Tech Tuesday – Ted S. Explains Blu-Ray
Well, it’s Tech Tuesday and today I am letting FrontRoomCinema regular and Flixchatter guest poster take control. Here Ted S. gives us a history lesson on the great and mighty Blu Ray Disk.
The history and benefits of Blu-ray
I think most people know about Blu-ray disc by now and probably own a BD player or two. Its major backer was Sony, if you want to read a more in depth history of the product; I recommend you read this article from Wikipedia.
For this article, I’ll go over the battle between BD and its rival HD-DVD and also the benefits of owning a Blu-ray player. Back in the late 90s, Sony wanted to release Blu-ray player but because HDTVs has just arrived in the market, they realized people won’t be interested in the product just yet. Also, Toshiba and most of the electronics manufacturers were backing DVD players around that time. Most people don’t remember but Sony was the last company to come out with a DVD player, there weren’t happy that they couldn’t release Blu-ray so basically they were pouting.
So in mid-2000s when most people have HDTV in their house hold, Sony was ready to release BD. They got most of the major electronic companies on their side and also they got the backings of a few big Hollywood movie studios, 20th Century Fox, MGM, Disney and of course Sony’s own film division. But Toshiba and the DVD group also developed their own version of HD player called HD-DVD. Toshiba has Microsoft and RCA on their side; they also got a few big studios backing them, Warner Bros., Paramount Pictures and Universal Studios. Things really heat up around 2004 when both announced they will release their product in 2006, Sony said they will include BD in their new Playstation 3 and HD-DVD will include in X-Box 360 game console. Around this time BD was gaining momentum because they unveiled some cool features, especially in PS3 and the media was urging the HD-DVD folks to merge with Blu-ray. Both camps actually met in late 2004 to see if they can resolve their issues and release only one HD player so consumers won’t have to choose side. It’s unclear as to why the two camps couldn’t agree to merge but most people in the media suspected that BD wanted to use Java based technology for their product, while HD-DVD wanted to use Microsoft’s technology.
Well by 2005 both camps still planned to release their own version of HD players to the market. Things got interesting in late 2005 when Warner Bros. and Paramount announced that they would also release their films on Blu-ray; they decided to become format neutral because BD was gaining so much momentum around this time. HD-DVD camp realized they have to do something fast to fight BD, so they decided to release their product a few months earlier than BD. The first HD-DVD player came out in April of 2006 and it got off to a rocky start. Early adopters had issues with their player kept freezing up and some couldn’t even hear the audio from HD-DVD discs. Toshiba released a firmware upgrade a few weeks later and things were going great for HD-DVD, especially when they upgrade the players to play Dolby TrueHD.
The BD camp was a bit shocked because they didn’t think Toshiba would be able to release their product that fast, so they encouraged one of their backers to release BD players as soon as they could. Samsung stepped up and release their BD player in the summer of 2006 (I bought their first generation BD player in June of 2006). Unfortunately for BD, things didn’t go smooth at all, my BD player would freeze once in a while and it didn’t help that most of the movies released on BD weren’t great in quality. Some were slightly better looking than their DVD counterparts. I was not a happy camper at this point because I chose to support BD and HD-DVD was getting all the raves around this time. So in the fall of 2006, Sony and the BD camp needed to push their products fast because HD-DVD was obviously winning. In November of that year, Sony released PS3 and their BD player. On the software side, Disney, Fox, Sony and MGM were rolling out more movies with better quality in picture and sound. At this time, people who have bought into the technology were divided, on one side was the die-hard BD fan boys and the other were the HD-DVD. If you go to any A/V forums, there was lots of bickering between the fan boys. By late 2006, I realized that the battle was going to be a long one so I decided to buy an HD-DVD player and support both formats. I love films and want to see them in HD so it was a win win for me.
In 2007 things were really heated up between the two camps, both spent quite a bit of money promoting their product. But the funny thing was that, most people still were happy with DVD player so no one was really paying attention to either format, unless you were an early adaptor, you probably didn’t even know about the “HD war”. In the fall of 2007, Paramount decided they were going to release films exclusively on HD-DVD. Well of course this stirred up quite a bit of controversies, the fan boys from BD camp accused Paramount of taking bribe money from HD-DVD, while HD fan boys fired back saying BD was losing and that’s why Paramount defected to their camp. Well by January of 2008, the war was pretty much over when Warner Bros. announced they were going to side with BD exclusively. Let’s just say the HD-DVD fan boys weren’t happy with that news and by the spring of 2008, HD-DVD pretty much threw in the white flag. I think Warner Bros. was just sick of releasing films on both formats and decided it will be cheaper to just support one format. Of course many suspected that they took money from the BD camp, I wouldn’t be surprised if they did.
As of today, BD is still considered a niche market even though Best Buy and other retail stores have an entire section of BD movies. A few years ago, there was only a small section in those stores dedicated to BD. I don’t think BD will become as big as DVD because most people can get movies through streaming or on-demand option. Plus a lot of people are still happy with just regular DVD.
The benefits of Blu-ray over DVD
Since I’m an early adaptor, I love BD. I have over 70 BDs in my collection, the last time I watched a film on DVD was probably sometime in 2007. The great thing about BD is that if offer full HD picture in 1080p, HD surround sound and some cool features like picture-in-picture commentary. For those who have great home theater set up, you already know that BD offer great quality that you can only get from movie theaters. I have a pretty decent home theater and ever since I got a BD player, I hardly go see films in theater anymore. In fact, some films look better and sound better on my home theater than in the theater where I saw it in.
Another great thing about BD is when older “classic” films are released in the format, they looked spectacular. For example, I used to own a DVD version of Blade Runner and it looked atrocious but when I bought the BD version, it look and sounds amazing in HD. Of course Warner Bros. spent quite a bit of money restoring the film before they release it on BD. Now with that said there are a lot of bad looking BDs out there, mostly because the studios decided to not upgrade the HD master and used the old version they used for the DVD release.
When people asked me if they should upgrade to BD, I would always tell them if they have a nice home theater set up and a decent size HDTV, then go for it. In my opinion if you have a TV that’s 50 inch and over than you should definitely upgrade to BD, but if you have anything smaller than I don’t know if you can really tell the difference between BD and DVD.
Well that’s just a little history of BD and what you can get out of it if you decide to upgrade. If you’re planning to get a BD player and have questions, feel free to ask in the comments section and I’ll try to answer them as best I could.