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Making Peace with Blu-ray

by March 27, 2008

I admit that I’ve had my share of anti-Blu-ray rants in the past. But that’s all over now. It’s time for the Toshib-ati to put away the pitchforks and accept Blu-ray as the high- def disc format of choice. After all, there’s a bigger picture at stake for anyone who loves home theater.

Sure, we know the Johnny-come-lately Sony format wasn’t complete at release and I could levy a hundred other criticisms Sony’s way. However, in the words of Marc Antony: 

I have come to bury Toshiba, not to praise it. 

The war is over! Blu-ray can now take its place among all those fine Sony media formats like the Mini-Disc for instance, which stood triumphant in the magneto-optical disc format war back in the early 90s. I hear Mini-Disc was big in Europe and as a matter of fact so was David Hasselhoff.

HasselhoffNow that HD DVD is brushed aside the struggle for mainstream acceptance is just beginning for Sony’s fledgling disc format. The real format war is against digital downloads not Toshiba. 

By the way Toshiba! Don’t think we’ve forgotten how you sold our secret, silent sub-propeller technology to the Soviets during the cold war. If you ask me the result of the high-def disc format was really NATO karma.

The evolution of consumer electronics for about the last decade can be seen as a struggle for your living-room. The trenches have been dug between computer operating systems and traditional consumer electronics manufacturers.

Computers are already in your office but Apple (Apple TV, iTunes) and Microsoft (Media Center, Xbox) covet the sweet spot between your couch and your new HDTV. But, traditional consumer electronics companies like Sony won’t give it up without a fight. 

For better or worse the local-disc-as-source paradigm is going to be represented by Sony. Microsoft and Apple would have you streaming or downloading audio/video from the Internet. 

The trouble with the computer home entertainment solution is compression. Today, high-def movie downloads mean Mpeg2 compressed files carrying 720P video with a 5.1 channel mix that doesn’t hold a candle to DTS-HD-Master Audio. 

Yes, it’s the classic battle between scalability (computers) and upper-end quality (home electronics). Have you seen the electronics inside most computer equipment? Any traditional hi-fi nut would shudder to see switch mode power supplies and audio output IC chips. Whether you’re a hi-fi objectivist or pricey-cable Audiophile, we have to unite to keep standards in home electronics. 

Sure, scalability in the form of portable files is cool. But only to a point! A colleague of mine once plopped a laptop in front of me playing back a downloaded copy of the Russel Crowe film, Gladiator. He bragged that he could carry his entire movie collection wherever he went. I could only shake my head in disgust.

No Maximus - I am not entertainted! 

If we don’t stand behind Blu-ray now I fear the only choice for viewing future high definition movies will be streamed over the Internet in a digital pay-per-view scheme. Who cares if we can carry movies with us on the sub-way! Most of us want to see, hear and experience home theater the way it was meant to be.

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About the author:

Wayde is a tech-writer and content marketing consultant in Canada s tech hub Waterloo, Ontario and Editorialist for Audioholics.com. He's a big hockey fan as you'd expect from a Canadian. Wayde is also US Army veteran, but his favorite title is just "Dad".

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Recent Forum Posts:

autoboy posts on March 31, 2008 14:16
I totally agree that video is a totally different animal than audio. The average person cannot tell the difference between 128K mp3, and lossless audio, especially on his own home equipment. However, with an average TV, SD, DVD, and HD quality are all easy to see the difference. We are visual animals. Picture quality matters to us over audio quality. That is why I think higher quality broadcasts will dominate. Even my Mom can tell that her HD is full of compression, and upon seeing BluRay, perfers BluRay over DVD for all her content.

Once you see HD done right, even the average Joe has a hard time going back. That is why I think video quality will continue to improve with the download services. I don't think we are going to see one winner in downloadable services like we do with audio. This leaves room for services with improved quality. If you haven't experimented with the convenience of VOD from Apple, Xbox, or Vudu, then you really can't talk. For much of the throw away content out there, it is perfectly acceptable quality. One of the advantages that downloads have, is that it is not limited to fixed formats and size limits (except the AppleTV whose hardware is only a 1ghz Core processor and an nvidia 7300GS video card that lacks full hardware acceleration of h.264), but can be upgraded to higher quality as the bandwidth capacity of our networks rises.
Joe Schmoe posts on March 31, 2008 12:38
Wayde Robson, post: 395145
Do people really just want flat panels and larger screens and don't care about the resolution.

I think so, yes.
Jack Hammer posts on March 31, 2008 11:40
Quite a few people I've talked with are under the impression that they have to replace their old sd tvs prior to all broadcasts going hd next year or they wont be able to watch tv after that. Very few of them seem to be aware of the converter box option. I think that's helping fuel a lot of hdtv sales.

Wayde Robson posts on March 31, 2008 09:59
Joe Schmoe, post: 395117
Actually, yes. The reason is that they wanted a bigger screen, and virtually all new TVs are HD capable.

Just wondering. Because HDTV sales aren't going down, so someone must care about the picture quality. But the post before this one also pointed out that modern HDTV form factor might be why HDTV is so popular.

Do people really just want flat panels and larger screens and don't care about the resolution. It could be… I know I've been to people's places who just got a new HDTV and they thought they were watching HD, but it was just SD, they had yet to get a legit HD source
Joe Schmoe posts on March 31, 2008 09:03
Wayde Robson, post: 394393
Did your parents buy an HDTV? And if so, why?

Actually, yes. The reason is that they wanted a bigger screen, and virtually all new TVs are HD capable.
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