Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Are You Ready to Go Blu?

Now that you’ve bought that new hi-tech, high-definition television, are you ready to upgrade your current DVD player to a new Blu-ray disc unit? It’s a question that many people are thinking about. But, is now the right time? I’m sure you can notice a big difference between high-definition and standard definition television. There’s no question about it that after watching high-def, you will have no interest going back to regular television. You’re hooked.

Now that Blu-ray players have dropped dramatically in price over the last year, perhaps you are ready to make your move. Before you rush out to the store, here’s a few things you might want to consider. Yes, Blu-ray discs are amazing. But they come at a price. New releases are typically priced anywhere from $25 to $35. Catalogue titles, which are movies five years and older, will run you somewhere between $20 and $25. Ouch! That’s expensive. So when does it make sense to buy Blu-ray vs. standard definition DVDs?

Here are five buying tips you should think about before making your next purchase.

1. Does the movie you are planning to buy have repeatability? Let’s face it. Most movies are a one and done deal. You’ve seen it once, and you have no interest in taking another look at it even if it was a good movie. But there are some films that demand repeatability. Obviously, this is subjective to the viewer. For example, I can’t wait for Star Wars to be released on Blu-ray. I’ll be there on the first day of release. Do you have personal favorites that you watch on an annual basis? Then purchasing a Blu-ray disc would make sense.

2. Is the film you are considering visually interesting? Obviously films heavy on special effects and CGI (computer generated images) are always good candidates for a Blu-ray purchase. Science fiction, action-adventure, and movies shot in exotic locations are the perfect reason for you to upgrade to Blu-ray. All of these films are classic examples of eye candy. Avatar, Up, 2012 and Out of Africa make perfect sense for Blu-ray compared to small-budget, independent dramas that offer little in visuals.

3. Is the film you’re considering purchasing epic in scope? Movies that span time and distance and operate on a huge canvas were made for Blu-ray. Any movie over 150 minutes in length and tells a big story requires a big screen, high-definition television and a Blu-ray player to do it justice. Most of these kinds of movies were made in the heyday of Hollywood, and they are just starting to make their way to Blu-ray. If you are going to buy Doctor Zhivago, North by Northwest, Gone with the Wind, Godfather or Patton, why would you buy it on anything other than Blu-ray?

4. What is the quality of the video transfer? Here’s a dirty little secret about Blu-ray. Not all Blu-ray discs are created equally. In fact, some are only slightly better than their DVD counterparts. It all depends on the quality of the video transfer and the compression rate of the video file to create a master. Some studios, for example, will not create a new master for catalogue releases. They will use the same DVD master, which may or may not be a high-definition transfer. That’s a rip-off to the consumer because they are charging you $25 to $35 for a slightly better DVD. The reason they do it is because it is expensive to commission a new video transfer master. The good news is that most new movies do offer an excellent video transfer and compression which leads to an outstanding image and resolution.

To date, there have been about 1,600 movies released on Blu-ray. Only 100 movies have scored a perfect five-star rating from Hi-Def Digest, the rating which is considered to be reference quality. If Blu-ray is done right, it will offer a 3-D pop. In other words, it has a three-dimensional look and feel. I recommend that before you spend your money you check out the films rating on Hi-Def Digest. Anything less than four stars may be questionable. Why spend your money if you’re not getting the resolution and detail you expect?

5. What about the artistic intentions of the director? Frankly, some movies will look no better on Blu-ray than they will look on DVD. If the director intended the film to have a dark, dim or dingy look, that’s exactly what it will look like on Blu-ray. Bright colors, well-lit scenes and outdoor shots look great on Blu-ray. But some films just don’t offer that type of content. There’s no question that there’s better resolution on movies like The Road and The Book of Eli, but they have a toned-down color palette and an over-all bleak appearance due to the director’s intention of creating a post-apocalyptic world. You might want to consider saving yourself some money and stick to the DVD version.

Finally, currently only 16% of the home video market belongs to Blu-ray. That means that 84% of all discs sold are still good ole DVDs. In fact, DVDs are the most successful electronic product ever produced. I don’t see DVD going away any time soon. DVDs offer consumers good quality and, for most people, the picture and resolution still work. I’m convinced if Blu-ray discs are going to be universally accepted, the prices will have to fall. The studios are waiting for the consumers to change their minds, but most people are not willing to upgrade to Blu-ray.

Here’s a secret that works for most people. You can up-convert your standard DVDs to near high-definition resolution with an HDMI output from your DVD player to your high-definition television. No, it will not be Blu-ray quality; nevertheless, for most people the picture quality is more than enough. DVDs in some ways are their own worst enemy. Most of today’s high-def televisions have built-in scalers which are capable of upgrading DVD to 1080p or 720p high-definition resolution. So you have to decide. Stick to standard DVD or pay the extra cost to go to Blu-ray.

My bottom line recommendation is to buy a new Blu-ray player because the costs have dramatically decreased. You can pick one up for about $100. But don’t buy everything on Blu-ray. Use my guidelines to help you decide when it makes sense to spend your money on Blu-ray. You might also want to consider looking into the used market. Any store that sells used CDs will probably sell used DVDs and Blu-rays. You can save a bundle of money. For example, I recently purchased Avatar for only $12 compared to $30 new at Best Buy and $25 new at Wal-Mart. It pays to look around for alternatives such as the used market.

No comments:

Post a Comment