Sunday, November 18, 2007

Blu-Ray Hi-Jinx

Little new to report today, as I spent most of yesterday catching up on unwatched shiny discs - Hairspray and Die Hard 4.0 on Blu-Ray disc to be precise. Both were excellent, and it's good to see Blu-Ray FINALLY delivering the sort of picture quality the format promised but completely failed to deliver on early releases. Both also include generous and excellent extra's. Fuller reviews will no doubt appear over on my Blu-Ray blog at some point.

Just read that Blu-Ray owners have been screwed over yet again. Sony have effectively been pushing beta players onto the market at extortionate prices for a year now, simply as a spoiler to the rival completed HD-DVD spec. That much is pretty well known and should have been solved by now. Sony had promised that the Profile 1.1 spec, required to support a pretty basic 'picture in picture' feature would have to be a standard feature on ALL Blu-Ray players sold as from October 2007. It seems they've now relented and, as at the time of writing, not one of the players from manufacturers available in the UK, Sony key amongst them, appears to support this very basic format (and there is already a Profile 2.0 spec on its way, which will obsolete even those players IF and WHEN they finally become available).

One of the advertised features on the Hairspray Blu-Ray disc appears to be a picture-in-picture feature. It turns out that because the Profile 1.1 players needed to play this weren't ready in time that this disc, like a couple of others, achieves this by putting TWO copies of the film on the disc: one with the 'picture in picture' feature permanently embedded, one without. Now you know why the Blu-Ray format NEEDS that increased capacity over supposedly inferior HD-DVD disc format! Ridiculous! I suspect that in the run-up to Christmas a lot of gullible fools will get caught out buying players that this time next year won't be able to play many of the special features of the Blu-Ray discs being released. Buyer beware!

On my shiny disc review blogs high defininition reviews have taken a bit of a backseat to standard DVD reviews of late, mainly because trying to capture the required screenshots to accompany the reviews is such a time-consuming pain. With standard DVDs simple software like PowerDVD can be used to grab pictures from the actual disk. With HD-DVD and Blu-Ray I'm stuck with taking photo's from a plasma screen and then processing the heck out of them in Photoshop. And they still look dreadful. For some reason the original photo's always have a ridiculous green cast to them and life would be so much easier if Cyberquest's Ultra PowerDVD which plays HD-DVD and/or Blu-Ray disc offered the same screen capture facility as its older, and much cheaper, sibling product.

Today's shiny disc review is of the Disney classic The Jungle Book. You can check it out over on my UK DVD Review blog

Amongst the pile of shiny discs waiting to be watched, and at some point reviewed, are a couple of new Stephen Poliakoff plays, that were transmitted on the Beeb's terrestrial channels a couple of weeks ago I think. I'm a big fan of this series - there tend to be a couple of new ones each year - but have to admit I laughed out loud at today's Smile of the Day, which is Stephen Poliakoff's 'The Bill' from the excellent, if generally 'unsafe for work' (not this time), blog from Skip's Acorn Treasury. Brilliant stuff!

No comments: