Much as we’ve enjoyed the spoof trailers that people have sent in, there’s no denying that the bulk of our mail has been concerned with the trailer that’s appeared on the official site in Realplayer. Most people disliked the small videoclip interviews in Realplayer which we were treated to when the official site revamped, but that’s nothing compared to the venom that’s been reserved for the decision to put the trailer onto Realplayer.

I’m just saying that for the benefit of anyone like myself that thought they might have been suffering from a dodgy connection or some embarrassing mysterious personal problem to do with their own computer. Rest assured, it’s not you. The trailer in Realplayer format looks bad for most people – a jerky, low-resolution image and horrible sound.

This has stirred people up into problem-solving mode and by now there are a whole lot of different attempts to download the trailer and convert it into different formats. Some have succeeded, some have succeeded and been forced by the long arm of the law to remove their efforts, and some don’t work or got overwhelmed with people trying to download them. Interesting times on the Net indeed. Don’t all email us to ask ‘where are these trailers?’ because I’m too lazy to sort through that much mail. There’s a lot of pointers on the message-board that’ll take you in the right direction.

Now, why has this thing happened? Here’s an answer from Value Ape: (Note some language may offend, but it’s nothing to what we’ve heard describing Realplayer in general.)

“Just thought I would send you this email about the sordid side of why companies choose to use what technologies to serve video. I always see a lot of people bitching about what technology gets used, especially in regards to QuickTime – the whole LOTR trailer thing is the final coffin nail, so I thought I would expose this. Not only am I in the business but I do have some specific knowledge of the reason why LOTR is using RealMedia and not QuickTime. Let me just say that QuickTime is a superior format in every way to Real, however Real has been a much more aggressive company than Apple in pushing the technology. I, like Harry, have been a sober evangelist of QuickTime for quite some time and think people should know what goes on behind the scenes. Apple wants everyone to have QuickTime so you use and buy the software that makes QuickTime media. Real wants to milk eyeballs for ad clicks and trick you into buying the plus player. If you have ever tried to download the free player from their site you will laugh at how hidden the link to the ‘free’ player is in the interface. Like many reprehensible practices, it is effective. It also frustrates websites that use it. Imagine promoting your movie and when the player launches, you see an ad for another movie opening the same night on the side-bar!

Unfortunately, New Line’s arrangement with Real is completely typical and not exceptional in any way other than the popularity of LOTR. The number of downloads garnered by the teaser at Apple had Real drooling. Real agreed to pay New Line in cash, services and bandwidth to host the new trailer. Apple, who has been very cautious about spending money lately, has always been reluctant to pay companies to use QuickTime when they felt that companies would naturally choose to use the better technology. Real hopes to spread its player and its channels around by having the new trailer – and New Line gets a little coin. Your typical day in the media industry.”

Thanks for that.

There is another side to consider: we’ve all acted as though we had the right to demand this teaser trailer at high quality because we the fans want it. I’m not sure that’s in the best interests of the film company, who after all wants you to be disappointed with the net version of the trailer so you’ll go to the cinema. I find that hard to blame. I mean, I was annoyed with the cruddiness of the trailer on Real (and suffered from an ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ moment wondering if it was just me) but by now I can see that the filmmakers aren’t so sure they’re going to benefit by doing what pleases us.

I’m also aware (who better?) of how it’s possible to become so saturated with Tolkien images that the thought of going and seeing the movies loses its appeal. The availability of information for ‘Phantom Menace’ posed that very danger. It started by whetting the appetite and ended by overwhelming it by the time I’d got into the cinema. Funny thing for us on this website to be arguing, but there you are, I’m not going to back down from telling it the way I see it.

If all I see of the LOTR films before they open are crummy grainy videos like this then the film company will have achieved something they’re entitled to aim for – I’ll be ready to crawl across broken glass to see them on the big screen.