Developments in technology are improving our entertainment all the time. New standards and devices allow films to be rendered in greater detail. Sound and color depth is richer than ever before. We can now enjoy a cinematic experience in the comfort of our own home.
There is just one drawback to all this. As the technology develops and new standards and formats are introduced you are left having to buy the same films over and over again. Anyone who painstakingly rebuilt their video collection on DVD will know exactly what I’m talking about.
With the advent of Blu-ray, which has emerged as a clear winner over HD DVD, we are faced with yet another new format. If we want to enjoy our favorite films in high definition then we are going to have buy them all over again. The upside is the jump in quality for both picture and audio is comparable to the jump from video to DVD. Make no mistake Blu-Ray movies look a lot better than DVD movies.
Before you Upgrade to Blu-ray
Before you consider the upgrade to Blu-ray there are a few prerequisites. To really get the best from this format you will want the following.
- First of all you are going to need a high definition television, preferably one capable of displaying at 1920 x 1080 pixels.
- Second you will want a Blu-ray player, I’d suggest one that can upgrade DVD movies as well as play Blu-ray movies. Incidentally the PS3 has a built in Blu-ray player.
- Third you will want some kind of surround sound system. Not only do Blu-ray movies offer improved picture, they also offer improved audio.
- Finally you’ll want HDMI cables to hook everything up and a comfy chair so you can sit back and enjoy the action.
Limited Releases Available on Blu-ray
When it comes to actually purchasing the individual films, you are likely to run into a couple of problems. For starters only a relatively small number of films have been released on Blu-ray to date. There are thousands and thousands of movies that have not yet been released as Blu-ray discs and the sad truth is that many of them never will be. The more obscure the film, the less likely it will be re-released in the new format.
I still have a large collection of obscure martial arts films on video which never made the transition to DVD. Sometimes even some of your favorite films slip through the cracks and the best you can do is record them onto your PC or DVD recorder to create DVD versions. This allows you to ditch the bulky videos but obviously it won’t improve the quality of the picture or sound. In that regard the transition from DVD to Blu-ray is less painful. Many Blu-ray players are also capable of upscaling DVDs and squeezing more quality from them. It is also worth pointing out that some Blu-ray transfers are shoddily done and will not offer anything much beyond the quality of an upscaled DVD. It is definitely worth checking out some reviews before you buy.
The Region Nightmare
Another problem you may encounter as you look to rebuild your film collection on Blu-ray is the old region nightmare. The world is divided into regions and players and discs from one region are not supposed to work in other regions. This allows distributors to create irritating differences in release dates and withhold titles from certain regions. In practice it is supposed to allow for some localization but in reality the region system is anachronistic and deeply annoying and it is well past time they ditched it. You may find your favorite title is available elsewhere but not in your region.
As with the DVD format there is always a way round this and you can find multi-region Blu-ray players. If you intend to import Blu-rays from other regions then make sure the Blu-ray player you purchase will allow you to watch them. Be careful when you choose and read carefully because some of the multi-region Blu-ray players are strangely not multi-region for DVDs.
List of Blu-ray Releases
Having negotiated these pitfalls you’ll probably be keen to find an actual list of all the films released on the Blu-ray format. Check out the website High-Def Digest for just such a list. Another website which aims to cover all Blu-ray releases and includes in depth reviews which discuss the film and the quality of the Blu-ray transfer is Blu-ray.com. Both sites also provide a release schedule of what is to come.
There are many surprising omissions from the list of releases on Blu-ray so you may be in for a disappointment. Not many film fans will be able to reconstruct their libraries completely on Blu-ray so for the moment hang on to your DVDs. As the new technology comes down in price and people adopt the hardware we can expect to see more and more Blu-ray releases.
It is also worth pointing out that physical discs aren’t the only way to watch high definition films and another growing trend is for people to download movies online. There are a number of online services that offer downloadable high definition films and this is something we can expect to see more of as Broadband speeds and penetration continue to increase. With this in mind some Blu-ray players come with USB and memory card ports. This would allow you to transfer a movie from your computer to your Blu-ray player, although you will need to make sure the file is in the correct format.
Many of us prefer to plug our computers directly into our HDTV’s and the majority of models support this. However whether you want a PC next to your TV depends on your tastes and the layout of your house, and a Blu-ray player with USB or memory card functionality will give you an alternative.
DVD and Blu-ray Can Coexist
There is no doubt that for the majority of films the Blu-ray standard offers a significant improvement over DVD. The thing is Blu-ray discs are much more expensive and much like DVDs they are going to get cheaper over time. These first Blu-ray releases are often bare-bones and there are likely to be special editions and director’s cuts to come.
At the moment I’d suggest handpicking some of your favorite films and upgrading them. Keep the rest of your DVD collection and buy new releases on Blu-ray. The two can coexist far more easily than video and DVD ever did.
- Author's own experience.
- Official Blu-Ray Disc logo, copyright Blu-Ray Disc Association.
- DVD Regions image: Monaneko by rightee under CC BY-SA 3.0.