Damn Format Wars

Fuck Blu-ray. There, I said it; I said what some people think.

Format wars are nothing new in the world of entertainment and electronics. Beta vs. VHS, VHS vs. DVD, DVD vs. HD DVD, and so forth. So in actuality, I shouldn’t be angry at all about Blu-ray, but I am.

Every format improves on the one before it. The biggest change in this decade was the move from VHS and VCR’s to DVD’s and their players. Not even the best VHS or S-VHS tapes and machines could playback as clear and as vividly as the cheapest DVD and the most economic model of players. The 2000’s can be looked at as the DVD collector’s generation. Before this, yes you could buy VHS box-sets of your favourite shows, but DVD’s were so much better not only in picture and sound, but in storage capabilities as well – more room to fit more media, smaller in size than a VHS tape and easier to store. This decade saw a great deal of people turn the cable television off, and load up on season after season of their favourite shows to watch what they want when they want. During this time, thousands of animated movies and television shows were released. And of course because it’s on DVD, it has great clear picture and sound over your old VHS tapes, plus some may even stack bonus features and such. So like a consumer sucker, I bet you re-bought all of your old Disney and other movies on DVD, right? Thinking it would be the last time you’d have to replace all your favourite titles. And perhaps you bought a lot of television cartoons available for the first time on DVD, never thinking something else would come along and replace the format. Because DVD’s were so good, right?

Wrong. Blu-ray and the entire flat screen TV movement burst down the door, putting your DVD’s to shame and giving you even better picture and stronger more cleaner sound and even more storage capacity. This is where I have a problem. It seems like DVD’s weren’t even out that long before this new disc came to retail. When you go shopping, either for Christmas or on Boxing Day/Black Friday, it’s impossible not to notice the mass amounts of DVD product out there at stores like Best Buy, Future Shop, Wal-Mart, HMV, etc. So many titles…how is every single one going to get re-released on Blu-ray in the coming years? The answer is, some will not. Much like how there are still lone VHS movies and such that never got a DVD treatment, the same will be for DVD’s many years down the road that won’t see a Blu-ray release.

For those titles that do get re-released on Blu-ray, you’re getting boned if you want to re-purchase everything. Remember that the seller of a product, at the end of the day, only wants your money. Your hard earned dollars you slaved away for. As a “re-buyer”, you will pay out of your butt to get all of those old DVD titles on Blu-ray again, because they look 1000 times better on your new big flat screen television that will also be outdated in a couple years. You now look back on how much you paid for your DVD’s brand new, and how you lost money. This format change could be good for people content with their DVD’s. As titles that have been out for several years get older, and warehouses are stacked with crates of unsold and aging product, you can see prices finally drop. I recently discovered the Animaniacs collection of full season DVD’s released from 2006-2007 finally drop in price from an average of $45-55 CDN to $18-28 CDN. Why? It’s an aging title, everyone who wanted it owns it already, and corporations want to sell off their stock to make way for new products.

I guess I shouldn’t be cross at Blu-ray because unlike VHS vs. DVD, we are just dealing with plastic disc vs. plastic disc, not a bulky old cartridge more prone to wear vs. plastic disc. There is hope for backwards compatibility for DVD and Blu-ray. Where I do get ticked, however, is that a lot of animated titles don’t really benefit from the advancements Blu-ray offers. For your big budget 3-D CGI animated features released in the last ten years, yes I’m sure it makes a difference. But for older 2-D movies that were already put through the remastering ringer for a DVD release, how much more can you possibly squeeze out of an older film before you start to make it look like something it was never supposed to look like? Older television cartoons have nothing to gain by getting released on Blu-ray – the DVD medium is good enough for them. DVD provides what VHS lacked, and that should be good enough…we hope.

In the end we all seem to be victims of the fast movement of technology, and companies that want us to buy their products. They could re-package some old television cartoons on Blu-ray to make them look cooler, when in fact they looked fine on the DVD release. If they don’t re-release them, you are left with a DVD copy. And depending on the life span of the DVD market, you could very well find yourself without a DVD player many years down the road. Unlikely, sure, but you have to adapt or die in this environment. You have to keep re-buying what you bought so you can always have a fresh product and player to play it on. One reason why some people, like myself, have started stacking up on VCR’s – they are dead technology but still have a dedicated following. The key to “winning” this fight is to wait many years until a title you want becomes old, and buy it on sale/clearance, but buy before the format is at the end of its life cycle. Sure all your friends bought and enjoyed it years ago, but they paid a lot more money. Being patient will save you precious dollars in the end, moreover if you buy a lot of DVD’s. Heh, and if you’re not happy with that, go online and download a torrent and burn your own format! For only the cost of blank discs!

Blu-ray thinks it is king of the block for now, but you and I know someone else is coming to knock him off the boulevard soon enough. It’s happened before, it will happen again.

1 comment:

Najja Porter said...

I know this is an old post, but I have to say that I agree with your Blue-ray rant. This relatively new Blue-ray streak is kinda bothering me too. I mean I really don't see what the big difference is. Okay, VHS to DVD was a HUGE leap, but DVD to Blue-ray is not worth paying the extra money for in my opinion; they're just too similar. But I don't think that those who spent their hard earned money on swapping their beloved VHS media for DVD will have to worry about a new medium taking it's place. I mean sure, there'll always be something new, but I think the next technological advancement for electronics such as these will most likely be in some sort of format that you can download from the computer as soon as the movie or television series hits the virtual shelves. People will put them on portable flash drives that they can just plug right into their television sets. If that happens, most people may stop buying DVDs, sure, but I don't think there will be any need to throw away the ones they already have for that. They'll still work just the same, unlike the unfortunate Hour glass of dwindling magnetism that is the VHS tape, although I do respect them as they are an important piece of technological history [I still have quite a few of mine]. I just don't think that this Blue-ray is the next big movement for electronic media enhancement, not yet.