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The HD Experience
Blu-ray is NOT dead
November 1, 2008
It's been a while since DigitalDingus commented specifically on an HD format. However recently, there's been talk of Blu-ray being dead. Well, I hope to share my thoughts on this. As an avid HD DVD supporter, I hope my comments will be taken with less salt than others.

First off, Robin Harris from ZDNet knows storage and he has several articles on the subject which are very informative. If you're into servers and storage technology, Robin is the guy you should listen to. However, in the case of his latest comments on the Blu-ray format, I have to disagree with him on the overall message — but still agreeing with him on a few points he makes.

Blu-ray is NOT dead

Robin Harris comments Blu-ray is dead.

Well, Blu-ray is not dead or in a death spiral. From my observations it's coming along just fine. As an HD DVD supporter, I will admit I did not have good predictions for Blu-ray because of the looming history of Sony and their proprietary control over their products. I still have a few concerns, however prices of Blu-ray movies are headed downward. Now, this is not to say the latest releases are not expensive. Hell, I just forked out $27 for Sleeping Beauty. But I also forked out $33.90 for 3 Blu-ray titles which were on a B2G1 sale on Amazon recently. Price per disc was $11.30. If you want to take advantage of deals, you have to look for them, surf the HD forums and DVD bargain forums available to you on the net.

The Current Economy Sucks

Almost any product which has been recently announced to consumers, is going to have a hell of a tough time realizing any major significance from now until probably Q2 2010. We are in a massive re-thinking of how our economy works, and our government is re-assessing the way it deals with the private sector. Big changes. Big losses.

Blu-ray is not immune to the current economy. However, I seriously doubt it will die. Why? Because this isn't about HD DVD or Blu-ray formats. This is about HD. High Definition. As a society, we have a thirst for the best, and HD fits this model perfectly. We probably will not see amazing leaps of HD taking over DVD anytime soon, but Blu-ray is going to continue to have an impact as time goes on. And that's all we really need for Blu-ray to become a viable alternative. Time. And patience.

Will Blu-ray takeover DVD? I don't think so. Maybe 10 years from now, but to forecast Blu-ray taking over DVD is something even Las Vegas bookies wouldn't touch and your favorite psychic will wave you on. What we know now is Blu-ray will more than likely experience a slow-down because of the economic tsunami, and consumers are going to make more prioritized choices. If Blu-ray players and titles are offered at great prices during the holidays this year, and deals going into next year, they will buy.

On a side note, the Panasonic DMP-BD55, the flagship Blu-ray player for most consumers, was offered at $400 MSRP, and was available as of October 28, 2008. Only previously, the Panasonic DMP-BD50 was offered at $600 MSRP at was released back in June 2008. So, the prices are falling rather quickly. I wouldn't be surprised if you will be able to get the DMP-BD55 for $300 between now and the end of this year.

Blu-ray Is Still A Baby

For those who want to see a format become the dominator overnight, well, it's not going to happen. The primary reason is because Blu-ray is coming into a media market where DVD has been the king for over 11 years. If electric vehicles are better than gasoline vehicles, would the right move be to immediately remove all gasoline stations from the world and have car manufacturers stop producing gasoline cars altogether? Of course not. It would be one of the most stupid ideas not to mention, one of the most disastrous. But this is what some are implying. That Blu-ray needs to be instantly replaced with DVD. It just cannot happen this way.

An Example For Robin Harris

Since Robin is rather versed in storage technology, I have a similar example for him. SSDs. Solid State Drives. Magnetic drives have been the reigning kings for decades. However, we have a pretty good idea once SSDs become more affordable, they will replace your typical magnetic drive. No more platters spinning. No more clicks of death. But this replacement is not going to happen overnight. SSDs are limited for consumer's hands at this point.

In terms of SSD market penetration, notebook SSDs seem to be the marketing strategy currently (and I won't go into the marketing strategy nor the results as Robin Harris and Tom's Hardware have some great in-depth remarks about this if you're really curious about this new technology and how it's working out) making their way into consumers hands, but SSDs are still rather expensive, but dropping considerably as flash memory is dropping worldwide in price (one of the major reasons is an over-abundance of flash memory).

So, while I'd love for SSDs to become available in 1TB sizes for only $99, it's simply not feasible, due to manufacturing costs and the overall technology being so new. However, over time, SSDs will become affordable, allowing more consumers to take advantage of them.

Just like Blu-ray, Solid State Drives are not dead. They are working their way gradually into a market, where they will eventually be more common, and priced for a wider consumer audience.

The BDA Needs To Get Its Act Together

Robin Harris is keen on several observations, but just because the BDA has problems, does not mean Blu-ray is doomed. Robin gives the price of going Blu-ray being very expensive for independent film creators, and I agree. However, if you're an independent movie studio, you're not going to put your titles on Blu-ray immediately. You're going to release your titles on DVD first, and if the DVD is successful, you'll have the cash to go Blu-ray, which will satisfy even more movie enthusiasts.

For DigitalDingus viewers who want to get into specifics of whether the BDA is completely unreasonable and the replication and recording benefits and liabilities of Blu-ray, please read DigtalContentProducer.com's article on the subject.

Upsampling DVD Players Are A Bridge To Blu-ray

Robin Harris and others have the impression upsampling DVD players will be a hindrance and an obstacle to Blu-ray, at the least. Well, I disagree. Robin says:

Second, the advent of low cost up-sampling DVD players dramatically cut the video quality advantage of Blu-ray DVDs. Suddenly, for $100, your average consumer can put good video on their HDTV using standard DVDs. When Blu-ray got started no one dreamed this would happen.

Unfortunately, we have a company such as Toshiba, retaliating against the HD industry because they lost the HD war. They have a serious chip on their shoulder, and have an interest in seeing HD fail. Toshiba had a lot of questionable business practices of their own (such as dedicating more resources to their flash RAM business models and manufacturing plants, leaving HD DVD high and dry with Sony unleashing as much propaganda as possible which converted Warner Brothers to go exclusively Blu) at the time HD DVD was competing with Blu-ray. But Toshiba's practices aside, they certainly have not helped the perception of HD develop as one would have wished, and have even created more confusion. Thanks, Toshiba. You not only lost HD DVD due to an unwillingness to dedicate more resources to it (not to mention that terrible HD DVD commercial during the Superbowl--you know the one I'm talking about), and now have the unscrupulous behavior of telling consumers upsampling is as good as HD.

Upsampling players have only cut the video quality advantage of Blu-ray...if you haven't watched Blu-ray and HD DVD movies. And this is the important point I'd like to make. I upsample DVDs all the time, but it just isn't the same as my HD collection. I can still see artifacting when upsampling with my Toshiba HD-XA2. Sure, we have HD DVD and Blu-ray releases which are inferior, but this is extremely rare, and out of the 260+ HD DVD titles I own, maybe two are somewhat similar to the DVD release version in terms of video quality. My point is, upsampling just doesn't cut it. Eventually, these consumers who buy the upsampling players will discover HD really is better. More than likely, they were viewing their upsampled DVDs on a much too small television to notice the difference in the first place, but for these upsample DVD player owners, HD is in their future as well. These are the people who will probably be more of an authority on upsampling DVD vs. HD, because they've seen it with their own eyes, and finally went HD.

So, upsampling DVD players are not really an obstacle to HD, as they are more of a gateway to HD. Upsampling DVD players should demonstrate you cannot upsample low-quality video, and expect it to be the same as an HD video. At the moment, we have companies taking advantage of consumer ignorance and misinformation, but in time, HD will win. It's just too convincing. Once you've rented several Blu-ray titles, you will indeed discover the reason why HD acceptance is growing.

Give Us Some Breathing Room, Robin

In conclusion, I have to ask those like Robin, to give HD some breathing room. HD DVD failed because it didn't have the support of most movie studios. It was a highly political game, and it had nothing to do with video quality. It had to do with consumer brand loyalty. Blu-ray now has the majority support of movie studios. While I'm not fond of Sony's proprietary control tactics, it's not just about Blu-ray. It's about High-Definition. I'm a sucker for awesome video quality with never before seen detail. In my opinion, the movie has a higher replay value.

Blu-ray, for quite some time, will more than likely be coinciding with DVD. Why would this be a bad thing? I don't have any problem with it. Independent Films? Well, if we only had independent film makers, our DVD prices would be astronomically expensive. Currently, the major movie studios are distributing Blu-ray titles with much more force, and can afford the duplication and licensing costs. Yes, it's hard for independent film makers at this point. However, I think in time we'll see some improvements. I can't help but wonder how independent film makers managed when DVD was first introduced. It wasn't cheap back then, either.

We have enough negativity in the consumer market at the moment. This kind of pessimism, if embraced by a large population, can bring any product to its knees. So, let's start informing consumers about the real advantages of HD, instead of telling them they can get by with cheap knock-offs which are meant to make a fast buck off of those who haven't had the HD experience themselves.

 

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