As a film lover, I have always held the movies I watch in very high regard. Similarly, I have always had a respect for the way I watch these movies. When I was young and would buy a VHS copy of an old favorite or a new discovery, I would save it for night time, once I had finished everything else and could devote my full attention to the film. I have never been fond of having a movie on in the background while doing other activities, though I am aware many people enjoy doing this very thing. But I find that it is much more enjoyable to invest in the movie fully in order to extract the most out of each movie that I watch.
Left: Old master of JAWS. Right: Transfer on the new blu-ray version.
Along the same lines, I find it much more enjoyable to watch a film in the best possible quality, which is why I have been an avid supporter of the blu-ray format since early 2007. As many probably know, the blu-ray format was introduced with Sony's Playstation 3 console in the fall of 2006. Blu-ray entered the market after years of enormous success for DVD and appeared to be the next step in the long line of home video formats. To that end, the HD-DVD was also a new format poised to replace regular DVDs. Major studios, such as Paramount and Universal, threw their weight behind the HD-DVD format, while Sony/Columbia and Disney went blu-ray-only and the format war was on.
Of course, HD-DVD didn't last very long, mainly because the capacity for video and audio quality improvement simply wasn't that big of an improvement over DVD. Blu-ray, by contrast, had six times the clarity of DVD, with ample space for loads of special features and other content. From the start, blu-ray had the advantage. In a scene from
2008's TROPIC THUNDER, Jay Baruchel's character is discussing the format war and mentions how the pornography industry had chosen blu-ray and Hollywood followed, effectively ending the format war. While I'm not sure how much truth there is in this, the scene was very topical and amusing at the time, especially with Robert Downey Jr. stealing the scene with his reply, "You was talkin' to me this whole time?"
"Here's lookin' at you (in HD), kid."
While precious few movies were available on the format at launch, the studios began slowly churning out new releases and catalog titles on the new format. The early years were frustrating times for movie fans, as many of these early blu-rays suffered from straight ports of the standard-definition masters that were on the DVDs and the difference was not nearly as substantial as it could have been. This is perhaps also why the format has been much slower to become widely-adopted as compared to the timeline the DVD format took to corner the market. So much misinformation as well as sub-par discs made people hesitant to buy movies on this new format, especially after they had spent so much money growing their DVD collections.
Despite these setbacks, blu-ray has continued to grow steadily. More and more homes have HDTVs and as the cost of players and the discs themselves have continued to drop, a greater number of consumers have begun adopting this new format. It is no coincidence, then, that these circumstances are set up to make 2012 the year of blu-ray. Sales figures and percentages of blu-ray purchases of new releases compared to their DVD counterparts aside, a greater number of catalog titles are being released than ever
before by all the major companies. It should absolutely be noted that some studios, mainly Sony and Paramount, have been agonizingly slow getting out some of their most popular catalog titles. However, as I'm sure most blu-ray supporters would agree, it is better to wait longer for a quality restoration than to get an outdated master.
The famous opening of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, available Sep 18 on blu-ray.
While all six STAR WARS films were released last fall and a number of other classic have made their way to blu-ray to get the ball rolling, 2012 is poised to make or break the blu-ray format. CASABLANCA saw its third blu-ray release, this time with a restoration worthy of one of the greatest films of all time. In just a few weeks, the complete INDIANA JONES collection will be available on blu-ray for the first time, just in time for the holiday sales rush. Other hugely popular Spielberg films, JAWS, which was just released last week, and E.T., which will be released in October, are perhaps a sign of the tide beginning to turn. The long-awaited blu-ray of TITANIC will be released on September 10.
But perhaps the most exciting releases yet to come this year are the anniversary sets being released. On September 25, Universal will release the massive, 15-disc Hitchcock set, with a dozen of the directors finest works hitting blu-ray for the first time. On the same day, the entire James Bond collection, half of which will make their blu-ray debut, will be released in a set that promises to be a big seller. A week later, Universal will release the first high-def set of their flagship monster movies. Other fan favorites, like HARVEY, ROSEMARY'S BABY, CINDERELLA, STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, WHAT EVER HAPPENED
TO BABY JANE? and my most anticipated title of the year, SUNSET BOULEVARD, are all set to be released on blu-ray in the next couple of months.
I'm ready for my close up, Mr. blu-ray consumer.
It is undeniable that classic films look truly amazing on blu-ray, but make no mistake that we need hugely popular titles like these to come out and be impressive in order to convince people once and for all that blu-ray is worth it. These blockbuster releases will help convince the studios that people are just as excited about classics coming to blu-ray, if not more so, than a new film that will unquestionably make use of the format's full capacity. The result of these titles selling well will be the release of obscure titles that are given new life with blu-ray. For every JAWS that sells well, we get a JOHNNY GUITAR, which never even had a proper Region 1 DVD release. For every INDIANA JONES that is bought in huge numbers, we will get an ED WOOD.
I find this a very exciting time to be a film lover and a blu-ray enthusiast. I have an unsettling number of Amazon pre-orders between now and the end of the year, but am anxiously awaiting each Tuesday to get these films so that I can watch them in the best possible format. I would urge those of you that have already adopted blu-ray to grab these upcoming favorites to help convince the studios to keep these classics coming. To those that have not yet experienced the difference in blu-ray, I would suggest that now is the perfect time to make the switch, as players and discs are cheaper than ever before. Hopefully, in a few years when we look back at 2012, we will see it as the turning point in the popularity of this format, as the year of blu-ray.
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Aug 24, 2012 8:25 AM
|My new Samsung Smart TV makes all the movies look better. I see and hear stuff as if for the first time. HD is amazing and I am watching films over again for the "first time." Thanks for your column.|
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This column explores the fascinating world of movies, through a slightly different perspective. There is no greater reflection into the soul of man than through the camera's lens.
I am a freelance writer from Winston-Salem, NC. I have been fascinated by movies since I was a child and have spent my free time on an unquenchable journey of exploration into films and the meaning and messages behind them.|
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