I was a fairly early adopter of the DVD format, buying my first DVD player (a Toshiba 2109) back in 1998 for a bit more than $700. That player is still going strong and doing duty at my sister in-laws place, replacing their Sony player that stopped working reliably. I’ve got more than 250 DVDs in my collection, and friends and family regularly borrow and watch them.
It took me a while to make the leap to Blu-ray. Initially the format war gave me a good reason to stall. My previous projector being a CRT didn’t have HDMI inputs and was not capable of a full 1080p display (1080i worked fine). Moving the Blu-ray also means fewer people are able to borrow the media and enjoy it.
Eventually my will power crumbled, I think what tipped me over the edge was the pack-rat in me. The sheer volume of data that the Blu-ray format represents is just so cool, so many bits – in such a neat package.
The first Blu-ray movie we watched was Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. The menu system and intro to the disc look really sharp, much more crisp than any DVD menu. I did find that the special effects (groundhogs) tended to look a little unreal. I was very pleased at the detail visible in long shots, it never felt constrained like DVD can at times. In general terms the amount of detail helped make the picture much more engaging, things just looked “wow” all of the time. Any time there was a limitation in detail, it seemed to be specifically the directors intention (ie: depth of field) vs. a limitation of the format.
I did have a chance to compare directly to the DVD version, switching between my PS3 (for Blu-ray) and the Oppo 980 (for DVD). For Indian Jones, the special effects seemed to blend better into the overall image – they were more convincing on the DVD. On the flip side, you could tell in the direct A/B comparison which was the Blu-ray and which was the DVD – there was clearly more fine detail in the image. However, in isolation – both looked really good. Similarly Wall E on DVD vs the Blu-ray version had similar observations – in side by side A/B comparison it was easy to see the extra details in the image, but if you switched to the DVD for a minute or two you quickly forgot and didn’t feel that you were missing anything.
It is probably important to note here that to see the difference you may need to have a fairly high end system, and a pretty big screen. I’m using the Epson 1080UB and a 80″x45″ screen (more than 6 feet wide). The first row of seating is about 11 feet away, so its a big sharp image that helps make the difference more obvious.
Let’s take a quick look at some of the challenges for Blu-ray. Today the cost of the media is generally more expensive. Large displays are certainly getting more common, but considering that DVD will look really good – without a direct A/B comparison Blu-ray may be a tough sell at the increased price point. The Blu-ray players are also more expensive, and they are relatively slow compared to a DVD player (for menu operations and start-up).
I still intend to buy movies on DVD, but I suspect that the majority of my future purchases will be Blu-ray. While DVD does look awesome with my setup, Blu-ray is awesomer.