Hands on with Flexplay Disposable DVD

Dave Zatz —  June 9, 2008

Yep, I’ve publicly poo-pooed the idea of disposable DVDs… But it seems to me that Flexplay has found a compelling market for the products: Airline passengers. In this era of Netflix, digital downloads, and Redbox kiosks, I doubt their target audience is large enough to keep them going. In fact, I assume this space will eventually be served by iPod and iPhone video-loading stations. But (in the interim) for $6 I had a better in-flight movie experience than most of my fellow travelers. Normally I’d bring my own video (BYOV) and at a lower cost, but I didn’t plan ahead. (Of course, I’d have picked up a Flexplay DVD for scientific purposes anyhow.) As to the technical details, some sort of air-induced chemical reaction clouds the disc which begins to limit playback after 48 hours – though, Distburbia is still going strong after 60 hours. And, yes, I did verify Handbrake will rip something usable.

19 responses to Hands on with Flexplay Disposable DVD

  1. So if you leave one of these disks in a pc with the titles feature on a loop, windows/mac will eventually just give a can not read disk error, sometime after 48-60 hours?

  2. Yep, there’s a layer of something in there that clouds after a period of time which prevents the drive’s laser from reading the contents. The degradation is probably not universal – some chapters, video, title screen may die before others.

  3. Good information Dave. I’m also curious if there is any harm the disk could do to players if they were left in the player over the “self-destroy” time…

  4. Ditto. Their blather about “completely enclosed” chemical reaction notwithstanding, I assume there is at least the possibility that something is released into the air as the chemical reaction takes place, and *might* glue up your DVD player, or its lasers, in the process. I wish they’d been more specific, but of course that part is presumably a big secret… until that wildfire rumor about somebody getting sick breathing the air near one of these suckers spreads of course and they’re forced to issue a statement. Or somebody hooks up a gas chromatograph next to one of these…

  5. The first DVD needing FDA approval? ;)

  6. If that didn’t take back in 1998 when DIVX tanked*, I don’t see how this is supposed to work now when there are so many more options for getting content. Heck, $6 is more than a cost of rental with ATV or Vudu!

    * — the only good thing that came of DIVX is the character on Penny Arcade :)

  7. There is really no upside to this technology. It is just pollution waiting to happen.

  8. What if you watch the DVD once & then put it into a Seal-A-Meal bag & hermetically re-seal it again?

  9. Well, if that disc is Disturbia, maybe it is a blessing. Also, if that disc is Disturbed, self destruct if a damn miracle.

  10. + can be played on any DVD player.
    +doesn’t need downloaded, or affecting your proverbial “cap”

    – does make trash.

    Once it sees air, the reaction starts.

  11. What about a bead of super glue aaround the inner and outer edge of the DVD? Do they make an under water DVD player yet? I just picked up one for scientific purposes as well. Seems you could dip it in something…. Hmmm…

  12. Jason, the question is: Once it’s exposed to the “air” is the reaction started and then unstoppable or does it need continued exposure to air?

  13. I don’t find that very compelling. There have been movie rental outlets targeting airlines for years. Rent the movie at one airport and drop it off at your destination. Simple as pie, and doesn’t waste landfill space.

  14. I Think that at $5.00 each they are too expensive as far as rentals go. I can rent 5 titles at blockbuster for the same price and hold them 5 nights. Take them back and rent anther set. Little waste in doing this.
    Now if they Flexplay discs were 99cents each and they had all of the titles, they could put Blockbuster out of business….
    The Chinese can make DVD9 pressed Knockoff discs and sell them for $1.00 with cardboard sleeve and good looking artwork, and still make a profit!
    So this is really the price range to make it convienent.
    Otherwise I think netflix has the right idea or I will stick with $1.00 redbox, blockbuster, or even holywood video.
    Then when Wal-Mart or others have them on sale at a reasonable price I can buy a copy for my collection.

  15. Is there any way to counter the chemical reaction to preserve the DVD?

  16. The resin in the dvd contains a dye that oxidizes slowly when exposed to atmospheric oxygen. The specifics are outlined in detail in the wikipedia entry for flexplay.

    I got one of these dvds for xmas and it’s been a week since I opened it and it’s still working. You could probably prolong the reaction by putting it in a sealed container with CO2 or nitrogen, but dvdshrink had no problem ripping it.

    The package said you can throw it in with your standard recycling.

  17. What about opening it under water? Or in a big tub of glue :D

  18. They are 99 cents at Staples now. Not many titles to choose from, but a couple of solid picks.

  19. I bought one for $.99 -The Golden Compass. I have had it for about a week. The box said best watched before April 2009. So I just opened it and started watching it. I was about 30 minutes into it and it stopped. I stopped the player and started it again and I cannot make out the screen. It is all digital multicolored boxes and no more picture. I found the spot where I was before it stopped and it is all that way. I call the help number and of course they just want you to leave name, number, city, state…. Not worth it. I paid for it and it is useless.