It seems every time a Blu-ray is mentioned, specifically in the context of a remastered classic film, the discussion becomes an argument over the true benefit of Blu-ray. While nothing will ever put the debate to rest, it is time to clear the air on some misconceptions regarding the wonders of Blu-ray.
There are two sides to every argument, and one of these is that Blu-ray is a waste of money for only a slight improvement in quality. In fact, many argue there is no noticeable improvement at all. It's hard to sit back and let these people watch their standard definition DVDs without some kind of rebuttal. The anti-Blu-ray corps will give plenty of reasons why the format is not worth their time or money, so let's debunk those myths right now.
The most important thing to recognize about Blu-ray is its incomparable storage space. The reason the format is called Blu-ray comes from the blue laser used to read the regular-sized disc. The process allows for five times more information to be held on a disc no different in size than a regular DVD. Naturally, this increased storage space gives the disc room for better quality in audio, video and supplements.
But that doesn't help convince a consumer to dish out a few extra dollars for a Blu-ray and at least $100 for a Blu-ray player. The key is to understand that the enhancement is about more than just pleasing cinephiles looking for crisp picture quality. The format gives every consumer the most comprehensive home entertainment experience possible without forcing a two-month paycheck binge.
Right now, you can start from scratch and get a Blu-ray system ready to go for only a few hundred dollars; some Blu-ray players cost as low as $100 these days. Blu-ray movies are continuously lowering in price - they almost meet the new release price of DVDs. But if you want the optimal Blu-ray experience, you'll need an HDTV, an HDMI cable and possibly a surround sound system. We'll get into those details later.
Skip to 1:33 in the following video for a number of examples on the video quality improvement from DVD to Blu-ray.
The most common concern raised about Blu-ray is the actual visual difference. Can a regular home video consumer actually recognize the difference between a DVD and a Blu-ray? There are certain improvements that the untrained eye will not see, but that becomes irrelevant. There is absolutely no question that the Blu-ray format presents the best picture quality of all the options in the home video market.
The best way to prove the naysayers wrong is to simply compare screenshots from original DVD releases to remastered Blu-rays. Look on any message board about Blu-rays and you will see a handful of people complaining that they see no point in buying a remastered print of an old movie. The common excuse is somewhere along the lines of, "It wasn't shot in HD, so why would it be any better enhanced?" I challenge those people to spend just one day in the laboratories where technicians spend months remastering every frame of classic films.
Countless hours are spent removing dust particles, film strip malfunctions and other miniscule details that are compounded when a reel is projected. Picture quality on remastered Blu-rays are pristine. Films from a time where DVDs were not even in development look perfect. That exhausted film cutter's eyelash that dropped on a frame in the 3rd reel is now gone. We are literally changing history. Just look at the screencaps below for proof that new technology has given us a brand new look at classic films.
While most Blu-ray transfers bring our favorite movies back to life in a new light, not all showcase the same effort. There have admittedly been some underwhelming transfers. After all, the Blu-ray market is still new and is always evolving, but it is most definitely ready for the consumer. The process is getting better and better every year. The new Alien Anthology release is getting fantastic buzz for its video and audio transfer, which bodes well for one of the most beloved anthologies in film history.
A great example of the latest transfer work is last week's release of The Thin Red Line. The Criterion Collection is one of the world's best at bringing classic films to the Blu-ray format with a plethora of new features and enhancements. The new release is possibly the greatest example of the power of Blu-ray. The picture quality makes even John Toll's brilliant cinematography jump off the screen like never before.
At the end of the day, the argument can be compared to television. HD television is here to stay. Most Americans pay an extra amount of cash on their cable bills to have access to hundreds of HD channels. These channels present the same products as the standard definition counterparts - the only difference is in the picture quality and full utilization of the now-commonplace widescreen televisions. If you are willing to pay for HD television at a marginal extra cost each month, wouldn't you like to do the same for your home movies?