In what some now think was a very predictable outcome, HD-DVD has died, and Blu-ray is the winner. Since it’s been covered elsewhere, here’s a link:
So what now? Are we done for good? Never!
Now that we know what disc based HD format we’ll be using, there are still lots of problems to solve! Here are some:
1. Player control – most Blu-ray players are sluggish to respond to remote controls. In the old days (yes, way back!) early VCRs, particularly Betamax machines, responded instantly to a remote control button press, giving the user a feel of control. Scanning back for a missed piece of dialog was immediate. And the remotes themselves made sense…simple, and easy to understand, not like the current glob of black buttons on a black remote with dark gray lettering.
2. Picture improvement – What??? Sorry, folks, Blu-ray isn’t the be-all and end-all. In fact, it’s got quite a ways to go. For some time my personal reaction to HD of almost any flavor has been consistently “Why isn’t this sharper, cleaner, lower noise, just plain better?” Whether it’s been intentionally hobbled to limit the quality available to the consumer, or it’s still a storage capacity thing, there are still many aspects of HD that 35mm film beats. And, digital theater projection is moving to 4K (1080p is essentially 2K). Down the road, might we see some sort of High HD consumer format? That’s a subject for another post, though.
3. Lower the hardware cost, already! Blu-ray’s two limiting factors to a hands-down win a year ago where second to market (can’t help that now) and competitive hardware cost. An HD-DVD has always been less expensive to buy, and that’s a problem still. When will we get the $149.95 Blu-ray player? Oppo, are you listening? How about the Oppo up-converting, all format playing (including SA-CD?) Blu-ray supreme player? I’d pay a lot more than $149 for that!
4. Then there’s the non-disc HD content competition. Most of us still don’t accumulate thousands of movies. We recognize that most of what Hollywood produces isn’t worth owning, but we might subject ourselves to a one-time, low cost viewing, otherwise known as a rental. Yes, we can go to the video store and get a disc, but how much easier it would be to stay at home, not have to deal with the store’s strange lack of organization, already checked-out discs, store personnel with piercings through every body part, huge check-out lines and late fees? Much. And that is rapidly becoming a viable option from Apple via Apple TV, and others. We won’t have the quality of full 1080p for a bit yet, but that’s a bandwidth thing, and bandwidth does seem to keep going up. If on-line rental via a set-top device is as cheap as a physical rental, almost as fast as a trip to the store, and has at least 720p quality, the convenience factors will win, and disc rental will eventually loose volume, stores will close (they are already closing), and physical rental will get harder which will avalanche on-line rentals forward. From a studio standpoint, if you don’t have to produce physical materials, it’s way less expensive to distribute your content. I see non-disc based distribution as being the way of the future, and your dedicated Blu-ray player becoming a dinosaur in as little as 5 years. And while that may not be enough to influence your purchase now, in a few years it will. Look for Apple TV or the like with increased capabilities like 1080p and multichannel sound and a built-in Blu-ray transport. You know it’s coming…
All of that said, the Blu-ray win is welcome. We have a single standard, which we should have had all along. And HD is a definite improvement over standard video, both in picture and sound.
So, for the first time, we have a recommendation: buy a Blu-ray player, plug it into your HD home theater system, and enjoy.
Don’t forget that to enjoy optimum picture and sound in your HT system of any size or type, you should have it professionally calibrated. Call Platinum Home Theaters for details.