BAFTA voters are preparing for 'mystifying' campaignseason in the UK following the delay in plans to distribute anti-piracy DVDplayers to every BAFTA member.

The move has led to predictions in certain quarters thatthe late arrival of the DVD players will cause a repeat of last year's chaosamong film voting members as the 2004-5 awards season beckons.

Earlier this month, Dolby subsidiary Cinea delayed plansto send out the players, which can play standard and specially coded DVDs, toevery Oscar and BAFTA voter saying they would now reach members by the end ofNovember.

Some Brits are arguing that even if the players do turnup by the end of November, the problems will remain enormous.

'I applaud the effort to do something about piracyand to accommodate voters (through Cinea), but initially at least, thisinitiative is going to be mystifying for the better part of therecipients,' commented one veteran BAFTA campaigner who described herselfas an 'old-fashioned Luddite who finds the prospect incredibly scary.'

She pointed out that even if Cinea does 'get its acttogether' and deliver the machines, 'I cannot imagine the volume ofcorrespondence and panicked phone calls we're going to receive saying 'my DVDplayer is not working,' or 'my DVD player has destroyed my favourite copy of Titanic.'"She added that she sees the new scheme as 'an interesting potentialnightmare.'

British producer David Parfitt, who is Chair of the FilmCommittee at BAFTA, was striking a more positive note. He stated that a few weeks'delay in the arrival of Cinea's DVD boxes will have minimal impact on Britishvoters.

'If the players don't come until later in the awardsseason, I guess fewer distributors will actually use the system, but as theplayers play ordinary DVDs, it will give us all a chance to make sure we canplug them in and make sure they all work. Either we'll have the later screenersplaying on them or we'll wait until next year.'

Parfitt states that it's only commonsense for Cinea tomake sure the machines are working properly before sending them out. Thecompany does not appear to have any immediate rivals. 'The only fullencryption system seems to be coming from Cinea,' Parfitt noted. 'Iwould rather see them (Cinea) secure in the knowledge that their machines are working...Ithink they should be applauded for being rightly cautious.'

Last year, some BAFTA members who hadn't received theirscreeners in time declined to vote. Parfitt insists that the goal is still toensure as many voters see the films on the big screen. 'There are loads ofBAFTA screenings this year, more than ever before,' he said. 'Thescreeners are only a back-up.'

Even if they are only a 'back-up,' thescreeners remain vitally important to many films' chances of BAFTA night glory.Whatever their qualms about piracy, distributors are bound to have looked atthe BAFTA success last year of Lost In Translation, which was at leastpartially attributable to the fact that so many academy members were able towatch it on DVD.