"Well, it's time for Mr. Dee-dee Doo-doo to say good night."
I have an update on my recent venture into Blu-Ray below. But first, here's what we have coming out this week on DVD/Blu-Ray.
The Boys in the Band (1970)
Firefly: The Complete Series Now on Blu-Ray. I'm trying to find out if this version has any new features or just the series in HD. Serenity is coming on 12/30.
Hellboy II: The Golden Army Also on Blu-Ray.
JFK: Ultimate Collectors Edition Another reissue of the Stone film, both formats this time. DVD Savant reviews the Blu-Ray version, which is worth a read for his take on the film in a post-Bush/Cheney era. It can be found here. "Does JFK seem more credible now because the Garrison/Stone theories have been supported by new evidence --- or because we've become more convinced that our government is capable of lies and conspiracies?"
Star Wars: The Clone Wars Also on Blu-Ray.
Walt Disney Treasures Another series of Disney material, new to DVD. This round includes three releases (in the usual tins): The Chronological Donald, Vol. 4 - 1951-1961, The Mickey Mouse Club Presents Annette - 1957-1958, and Dr. Syn–Alias the Scarecrow.
Over the weekend, I jumped into the Blu-Ray market (thanks to my Mom: generous birthday present!) by acquiring the Panasonic DMP-BD30K. It is last year's model, but is a very solid machine with great A/V quality. It was also a great deal. This is what's known as a profile 1.1 player. The newest models are 2.0. The main thing I don't get on this player that the newer (2.0) ones have is a network connection for interactive features and firmware updates over the Internet. Neither of these are a huge deal for me since I have yet to see any 2.0 'net features that appeal to me and I am capable of burning CDRs for firmware updates. I also figure that by the time I get another player, they'll all have the more advanced features at a lower price anyway.
Alas, firmware updates seem to be a fact of life for Blu-Ray owners. Often, older players (and some new ones) need updates to even play some of the newer discs. Blu-Ray players are really dedicated PCs that have much more complex hardware/software than DVD players. The newer BD movies that are loaded up with bonuses tend to "break" the player code that runs the machine. The recent James Bond discs required firmware updates from several manufacturers to even play, let alone run all the bonuses. Any disc-based home video format that wants to succeed in the mass market is going to need to get beyond this kind of thing. While I, a tech geek can cope with mucking about downloading updates, your average consumer isn't going to tolerate it so easily. They'd best get their act together if HD video on disc is going to survive long-term in the face of competition from cable on-demand and downloads.
It was just over ten years ago that I bought my first DVD player (yes, nostalgia about A/V formats!), a Panasonic A110. The A110 was a second generation player, so it seems somehow appropriate that the BD player I just got is a second gen one itself. In addition, the first title I picked up in the new format was L.A. Confidential (1997). This was one of the first movies I bought on the then-year-old DVD format. The new Blu-Ray version looks fantastic (the movie is still great itself) and is a nice upgrade to the old disc, which was no slouch back in '98.
Blu-Ray is cool and for the moment the highest quality form of video one can get in the home. Having said this, I had some hesitation about buying into yet another video format. After all, I've been through Betmax, VHS, LaserDisc, and DVD. With the exception of VHS, each was an improvement over what I had before. I had the thought of buying some kind of HD network media box, such as the AppleTV or the Popcorn Hour box. I do watch a fair amount of 'net-acquired video; these devices are really nice for this material. However, the quality of what you can download, legally or not, isn't up to the level of Blu-Ray. Plus, I already have DVD players that can play this stuff. Maybe one day I'll get a device that does both (a PS3 is an option here, but I didn't want to spend that much).
Ah, the media format. I still like owning a physical copy of the films I truly care about, even if I've moved toward downloaded copies of more throw-away entertainment, such as TV show. I realize that this may be the last physical media format I own. One of the first pre-recorded movies I ever bought was a Beta copy of Star Trek III in 1985 (hey, I'm 40 now so I'm gonna do a "get off my lawn" blog moment!).
Yes, I still own it.
The tape cost around $30. This is nearly $60 in 2008 dollars for a tape in pan/scan with analog sub-480 resolution. In 1985, this was the best way to watch this at home. It also had hi-fi-stereo sound. Yes, it was way cool to own a movie like this uncut, not taped off TV, but if you played it back on a hi-fi VCR, it sounded great. The difference between conventional mono VHS/Beta soundtracks and the hi-fi (VHS had a similar upgraded sound track) track was not subtle. I really loved watching that tape, even on a 19" analog TV. Today, it's junk. So, my fondness (or sickness) for owning movies (or music, but that's another blog) on a physical media format goes way back.
I'm looking forward to watching more films on the new format, even though the fact that I can't play the discs on any other machines is annoying. Also annoying is the fact that I can't even play it back on any of my Macs, let alone rip it and transfer it to another device. I'm sure this will change, but for the moment, BD is an elite exclusive format. Stay tuned...