Saturday, 26 September 2009

Blu-ray: opinions

Six months after buying a Blu-ray player (and recently joining the "full HD" TV club) I thought I'd share my opinions with anyone reading this.

Plus points:
1) On a full HD TV, most films and programmes look and sound better than they do on DVD, considerably better than they do on Freeview TV, and slightly better than on BBC or ITV HD.
2) Given the right kind of connection and TV, a Blu-ray player will “upscale” your DVDs to 1080p (the highest HDTV standard available in the UK) better than most DVD players
3) Blu-ray players are now available at a similar price to DVD players (unless you think that £40 is enough to pay for a DVD player)
Minus:
1) The choice of Blu-ray discs is still small
2) There is usually more than £3 difference (i.e. what I would consider a reasonable differential) between a Blu-ray disc and the equivalent DVD
3) Blu-ray discs can be slow to load and navigation is often more awkward than on DVD. This is hard to forgive, as disc designers have had a long time to get the ergonomics right
I only paid £120 for my Sony 350 Blu-ray player at Richer Sounds and am pleased with it. However, as we had a 32-inch HD-ready TV and I then wanted a 40 inch full HD set (which we’ve just got) it ended up costing my partner and I a lot more money than I first guessed. I really want Blu-ray to take off, but I think they’ll have to reduce the price differential.
Unfortunately, most people are so uncritical that they’ll pay a lot of money for a flash TV and still watch it on “vivid” mode, often with old non wide-screen programmes stretched horizontally to fill the screen. It baffles me that people prefer to watch a programme like that – a bit like the “colour snobs” who refused to watch any black and white programmes when they got their first colour TVs. If the photographer decided to “wide screen” their wedding photos so that the happy couple turned out 33% wider and ended up as happy hippos, would they still be so ecstatic? I think not.
Anyway, my worry is that, because the majority of people don't care about video or audio quality, direct-to-TV downloading will catch on faster than Blu-ray. If it does, this could well be the death knell for HD broadcasting. We’ve seen that ISPs and even the BBC are always penny-pinching on bandwidth, using more and more compression. The Beeb has just got new encoders for the BBC HD channel but simultaneously cut the bandwidth by 40%. Hardly likely to prove that it’s committed to quality… More on this at http://www.avforums.com/forums/hd-tv-programmes/720572-bbc-hd-not-up-required-standard.html (by the way, Ozzzy189 is not me).

In my opinion, Blu-ray has to succeed, or HD programming will eventually die out because “There’s no demand.”

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