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Today’s Show:

Blu-ray: Here to stay?

In our last episode we spelled out the reasons the Blu-ray disk, and the DVD for that matter, may not be around for much longer. That sparked some healthy debate at the watercooler and in our email. As you can imagine, pristine, high quality audio and video aren’t the only reasons to hang on to the disk format. In the interest of point-counterpoint, ‘we report, you decide,’ this week we’ll cover the reasons why Blu-ray could hang around for a while.

Quality

Once you’ve invested all that money to build a killer home theater, do you really want to use a streamed movie to show it off? Heck no! You want the highest quality audio and video experience you can get. Without a doubt, that would have to be Blu-ray. If you want to demo your system with Blu-ray, you should treat yourself to the best as well when you’re using that home theater.

It doesn’t matter if you have a front projector or a plasma, an LED or even still have a large rear projection TV. In any case you spent good money on it and deserve to see it at its best. You may have a 5.1 surround system, or even 6.1 or 7.1. Blu-ray will make your audio come to life better than any streamed format can. If you like experiencing your movies through sound, you have no choice. It has to be Blu-ray.

Sure, streamed and downloaded formats are getting better. The video gets better all the time, and they continue to add the latest audio codecs as well. All-in-all, the streamed movie experience is quite good. But it isn’t Blu-ray good. Nor will it be for a while, if ever, in some areas. The bitrate you get from Blu-ray is difficult to match, even in better Internet connected areas. Newer codecs provide the similar quality at lower bitrates, but we’ve yet to see a streamed movie that matches Blu-ray quality.

Consistency

Unless the disk gets damaged or scratched, the experience you get watching a Blu-ray is the same every time. There’s no guessing on whether or not your Internet connection or WiFi will go down. Not pausing to buffer or pausing to change video quality when your bandwidth changes. You get the same pristine experience every time. So unless your kids get ahold of the Blu-ray and use it as a frisbee, or your dog decides to use it as a chew toy, you can count on that Blu-ray movie to always be perfect.

Bandwidth

Streamed movies require a good, solid, high-speed Internet connection. Some people are blessed with this situation, others are not. If you can’t count on the quality or speed of your connection, or the speed is simply too slow, you’re out of luck. You can watch really bad streamed movies, or you can try to download them to your player, or you can make the sensible choice and rent or buy the movie on Blu-ray.

We (the HT Guys) have to admit we can forget about this one from time to time. Where we live in Southern California we both have access to very high speed, consistent Internet service. Sometimes we take this for granted. It will be a long, long time before everyone in the country, or around the world, is in the same situation. For many of you out there, the idea of trying to stream or download every movie just isn’t feasible. You know it wouldn’t work. Hopefully there will come a day when it is an option for you, but for now, and for the foreseeable future, it isn’t. That makes Blu-ray not only your best option, but your only option.

Availability

Having a piece of physical media in your hand means you can pop it into a player and watch anytime you want. No limits on when you can watch, how you can watch, where you can watch, or even how many times you can watch. It’s all on your terms. With streamed or downloaded movies, you may not have that luxury. Driving, on a train, in an airport, in an airplane, in a remote location, you name it, there are so many places you can’t take a streamed movie with you.

Some services allow you to download the movies in advance, so you can take them to those remote or disconnected places, but not all services allow this. And if you have watched all those movies already and want something new, forget it. You can either pay for high speed Internet somewhere or sit around and twiddle your thumbs. With a disk, you’ve already paid for it, it’s already yours, watch whenever you want.

Physical media

The vast majority of what makes Blu-ray a compelling format is the fact that it is a physical media that doesn’t require an Internet connection at all. Ever. You don’t have to download movies to a physical device you can take with you, you don’t have to have an Internet connection to verify your license. The only way to get rid of Blu-ray is to replace it with a different physical media that provides the same benefits. That can only happen when a new physical media comes around that is easier or cheaper to mass produce.

Sure there are other options, like the USB device you take to a kiosk, but what about the people who receive their rentals in the mail? Or what about the people who like to buy movies and simply have them delivered using an online store like Amazon or Walmart? And what about all those existing disks and players that are already out there? Would the new format be backward compatible in some way, or would everyone be forced to rebuy all their players and their entire movie collection?

It comes down to Internet connectivity

In the end, people like those of us who have high-speed, high availability Internet can imagine a day without traditional physical media. Perhaps because some of us are mostly there already with Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Vudu and iTunes. But for those without the consistent Internet connection required to support eliminating Blu-ray, there’s just no way to imagine a life without physical media. And if you need physical media anyways, you might as well keep the format everyone has already invested in.

 

Download Episode #593


Posted by The HT Guys, July 26, 2013 12:35 AM

About The HT Guys

The HT Guys, Ara Derderian and Braden Russell, are Engineers who formerly worked for the Advanced Digital Systems Group (ADSG) of Sony Pictures Entertainment. ADSG was the R&D unit of the sound department producing products for movie theaters and movie studios.

Two of the products they worked on include the DCP-1000 and DADR-5000. The DCP is a digital cinema processor used in movie theaters around the world. The DADR-5000 is a disk-based audio dubber used on Hollywood sound stages.

ADSG was awarded a Technical Academy Award by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2000 for the development of the DADR-5000. Ara holds three patents for his development work in Digital Cinema and Digital Audio Recording.

Every week they put together a podcast about High Definition TV and Home Theater. Each episode brings news from the A/V world, helpful product reviews and insights and help in demystifying and simplifying HDTV and home theater.