Blu Ray Disc Boycott

Are DVDs and CDs obsolete? I don't think so. I know older people who are still using VHS quite a bit. DVDs have been available for over a decade now, but it only in the last 5 years that the older population has started to finally start buying DVDs too.

Which means that there is another 5 or 10 years or so before it becomes obsolete.

You see the problem for the movie industry is that downloading movies is becoming increasingly popular and DVD sales keep dropping. The movie industry hopes that if they switch to Blu Ray Discs that they will increase sales and somehow decrease the amount of people downloading movies.

They're fooling themselves.

Why would anyone buy a Blu Ray movie for $40 when they could download a DVD quality version for free? And if you're like most people, you like to watch several movies a week on your home entertainment system, and sometimes even a marathon of movies (like the Indiana Jones series).

My problem is that I own all the Indiana Jones movies on VHS. And digital copies on CD. And on DVD. I don't see why I should be asked to go out and shell out another $80 - $120 to buy the set in Blu Ray. Nevermind that I am already planning to see the new movie (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull [sometimes called Indiana Jones and the City of the Gods]).

I think you're starting to see my point. We the consumers have ALREADY paid for these movies. The quality of the image may be slightly less on DVD than it is on Blu Ray, but my TV is crap anyway.

So Blu Ray is really only for those consumers that have large HD flatscreen TVs and want a really high quality image (which they would still get with DVD) and they are willing to pay a small fortune to buy all their favourite movies over again.

The stupid thing however is that these days you could also just subscribe to a movie network on cable or satellite and then you'd get all your movies (in HD) for cheap anyway. Or you could download HD versions of them online.

Blu Ray is not going to do a damn thing to prevent people from downloading movies. The only thing it has done is sparked a boycott online.

If you Google '"blu ray" boycott' there is 214,000 hits, coming from sites like f***, numerous anti-blu ray blog postings and a variety of other websites. People are not happy with the concept. It may have a cool sounding name, but Public Relations wise they've only pissed people off.

Here's what f*** has to say:

Why you should boycott Blu-ray and HD-DVD

It is with great regret that I inform you of the ways in which the movie industry wishes to ruin your enjoyment of high definition movies at home. If you've ever watched HDTV, you know how amazing it is. At 5 times the resolution of normal television, it looks fantastic. And the quality of the movies on a Blu-ray or HD-DVD disc is even better, because of less compression. I want it, and you want it. Right?

Well, there's just one problem. The movie industry assumes you are a criminal, and has added technologies to Blu-ray and HD-DVD that vastly restrict your potential enjoyment of their HD movies. I don't want it, and you don't either. Here's why.

(Note: There are a lot of acronyms on this page, so first, some quick definitions.)

DRM - Digital Restrictions Management - technology to restrict what you can do with media you purchase

AACS - Advanced Access Content System - the DRM infection used for both Blu-ray and HD-DVD

BD+ - an addition to AACS for Blu-ray discs, that provides additional restrictions to what you can do

MMC - Mandatory Managed Copy - a theoretical way for you to make a legal copy of a movie

HDCP - High-bandwith Digital Content Protection - Encryption of data over digital connections

HDMI - High Definition Multimedia Interface - A digital connection found on most new HDTV's, all HDCP compliant

DVI - Digital Visual Interface - Precursor to HDMI, found on many older HDTV's. However, many DVI connections are not HDCP compliant, making them worthless for Blu-ray and HD-DVD.

ICT - Image Constaint Token - Downsamples HD output to standard resolution when hooked up over analog (component) cables.

MPAA - Motion Picture Assoc. of America - trade organization representing the major movie companies

RIAA - Recording Industry Assoc. of America - trade organization representing the major music companies

Reasons to be outraged:

How old is your HDTV? If you bought it prior to 2005, and there are over 3 million of you who did, the MPAA thinks you shouldn't be able to watch HD movies in high definition. They are insisting that your TV supports digital encryption via an HDMI port or an HDCP-compliant DVI port, which these earlier TV's lack. If you have to stoop so low as to hook up your shiny new player via, God forbid, analog (component), the industry thinks you're not worthy. There's a fun little surprise they built in to Blu-ray and HD-DVD for people just like you, and it's called the Image Constaint Token. If it's enabled on a movie, and your connection does not support HDCP, then the movie is downsampled to 1/4 its native resolution, which is essentially the same as a standard DVD. While no movies have yet been released with the ICT enabled, know this: It will happen. It's just a matter of time.

Thinking about buying a new HD-DVD or Blu-ray drive for your computer? If you want to use it to watch movies, think again. You'll need to buy a lot more than just the drive. Remember, analog = BAD, digital encryption = GOOD. You'll need to open up that wallet of yours for a brand new HDCP-compliant video card, AND, an HDCP-compliant monitor. Notice the word compliant. That is very important. There are some products that just claim to be HDCP "compatible", but they will NOT work for viewing high definition movies.

AACS means that Blu-ray and HD-DVD will never be compatible with free software, affecting nearly everyone that wants to view these movies on their computer but isn't running Windows or Mac OS X. While this is a minority of computer users, they should not be ignored. Some might say history is doomed to repeat itself.

Excited about Mandatory Managed Copy? Don't be. While it theoretically allows things such as making legal backups and streaming content from one part of your house to another, the studios have the option of charging you money to do that. Current HD players don't even support MMC. Your player also has to be connected to the internet. That's not inherently bad, but is certainly open for abuse. What if you don't have an available internet connection close to your home theater? What if you don't have broadband? The MPAA humbly requests that you cry them a river. It's hard to believe they even considered something like MMC, considering this. Choice quote: "Even if CDs do become damaged, replacements are readily available at affordable prices". Translation: please purchase another copy of content you have already paid for, thank you. There is a very interesting interview with an HD-DVD rep here about MMC.

"Hacking" your player, for example to remove the region coding, or playing a bootlegged disc, may lead your player to self destruct. (Applies to Blu-ray only).

There are a few other restrictions the MPAA originally requested, but since they're such a nice and friendly group of people, they went easy on us. They had planned to require that your player be connected to the internet at all time for it to function, so they could monitor its usage and make sure you weren't up to no good. Also, they considered having each disc being playable by only one player, meaning that if you played a new movie in your player, your friend couldn't watch the same disc in his player. How thoughtful!

Other reasons you don't need HD-DVD or Blu-ray

The jump from VHS to DVD was dramatic and obvious - superior video quality, digital surround sound, non-degrading storage format, multiple audio tracks, etc. The jump from DVD to the next generation does not provide any benefits other than higher resolution, which to be fair is a great reason to want that upgrade, but there is nothing else. Cool menus and new interactive layer? People just want to watch the stinking movie. Better sound? Bah. 5.1 channel Dolby or DTS is pretty much the best it's going to get. Do you really want more speakers behind you than in front of you?

Blu-ray vs. HD-DVD will be a format war, leaving both consumers and retailers very frustrated. Do you want to gamble with investing thousands of dollars in a technology that may not be around in a few years? Some studios will only release their movies on one or the other format (Sony Pictures obviously will only do Blu-ray), which means if you want access to all possible movies, you will either have to buy both players or get a dual-format player.

New technology is expensive. HD-DVD players are $500+, and Blu-ray is $1,000+. Most of the movies retail for over $30. For computer storage, blank media will also cost around $30 minimum. Surely these costs will drop over time, but at the very least, you should consider waiting a while before joining the herd.

The biggest lie of all is that we even need these new technologies to have HD video on a disc. DVD video has been around for almost 10 years now, and since then vastly superior video compression technologies have been introduced, namely MPEG-4 and all its variants (h.264, DivX, XviD, etc). These compression formats are absolutely amazing in regards to size vs quality. A hi-def movie in any of these formats could easily fit onto a dual layer DVD, which holds about 9 GB. The only problem is that you can't really 'update' your existing player. In the consumers' best interest, what they would do is release new DVD players that not only supported these newer formats, but also had the ability to be upgraded for future technologies. We wouldn't need these expensive blue lasers to fit more data on a disc. Unfortunately, this solution doesn't line the pockets of shareholders and executives, so it is unlikely to happen.

The public is not ready for a new format already. A lot of people have spent a lot of money building their DVD collections, a format that just became mainstream ~5 years ago. Do you really want to go out and replace all of those movies? These new players will be backwards compatible with your old movies for sure, but if you just blew a grand on a shiny new player, you're going to want to watch your favorite movies in all their HD glory, right? Haven't you ever heard someone say, "Well, looks like now I have to buy another copy of the White Album" ?

Another problem with Blu Ray is that not everyone likes it. Universal Studios are currently thinking of boycotting Blu Ray.

Blu-ray reality check

HD DVD is dead. Blu Ray declares itself the winner. But is a Blu-ray player a worthy investment?

It's just you, me and Blu-ray baby.

With HD DVD deader than "Cavemen," Blu-ray survives as the only high-definition disc format. But for how long? With on-demand and, ultimately, online streaming and movie downloads, Blu-ray could look prehistoric in a hurry.

But you can bet your PlayStation 3 that Blu-ray won't go away without a fight, so let's take a look at what to expect if you're in the market for a new player and then take one for a test drive.

At least HD DVD had its act together technologically -- it simply didn't have enough support from the movie studios. From the start, HD DVD offered networking, picture-in-picture, onboard digital memory for storing downloaded material and online connectivity.

Blu-ray, perhaps because it's more complicated technologically and less like a conventional DVD player than HD DVD was, keeps trying to catch up. Last fall, it added picture-in-picture and 256 megabytes of onboard storage in players conforming to something called Profile 1.1, or "Final Standard Profile." Later this year, Profile 2.0, or "BD Live," players will add an Ethernet port for 1 gigabyte of memory and Internet connectivity. But how will consumers react when Sony introduces the $400-or-so BDP-S350, its first with an Ethernet port, this summer and find out it can't access the Internet -- and the BD Live features -- until a firmware update later in the year?

The earliest Blu-ray players, Profile 1.0, are dinosaurs already. Consumers who dropped $1,500 on a player a year ago cannot update their players. Only one player, in fact, is upgradable -- the one stashed in the $399 PlayStation 3, a high-power gaming console that's more computer than disc player. People can still watch new Blu-ray releases, but they won't be able to see picture-in-picture commentary or any other Profile 1.1 feature.

That's why a lot of people call the PS3 a best buy in Blu-ray players. Aside from moving up to a Profile 2.0 level via a firmware update, it can also stream media, play DivX video, and send photos and video over a home network.

"It will be the cheapest BD Live player by the end of the year," says analyst Paul Erickson, director of DVD and HD market research at DisplaySearch.

Blu-ray players start at about $500 now. Erickson says that, by the holiday season, Profile 1.1 players will become the standard at prices that might drop below $250 and even closer to $200. The BD-Live players will cost up to $200 more. Lower prices won't necessarily increase consumer interest, though.

"DVD is in its own natural state of decline," says Erickson. "It will be a little hard for a high-definition format to penetrate a market that's already saturated."

The Blu-ray blues

Panasonic's $500 DMP-BD30, the first Profile 1.1 player when it was released last fall, has the best-available Blu-ray technology. But much of it means nothing to the average consumer.

It's a safe bet, for example, that there are more adult males in the United States with newly shaped Anton Chigurh hairdos than there are Blu-ray movies with Profile 1.1 features. There's "Sunshine" and not much else. (Chigurh wins!)

The DMP-BD30 has the latest video enhancements -- Deep Color and 1080p/24p, which plays a movie in the same 24-frames-per-second format as the original -- but needs a late-model HDTV with the same features.

It has the latest audio, Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD, but needs one of the latest audio-video receivers to decode the new surround-sound formats.

A standard DVD looks no better on the DMP-BD30 than it does on a good $100 upconverting DVD player. And a $40 (list price) Blu-ray movie sometimes looks no better than a standard DVD. I did a double take after loading a Blu-ray "Mission Impossible III" and seeing grainy images on the 1080p screen.

But done right, like "Planet Earth," the Blu-ray/1080p combo mesmerizes.

It might not be a good year for Blu-ray, but it could be a great year for the PS3. At least you can play "Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare" before gathering the family for "Planet Earth."

These days, when you can just download TV shows and movies in HD anyway, Blu Ray seems pretty obsolete. So why not skip from DVDs straight to downloading?

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