Alan’s Bi-Weekly Life Of… Blu-Ray

I’m resurrecting my old blogging methodology: “Alan’s Bi-Weekly Life Of…” where I write an article every 14 days or so about something I like. This time around, I like the blu-ray format.

This is kind of a strange topic for me to pull out as I usually don’t get too ranty about things, but recently I had a few conversations about how much a scam blu-ray is. I respectfully disagree. Mostly.

The main argument is that blu-ray is a stopgap format set up to gouge the consumer of some dollars by taking advantage of everyone’s newfangled HDTVs and will eventually be replaced by some other magical format in short order. The elements of the argument I see are the dissatisfaction of the price, the format itself, and the temporary lifespan of the format, so that’s what I’ll address.

First of all, yeah it’s expensive. $30 for a disk is harsh. It is, however, less painful sounding when you look at them vs. movie prices. A movie theater run for two people with tickets and refreshments is easily $30 if you’re not going matinee/bargain. I remember back in my day that the dvd price to movie ticket price comparison was not that far off. That still doesn’t justify the price point, as movie prices have inflated in a way that I consider unreasonable, but I see the high price of blu-ray movies as profit taking as people change formats. Sale prices of blu-ray seem to be in the $15-20 range which is more reasonable when compared to dvd, and who pays retail anyway? The other (dirtier) side of this coin is the rental price. I consider the rental market for movies the wild west. There is definitely price gouging there because the market is definitely in flux. There are many formats and avenues to rent a movie: physical store (blockbuster), online store (netflix), pay-per-view (cable), and eleventy-hundred broadband-delivery services. I’ll get to those in a moment. Because of this, I think, blu-ray prices rental prices (and to some extend purchase prices) are wack. The justification for the higher prices is the format’s features and specifically I’m talking about high definition content.

I’m usually not a technolust apologist, but in this case I have drunk the kool-aid and I thoroughly enjoy my home theater experience. I have surround sound, a big tv, and my PS3 is my blu-ray player. The blu-ray format is the only one that pushes the home theater technology to the limit. Even HDTV signals are not broadcast at that limit yet. This means that blu-ray is the closest reproduction one can get from what’s seen in the theater. Some people claim that they can’t see the difference between dvd and blu-ray and to them I say, “you’re doin’ it wrong.” I acknowledge some people don’t have HDTVs and I bet many of them don’t have them set up correctly, but to me, even on a smaller TV (and I’m amazed when I think of 32″ as small nowadays) I can see the diference between one properly set up for HD signals (HDTV or blu-ray) and one that is not (standard definition TV or dvd). There have been times when I’ve thought while watching movies at home that the picture actually looks clearer than it did in the theater when I saw the movie originally. That, for me, justifies the existence and price of blu-ray movies. It’s not surprising as a blu-ray disc holds about 5 times the data as a dvd, and the raw resolution numbers back that up: 480 lines of resolution in a DVD vs. 1080 in a blu-ray. That means a finer reproduction of the film. The higher picture quality has also driven many movie companies to take another run at restoring their film prints to provide a picture experience, and the higher fidelity level is great… at least until the next big thing comes out.

I’ll be honest about formats, I acknowledge blu-ray is not forever. I don’t think, though, there is a format to challenge it nor the technology that would merit that change. Again, the amount of picture data is immense in the blu-ray disc but it maxes out the current TV technology. That TV technology follows the TV signals’ technology. HDTV sets come from HDTV signals because the FCC mandated the digital technology spectrum and the broadcast standards. Since that changeover is happening now and it’s clear how much it’s been delayed and drawn out it’s extremely unlikely that there will be another change in TV technology from a picture resolution standpoint, so I think the blu-ray format will be around for a while.

A quick aside about internet-based delivery of content. Media without the physical container seems to be gaining momentum as the next thing for people, and I think that’s interesting but it has quite a few problems with it. First of all it’s generally not HD. I’ll pull the HD snob card here because that’s why I put together the home theater setup. I want the highest quality experience. Every internet delivery service provides a watchable product but not the highest quality. Some have higher resolution than dvd, but many do not. The main problem, however, is DRM. When I purchase something I believe I should be able to do whatever I want with it short of make money off it. This should include things like watching it whenever I want and on whatever player I want. All internet/pay-per-view/video-on-demand/services are locked down in a way that annoys me. Physical media, generally, is immune to these restrictions (or else quietly subvrted). I generally find DRM insulting because it assumes I am a criminal. I should do a whole article on what I think is my “entertainment consumer’s bill of rights” but that’s the short form for now. I think any and all of those methods are adequate if I’m just watching a movie once or renting a movie. Buying a movie,

In short, I like blu-ray because I like movies. The movies I really like: the ones that resonate with me enough that I want to watch them again and again I want to buy. If I buy something I want it to be the best, and right now that’s blu-ray. See you next bi-week!

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