Is Blu-Ray The Format Of The Future?

This holiday season, the big question has been "will Blu-ray do to DVD what DVD has done to VHS?"

This holiday season, the big question has been "will Blu-ray do to DVD what DVD has done to VHS?"

With the death of the short-lived HD DVD, Blu-Ray has become the format of the future. It’s the next evolutionary stage of DVD that utilizes new technology. Wal-Mart has already begun shifting its Electronics department to better suit the ever growing Blu-ray titles and removing space for CD’s and DVD’s. But are you ready for the Blu-ray leap?

“The key, to me, is that many people have very large libraries of traditional DVDs. I think that makes them reluctant to buy Blu-ray players,” said Michael Roberto, a professor of management at Bryant University in Smithfield, Rhode Island. “Blu-Ray players will play normal DVDs, but I think many consumers are not sure about that—thus, they are reluctant to upgrade to Blu-ray.”

The cost involved to upgrade to Blu-ray may be too great for most consumers to take the leap to Blu-ray. High definition content is still not understood well by some consumers which can hurt the Blu-ray DVD transition. And although HD DVD is now out of the picture, Blu-ray may be too late with its format since instant streaming sites like Netflix are getting popular.

Blu-ray statistics, an online site that provides stats for Blu-ray sales, reports that with their most recent data from the week of November 16, Blu-ray had 9 percent of the DVD market share.

Revenue for Blu-ray reached $20.2 million during the same week. An increase of almost 84 percent compared to the previous week, reports revealed.

Netflix, an online DVD rental store that lets you send and receive DVDs via USPS and also gives their members access to online streaming of certain movies straight to their computer. All you need is a high-speed internet connection. Don’t like watching movies or TV shows on your computer? Netflix also streams movies and TV shows straight to your TV via an Xbox 360 or a Netflix ready device, which can be purchased on their site. Recently, Netflix has started streaming HD-quality movies too—eliminating the need for tangible video media to watch HD movies.

Being from the country that created Blu-ray, Misa Moriya, an exchange student from Japan, knows all about Blu-ray technology.

“I like watching stuff in HD. But I watch a lot of TV shows online because it’s cheap or even free. It’s tempting to buy Blu-ray DVD’-s, but I just don’t see a need for it now,” said Moriya.

Although Blu-ray discs look almost identical to regular DVDs, the technology is completely different. According to blu-ray.com, the Blu-ray players use a blue-violet laser rather than the standard red laser found in standard DVD players.

The blue-violet laserallows information to be more densely packed on a disc—even though it’s the same size as a regular DVD. With more information storage available on a disc, Blu-ray can deliver true High Definition content to your living room. And with High Definition video comes an expectation for high quality audio.

Rachael Jurek, currently a lecturer at UW-Milwaukee, who also has experience as a PR and Marketing Coordinator for Potawatomi, believes Blu-ray has some obstacles to get past before it can become the staple format.

“Blu-ray does use different technology and it all depends if the consumer embraces it,” Jurek said. “Through media studies it shows that consumers are slightly afraid of change, this coupled with the high costs of newer items or concepts make it hard for an entirely new format to take over.”

About once every decade, the video standard evolves and takes us with it. In the 80’s there was the transition from Betamax to VHS. Most recently was in 1995 when DVD was introduced to the public. It was a transition from an analog format (VHS) to a digital video format.

Wal-Mart thinks Blu-ray is on its way in, and CD’s and DVD’s are on their way out. In a recent report by Home Media Magazine, Wal-Mart, after noticing a 23 percent dip in CD sales during the first four weeks of the fourth quarter, has decided to minimize its stock of CD’s and DVD’s and increase its Blu-ray supply in certain stores.

“It would appear to me that Blu-ray could be compared to other media disseminating things like cassette and 8-track, and VHS and Beta, It took a while but the market dictated the preferred format,” Jurek said.

According to High-Def Digest, while most standard DVDs now come with Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound, Blu-ray offers more audio compression options.

  • Dolby Digital offers higher bit rate at 640 kbps
  • DTS offers higher bit rate at 1.5 mbps
  • PCM offers “true lossless” audio at 16 or 24 mbps
  • Dolby True HD offers “true lossless” audio at 16 or 24 mbps

Bit rate is essentially bits of information that are processed per a unit of time. For comparison, most itunes audio tracks are between 128 kbps and 256 kbps. Hence, a higher bit rate offers better quality audio.

Blu-ray looks and sounds like the next obvious evolutionary stage but some people like Kristin Haas, a Mass Communications major at UW-Milwaukee do not care for the high definition content.

“…I found I could not get caught up in the story itself because the clearness of the picture took away from the movie-like quality of the film,” said Haas.

Like Moriya, Eric Dohman, a business management graduate student from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee enjoys HDTV.

But to fully enjoy the benefits of Blu-ray you’re going to need more than just a Blu-ray disc player. A large screen HD television set and a surround sound system is almost a must.

“I would only recommend [blu-ray] if the person has the right hardware,” said Dohman. “You need at least a 720p HDTV or better to really see the difference between Blu-ray and a standard DVD.”

  • Popular Sony blu-ray DVD player on Amazon: $222.97
  • Amazon’s best selling HDTV, Samsung 46-Inch 1080p: $1,528.99
  • Sony Blu-ray matching Home Theater System: $349.97
  • Cash needed to feel Blu-ray love: $2,101.93

Future of Blu-ray

Pioneer, a Japanese electronics company, has actually created a Blu-Ray disc out of corn starch. Apparently, one ear of corn can make 10 Blu-ray discs. Being made of biodegradable material would help make Blu-ray an economical choice.

Whether this software will actually be used or not is still questionable, but manufacturing of the disc has been tested and according to Pioneer, cost less to make than standard Blu-ray discs and uses most of the same manufacturing techniques.

Prices of Blu-Ray DVD’-s have also started to come down as well. The Iron Man Special Edition Blu-Ray was only $28 when it was first released in July. Compared to the standard DVD edition which costs $23 there isn’t much of a difference. More recently, the new Wall-E 3-Disc edition on Blu-Ray is only $30 compared to the standard DVD version which is $35

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