Not All Blu-ray Movies are Created Equal

Chris Janota,

Upgrading to a blu-ray  player may no longer be chichi for tech fans, but its still the foundation of any modern home theater. There is no doubt, blu-ray is better than DVD.  It’s better sharpness, color, highlights and shadow detail win out in every category.  Not only will a modern Blu-ray player handle all your disc-based media (Blu-ray, DVDs, CDs), they’re also very capable streaming-media players, with support for apps like Pandora Ultraviolet and Netflixs. With the main stream acceptance of blu-ray its is becoming more common to find blu-ray priced like DVDs.

The question is, if I upgrade to a blu-ray player “do I upgrade my dvds to blu-ray discs?

The answer lies in the the quality of blu-ray remastering.  Some blu-rays have impressive remasters.  These are the movies, if you are a fan, make it worth the upgrade such as “Doctor Zhivago”.  This movie, to me, has become the definitive example of what was great about Technicolor films- great filming, and masters of the camera and filming craft.  Other movie classics with great blu-ray plays over DVD are Apocalypse Now, Close Encounters, Chinatown (Nicholson, Dunaway), Ben Hur,  Bridge on the River Kwai, The Sting (Newman,Redford), The Godfather, Taxi Driver.  You can keep an eye on AVS forum of bluray quality rankings for recommendations in your preferred genre.

With some movies it honestly did not matter whether they were on Blu-ray or DVD simply because the difference in quality is not apparent. You can clearly see this when watching the remastered version of Patton on blu-ray vs. the remastered dvd version.  And on these titles you would be just as well off with DVDs:  Gangs of NY, Total Recall, Robocop, Mission: Impossible These moviesmight make you wonder if it was worthing it migrating to Bluray.  I decided that owning blu-ray needed to be constrained mostly to sci-fi movies, such as the Star Wars saga where the digital detail was most appreciated in the special effects of the movies.  To read more on the poor quality of some bluray like the Lord of the Rings Trilogy read this.

DVD’s have  advanced greatly in quality the last few years.  With the switch by studios from using what is called “dvd-5” to “dvd-9” has made a difference in movie quality.  For the most part, these movies will be labeled “enhanced for 6 x 9 televisions” or “anamorphic widescreen” on the backs.  Sometimes it will just say “HD” or “high definition” transfer.  Usually, if a disc simply has the words “letterboxed” the movie is not “dvd-9.”  DVD-9 is a dual layer disc that allows more storage for the movie itself by producing it in dual layer 8 GB disc, as opposed to a single layer 4 GB dvd disc.  By allowing more space for the movie, quality is improved.  Because of this, the appearance of the movie when played may be close or similar in quality to a blu-ray’s quality.  While it is not the same quality, in most cases people may not notice enough difference to justify spending the extra amount for a blu-ray version.

Animation and kids movies seem to least be benefited by the upgrade.  Not only do children not care one way or another whether a movie is higher definition blu-ray or not, but the improvement for graphics in the case of animation seems only slight. Okay, there are many exceptions with that.

One thing to know about upgrading to blu-ray is each player must be connected via a LAN line to upgrade the player.  What this amounts to is the studio’s want control over your viewing of their movies.  With new copy guard protecitons being invented as time goes on your player will need to be “upgraded.  DVD’s do not have the capability for this kind of control so sticking with dvd’s may be the only way to go if you don’t want to run lan wires from your routers or have companies make your player obsolete in the future.  I want to note here this has so far not been done, I am only speculating the future of the medium.

At we rarely find defective blu-ray discs.  We carefully inspect each used disc (dvd, bluray, video games and cds) we purchase and have found the hard polymer coating on blurays makes them dependably resistant to scratches, dust, and fingerprints.  (In the rare event we do find a bluray disc with a scratch our DVD/ CD resurfacing equiptment is ineffective in repairing them).  Since blu-ray discs are more durable, and less likely to scratch, the used versions seem just as good as the new, and commands  stronger resale price support.

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