Tuesday, March 31, 2009

DVD vs. Blu-Ray

A few months ago I met a woman at a party who worked for a major studio's DVD marketing department, and mentioned how I had felt no rush to upgrade to Blu-Ray. "Why not?" she asked. Which is the thing, really -- the studios think the question is "Why not?" when actually the question is "Why?" As in, why should anyone want to upgrade in the first place?

To even start to become interested, you need to own an HDTV of a certain size, and at the time, I didn't. That has since changed, and so I recently did upgrade to a Blu-Ray player. Even then, I would have been satisfied with an upconverting DVD player with HDMI output, except that it seemed silly to get something like that when it was possible I would get a Blu-Ray player eventually. I got the cheapest Blu-Ray player I could find that still seemed trustworthy. It doesn't support online features through BD Live, so I'm banking on the fact that when I want to go online to talk about movies, I will be satisfied to use my computer and not a cumbersome proprietary interface through my television. I hope I didn't make a mistake.

The Blu-Ray player does a fine job of upconverting DVDs and finally displaying content that I feel is worthy of our new TV screen. Last week we got our first Blu-Ray disc from Netflix and experienced our first true HD picture.

Watching Blu-Ray is kind of like getting new glasses. You're impressed at how clear everything is, how much detail you can see that you weren't even aware of before. Then again, you were never aware of it before, so was it really all that important? It seems to demand part of your attention to appreciate, so that part of your mind is always thinking, "Look how sharp everything is; I must remember to be grateful for this." All of this is beside the point in terms of actually becoming absorbed in a film's story, for which DVD resolution is perfectly sufficient. Still, it's nice.

The other thing is that Blu-Ray players are slow, almost comically slow. As in, it's actually funny that something could load this slowly and still be considered a viable consumer product ready for market. The thing must take almost a minute to boot up, way longer than we are accustomed to with DVD. Remote commands like fast-forwards, rewinds, and menu selections feel like they have a slightly delayed response. The high resolution playback of Blu-Ray is like a heavy train that takes an extra effort to start moving and to stop.

I like watching Blu-Ray from Netflix, but I'm not sure when I would start buying movies on Blu-Ray. One reason I buy DVDs is so I can show movies to my family, and Blu-Rays wouldn't play there, or on my computer, so right now it feels more limiting.


Anonymous said...

I've seen no reason to upgrade, because I highly doubt it will make me enjoy movies more. But additionally, I worry that if I got used to Blu-Ray, at some point I would start enjoying DVDs less. So I'd be paying a bunch of money to reduce my level of happiness.

This is the same reason I've deliberately avoiding learning more/refining my pallet with respect to wine, chocolate, and coffee. I enjoy two-buck-chuck, hershey bars, and 7-11 coffee. Why would I want to stop enjoying those things, and alter my tastes so that I can only enjoy things that cost a lot more?

Zack said...

I enjoy two-buck-chuck, hershey bars, and 7-11 coffee. Why would I want to stop enjoying those things, and alter my tastes so that I can only enjoy things that cost a lot more?

This is why the all I watch are Saturday morning cartoons from my childhood.

boffo, the serious answer to your question is that you should develop your tastes because your returns on reruns of the same experiences drop over time. Dr Pepper will never taste as sweet to me as it did when I was in elementary school. The best you can do is pretend not to notice, or somehow willfully deaden your tastebuds.

Harley said...

The question remains, why?

Now I'm not saying Blu-Ray ISN'T better quality. But you really do need a huge amount of hardware to take any advantage of it. Something like 40 inches of screen - minimum. That's going to cost you about £200, if not more. Then a Blu-Ray player (duh). A decent one of those is another £200. And THEN you're going to have to buy Blu-Ray disks, which cost about £10 more each, and for that matter, there isn't as wide a variety anyway, and to add to THAT, movies older than a few years will NEVER get that quality anyway.

DVD made a HUGE leap in quality for movies, not just for the new movies but also showed capable of improving viewing of the old ones too. You could really see the difference, and not just with two screens playing side by side either.

Now Blu-Ray makes another improvement, but unlike DVD vs VHS, you DO need a direct comparison, and not just that, but a direct comparison on specially chosen screens too.

For the movie lover in us, with a lot of money to spend and a desire to be absolutely up to date with the best, there's no reason NOT to upgrade to Blu-Ray - if you don't mind the fact that when push comes to shove, the majority of your movies will inevitably be upscaled DVDs anyway.

But for the rest of us, which is most of us, since movies are still coming out on DVD, cost less, there are more of them, and the quality difference is negligible. DVD has quite some running distance yet.

And despite Blu-Ray's success over HD-DVD, with the current economic crisis tightening our belts and constricting our wallets, there's no guarantee that Blu-Ray will truly win the race against DVD.

After all... does anybody remember the magnificent failure that was mini-discs?

Anonymous said...

Blu-Ray is definitely going to take over. I'm surprised some people still don't have a HDTV / large screen TV yet. In fact it's no longer possible to buy a brand new TV from a big store and not have it support HDTV (720p or beyond). I got a WORKING blu-ray player with remote control and power cord which also plays dvd for $40 on ebay and that INCLUDES shipping and sales tax. I've seen blu-ray and dvd, blu-ray wins hands down in quality. The cost of manufacturing blu-ray discs is almost the same as a dvd disc and in a few years the price of blu-ray players will be about the same as dvd players now. Blu-ray players also support playing DVDs. The maximum amount of resolution a DVD can support is 480p resolution, it's not even HD content.

I've watched 10 mins of the same movie in DVD and blu-ray and it's like night and day.