"oh yah, that whole blu-ray thing"

Here’s a post I’ve been meaning to write for a while.

I was at Hollywood Video the other night because I thought I’d stop in and see what there was to check out.  I go in there now and again just when I feel like watching something, but not sure what, and I’ll poke around.  I usually end up there for like 45 minutes trying to decide on something.  Anyway, I was looking around the new releases in DVDs, and not really finding anything, when I happened to stop by the blu-ray section.  I kinda stood there for a second, and then I remembered, “Hey, I can watch Blu-Rays on my PS3.  I totally forgot.”

I picked out a couple of movie and went on my way.  I know one was Dan in Real Life, and I can’t remember what the other one was.  Probably National Treasure 2.  I wanted to see the Goofy cartoon again (didn’t have it, either, denied!).

Up until this point, I had only seen one movie in Blu-Ray, and I was thoroughly unimpressed.  The first one I saw was 2001: A Space Odyssey, and while the picture was *nice*, it wasn’t 1080p-eyeball-popping nice.  Ever since then, I’d pretty much shrugged of the the format completely, ignoring everything I heard about it.  But then I watched these movies, and I’ve done a complete 180 on my position.

While it may not seem like a contender for a nice picture, Dan In Real Life looked absolutely amazing in 1080p HD.  I mean, wow.  I remember I was so blown away by how nice it was that I paused the movie quite a few times just to admire the picture.  In fact, it was so distracting that I wasn’t even paying attention to the movie half the time.

I’ve since rented a few more movies on Blu-Ray, and this is the conclusion I’ve come to: recent movies (past 2 to 5 years of release) look amazing.  Everything else looks like crap.

If you go to blu-ray.com there are some good reviews on the movies, and it sounds like in some cases for older movies that the studios will just use the original DVD transfer and dump it back on Blu-Ray.  That’s a real shame, of course, especially considering the possibilities.

Picture quality aside, I would be normally jumping on this new format like a granny all over a yarn sale, but there’s one thing holding me back: the players.  Right now I’m using my PS3, and while the quality is great, the playback is annoying.  There’s no native support *across the board* for my very favorite feature: resuming playback position.  While this may seem annoying, the reality is that you can either pause your movie, or come back and go through all the forced menus and loading to get back to where you were, which can take seriously five minutes on some movies.

From what I’ve read on the situation, it seems like there are two types of movies out there: ones that play the data stream directly using the player, and others who use Java on the disc to start the player.  The movies that just start playback (Warner Bros.) work great.  I can stop it, and resume playback fine on my PS3.  The ones that use the fancy players, well, you’re stuck.  What happens is *some* of the Java players have an option to “bookmark” where you were in playback, so you can resume that way.  That may seem nice, but it still means that when you load the disc back up, you still have to go through all the forced advertisements, warnings (“You’re a Pirate”) and finally load and then navigate the menu just to get back to where you wanted.  Rawr.

Seriously, though, the nice picture quality *almost* makes up for it.  It’s that good.

I have been thinking a lot about what I want to do about the format, or how I want to integrate it into my collection.  While the playback solution is still slightly suboptimal, I’m not going to go full steam just yet.  I have, however, tenatively decided that I want to buy the movies on Blu-Ray that are really good for presentation value — the ones that you’d wanna watch on the big screen with the nice sound setup no matter what.  Those make sense to get, and most of the time I sit through those without a hitch anyway.

In fact, it’s one of those movies that got me thinking about the whole thing again.  I started watching TMNT on DVD last night, and I kept thinking “man, this picture is grainy.  It would look a lot better on Blu-Ray.”  In fact, I just about went to the store right then to go buy it on Blu-Ray because I wanted the better picture.  That’s one thing I’ve noticed with computer-generated animation on DVD.  It either looks really smooth (Clone Wars, A Bug’s Life) or kind of fuzzy and blurry like they did a poor job of compressing it.  I had to tone down my picture setting to a Cinema mode where it darkens the picture and forgives a lot of that stuff, taking some quality with it, but giving a nice glossy look overall (I love my TV.  It’s awesome.).

Oh, one other side note — I’ve written about this before, but TMNT is a great flick.  It really surprised me how well they developed each character and gave them some depth.  And I still think Splinter sounds like he’s drunk.

I wish I had a better sound setup.  I’ve been meaning to buy some decent speakers for years now, and I’ve been putting it off.  I could *really* see the sound quality go downhill with my stereo setup and two frontend bookshelf speakers.  I kept thinking, “I bet this would sound really nice in 5.1”  Ah well.  Someday.  I’ve never been that picky about sound, but I get a bit wistful when I don’t have it.

Anyhooms, I’m not really stating more than is pretty obvious — if you’re an early adopter than enjoys high quality audio and video, then Blu-Ray is for you.  Playback sucks, not just because of what I mentioned, but also because the players are still expensive, take a long time load discs, and need Internet connections and firmware updates.  Actually, I’m all for firmware updates — get the bugs fixed, yo — but I see the necessity of an ethernet connection in your living room a bit annoying.  I think you can burn some updates to disc, though.

Oh, and if you are looking for another awesome movie on Blu-Ray, Batman Begins totally delivers.  The picture is amazing, even though it’s a few years older.  Also, I know one thing people complain about is the price.  I never realized how high they were because I just always buy stuff online.  I did stop in Best Buy though and hardly everything was $30 or more.  Compare that to Amazon where it’s much cheaper.  Batman Begins for $18, TMNT for $19, Clone Wars $22, Kung Fu Panda $23, Sleeping Beauty $24, Wall-E $25.

One last thing (this is it, really), one other nice thing Blu-Ray has is that it actually supports 7.1 surround sound.  There are very few movies that support it right now (err … maybe not.  I fail), but it does beat the 5.1 surround sound limit that DVDs have, if you’re into the whole “let’s turn my living room into a jungle of speakers and wires” thing.

Good times.  I think I’ll go to Best Buy anyway.  Not wanting to wait beats out Amazon and low prices again.  Who would’ve guessed. :)

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