Aug 5, 2007


So I feel it’s time to throw my weight behind 1 of the 2 high definition DVD formats vying for consumer’s dollars…and my choice over Toshiba/Universal’s HD DVD is Sony’s BLU-RAY.

I have been through 3 formats so far. I started buying sell-through VHS titles during my freshman year in high school, and moved onto Laserdiscs in my junior year (and yes, I still have all of them and a working Laserdisc player and do watch them from time to time). Of course, like the rest of the free world, I moved into the DVD realm when I bought my first player (a Toshiba) in 1998. But now, Hi-Def is upon us, and thank goodness both formats are backwards compatible as I don’t plan on replacing my over 1,000 DVDs like I have been my VHS and Laserdisc collection, but plan to continue on integrating Blu-Ray titles into the collection.

So why suddenly now do I feel the need to weigh in? Well, the release of Warner Bros.’ 300 is the reason. No, I know I didn’t like the film, it gave me a headache, but given its box office status and unique look, it will find a place in my collection for sure. This is a film that relies 99% on its visuals, and while the plot is terrible and the acting sub-par (can Gerard Butler please scream another bad line) and it has the feel of watching a video game unfold, the look of this film is something to behold and therefore in good conscience is the title that is pushing me towards adopting the Blu-Ray format (and there are other titles as well…see below).

Now 300 is being released on both HD and Blu-Ray because Warner like Paramount, Genius Products and now New Line Cinema, are supporting both formats (Warner is about to introduce Total HD sometime next year which has Blu-Ray on one side and HD on the other). And while Lions Gate, Disney, Sony and Fox are all Blu-Ray only, Universal stands alone as the only studio throwing its entire weight behind the lagging HD DVD format. Target and Blockbuster also both have thrown themselves exclusively behind Blu-Ray, and given their clout in the marketplace, that’s a lot of consumer awareness that isn’t going to HD DVD.

To me, this is a no-brainer. First off, Sony is a company that I respect, so it instantly grabs my attention. The name, Blu-Ray is a lot catchier than HD DVD (although has nothing to do with my decision, the name could be cool but if the format lacked, then it wouldn’t help at all) and once Disney, who I generally still uphold as being the biggest attention getter when it comes to identifying with consumers, declared themselves Blu-Ray only, well that was it for me. I have also heard that there have been many problems with HD DVD playback, especially on the combo discs that have HD on one side, and standard on the other. I got the opportunity to view Blu-Ray content at the exclusive Blu-Ray booth and Disney booth (PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN looked amazing) at Comic-con, but didn’t see a dedicated HD DVD camp anywhere. That, and the upcoming releases of BLADE RUNNER: THE FINAL CUT (+ 4 other cuts available December 18), SPIDER-MAN 3 (October 30), CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (+ 2 other cuts available November 13) and PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD’S END (December 4) all headed to a Blu-Ray disc near you soon (to be fair though, BLADE RUNNER will also be on HD DVD) and Disney has announced that they are going to start releasing their classic animated films next year on the format starting with SLEEPING BEAUTY, it seems that the time is right to jump on the Blu-Ray bandwagon.

Now many people are saying that downloads will overtake packaged media over time and that subscribing to one of these formats is a waste of time and money, but I tend to disagree. A movie is a lot different than a CD. On an album, there may only be one track you like, and want to buy limiting your interest in shelling out $$$ for the entire CD and one song takes up little space on your hard drive. With a movie, downloading will probably overtake rentals some day, but with hard-drive space at a premium and the fact that most people would still prefer to watch a movie on their much larger TV sets than an iPod or computer screen (well, crazy college students excluded of course) I still think in the realm of motion pictures, people will still interested in purchasing that copy for their shelf. Movie buffs are a little more regimented than music fans in that we like our film libraries and our shelves teeming with DVDs and it just looks cool. Me I don’t have the hard drive space (I have over 1,500 titles on DVD, VHS and Laserdisc. No hard drive could hold all that, and could you imagine what would happen if it crashed? YIKES) nor the patience to wait for a download, and I like the special features that come and are easily accessed on a DVD. I understand and appreciate the importance of downloads as the rental industry really needs to be concerned in that case, but I still don’t see packaged media going anywhere soon so long live DVD, and also to a bright future with Sony’s Blu-Ray High Definition DVD format.