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Is Blu-Ray going down for the third time?


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#1 Keith Walters

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Posted 06 September 2017 - 06:42 AM

A couple of weeks back I discovered something I thought had gone extinct: A fully functional video library, that's not a vending machine and has people serving and a back catalogue of DVDs and so on.

As was typical when other libraries were active, when all the latest releases on DVD were out, you could often find a Blu-Ray copy still on the shelf. When my second Blu-Ray player bit the dust a couple of years back, that was roughly about the time of a "mass extinction" of video libraries also occurred, and I hadn't bothered with Blu-Ray since.
Anyway there was a Target store just down the road, and they are currently selling basic DVD players for A$35 (currently about US$28) or Blu-Ray with HDMI for S$59 (about US$47). Since the cheapest DVD player  with HDMI also costs about $60, I thought that was a pretty good buy. Basically, that was my only real reason for buying a Blu-Ray player: to increase my chances of finding a disk to rent.

I was absolutely astonished at how good the picture is, and how easy this cheapo model is to operate, compared with the over-designed monstrosities I'd had before.

But economically, what exactly is the point of Blu-Ray? Yeah, yeah the original idea was that it would be the "Top Shelf" item, with BD discs and players costing about twice their DVD equivalents. That hasn't happened; currently Blu-Ray discs  cost the same or close enough to the same as DVDs to buy or rent, and the price gap between DVD and Blu-Ray players is rapidly narrowing.

 

As far as quality goes, even though the other members of my household can readily appreciate the difference in image sharpness between DVD and Blu-Ray, for normal viewing, they just don't care!


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#2 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 06 September 2017 - 11:15 AM

I've never owned a blu-ray player and neither has anyone I know. It just never became a thing here.

 

And yes, people I know will watch the standard-def streams of broadcast television even though the HD version is just a click away. Nobody cares.


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#3 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 06 September 2017 - 12:20 PM

Even before Blu-Ray arrived experts said it would be the last proprietary consumer format. The prices have come down because their market has disappeared.


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#4 Perry Paolantonio

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Posted 06 September 2017 - 01:35 PM

The difference is the picture quality. But that's largely moot these days since you get equivalent quality with streaming services and even a marginally good internet connection. And while the difference between VHS and DVD was plainly obvious to anyone with functional eyes, most people don't really see the difference between DVD and BD unless they're too close to their screen. (By "most" i'm referring to your average consumer who doesn't care about this stuff. I see a difference and always stream in HD when possible, because it looks better)

 

We basically stopped authoring discs this year, even though that was the first service we offered way back in 2000. We'll do it for some of our existing clients, but I'm glad to see the end of optical media. It was a good run with DVD. The Blu-ray consortium or whatever they're called, really screwed it up for the transition to HD, by making it impossible for small labels and indies to release without exorbitant licensing fees. It took years for them to drop that, but by then it was too late. 

 

Now there's little need for it unless you want special editions with expensive packaging. There's still a market for that, but it's small.


Edited by Perry Paolantonio, 06 September 2017 - 01:37 PM.

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#5 Justin Hayward

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Posted 06 September 2017 - 02:05 PM

Yeah, Blu-Ray used to be better than anything on my projector where the difference between it and a DVD is big, but now HD streaming has caught up with it.  I'll be happy to get rid of any discs all together so my kids can't destroy their Disney movies anymore.


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#6 Perry Paolantonio

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Posted 06 September 2017 - 03:59 PM

I'll be happy to get rid of any discs all together so my kids can't destroy their Disney movies anymore.

 

The only problem with this though, is when Disney up and pulls all their movies from Netflix, two weeks after your 3 year old suddenly wants to watch Moana twice a day!


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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 06 September 2017 - 04:30 PM

I'm glad I own a lot of my favorite movies on blu-ray and can watch them whenever I want. Why standard def video is still a thing, I have no idea. Streaming HD is OK... but I find it a bit soft and compressed-looking compared to the blu-ray.

Not sure I want to make the leap to 4K blu-ray since so few movies really can take advantage of that extra resolution.
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#8 Justin Hayward

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Posted 06 September 2017 - 05:12 PM

Streaming HD is OK... but I find it a bit soft and compressed-looking compared to the blu-ray.
 

 

Maybe it's time for me to get glasses (actually I think it is), but within the last year or so, new movies on iTunes are comparable to blu-rays on my projector.  Even older movies look really good to me.  A little while ago at Mr. Frisch's reco, I watched the 1990 Tony Scott movie "Revenge" on my projector on iTunes and I thought it looked terrific.  


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#9 Peter Welander

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Posted 06 September 2017 - 05:32 PM

Once I got a blu-ray player, I bought a couple older movies just to see if there was any improvement. Specifically 2001 and Dune (David Lynch). They are both spectacular as blu-rays. I can't say I've searched for either of those on Netflix or similar, but I suspect they might be hard to find. Maybe I'm just not looking in the right places, but I have a hard time believing we'll ever be able to give up optical media. I've got FilmStruck now, but it's surprising what isn't on that service...

 

Nonetheless, HD streaming is pretty spectacular too if you can find the titles you're looking for. Even MHz and the PBS streaming service.


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#10 Keith Walters

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Posted 06 September 2017 - 07:07 PM

I'm glad I own a lot of my favorite movies on blu-ray and can watch them whenever I want. Why standard def video is still a thing, I have no idea. Streaming HD is OK... but I find it a bit soft and compressed-looking compared to the blu-ray.

Not sure I want to make the leap to 4K blu-ray since so few movies really can take advantage of that extra resolution.

"I'm glad I own a lot of my favorite movies on blu-ray and can watch them whenever I want. "
The quality of current Blu-Ray releases seems a lot better than they were 10 years ago. I used to work for a large electronics retail chain back then and we often couldn't see a huge amount of difference between the DVD and Blu-Ray versions, at least from a normal viewing distance. The subtitles and credits were  a lot sharper, but the actual images themselves, not so much...

"Why standard def video is still a thing, I have no idea."
You have to face a possibly indigestible reality: For the vast majority of the consuming public, it's basically: "Why all these people keep telling me standard def video is no longer good enough, I have no idea...."
There are endless examples of this.

Laserdisc and the home VCR were first demonstrated by Philips in  back in 1972. Laserdiscs had much better sound and picture quality and there wasn't much difference in the price, but VCRs could record...

DVD was a much more practical format than laser disc, but it still took a long time for DVDs to kill off VCRs, even long after DVD players became cheaper than VCRs.
Back in the early 1970s,  a new generation of all-transistor colour TV receivers swept the world. They used 110 degree picture tubes, which for the first time, had  more resolution available than the current TV broadcast systems were actually transmitting. They were also very expensive and not terribly reliable. But you know, people will put up with the expense and inconvenience for the sake of better image fidelity, won't they? Yes OF COURSE they will... :lol: 
Meanwhile the Japanese pulled the rug out from under the US and European manufacturers by flooding the  market with cut-price models using  old-fashioned 90 degree picture tubes with considerably less resolution and generally indifferent convergence of the red, green and blue images. They were also far more reliable. Guess who won... 
Who remembers Sony's MiniDisc? DAT is pretty well dead now, but it started life as a consumer format, to replace the compact audio cassette. Audio cassettes still live on, not in huge quantities, but they're still available.

Currently, the vast majority of the world's population are still watching video with approximately the same resolution that was suggested  by the  original National Television Systems Committee  in 1941. Maybe, just maybe, they knew a lot more than today's net-sperts want to give them credit for  :rolleyes: 

"Not sure I want to make the leap to 4K blu-ray since so few movies really can take advantage of that extra resolution."
4K makes great computer monitors, but that's about it. Originally, 4K panels were designed to produce  flicker-free 1920 x 1080 3-D using passive goggles, by fitting every other pixel with a polarization rotating filter. You know; building on the runaway success of 3-D...  


 


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#11 AJ Young

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Posted 06 September 2017 - 07:35 PM

I'm with David, I enjoy popping in a Blu-ray/DVD and watching it over streaming. Streaming will definitely catch up and surpass blu-ray in quality, but for it's good enough for me to enjoy. We'll never escape bandwidth throttling, though.

 

I usually purchase blu-ray and DVD's to pull stills for research; they're a lot easier to scrub back and forth than a stream.

 

*I'm also that guy who enjoys listening to vinyl, so take what you will.


Edited by AJ Young, 06 September 2017 - 07:35 PM.

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#12 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 06 September 2017 - 08:18 PM

It drives me nuts to watch a movie on my iPad because you can't freeze on a certain frame and scrub back and forth a few frames, using your finger on the slider sends you minutes in either direction. Plus on iTunes once you start watching a rental you have 24 hours to finish it, so no breaking it up over two nights. And often you can't start watching your download if you don't have an internet connection to authorize the playback, so I have to watch a few seconds at home before a flight, then pause it, and then continue it on the plane flight.
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#13 Justin Hayward

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Posted 06 September 2017 - 08:34 PM

Plus on iTunes once you start watching a rental you have 24 hours to finish it, so no breaking it up over two nights. And often you can't start watching your download if you don't have an internet connection to authorize the playback, so I have to watch a few seconds at home before a flight, then pause it, and then continue it on the plane flight.

 

Okay fine, but I'm talking about renting and watching a movie on my projector all at once.  And usually movies I wouldn't watch more than once.  iTunes looks pretty good for that.  

 

That said, I wish the rentals were at least 48 hours.


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#14 Keith Walters

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Posted 06 September 2017 - 09:37 PM

Ahrrr yes, it's a shame the Blu-Ray consortium put in all that absolutely airtight, boiler-plate, un-crackable encryption that makes it utterly impossible for anyone to transfer  the video data onto a PC for later viewing at their own convenience.

Well, it did.  Initially. For about ... five minutes ...     :rolleyes:  
Ironically, the much more comprehensive Blu-Ray encryption system  was cracked considerably faster than the one used for DVDs.

 

Perhaps as an acknowledgement of the futility of the system, some DVDs also came with a separate, freely copy-able  MPEG4  version of the film , specifically so people could watch the movie on a tablet device....
 


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#15 Jon O'Brien

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Posted 06 September 2017 - 09:49 PM

No wonder George Lucas toyed with the idea of not releasing the prequel Star Wars films on DVD at all. Or so I read somewhere.


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#16 Keith Walters

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Posted 07 September 2017 - 01:57 AM

No wonder George Lucas toyed with the idea of not releasing the prequel Star Wars films on DVD at all. Or so I read somewhere.

Yes, well he had a serious problem in that episodes 4,5 & 6 shot on film decades before were going to look considerably better than episodes 2 & 3, which were shot on tarted-up ENG cameras....

 

But remember that at the time of the cinema release of the prequels, the DVD format was far from established as a major consumer medium.  Episode 1 was released on DVD  in 2001, not that far down the track. Episodes 4,5 & 6 were released in 2004, which isn't too far down the track either. And don't forget, Eps 4,5 & 6 were also retro-edited/(fiddled with) to match the stories of the prequels.
 

Remember also that this was before the days of the current practice where  the DVD version is normally released shortly after the end of the cinema run, to minimize the impact of pirate versions.


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#17 Jon O'Brien

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Posted 07 September 2017 - 02:26 AM

Whoops, yes, now I remember. 

 

Your first paragraph got a laugh out of me. Very true.


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#18 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 07 September 2017 - 03:43 AM

BluRay was a failed format the moment it hit the shelves. High prices and incompatibilities killed the market from day one, which left so many people unwilling to make the change. The death of HD DVD was kind of the beginning of the end for physical media. I blame the studio's for it, chickenshits were scared of piracy, yet their own stupid streaming services and BluRay's are the #1 piracy method. 

 

My first BluRay disk was Interstellar. I actually scored a used player from a friend because I wanted to own Interstellar on BR. The player is a piece of junk like they all are, but when Best Buy killed off 100's of BR titles, I swooped in and bought a dozen of my favorite, even a few UHD disks. 

 

I've never liked .h264, but it works well on BR. It's far superior to any streaming service I've ever used and WAY better then the torrent files. It's actually worth the $7.99 - $12 to own something that looks THAT good. To me though, it will always be the "intermediary" format to UHD BluRay, which is .h265 10 bit 4:4:4 UHD resolution. I honestly can't wait to upgrade my projector to UHD and nab a UHD player. I've been buying UHD BluRay disks because they come with the standard BluRay disks as well, mostly older restorations rather then NEW titles. Seeing some of these beautiful new transfers in full raster 10 bit at home, is going to be amazing... when the projector costs die down. Right now there are only 2 DLP UHD laser projectors on the market, so I'm waiting for a few more to come out and I'll buy one up. I just hope physical media sticks around long enough that people who like to have things, can actually own these movies. I highly doubt we will ever see better quality at home then the .h265 UHD standard, which currently is just barley scratching the surface of what it can do. Netflix has been experimenting with streaming it, but so far it appears they're doing 8 bit 4:2:0 still. 

 

The DVD scaler in my BluRay player works really good as well, so it makes older disks look not so bad. Worth the investment for anyone who has a collection and doesn't want to invest too much. 


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#19 David Mawson

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Posted 07 September 2017 - 06:03 AM

 

Currently, the vast majority of the world's population are still watching video with approximately the same resolution that was suggested  by the  original National Television Systems Committee  in 1941. Maybe, just maybe, they knew a lot more than today's net-sperts want to give them credit for  :rolleyes: 
 

 

That limit was set entirely by the technical capability of the time. You do get that consumer electronics were rather less advanced in 1941 and there was no possibility of creating a fibre optic network, so video had to be transmitted using radio, on a rather narrow band of frequencies, using analog technology? Even if it had been possible to build a 4K colour TV, the bandwidth available would have sufficed, at best, for a single channel...


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#20 Keith Walters

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Posted 07 September 2017 - 06:44 AM

 

That limit was set entirely by the technical capability of the time. You do get that consumer electronics were rather less advanced in 1941 and there was no possibility of creating a fibre optic network, so video had to be transmitted using radio, on a rather narrow band of frequencies, using analog technology? Even if it had been possible to build a 4K colour TV, the bandwidth available would have sufficed, at best, for a single channel...

If you get an old textbook on television engineering from the 1930s you'll be staggered by how much they understood about what the limits of television would probably be, long before the hardware existed to actually put it into practice. A lot of experiments were done using modified film projectors and specially made films to simulate large-screen TVs when the standard CRT screen size was 5 inches or less. They predicted that the biggest screen anybody would want using interlaced scanning in the average living room  was about 24 inches diagonal, with about 480 active scanning lines, and sure enough, not too many CRT TVs much bigger that that were ever actually sold, even 60 years later.
It wasn't until the development of practical plasma and LCD panels (which don't have the problems of interlacing) that panel size began to grow, but even so, the most popular size for those is around 42 inches.
480active lines (525 total) turned out to be a good compromise between the number of channels available, resolution and signal-to-noise ratio, and still lives on in many parts of the world. Even über- techno Japan used the exact same NTSC system right up until the introduction of Digital TV.
The simple fact is that NTSC or PAL video transmitted over the air take a number of quite  separate quality hits, that are all eliminated by a DVD player with an HDMI connection. For most people, (who have been happily watching broadcast TV with all its limitations for decades) that was more than enough of an improvement.

 


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