Friday, February 18, 2011

Blue-Ray - The Ultimate Home Entertainment Format?

I’m old enough to remember the VHS/Betamax war of the late 70’s and early 80s. From there we witnessed the explosion of the home video market, which subsisted for nearly two decades before the advent of DVD, a CD sized unit capable of high resolution imagery previously only available to those lucky few with LaserDisc players (and their album sized movie copies).
When DVD hit the market, I found myself in the unenviable (but fun) position of having to replace all my old VHS tapes with DVD versions, convinced in my mind that this was the penultimate….there was no way it was going to get better than this.
That was until Blu-Ray discs hit the shelves, about a decade after the DVD was originally released. With the advancements in digital technology Blu-Ray discs were capable of delivering images never before seen by human eyes. Combining photo-perfect resolution, and a near absence of motion blur, the imagery created by Blu-Ray technology has redefined the way motion pictures are shot and presented, with a clarity unlike anything that has ever been experienced.
Picture clarity is beyond crisp, with an almost 3-D appearance, making your TV screen look more like a window into another world that just a picture monitor. Explosions look as though they might jump out and burn you, and chase scenes create the illusion of movement previously only experienced in the nicest cinematic multiplexes.
Of course Blu-Ray has drawn its share of criticism, namely that the images it creates do not look natural. But then, any filmed image never looks totally natural due to the nature of the medium. Older films may look strange on Blu-Ray simply because they were not filmed in a high enough resolution to take full advantage of the kind of picture Blu-Ray can deliver. It reminds me if the Beatles first being released on CD and people wondering why the recordings didn’t sound any better. It’s the same problem.
And as nice as it all is, Blu-Ray will hardly be the last incarnation of the home entertainment medium. Many of us groaned a quarter century ago when STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION introduced us to the holodeck, a virtual reality entertainment medium whereby you could not only watch but participate in your favorite stories and scenarios. Captain Picard was a fan of the fictional Dixon Hill novels and regularly placed himself in the role of the two fisted gumshoe. Interactive entertainment has slowly been becoming a reality since then, with amusement park rides designed to create the illusion of movement, and even some real holographic technology springing up in science and technology laboratories.
Is it possible that interactive movies could be the wave of the future? Who knows, in a few short years, George Lucas may re-release the STAR WARS movies yet again, only this time you will be the one leading the attack on the Death Star or going light saber to light saber with Darth Vader.
For the time being, Blu-Ray is the way to go, although with other products such as Apple TV, Xbox 360 and Netflix players all offering video download abilities, the playing field may soon be getting a lot more competitive.
On the plus side, consumers have always shown a preference for having something that they buy actually in their hand, such as the disc that Blu-Ray movies come on. You just can’t grasp and hold a digital download.
In addition, Internet providers may sometimes penalize users for too much bandwidth use, a serious downside if you are really into downloading your movies or shows.
So until the holodeck is ready, for now, Blu-Ray is the way to go in the home entertainment market.