perceived need for change? I'm glad you asked.
Having spent a number of years shaping and fine-tuning a web site and building up a readership, it must certainly seem a little peculiar to switch its name and location. Its not a decision we've taken lightly, but is one that has, in a sense, been forced on us by the changing nature of the site's content and the evolution of the medium of film delivery.
When I first launched the site back in 2003 (hell, was it really that long ago?) I had no specific ambitions for it beyond providing information on DVD releases of the type of films that we screen at the film society I have co-run now for the past eighteen years, non-mainstream works that rarely play at cinemas anywhere other than in big towns or cities, at least in the UK. In those early days I did not see it expanding beyond a few DVD and film reviews and the odd article, and wasn't even sure the site would have the legs to last more than a couple of years. For better of worse, it did. Our contributing reviewers expanded (there were only two of us at the start – my hat goes off to Camus), and PR companies and distributors started sending us more review discs than we were able to handle, given that this is a part-time endeavour for all of us and we seem to have this thing about long and detailed reviews.
Then Blu-ray came along, and after some initial hesitance we all embraced it and have all been bowled over by what distributors like Masters of Cinema and the BFI are doing with the format. Hell, even big studio HD releases of old classics have put a beaming smile on my face – if lovely picture quality excites you (and why wouldn't it?), then check out Warner's Blu-ray releases of Gone With the Wind or Ben-Hur. And now there are new ways to access movies in digital format. They can be downloaded from from on-line stores like iTunes, and those of you prepared to cough up for fast internet with no usage caps can stream them to any electronic device in the house. Well, almost. DVD is still with us and looks likely to last a good few more years, despite premature predictions of its looming demise, but it's no longer the driving force that it once was on this site. At the time of writing, of the seventeen links in the Reviews and Articles Column and the Latest Reviews bar, just five are for DVD reviews. The times they are a-changin'. And what's that site name again?
All of which has made me feel a little like Microsoft must have felt back when Windows was first launched. Microsoft, as most of you will know, first made their name with DOS, a hugely popular command line based operating system. The only thing is, it could only directly address one megabyte of RAM, and the story has it – and I so want this to be true because I love stuff like this – that the reason was that those who designed it could not imagine any software ever needing to directly access more than a Megabyte, which back in those days was just HUGE. Thus when they were preparing Windows and its memory-hungry graphical user interface, the programmers had to devise all sorts of workarounds to get past that 1MB barrier. In a similar spirit of foresight, back in 2003 it never occurred to me that DVD would be superseded in the course of the site's lifetime, perhaps because I never expected the site to last as long as it has. And if we are to move forward, the general agreement is that we probably have to lose that particular acronym.
But does it really matter? After all, having DVD in the name hasn't proved a handicap for sites like DVD Beaver and DVD Talk, and I doubt either are looking for an identity change in the near future (I am ready to be corrected by either). But these are long established sites with a far larger international readership than us, and for them the letters DVD will likely remain as much part of their identity as the word Radio does for The Radio Times, a magazine whose listings and articles have for years had a strongly televisual leaning.
The past year in particular we have expanded into new territory in the shape of video interviews and film festival coverage (kudos to Tim and Jerry for their hard work here), and what really brought home the need for for a name change was our experience at this year's London Film Festival. While obtaining press passes and securing interviews did not prove an issue, we repeatedly found that people were making spot judgements about what the site was about based on those first three palindromic letters of its name, and it required some charm and persuasion to convince those those same people that we were about more than just the latest DVD releases.
In all truth the name change has been on the back burner for well over a year now and probably a lot longer – I think ex-PR rep Maxim from UK distributor Network, when we interviewed Diego Luna, was the first person to openly ask when it would happen. I've repeatedly put it off due to the volume of work such a transfer involves, almost all of it was going to fall on my head. It's not just the redesign and transference of two and a half thousand pages (I know, even I was surprised), but the chasing of PR companies and distributors to redirect their news stories (one still sends them to every email address we've ever had), the time it will take for Cine Outsider to propagate on the net, and the gradual steering of casual and regular visitors from the old site to the new one.
But the move to the new site has allowed me to clean up a lot of the current site's raggedy edges, the pages with graphical, coding and CSS errors or those still not converted over from a previous layout style. It has also enabled me to build a more logical directory structure, the previous one having evolved in a shambolic and almost arbitrary manner, like an office building that's been expanded by nailing on extensions without any real thought to organisation or the people who have to work there. This should mean that those glitches that saw the 'sound and vision' bars appear where the 'summary' bar should be or the wrong film title appear in the side bar should largely be a thing of the past.
As I suggested above, Cine Outsider is essentially the same site with a few cosmetic changes, and they are only there to visually differentiate it from its DVD forebear. Almost all of the pages have been copied over with no changes, but if you have linked to any of the reviews in the site, you will need to update those links to the new locations. The news archive has been shortened, as a good many of the older news stories had not been updated the currently used format and many were a graphical shambles. And be honest, how many of you have hunted out a news story for a DVD that came out seven years ago? Other cosmetic changes may well be introduced as I tinker with the new look, aware that a fair number will dislike it (I'm not completely sure myself yet, but we'll get there), and there are bound to be a few teething troubles like broken links or the odd formatting glitch.
We chose not to go public with the news of the name change until the new site was up, and today it finally went live. Pulling it together has swallowed pretty much every minute of my spare time over the past two months (and that includes New Year's Eve – I just couldn't leave the bloody thing alone), which is why reviews and news stories have been a bit thin on the ground of late. The intention is to run the two sites concurrently for a while, until Cine Outsider propagates and the stories and reviews can be found on search engines. Once that has happened, the on-site Google search engine will be added, and new pages will be uploaded to allow you to list reviews and articles by writer. You'll even be able to email writers directly rather than going through a central single email address, all simple stuff that I've just never got round to implementing. For the next two or three weeks, all new stories and reviews will be posted simultaneously to both sites, though our Twitter feed will change to Cine Outsider and point followers directly to the Cine Outsider version. Eventually the front page of DVD Outsider will automatically re-direct you to Cine Outsider, and some time in the next couple of months DVD Outsider will be taken down.
And so the change begins. We've been DVD Outsider for over eight years now and like to think that the name change will be no more than that, and that the site itself will continue to develop in interesting ways. For me it's a huge relief, the end of a long period of tiresome and mechanical work that will allow me to get back to watching and reviewing (if I never see another line of HTML again it will be too bloody soon) and re-focus my attention on the films, the discs and expanding our collection of interviews with filmmakers and performers. In the mean time, thank you all for your support, and here's to a good year, cinematically speaking.