So we are walking toward the checkout at the local Staples, and out of the corner of my eye, I see see DVD’s for $4.99. I was somewhat intrigued because for the price and the newness of the DVD titles. I walked over and discovered a display rack titled “Flexplay.” I had never seen these before but they were calling it a “No Return DVD Rental”. I remember Circuit City tried this with their DIVX disposable rental DVD’s back in like 1999. It only lasted about 6 months before they shut it down because it was a horrible idea. Well the idea apparently seems to be a good idea to someone again, namely flexplay, because they are back. Same 48 hour period, same disposable nature, same everything really.
The DVDs come in cardboard gatefold sleeve wrapped in shrink wrap. Once you open the cardboard sleeve you find a DVD disc in a vacuum sealed plastic wrapper. The cardboard sleeve has all the typical dvd info that a normal DVD case would have. Once you crack the seal of the vacuum sealed case your 48 hours begins. After 48 hours, the DVD will become unreliable. They do this by using a glue to adhere the 2 halves of the disc together that when introduced to air, starts to become cloudy, making it unreadable by your DVD player.
Ripping / Cracking the DVD
My first thought when seeing these DVDs was, can you rip them like a standard DVD, or did they add another layer of copy protection. Since they are so cheap, they would be a good choice for ripping. I used Handbrake to get a good quality MP4 out of it with no issues. The disks are no different from normal DVD in respect to ripping. If you want the raw VOBs, use your ripper of choice, MacTheRipper, DVDshrink, etc.
Usage / Playing
The DVD has a special (cheap looking) Flexplay menu system, but other than that, it’s the same movie. Pop it in your DVD player and you are off. We actually were able to play it past the 48 hours, so it’s not an exact time, just an approximation that it will “play reliably” for AT LEAST 48 hours. I tried playing it on various computers and DVD players with no kind of play back issues. I really don’t think these discs are gonna make it being sold at Staples, or anywhere for that matter. It’s simply a product that I don’t really think has a market. Not to mention it is SO wasteful. It says they are recyclable, but how many people are really going to do that? Not enough. Maybe I could see this being useful in an airport scenario? You are there and need a movie for your flight? Perhaps.
We will see how successful this idea is this go around. It will be interesting to see if in 8 years people have changed their mind about this technology.
Check out some photos of the packaging, disc changing properties, and of course it being microwaved :) LINK TO PHOTOS