What’s a Laser Disc???

By in Abel Gance, Directors, Laser Discs, Media Technology, Silent Cinema
August 30th, 2012

There are hundreds of laser discs at Krasker. For those of you who might not know, laser discs were a precursor to DVDs; approximately the size of an LP record, laser discs look similar to DVDs, only bigger. Wait. What? What’s an LP? Oh good grief, how about you just Google that! For today’s lesson all you need to know is that the darn thing’s big. Whilst prized by hardcore cineastes, the laser disc didn’t catch on and soon the more portable DVD usurped its position as the next best thing. We still use laser discs at Krasker for one simple reason: we have to. Yes there are certain films (or certain editions of certain films) that just are not available any other way. Unfortunately laser discs do degrade over time leaving some titles at risk for extinction, all the more reason to support film preservation initiatives. Plus often DVD releases (see comments below) are very flash-the-pan and not always easy to obtain for educational purposes.

The uncut, 235-minute version of Abel Gance's 1927 epic Napoleon: we only can get on laser disc!

Current BU faculty, staff and students can learn more about laser discs by visiting our center at Mugar Library, 771 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston MA 02215. Check out our website for additional info.

5 Comments on What’s a Laser Disc???

  • Napoleon is actually out on DVD in German with English intertitles, just like the Laserdisc. It’s split out over two discs to avoid compression and artifacts. I have both and while the DVD shows less damages, I still think the Laserdisc has better textures and contrast. Audio is also a bit richer on Laserdisc but sounds good on the DVD as well.

    • Oh Golly –YES! I have seen it …but unfortunately I have NO WAY of getting it for the University. All the vendors selling it are NOT approved by the University for educational use. One of them is Amazon –and no Amazon allowed. :>( Blu-ray.com/ebay, ditto.

      We are actively pursuing authorization to buy from Amazon but for now, it’s a no go… we do take donations if anyone out there would care to gift us with a copy :>)

      And thank you for getting in touch Sebastian!

  • Hi:

    I just stumbled in to this conversation and as a librarian, laserdisc guy, and silent film buff I feel your pain at not being able to acquire a copy of “Napoleon.” It is a tremendous film, but with the way it’s distribution has essentially been tied-up by Copolla’s Zoetrope Studios, we here in the U.S. are somewhat stuck. However…have you seen the information at http://www.blu-ray.com/movies/Napoleon-Blu-ray/148925/?!?? The recent 5.5 hour version is soon to be on blu-ray! But…I don’t believe it will be available here in Region A/1. Perhaps your library has a region-free player??? Regardless, great to see you all still have a laserdisc collection and best of luck with this thorny issue.

    • Hello Phil,

      Thank you for the tip on Napoleon! We do have a region-free player at our library screening facility and the College of Arts and Sciences has some screening rooms for multi-region & PAL formats. Tomorrow is actually my last day at BU (and Krasker Talks!) but I will pass on this info to my co-worker Walter von Bosau.


  • Hi Mary:

    Thanks for your kind response. Congratulations on the new…gig? Retirement? Life adventure?

    Regardless, all best,


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