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Blu-ray: The Fate of the Fledgling Format (tech article)

Posted on January 27, 2010 at 11:30 PM

In many ways, the next 6 months will act as the make or break period for the Blu-ray home video format. With Panasonic and Sony both lowering their players to less than $250, sales should skyrocket. If they don't, then the companies are going to have a huge problem on their hands, but if they do, it may create the momentum needed to really push it mainstream. But what are the benefits outside of heightened picture and sound quality? The blu-rays I've seen on the shelves contain the exact same special features as their [$30's cheaper] DVD counterparts. We're in a recession, and to get the full blue-ray experience, consumers will have to shell out for a high-quality Blu-ray player and a full-HD TV. I think that it's possible Blu-ray won't actually take off, and will become a forgotten relic of premature technology, like the Laser Disc.


Let's think about it - most blu-ray discs are as expensive as they will ever be, and not only is the technology still in its adolescence, the films being released now will have another half a dozen reincarnations with better transfers and more features, in the future. Also, you can't really compare it to the VHS-DVD transition of the late 90's, since video tapes couldn't be played on a DVD player, lacked special features and correct screen ratio, and were much clunkier in design. Blue-ray's, however, aren't that much smaller, don't contain that much extra content, and allow DVD's to be played on their system. In reality, the only substantial ubdate is the high-picture quality, which the average movie-goer won't care about that much, and can be a little hit-and-miss, depending on the movie/studio. In my opinion, Blue-ray feels like more of an upgrade of the DVD with $1000 pricetag, rather than the revolutionary evolution from VHS to DVD.


Ultimately, though, I think all of our media will be digital in the future; i.e bought online and stored on a universal hardrive that connects to our TV, computer, speakers, etc. via LAN. It benefits the studio's, because it eliminates the cost of distribution and possibly advertising, and it benefits the consumers need for cheaper, more compact, and more convenient methods of purchase and storage. In this way, Blu-ray is comparable to the MiniDisc - a novel idea, but acting merely as a pit-stop between CDs and MP3s.


Now, please don't get me wrong, as a cinephile myself, I can appreciate the beauty high-definition visuals and audio can bring to the viewing experience. But the circumstances in which companies like Sony and Panasonic are trying to position it into mainstream media consumption, only tarnish its chances of achieving mass home video conversion. Until the pricepoint comes down on LCDs, players and titles, Blu-ray will remain a niche market. In fact, considering the life-span of the two previous formats, it may even disappear into obscurity. VHS was released in the early 80's, challenged in the early 90's, but it wasn't until the late 90's that DVD began to replace it. Now that the everyman has built up his impressive DVD library, it seems unlinkely, he'll be ready to move on to the next "hot thing" just because multi-billion dollar companies tell him to.


As for me, I think I'll stick with with DVDs as well. Department stores and video rentals are practically giving them away. My little brother picked up [a used] Return of King 4-disc box set, for only $5 from Video Ezy, the other day. K-Mart and Target are selling new films for less than $10 a piece. At this point, the cost of Blu-ray far outways its advantages, and regarding the iTunes downloadable movies, I really don't see the appeal. They cost like 3 times as much as the DVD, are worse resolution and have none of the special features. Besides, who wants to watch a movie on their computer anyway, unless they're travelling? What do you guys think about the whole issues? What's your format of choice - DVD, Blu-ray, or digital distribution? And do you think Blu-ray will fail to achieve mainstream success?

Categories: ARTICLES, Technology

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