Why Blu-ray's Better Than DVD
New format trumps its predecessor, plain and simple.
March 25, 2009 - Having soundly defeated HD DVD, Blu-ray now reigns supreme atop the home video format hierarchy. But in spite of that convincing victory, BD technology has yet to be fully embraced by consumers. Like that nagging fly that you just can't seem to swat, standard-def DVD is still buzzing around.
Last week, we made a pretty convincing case as to why DVD could be viewed as "better" than Blu-ray. To the delight of those of you who ripped us a new one after reading that article (we love a good controversy), this counter-argument will attempt to prove the opposing view: Why Blu-ray is better than DVD.
There's no denying that Blu-ray is technically superior. The picture looks amazing and features like BD-Live, when properly showcased, are unrivaled.
The hardware may be expensive, but if you're a serious gamer you probably already own a PS3. Problem solved.
The gloves have come off. It's on like Donkey Kong! (Insert your own clich? here.) And the Blu-ray vs. DVD battle continues. Check out our reasons why we think Blu-ray is better than DVD, and let us know what you think in the comments below.
Freakin' Awesome Picture
There's no arguing that Blu-ray is the superior format when it comes to audio and video. It just is. With a resolution that's six times that of DVD, a quick check of any blockbuster Blu-ray will amaze you with 1080p sharpness. The colors, the detail, and the clarity of motion are all vastly improved over their DVD counterparts.
You don't have to be a math genius to figure out that 1080 is more than 420, but as videophiles know, what that really means is that you're getting more than two and a half times as much visual information in those tiny little lines on your screen, and that makes for five times the amount of detail. That allows for more detail, definition and dimension than you normally get on DVD.
These days, a lot of films are made with high-definition cameras, so Blu-ray is able to provide an image much closer to the source. That makes for a picture that's truer to life and far more attractive than anything in standard-def. And that's not just the case with new releases either. Even older titles like The Godfather, animated features like Sleeping Beauty and black and white classics like Casablanca benefit from this technology. It's like discovering your favorite films all over again... for the first time. Or something.
Any legit home theater enthusiast knows that sound is truly 50 percent of the entertainment viewing experience. It's a good thing, then, that Blu-ray's awesome visuals are matched by the stunning depth and complexity of the surround-sound, with certain discs offering 7.1 surround and all discs providing an infinitely more crisp and clear audio presentation.
Even if your home theater is not equipped to handle full 7.1 channel surround sound, the digital Dolby TrueHD and lossless DTS-HD Master Audio tracks that come on most Blu-ray discs are more than sufficient to blow the roof off your living room.
Listening to an amazing audio presentation like the one offered on the recent Akira Blu-ray will change the way you hear movies. There's nothing like the rich, full, booming sound you get from a truly immersive mix that you can feel down to your bones. Even in a more quiet, subtle film, you'll hear background details you might have otherwise missed. Nothing draws you into a film more than feeling like you are right there in the middle of the action.
DVD simply can't match the aural awesomeness of Blu-ray. End of story.
Mo' Better Blus
Blu-ray discs allow more creative potential for the film's extras, animated menus, pop-up tracks and picture-in-picture features and commentaries. And, of course, there are all the interactive possibilities of BD-Live -- more on that in a sec.
The Blu-ray experience allows viewers to explore menu options without leaving the movie, and to bookmark favorite scenes -- two simple features that have a big impact once you actually begin to make use of them.
We'll be the first to admit that BD-Live has left us wanting. The blame for this, however, lies at the feet of the studios who have not fully grasped how to leverage this amazing technology.
BD-Live, for any n00bs who might be reading this, is a set of special online features available on compatible titles to viewers with an Internet-ready player. You can download extra content, checkout online bonus features, and participate in interactive chats. Where DVD might have allowed you to listen to a director's prerecorded commentary, BD-Live can take you right into his living room for a real-time conversation about the film -- Universal offered just that with Guillermo del Toro on the Hellboy II: The Golden Army Blu-ray.
There's even gaming potential with BD-Live -- another possibility that remains largely untapped. Take, for instance, the fully interactive, multiplayer trivia game included on the Men In Black Blu-ray. It feels more like a full-featured videogame than just another extra on a movie disc. The online portion of the game features lobbies, the option to host tournaments for various numbers of players (up to 8), and the ability to customize questions.
What they said.
Once studios really get hip to BD-Live technology, there will be a lot more cool stuff. We can't wait.
Beyond the benefits of killer interactive content, certain BD-Live players can also be upgraded using the BD-Live Connection. Your DVD player just became a boat anchor.
It Makes Your HD Set-Up Legit
You know that massive flat-screen HD TV you just got? Or how about that spiffy surround-sound system? Maybe you just got them to replace a busted set or components, or maybe just to watch the game. Regardless, everything is going to be vastly improved by the Blu-ray experience. And it'll make you feel substantially better about the money you've sunk into living room technology.
If you're still hesitant about shelling out for a Blu-ray player, consider that Sony's PlayStation 3 will play Blu-rays. The Blu-ray features aren't just an afterthought either, they're a core part of the machine. In fact, the PS3 actually plays BR discs better than many current standalone players. Yes, it's expensive, but rumors of a significant price drop persist. But even if you're just a casual gamer, we think it's worth the money.
Blu-ray Players Will Play Old Stuff
Given the fact that the DVD has been deemed the most successful consumer product ever, you probably own a ton of them. Not to worry. Blu-ray players will play standard-def DVDs as well as audio CDs, just like your old DVD player.
There was a time -- those of you reading this over the age of 20 will remember -- when the emergence of a new home video format meant that your entire collection was rendered obsolete. Blu-ray players play the exact same 12cm and 8cm discs that you could play in your old school player. So, unlike the jumps from VHS, to Laserdisc, to DVD, the Blu-ray switch should be completely painless.
In fact, most Blu-ray players won't just play your DVDs, they'll make them better. This is accomplished through upscaling technology, pig's blood, and black magic. (Just seeing if you were paying attention.) Upscaling boosts your old assy DVDs to nearly 1080p/1080i quality. That means everything you watch will be astonishing -- except scenes from the Star Wars prequels featuring Jar Jar Binks, which will always look like crap no matter what.
Without getting overly technical, the term "Blu-ray" comes from the blue-violet laser used to interpret the data on the disc (as opposed to the red used for standard DVDs). Because of that laser's shorter wavelength, a Blu-ray disc is able to compress more information into the same amount of space, allowing for up to 50 GB of information on a dual-layered disc (and Pioneer has recently been able to push that to as much as 500 GB on 20 layers).
OK, maybe we got overly technical. Anyway... What all of this means for the consumer is that you're basically getting more content, more interactivity and more special features in a smaller package. Not only does it save room on your library shelves, it saves on shipping costs, which can mean a lower price, particularly on those unwieldy box sets. Imagine getting the entire series of The Sopranos on, say, 10 discs instead of the current 33 that come in the DVD box.
Blu-rays are also more durable than DVDs. Because Blu-ray's transparent cover layer is only 0.1 mm thick vs. 0.6mm for DVD, there were initial concerns about BR discs being more vulnerable to light scratching than DVDs. That's why Blu-ray disc manufacturers developed a hard coating that protects the discs, making them even more resistant to scratches than DVDs.
Blu-ray also sports an error correction system which is more robust and efficient than the one used for DVDs. Suck it, DVD.
Given the costs involved in upgrading hardware and the higher pricetag of Blu-ray discs, it may take a while before we see the mass adoption of Blu-ray. Still, the fact that it's a superior format is crystal clear.
Are you a Blu-ray early adopter? Or have you resisted taking the leap? Tell us where you stand in the comments.
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