Resisting the Blu-ray

Nigel Druitt

An avid Flickcharter since 2009, Nigel is a self-described fanboy whose Top 20 is dominated by the likes of Indiana Jones, Frodo Baggins and Marty McFly. Nigel is the Canadian arm of the Flickchart Blog, but try not to hold that against him. You can find him on Flickchart as johnmason.

You may also like...

18 Responses

  1. Luke says:

    Good for you mate. Don’t give into all that crap about the Blue-Ray. Honestly it cost more and the picture looks the same as a DVD (at least it dose for me). I too like to get the DVD with all the extra features and trust me if you look long and hard enough you will find one. As Tim Allen once said:

    “Never give up, Never Surrender.”

  2. JMB says:

    Not pushing Blu Ray on anyone, but watching a Blu-Ray on a big projection screen vs. wacthing a DVD on a smaller LCD isn’t really a fair comparison since bigger screens dilute the effect of Blu Ray and projection is much less bright and sharp than LCD.

    Blu-Ray on a 36 to 42 inch sized 1080 LCD or LED TV is something to behold. Not all movies benefit equally from the treatment, but cinematography-heavy movies like Blade Runner, Angel Heart and Unforgiven look amazing. And made-for-HD television shows like Lost or Battlestar Galactica are really impressive as well.

    And older material mastered from 35mm originals also looks amazing, including classics like Last Year at Marienbad and old TV filmed in 35mm like the original Star Trek, the Prisoner. Some movies do not benefit as much, for instance, the Godfathers I and II are shot on very grainy film stock which tends to be distracting on BR due to the sharpness of the picture.

    Sound is also great depending on your system. Musicals are really amazing, but most of the really good musicals haven’t made the jump to BR yet.

    Nobody “needs” Blu Ray, especially when money is tight, but it does offer a certain pleasure for movie lovers. With the right combination of lower prices and better economy, I think it’s well worth it.

    In the meantime, DVD is not a bad format by any means and it’s certainly given me a lot of pleasure over the years.

  3. Brian says:

    Absolutely no reason to upgrade without a HDTV. That’s really all that needs to be said.

  4. Evan says:

    I was originally like this too. I thought blu-rays were absolutely ridiculous…. until my parents bought a 1080p HDTV…. then they came home one night with a blu-ray player. I didn’t know what to think, and it was some time until I actually used a blu-ray in the player (I had been watching DVDs with it). I bought my first blu-ray (A Serious Man), and it was incredible. Not amazing enough for me to completely ditch DVDs, but still great.

    To this day I still have a VERY large collection of DVDs, and only about 20 blu-rays. I have absolutely no problem buying DVDs- in fact I just bought Kill Bill on DVD yesterday. In fact, I ONLY buy DVDs., but sometimes I have to splurge:

    1- If it’s a BRAND NEW movie I love with all of my heart. For example, when Inception came out, i HAD to have the blu-ray, and I do now (expensive though).

    2- If It’s a blu-ray exclusive. These are rare, but just a couple days ago I bought the Grindhouse blu-ray, which has both films on one disc in the exact way they showed it in theaters (my guess is blu-rays have more time capacity, so they were able to put all 4hours on there).

    3- If I REALLY REALLY want it. I am a HUGE Rocky Horror fanatic, and I had previously owned the DVD. When the blu-ray came out, I rushed to buy it. They were pretty smart with the packaging, though, since it’s a book, not a case.

    I suppose I’ll also get one if it happens to be the same price as the DVD (yes I’ve seen this before). Anyways, that’s my opinion. Now onto blu-ray 3D!!!!!

  5. I’ve just about exhausted myself of this very debate on another website, but I’ll go ahead and offer a few remarks here anyway.

    Without an HDTV there is no reason for you to buy a Blu-ray player and expect an appreciable difference in quality. That doesn’t mean that even in SD you can’t find added value to Blu-ray Discs.

    I’m a bonus feature junkie and I don’t share your view that those are wasted hours. I’ve learned quite a lot over the years from commentary tracks and making-of features. It’s not uncommon for studios to include bonus content on the Blu-ray release not found on the DVD counterpart. Warner, for instance, added a pair of History Channel specials to their Blu-ray release of The Dark Knight. You don’t need an HDTV to enjoy that bonus content; in fact, it’s often not even in HD anyway (though the example I just gave is an exception; the History Channel specials on The Dark Knight are in HD).

    Let’s address the cost issue for a moment. Disney has done a fantastic job of offering coupons for their major releases. Last year, they offered $10 coupons for both Toy Story and Toy Story 2 (which were only released in Blu/DVD combo packs; you only got to choose whether you wanted Blu-ray style packaging or DVD style packaging). The week they were released, someone had them on sale for $16.99 apiece. After using the coupons, we only paid $13.98 for the both of them…and they included movie cash to go see Toy Story 3, so we got to go see that without a penny out of pocket! We would have nearly paid $14 just to see Toy Story 3 anyway; why not upgrade the first two movies? (Incidentally, Pixar’s stuff is gorgeous on Blu-ray, even the relatively primitive Toy Story.)

    My wife surprised me with a Blu-ray player for my birthday in 2009. To date, we’ve paid and average of $12.71 for our Blus thanks to coupons like those from Disney, sales and patience. The notion that Blu-ray is more expensive across the board is simply misinformed. I’ve often seen the Blu-ray version priced the same as its DVD counterpart, and occasionally even less than the DVD.

    Oh, and as for quality: anyone who claims there’s no appreciable difference is simply unobservant in the first place. I don’t know how many times over the last 22 years I’ve seen Batman, across various formats. I saw things in that movie I’ve never seen before when I saw it on Blu-ray. Mind you, I had gone to see a midnight screening of Batman six months before I bought the Blu-ray, and even the 35mm print didn’t show some of the detail. It’s a vastly different viewing experience, and is far more engaging visually to see a movie in HD.

  6. Nigel Druitt says:

    Luke: I love that quote.

    JMB: You’re right; I didn’t watch those movies on the same TV. I do know there’s a difference.

    And Travis: I certainly know there’s not going to be any difference in quality when I don’t have an HDTV. I don’t have the TV for it; that’s part of my point.

    I did also address the fact that prices for Blu are coming down. As I said, there are plenty of discs out there – and for recent movies – that are at prices I’ve always paid for DVD. I saw plenty of 2009 and 2010 movies in the $10-15 range the last time I was shopping. That Scott Pilgrim I mentioned? I bought the DVD for $10…then realized that the Blu-ray combo pack – which included the disc I’d just bought – was only about 5 bucks more.

    Cost is not the issue, at least not any more. The issue is that I don’t have that HDTV.

    And “wasted” time on the bonus features? No, I don’t necessarily think I wasted my time, especially not with those Lord of the Rings films, which I absolutely love (and haven’t watched in a few years; man, I have to rectify that). The thing is that I really don’t need to watch every commentary on every movie that I own; sometimes, at least for me, it would be preferable to watch another movie.

  7. Then perhaps, Nigel, this editorial really ought to be about how you don’t have an HDTV? ;) As for bonus features, I readily concede that many of them are glorified fluff pieces that amount to self-congratulatory propaganda, and that more than a few commentary tracks are inane or lifeless. But every now and again I come across a gem that encourages me to keep watching those things. I’ve even tinkered with writing a piece for the blog about some of my favorite bonus features, but I wasn’t sure if that was too far off topic.

    In any event, I’m at a point where instead of blind-buying cheap DVDs like I used to do, I stream movies from Netflix. I’m already paying the subscription fee, and I’ve gotten far more use from my membership since they added streaming to the Wii. When it comes to buying, I’m much more focused on known favorites…and those I insist on having on Blu-ray when at all possible. In fact, I recently streamed (and instantly fell in love with) Amelie, only to learn there’s not been a U.S. Blu-ray. I could import one, but that would be pricey and above all, it would violate my policy of patience.

    Since I initially replied to this, I also thought of one other element that makes Blu-ray appealing: proper aspect ratio. For instance, Warner Brothers has only ever offered Grumpy Old Men and its sequel on DVD in a butchered, pan & scan aspect ratio. When they released them on Blu-ray, however, they were in their proper, original aspect ratios. Granted, the majority of movies were at least once offered on DVD in their proper aspect ratio, but there are more instances like this than I think the average person realizes where the only way to view the movie properly is on Blu-ray.

  8. Jandy Stone says:

    When I upgraded to Blu-ray (and an HTDV at the same time; it is absolutely not worth having Blu-ray without one), I figured I would continue to buy most things on DVD, and save Blu-ray for really visual-heavy, cinematography-drive films. What’s ended up happening is that if I decide it’s not worth buying on Blu-ray, it’s not worth buying at all. I’ve picked up maybe four or five DVDs since then, all bargain-bin used ones. It’s not the quantum leap of quality that VHS-to-DVD was, you’re right, but in the little bit of sharpness, the extra clarity on fast movement, the deeper and more delicate range of sound – I can definitely tell the difference. Would I be okay with DVD? Sure. But I’m okay with streaming for stuff I don’t want to own. If I’m going to buy it, I want the best quality available – my Criterion blu-ray collection is growing steadily, but I’m not buying much else. :)

  9. Jandy, my wife and I are right there with you. Netflix Watch Instantly has all but entirely wiped out our days of rummaging through $5 bins. We half-jokingly refer to looking at the DVD selection as “slumming it.” I don’t think enough people realize that even black-and-white movies can be breathtaking in HD. I was leery when I upgraded Casablanca from the Two-Disc Special Edition DVD to the Blu-ray Disc, but wow! The lighting and shading are striking throughout, and it was a more visceral viewing experience in HD.

    All that said, there are obviously some titles that are unlikely to see a Blu-ray release any time soon (if at all); for that matter, there are a lot of catalog titles that may only ever exist on DVD-Rs through the various studio MOD programs (like the Warner Archive Collection). For those titles I will suspend my Blu-ray snobbery.

  10. Jandy Stone says:

    When I first got it, I assumed that older movies just wouldn’t look as good (or the improvement over DVD wouldn’t be as marked) as it is with newer digitally-shot films. Then I got The Searchers on blu-ray and the visual clarity on that almost knocked me off my couch. You’re right, black and white stuff in particular really does gain a lot on Blu-ray – it accentuates the shadows and the variations of light really well. I haven’t picked up that Casablanca disc yet, but maybe I should. I got Godard’s Vivre sa vie on Criterion blu and meant to just check out a few minutes to see what the transfer was like, and ended up watching the whole thing with my jaw open; it was lovely.

    The whole MOD program thing kind of bothers me. I get that there’s not a whole lot of demand for the Warner Archive films and it’s probably not worth doing a full run of DVDs or especially Blu-rays on them, but in that case, can’t they put them on Netflix Instant, or Amazon, or hulu, or take your pick? It seems to me that those are the perfect long-tail places to put your long-tail catalog.

  11. In addition to Casablanca I would highly recommend The Adventures of Robin Hood. The costumes are visually captivating anyway, but on Blu-ray they become distractingly gorgeous! Several times I found myself fixated upon the gowns worn by Olivia de Havilland as Maid Marion. The colors are vibrant and the detail is astounding…and this is a movie originally released in 1938!

    Additionally, Warner did an outstanding job selecting bonus content for the Blu-ray (not all of which can be found on the DVD release, mind you). There are no less than six short films to be found, as well as a vintage news reel, a host of trailers, an scores of behind-the-scenes material I haven’t even gotten to yet! They also included a very informative Turner Classic Movies documentary about Technicolor and its founder, Dr. Kalmus. Even if you’re not in love with The Adventures of Robin Hood itself, this is a perfect example of Blu-ray done right and I would argue a worthy addition to any Blu library. Between the A/V quality and the extensive bonus content, I honestly believe that those who buy the DVD release are compromising too much.

  12. Jandy Stone says:

    Travis, I actually own the Blu-ray of The Adventures of Robin Hood – and I think the film is in my top twenty. :) But I haven’t really delved into it yet. I have a bad habit of buying things when they’re cheap (well, that’s not a bad habit) and then putting them aside without watching them. With that rundown of the quality and extras on Robin Hood, though, I’ll try to look at it soonish!

    I wonder if my boyfriend has seen it…

  13. Nigel Druitt says:

    Travis: Okay, maybe this should have been about how I don’t have an HDTV. ;)

    I don’t think a blog about special features would be any more off-topic than this one. Bring it on!

    I’ve thought about Netflix streaming, but their selection is severely (yeah, severely) more limited here in Canada than in the U.S. (At least, so far.)

    I really, really wish they’d put out Grumpy Old Men in the proper ratio. :(

    And I don’t think I’m “slumming it” when I can get The Truman Show for $4, as I did yesterday. Haven’t seen that one since in the theater, but I remember liking it, and am looking forward to checking it out again.

  14. Maybe I will compose a piece on bonus features. We’ll see.

    Since going Blu, my wife and I tend to avoid the discount DVDs. Our new philosophy is that if it’s not something we’re willing to spend the money to have on Blu-ray, then we don’t really care enough about it to justify spending a few bucks to have it on DVD. The obvious exception would be something that hasn’t had, and isn’t likely to have, a Blu-ray release.

    I had no problem, for instance, recently spending $5.00 recently to buy Law and Order, a Western from the 50s starring Ronald Reagan. I’ve never seen him in an acting performance (cynical remarks about his presidency notwithstanding) and in May I plan on participating in a movie-watching challenge where I get to pick my own theme and I’m thinking about centering it around Reagan. It’s unlikely that Law and Order will get a Hi-Def release, especially given how unenthusiastic Universal seems to be about releasing catalog titles on Blu-ray.

  15. Nigel, I just read that Netflix in Canada is going to begin streaming 350 movies from Paramount Pictures. Thought that may be appealing to you.

  16. Jandy Stone says:

    Travis, thanks for the push to delve into the Adventures of Robin Hood blu-ray – my boyfriend and I watched it Saturday night, and it looks GORGEOUS. Reminded me just how much I adore that film, too. We also watched the Technicolor documentary, which was really well-done. I didn’t notice this in time to watch it this way, but one special feature is to watch the film as it would’ve played in 1938, with a full program of a contemporary trailer, a newsreel, and a couple of shorts. That’s awesome! I’d love to see more discs do that.

  17. Jandy, when my wife and I watched The Adventures of Robin Hood, I did think to play “A Night at the Movies 1938” first and it was terrific! You can watch those shorts by themselves, of course, but I would certainly recommend waiting until you find yourself re-watching the movie. Perhaps watch “A Night at the Movies” before playing it with the Rudy Belmer commentary track (which I’ve still not played, but expect to be fantastic).

    There are other short films on that Blu-ray, too, including a pair of “Merrie Melodies,” a piece on archer Howard Hill showing off, and a great documentary shot by Errol Flynn in which he used his schooner as part of an oceanographic expedition. (All of these shorts are rank-able here on Flickchart, incidentally.)

    By the way, Warner Brothers included “A Night at the Movies” with a few of their classic titles on DVD and Blu-ray. I haven’t come across a comprehensive list of such titles, but you may want to scour your current library (especially if you have many Warner titles from the Golden Age), and of course Google can be your friend!

  18. Nigel Druitt says:

    Travis, re: Netflix. That is interesting to know, thanks.