January 5, 2009

"The Blu-ray format is in jeopardy simply because the advent of downloadable HD movies is so close."

Yeah, can't we just skip this format?


Marcia said...

This is the only reason I haven't bought a blue-ray player. I have enough obsolete electronics.

chuck b. said...

We have a VOD system. Not sure what it is; my husband handles all that. We call it "Video on Download" because it takes so long to get them in the DVR. Also, they expire from the DVR after a few days which I don't like. Well, I guess that's not so bad--you have to return the DVD at some point, too. But still.

And the selections aren't very good either. Selection doesn't seem like the right word, does it. It's really the options that aren't very good. The selections that I make are fine.

I watched a bunch of documentaries on the early Christians and Jews around Christmas. Those were interesting. And I must have watched the Britney Spears video "Piece of Me" video 500 times. Good song and good video.

I've tried watching stuff on Hulu and Netflix on my computer, but I don't enjoy it that much. Porn is about the only thing I like to watch on the computer.

Original Mike said...

Yeah, I can't wait to download HD movies over my dialup connection.

Toby said...

Laserdisk part II

Tibore said...

I can't agree with that sentiment. Video on demand has existed for quite some time now, and it hasn't killed off the DVD market. And while the advent of downloadable music has killed off large portions of the music CD industry, it hasn't lessened the desire for individuals to possess individual copies of music.

I think there's something to be said for the desireablility of owning your own copy of a work. You're not at anyone's mercy to peruse it; you at most need to power up your own electronic playback device. And off you go with it. Contrast with downloadable HD "Video on Demand"; you're tethered to a connection at all times, even if it's a wireless one. You're at the mercy of a third party and equipment not in your own hands.

On top of that, HDVOD would put you at the mercy of whatever the content provider selected for their library. Can I be sure that a harder to find movies will in fact be downloadable? I've been bending over backwards to dig up anyone who carries Ten to Chi to on DVD; how sure am I that it'll be available in an HDVOD subscription service?

From my profession, I'm aware that it's currently in vogue to find ways to make everything 'net-deliverable content. But I think that outlook ignores many things, not the least of which are the two things I mentioned above, as well as bandwidth issues (anyone realize how long it takes to download a 4 to 8 gig movie?).

Don't get me wrong; I love the idea of web-deliverable content. So much can be done with it; for example, you're not forced into shelling out the purchase price to see an element - like a special feature, or a deleted scene - that's only contained on a special edition of the work. It's just that I don't see it replacing personally owned copies and home players.

Blu-ray may not be taking off as well as hoped, but I don't think the advent of HDVOD is going to kill it off. It's just a boutique option, like audiophile-end stereo equipment. The rest of the hoi-polloi's going to be satisfied with DVD, and so far, that's been borne out on the market. I'd rather see Blu-ray succeed, but my overall point is that if anything's going to kill it off, that anything isn't going to be HDVOD.

craig said...

Blu Ray is nowhere near Laserdisk territory. It is doing very well as compared to DVDs at a similar point in their evolution. Price drops in both HD televisions and the players themselves will make them more enticing to the masses. Plus, while downloadable HD content is great, it is dependent on storage limitations and you need to be at least a little technically savvy in order to watch the content on your tv. What happens when my hard drive is full with this downloaded content? Also, most downloadable content includes some sort of digital rights management making it tied to a particular brand - that is, if I buy it on itunes, I need an itunes compatible player such as apple tv. A blu ray disc will play on any blu ray player and a dvd will play on any blu ray player.

Blu ray sales will be better for newer releases as most people are not going to redo their video library like they did during the vhs-dvd conversion. I imagine the same will be true for downloadable content.

Original Mike said...

From my profession, I'm aware that it's currently in vogue to find ways to make everything 'net-deliverable content.

It's always seems to be in vogue, Tibore,and I think that's because it has greater revenue potential. It's in the vendor's interest, not yours and mine. The most absurd example of this was the attempt to replace cash with pre-paid cash cards (not gift cards tied to a specific store or restaurant; just generic cash-cards). I saw a marketer once lament that they weren't catching on. He claimed not to understand it given that, in his words, "it free's you from the inconvenience of cash".

I agree with you 100% that there are things you want to own, untethered to somebody else controlling your use. We wanted to buy a BluRay player this Christmas, but ulimately didn't because it didn't seem like there were a whole lot of interesting titles.

NSNotFound said...

I almost bought a Blu-ray player last year when I bought a big new HD-TV. But then I hesitated. I was getting downloaded HD content using my Apple-TV. It seemed pretty good. Why buy an expensive player? So I waited.

Recently, NetFlicks content showed up on my HD-TiVo (I already owned the HD-Tivo and a NetFlicks subscription). I used that a lot over the Christmas break. It works surprisingly well. I have a good cable modem connection and there were basically no delays when streaming content that I notice.

So I'm still waiting to buy a BR player and I doubt I ever get around to it.

Oh, I'm one of those folks who doesn't really care to own video content. I almost never watch things more than once, so renting it, then discarding it seems perfectly reasonable to me.

AlphaLiberal said...

Just bought a HD TV which I thought was a bit expensive.

So, buy yet another device with another "new" standard that will likely be obsolete in a couple years?

The old DVDs work fine.

Alan said...

I doubt much of the supposed HD video is truly HD quality. Probably more like DVD quality. If we could actually download HD quality movies, My ISP, Comcast, would have to increase its download quota beyond 250GB a month.

jayne_cobb said...

I highly doubt that this will kill the blu-ray format; as others have said, downloadable content has been around for a while but most people still prefer dvds.

No, the real piece of technology which will be killed by this is the PS3. It's already struggling, and Sony has recently pushed it as an entire entertainment platform and not just a gaming system.

The only demographic likely to download movies as an alternative to buying dvds (in any significant numbers) is young males. This demographic also happens to be the primary target for the PS3. This development, coupled with the fact that it's no longer the cheapest blu-ray player, is going to kill any hopes they had of catching Microsoft.

Original Mike said...

Slightly OT/ I bought an HD TV for the first time a couple of months ago. HD video is so good that, for the monent, I don't care what I'm watching. I just sit there smiling at the picture quality.

I imagine this will wear off.

Original George said...


Tibore said...

"It's always seems to be in vogue, Tibore, and I think that's because it has greater revenue potential."

Bingo. While that statement may not be the only reason that many content manufacturers and (for lack of a better term) distributors like the idea, it sure as heck has to be one of the top 3.

Us computer geeks for a while now have seen this coming because companies like Microsoft have been pushing building blocks for web-deliverable content for some time now. I realize that MS Office apps (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc.) aren't high def video content, but there's a big similiarity... well, even a total congruence here: Elements like OLE and other standards and technologies have been pushed by Microsoft in order to expand the ability of web browsers to do things beyond render static text, images, colors, the occasional animation, etc. Well, why? Because they've come out and stated they'd like to see apps like MS Office be a web delivered application, not just a stand-alone suite of programs installed on your computer. And in fact, we're starting to see some of that web-hosted functionality now; for example, Outlook Web Access - a web portal for MS Exchange users (in simpler language, the "web mail" page for those account holders) - can render Word and pdf files without Word or Acrobat reader being installed. That's just the start of things.

Why would Microsoft want to host those complex programs as web-delivered applications, and suffer all the RAM, storage, and CPU load that doing so would impose on them? Well for one, they believe they'll gain a profit from eliminating piracy (which presupposes that users of pirated software will automatically subscribe to the web delivered version of that app, but I don't want to digress... the point is that Microsoft thinks there's profit to be made there). For two, they also have to be considering the elimination of the costs associated with physically creating, packaging, and delivering physical media. Despite the cost of enterprise caliber, redundant, "big iron" application servers, it's relatively cheap to host a program on a server and just have it deliver that app over and over again. You only spend that money once, after all, for an unlimited number of "copies" of the apps to be delivered from that server. And when you do things that way, you control access on top of all that. Charge for it, and there's your revenue stream, unaffected by illegitimate copies or subtracted from by physical media production costs.

All that applies to the movie industry as well. Why worry about someone bittorrenting your latest flick when you deliver it via VOD? If you write the app correctly, the movie won't be storable, so it can't be redistributed (until someone else figures out how to capture the movie data on their computer, but there's always going to be a war on that front). If you're a movie studio, you also eliminate those pesky middlemen chipping in their own two cents on top of the price of the product; you can argue that you're saving the customer money, and be in the novel position of actually telling the truth about it. If you're a distributor (or "re-distributor... use Blockbuster video as an example of this), you eliminate the costs of physical stores and physical employees to handle physical media. But at the same time as all of that, you're also lopping off copies circulating outside the revenue-generating stream, and finding a way to charge each and every pair of eyes that lays sight on the content. Control plus elimination of distribution mechanism, or elimination of a recurring cost in the distribution mechanism. For a content provider like a movie studio, or a reseller like Blockbuster, what's not to like?

But us viewers/end users? Well, there's a whole different set of values on that end of the playing field. I already mentioned some of it above. Fact of the matter is, the dream is nice (if you're a studio, theater, video rental house, etc.), but the customer is a pesky intrusion on that reality, and we all have our own reasons for wanting personal copies or avoiding device or connectivity tethering. So the herd won't exactly go the way the sheepdogs want us to.

Any way you look at it, though, HDVOD will come to pass. But like I said above, the consumer pressure for private copies will always exist, so Blu-ray or other future standards (except for the now dead HD-DVD one) will still have an market. The only question remaining is what degree market penetration Blu-ray gets, and whether it ends up being viewed as the "primary" type of personal copy (think of CD's for music as an example), or some "boutique"/specialy version (think SACD or DVD-Audio... or until very recently, MP3's and other iTunes/Rhapsody/downloadable forms). But regardless, however the future of HDVOD and Blu-ray turns out, the journey there will be interesting.

al said...

I imagine this will wear off.

Not here. We've had a wide screen HD set for 2 years now and still just sit there and enjoy.

As for Blue-ray - I think Sony blue it by keeping the price of the players high. Had they come down to the $100.00 mark and movies not stuck with a premium price the adoption rate would have been much higher.

We're still using DVD as I can't bring myself to directly support the evil that is Sony by buying a Blue-ray device. DVD with a upscaling DVD player provides an excellent picture.

blake said...

A regular DVD with a HDTV is what you might call "good enough". 99% of the content available doesn't even require that much definition.

This stuff depends on new content to drive it, and for most, probably a bunch of "killer" titles. I like "300", but I'm not buying a Blu-Ray to watch it in all its glory. Most is good enough. Some will, of course.

Tibore is right, but I think he misses the tension there. Yes, the content providers see streaming as a huge revenue generator, but they don't want to do it without complete control of the final product--something easier to achieve with software than with movies.

If I were in charge, I'd be doing about the opposite of what the Big Content Guys actually are doing.

Push for mega-bandwidth, make everything available and convenient for a ridiculously low price, and you'll find people won't bother stealing.

Right now, it's easier to steal--and you get a better product than if you buy. That's a Very Bad Thing.

Christopher Althouse Cohen said...

If Blu Ray is doing so badly, how come every store in LA this weekend was completely sold out of Blu Ray players (except for some really ghetto brand that no one wanted) and multiple people at the random times I went into the stores were asking about Blu Ray players and when the stores would get them? They seem to be selling like Wii's over here.

And I don't think that true HD has ever been shown through broadcast or on-demand, which makes me think the technology doesn't exist. And for a preview of what it'll be like if they do introduce that, try downloading a 2-minute trailer in full 1080p resolution and see how long it takes just to be able to watch that all the way through, even with high speed internet.

Anything they're introducing as "HD on demand" is 720p (which is halfway between DVD and Blu Ray as far as picture quality) and is almost certainly panned & scanned if the original movie is any wider than 1.78:1, which most movies are.

Downloads, pay-per-view and On Demand are niche markets; always have been, always will be. If you're imagining being able to quickly download full 1080p, non-cropped movies from a selection that's equivalent to going to a video rental store or Netflix (in other words, thousands of movies to choose from instead of 20 movies), I think that is decades away from happening, if it ever happens.

On Demand is about as appealing as the Kindle. Might be seem ultra-convenient for some, but the substandard quality will not be good enough for most people to switch to that.

Edgehopper said...

It's not the advent of downloadable HD movies that's the problem, it's the sheer lack of necessity for Blu-Ray quality. I have a fairly high end system for American households (at least 75th percentile in quality, probably more like 90th) with a 37" Vizio and a 5.1 surround system. I have both an XBox and a PS3, and I don't see or hear any significant difference between a DVD on the XBox upscaled to 780p, and a Blu-Ray movie playing at 1080i. To appreciate the difference, you need either a 7.1 surround sound system or higher, or a seriously high end HDTV with true 1080p resolution. Otherwise, the improvement isn't worth the typically 50% higher prices for Blu-Ray ($30 vs. $20 is what I've usually seen for new releases).

Christopher Althouse Cohen said...

By the way, "upconverters" that magically change regular DVD's into "HD" are pure fraud. You can't change something to a higher resolution level than the information that is actually stored on the disc. The fact that anyone finds the "upconversion" to be successful is a testament to the power of suggestion.

Original Mike said...

By the way, "upconverters" that magically change regular DVD's into "HD" are pure fraud.

That might be a bit harsh. The upconvertors I use for medical imaging systems do a somewhat sophisticated interpolation method (bicubic spline, to be precise) so the data they make up to fill in between the actual data is a reasonable guess at what really belongs there. I don't know if the commercial units use interpolation or simple replication. But yes, it's not "real" resolution increase.

BJM said...

More than I care to admit of our movie collection is in three formats! I just sold $5k worth of laser discs for pennies on the dollar.

Enough. I'm not buying another fricking player and disc format.

I upgraded to an HD Tivo instead. VOD makes more sense than buying removable media.

holdfast said...

Until you hit a 42" screen, a DVD on a player with decent upconversion is pretty good - but at 42" and over, you will see Blu-Ray shine - it is not just the clarity, it is the color palette.

On that note - 1080p at anything less than 37" is a ripoff, and not truly worth it until 40" unless you are also using your TV as a computer monitor (in which case it is a must).

Downloadable content is getting better - but consider that a movie on a Blu-Ray is at least 22GB - even with high speed cable that would take a looooong tim - never mind download caps.

blake said...

If it takes decades, Chris, it won't be due to technical restrictions.

Note that the MP3 format traded quality for portability and completely dominated the digital music field.

Unforeseen technology can change the game at any time.

Robt C said...

Holdfast nailed it. I have a very nice upscaling DVD and a projection system with a 133" screen. (OK, not typical, but as HF says, it's true for anything over 42"). I was very happy with it. I got a Blu Ray player, and was bowled over by the improvement in the picture. While the resolution of the upscaled DVD was fine--the colors don't begin to compare to Blu-Ray. I got a couple of movies in both formats, alternated between players, and there was a vast difference in picture quality. And the price of players and content is dropping quickly. For those of you who are indifferent, and have a hi-def TV over 42" or so, you don't know what you're missing.

sarah said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
blake said...

Watch it, "sarah". The treadmill is MY beat.

Ann Althouse said...

LOL, blake, but I catch and delete spam like that everyday, even when it inspires quips.

blake said...

Very tidy of you.

Thanks, by the way, for not using the captcha thing. I hate those. (I understand them, but I hate 'em.)