Mission Statements for HDVDarts

In 1922, Compton Mackenzie bought a gramophone and, within 2 months, 1200 discs. He listened to all these discs for about a year, and then founded Gramophone magazine. In the first issue he stated his mission: "Our policy will be to encourage the recording companies to build up for generations to come a great library of good music." [Source: January 2014 Gramophone, page 3.]

In 2007 I built a modest home theater in a spare bedroom for watching Blu-ray discs, mostly of ballet, opera, and classical music.  I fell in love with the new Blu-rays just as Compton Mackenzie fell in love with his gramophone records. (I started calling the Blu-rays "HDVDs", or "high-definition video discs." The name HDVD is future-proof because it can also stand for high-definition downstream, download, device, display, or distribution.)

In 2007, I founded www.HDVDarts.com and started writing about HDVDs by coding HTML in a text editor. For about 5 years I bought every fine-arts title that was published in Blu-ray. I and some friends (originally called "conferes" and later "wonks") learned to write reviews about fine-arts recording that are a bit different from what has been done before. And by collecting the reviews in a dynamic website that we can constantly edit and improve, we are creating a new genre of review literature that is different from the magazines and books of the past.

In 2011, I and my son, Henry C. McFadyen III, migrated the website to Squarespace 5, a desktop content management system with screenshots designed for desktop users. By 2017, it was obvious that readers were switching to laptops, tablets, smartphones. So in early 2018 my son designed, developed, and (gulp) migrated the website to Squarespace 7, which gives us now a responsive system designed to give a great reader experience on devices of all shapes and sizes.

Our first mission (a knockoff of Mackenzie) has always been the same: A policy of HDVDarts is to encourage video recording companies to build up for generations to come a great library of fine-art works to be enjoyed by consumers via HDVD in home theaters.  Of course, we are trying to get the word out by reporting on the Bu-ray fine-arts titles that we love so much. But we go further than that. For example, to encourage the publishers of fine-art HDVDs to do better, we have devised the Wonk Worksheets that you can find in our Special Stories section. With these worksheets, we can record and analyze the details of video content---i.e., how well the TV director has done shooting the show. We use the worksheets in our grading, and we publish them so anyone can check our work. (Never before in the history of our galaxy has any art critic published an opinion that can be checked for accuracy.)

Our second mission also focuses on consumers: A policy of HDVDarts is to help every consumer develop his or her personal excelsisphere, i. e., a universe or library of the best HDVDs available for his or her edification and enjoyment. We will do this by locating all fine-art HDVDs published anywhere, excluding items that fail to meet best practice standards, and providing critical reviews with grades. The consumer can then collect the highest quality library that that his interests and budget will allow.

(Our third, and provisional, mission focuses on the fine-arts recording publishing industry itself: A future policy of HDVDarts will be to publish with each of our reviews all information about the creation of the disc that is given on the packaging of the disc or on the recorded program itself to the end that the website becomes a "newspaper of record" for the fine-arts recording publishing industry. Because of the extra work involved in extracting and coding this kind of metadata, this is a task that we can never hope to accomplish by ourselves. At this writing we have provided this information in only several prototype reviews.)

To me, the advent of HDVDs is more important even than the original invention of both sound recording and television. For the first time, we can see and hear fine-arts works recorded with a quality that does them reasonable justice. And the field of fine-arts HDVD is still in its infancy and can only improve. It remains to seen, of course, just what technologies will be used in the future to reach consumers with HDVDs. See our story called What is HDVD? for more thoughts about how consumers will access HDVDs in the future.

I do not, however, claim that fine-arts recordings can ever be replacements for seeing and hearing art live. What we have in our home theaters is merely an illusion that is more or less analogous to the real thing. But through the magic of HDVD, everyone in the world can have a chance to enjoy the illusion. Everyone can at least dream of having a ticket to the the Paris Opera, the Concertgebouw, or the Royal Ballet. Everyone can support artists in their own communities. Most of us working now on HDVDarts will not live long enough to see how good it can get. But we may one day be recognized as one of the first groups outside the recording industry to grasp the importance of HDVD to the fine arts.

In addition to our mission statements, I suggest a motto: “The eye is the emperor of the mind, the ear its concubine.” By this I mean that vision is the dominate sense informing us about what is going on in the world. A corollary of this is my notion that seeing provides valuable input in our enjoyment of every art, including classical music. Hearing is the second most important sense relating to our enjoyment of the world, and it plays a special role in emotional and sexual aspects of life.

As I write this in 2018, the quality of our visual recordings still lags behind the quality of our hi-fi music records —- but video is catching up to audio. I expect that in the future, every recording of a musical performance will also have a video of the performance as the usual expected format. We will always have recordings of the sound of music only, and these sound recordings will be used for many different reasons. But “sound only” will be considered a truncation of the full experience of enjoying a musical performance.

Henry McFadyen, Jr.

Last updated November 2018