Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Blu-Ray and HD-DVD

Just as a note, Dead Rising is here and I'll be heading to the mall right after I post this. Heh.

I was in Best Buy yesterday and saw a Blu-Ray demo loop running on a small HD LCD. What I saw made me start thinking about the high-definition DVD format in general.

I saw footage from two movies as part of the demo loop: Chicken Little (which Eli loves) and what looked like Pirates of the Caribbean, which are both future releases.

We have a plasma screen (42") at home, we have a progressive scan DVD player, and I've seen Chicken Little at least half a dozen times with Eli 5.0. As it happens, the scene they were showing is Eli's favorite scene in the movie (mine, too), so we've probably watched that specific scene fifteen or twenty times.

In other words, I know what it looks like at the high end of DVD quality.

The Blu-Ray footage, though, was spectacular. Detail just popped off the screen. I'm not easily impressed, but this was impressive.

Then that section ended and I saw the footage of POTC. And it looked like absolute ass--grainy and not particularly crisp at all. It was stunninng to see an eye-popping segment one minute and then see something fairly mediocre the next.

Yes, high-quality animation is going to look better than a regular film transfer. Absolutely. You wouldn't believe how fantastic some of the Pixar films look on the plasma. Of course they're going to look better.

Which is one of my points, actually.

Why didn't someone scratch a check to Disney to ensure that high-definition transfers of the Pixar films would be available at launch? Or any of the other blockbuster animated films that have been released in the last few years?

It's crazy. Do you know how many films will be available before the end of the year (for either format) that are in the digital animation category?


Blu-Ray gets Dinosaur later this year. And you can buy Aeon Flux on HD-DVD now. I might be missing one or two others, but I don't see anything that stands out.

So you're trying to get a new format established, to get consumers excited enough to buy new, expensive hardware, and you're almost entirely ignoring the single best genre to show off the hardware? Good grief! Animated films are big, big box office now, so it's not like it's a "children's genre" anymore.

Seeing that demo also reminded me, very clearly, that while there's no question that both Blu-Ray and HD-DVD are excellent pieces of hardware, if the film transfer isn't done well, it doesn't matter.

Both of these formats are off to a lousy start. While the technology is stellar, the available players (so far) are not. The movies that have been chosen for the first wave of releases are generally not stellar, either, and I'm not talking quality of the transfer here--I'm talking quality of the movie.

I'm an early adopter. I have the worst impulse control in the world when it comes to gaming consoles or televisions. The worst. And neither one of these formats interests me in the least right now. When new releases are available the same day as the regular DVD release, I'll be interested very quickly. Or if the Pixar films get released in HD, or something like Blade Runner. But Happy Gilmore and The Italian Job and Fifty First Dates just aren't going to get me (or many other people) excited.

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