Friday, 3 May 2013

Blu-Ray Or Streaming?

Upload / Download
Upload / Download (Photo credit: johntrainor)

Blu Ray, DVD or Streaming?

A 'Blu Ray versus Streaming' discussion (argument?) is going on at the moment, across the internet.
Some Prophets of Doom have been pronouncing the end of Blu Ray, just as it appears to be getting fully established.

This article will explore the theory and reality of movies in home entertainment.
We'll examine the pros and cons of each option and help you to make up your own mind on the subject!

Time? What Time Do We Have?

In my last post, I talked about the Hobbit DVD release date being announced and ready for pre order.
However, the purpose of this post is not to talk about The Hobbit per se.
I noted then that the gap was only 4-5 months from movie release to release on Blu-Ray/DVD disk (depending on where you live).
The days of waiting for months and months (or even years) to own our favourite movie is well and truly over!

There is obviously a marketing thing going on here for the Hobbit.
They want to get us to buy the disk so we get thinking about the next movie, due out in December.

However, looking beyond that, how much pressure is coming from streaming services?
Is there a perceived threat to disk sales in the salesman's mind?
More important to me, will my precious Blu-Ray and DVD collection go down the pan when my Blu-Ray player breaks down?

The Battle Of 5 Companies

An emphasis on streaming and/or downloading video is coming from the big players.
Apple, Google, Microsoft, Sony, Amazon all want a piece of the pie: iTunes and Apple TV being a case in point.
"Smart" TVs and set top boxes are standard and many people already watch their favourite programs via BBC iPlayer on their iPads, Kindles and mobile phones.

In the light of this, it's interesting that Kevin Spacey made the news with a new TV series of Michael Dobbs' "House of Cards" which has gone direct to the internet via Netflix.
Netflix was previously doing well in the US, but is taking a while to get momentum in Europe.
But if you want to watch House of Cards, you can't even see it on your TV over the air waves.

The End Of All Disks?

In response to this, there has been some industry comment pronouncing "the end is nigh" for Blu Ray, even as it gains more traction in the marketplace of people's hearts.
I know some people who have already given up on physical media and gone all-out downloading all their music and movies onto hard disk.
But I'm not ready to give up on my DVD and Blu Ray discs just yet!

To my mind, the speed of the internet is just not fast enough in most homes (including mine), to allow for streaming movies over the air.
As an economy minded internet user, neither do I have a large enough usage allowance each month to be able to download movies on a regular basis - particularly if they are in High Definition.

All You Have To Do Is Decide...

I don't have space in this post to discuss all the pros and cons of streaming/downloading versus Blu-Ray in detail.
However, here is a simple list that I hope will serve to illustrate.

Streaming/Downloading Pros

  • No need for physical media to take up space in your house
  • All you need is a computer with a big hard drive or other storage device to download it to
  • Or you could 'store' it all in the cloud and stream from there
  • Can be cheaper than the equivalent disk

Streaming/Downloading Cons

  • Need a good, fast broadband connection for streaming/downloading to work properly
  • May exceed broadband download limits with your ISP, particularly with HD movies
  • Need to have backups of downloaded media. Otherwise, the whole lot goes if your hard drive goes.
  • Standards for media files are often closed or proprietary. This means you can't always play something you bought from one company on different equipment
  • Not all "HD" material is true HD when you download it. It may have been broadcast at a different resolution

Blu-Ray Pros

  • Best possible HD picture and sound "out of the box"*
  • No waiting for the movie to download
  • Often get 'extras' on the disc, which can add to the enjoyment if you're a fan
  • Sometimes get a digital copy on the disk, or as a download code (!)

Blu-Ray Cons

  • Take up space in your house
  • Scratch the disk and it could be ruined
  • Not all Blu-Ray disks are sourced from HD material and some are "updated" in ways that people don't like*
  • Sometimes more expensive than a pure digital equivalent
  • Not all digital copies/download codes are necessarily equal**

*I have seen reviews by Blu-Ray aficionados that this movie or that movie hasn't been transferred to Blu-Ray very well.
I am no expert on these things, but I have never noticed a problem and all the Blu-Rays I have seen have been head and shoulders above anything else.

**I have seen complaints and negative articles about the "Ultraviolet" digital copy included on many recent Blu-Ray disks.
This is an alternative to the likes of iTunes, but has its own player.
The complaints vary from difficulties to get it running on PC or iPod/iPhone, etc through to time limits on when the download expires.
I even heard of one example where the digital copy itself expires after a date in 2014 and will no longer be playable (please note: I have not used it myself, so cannot comment on these claims).

English: Front side of a 200GB Blu-ray Disc
English: Front side of a 200GB Blu-ray Disc (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I'm Glad You're With Me, Sam

or The Return Of The Disk?

I still like the feeling of owning something.
Yes, I have a Kindle and an iPod and I have already made an adjustment with books and music.
I may at some point buy the Kindle version of Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit, but I could never part with the real thing sitting on my book shelf.
There's just too much emotional attachment to them!

In the same way, I suspect that disk based movies will stick around for a bit longer than some are predicting.
I can see that I may start doing more of the streaming/downloading, but still buy my favourites on disk.
- The Dark Knight and Marvel Avengers movies spring to mind (see my Marvel Avengers Box Set post!).

I'm already doing this via my Panasonic Blu-Ray Recorder, which has an internal hard drive.
Programs get recorded onto the hard drive first and those I want to keep I burn to rewritable Blu-Ray disks.
The capacity of Blu-Ray means that I have entire series recorded and with no adverts, due to the flexibility of the recording and editing system.

What will be next?

Back to the original point: the speed with which a movie goes from the cinema to the home.
Perhaps in the future we will go to the cinema, pay for our tickets and for a small extra premium, pick up the disc (or a download code) then and there, or maybe on our way out the door?

What about you?

Do you still prefer physical disks, or have you fully embraced the digital cloud for your movies?
Will you get The Hobbit on Blu Ray/DVD, or will you simply put your hard disk recorder to "set and forget"?
Let us know in the comments!
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