Back in January – and it feels a lot longer – Warner Bros’ decision to side with Sony’s Blu-ray high definition disc format ended a format war that had raged uncomfortably for too long. It was the knockout blow for Toshiba’s HD DVD format, and while we’ve enjoyed the disc fire sales of HD DVDs, it’s not the future of HD media.
However, Sony hasn’t yet capitalised in quite the way we’d hoped, and as the big guns are lined up for the Christmas release schedule, these are our eight suggestions for improvements to the Blu-ray format…
1 Scrub the regional coding
This is the big bugbear for any high definition user, and it brings us back to the dark early days of DVD. All region protection manages to do is get in the way of legitimate, enthusiast film buyers who want to exercise their perfectly reasonable choice to buy whatever discs they want, from wherever. Their money is good, and while we accept that different companies hold the rights to a film in certain territories, what actual benefit is there to a company like Fox region locking Predator, for example? It’s an age-old film, that Fox distributes all over the world, so why does it matter where a legitimate buyer gets it from?
At the very least, can we get to the stage where we don’t have to pay big bucks to make our players region free?
2 PriceA quick browse around HMV is enough to put most people off upgrading to Blu-ray for some time to come. With prices of anywhere up to £30 for a disc, it’s hardly a compelling reason to invest in some new hardware, to be charged a 50% premium at least for improved picture and audio quality. While you can understand there being a small premium, the prices being charged – granted, before the online discounters have got to them – are one hell of a deterrant.3 Stop the shovelware
It’s said that the disc that sold the DVD format to many was The Matrix, a killer app for the format that sold the benefits of the digital versatile disc. Many movie studios, sadly, are still keeping many of their big hitters in the locker, in favour of churning out the likes of Adam Sandler comedies onto the shelves. And much though we’re not averse to a bit of Mr Sandler, Anger Management isn’t the kind of film that anyone ever set through, dreaming of 1080p. Not anyone sane, anyway.
4 Standard definition features
What’s the point of having a high definition disc is you don’t make the most of it? How many Blu-ray releases are coming laden with the same DVD extras ported over, in exactly the same definition? Look at something like Cloverfield, where it looks like Paramount bothered, and contrast that with the bulk of the Blu-ray catalogue, where the addition of extras is looking like an afterthought.5 Deliver the basics, better
This means no waiting minutes for a menu to load. This means get the picture and sound bang on. This mean make the Blu-ray feel like a premium product, and not a way to fill in a hole on the balance sheet.6 Stop the profile confusion
There’s still a problem in the Blu-ray market, in that Sony has not done a great job of clearing up the Profile situation. This, in a nutshell, means that earlier players won’t be able to run some later features, although more worryingly, it can lead to long load times for discs and even incompatibilities in some cases. That’s not good enough for Joe Public, who just – rightly – wants to buy a disc and have it work, without all the faff.7 Don’t rip off the early adopters
The news that Casino Royale is getting a second Blu-ray release already is a sad sign of the market, and of the taking for granted of early adopters. These are the people who went off and bought the original disc, giving Sony a valuable foothold in the high definition format war. Their reward? To see a better version released, not eighteen months later. Hmmm. At the very least, can we have some kind of trade in for those who have a £25 hole in their pockets?
8 Learn from the mistakes of DVDAnd ideally fix these problems while you’re there…
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