I can remember years ago when I went to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and there were the high-def wars: some vendors were loudly proclaiming the merits of HD-DVD, while others were pushing the competing technology of Blu-Ray. Both looked beautiful on screen and both were a major jump from the resolution and capabilities of a standard DVD player. I was impressed.
I wasn't, however, impressed enough to buy either HD player when they first came on the scene, and it took me a few years to upgrade from my Sony tube to a full-bore 1080p hi-def television (another Sony, as it happens). When I did, I also bought a top-of-the-line Panasonic Blu-Ray player, figuring that if I'm going to take the plunge, I might as well go all out.
Then I noticed how expensive Blu-Ray disks were when compared to traditional DVD disks. A standard DVD runs about $14-$16, while a typical Blu-Ray is closer to $25 or even higher. That's a lot of money for a movie on a little piece of plastic.
Further, there's a feature of all high-def players that is well worth highlighting: upsampling. What this means is that if you put in a standard DVD movie to an HD player that's hooked up via the hi-def media interface (HDMI) cable to an HD-capable television, it looks tons better than the old RCA or cable interface did on an older TV.
For me it was a delight: all of my old movies, even black and white ones from the 40s and 50s, suddenly took on new life, were vivid and crisp, and looked terrific. So why buy the expensive Blu-Ray disk when the far less expensive DVDs look great too?
This is one of the reasons that I believe the adoption rate of Blu-Ray has been fairly slow, actually. Lots of people who are buying newer, better televisions are finding that the picture looks "good enough" as is, and if they upgrade even just how they connect their DVD player to their TV, the picture improves (HDMI is visibly better than component, RCA or cable).
And yet, has it been slow to adopt? According to the Consumer Electronics Association [by way of Engadget], three years after the release of DVDs, only a bit more than 4% of US households had a DVD player, and less than 2% of people had adopted the CD technology for music three years after that was released. By contrast, 8% of households now have a Blu-Ray player.
The wrinkle here, however, is that a lot of computers are now sold with Blu-Ray disk readers and I have to wonder if those are counted. I live in a fairly affluent community and few of my neighbors have a Blu-Ray player, so if we went to a more blue collar area, I'd really be surprised if almost 10% of them have the expensive player and are paying up to a 100% premium for Blu-Ray releases.
Do people really opt for Blu-Ray? Sometimes: Watchmen had a staggering 36% of its sales in Blu-Ray format, and The Dark Knight has had about 25% of its sales in the hi-def format. Generally, though, DVD releases in both formats don't see the Blu-Ray format anywhere near that high.
I like Blu-Ray movies and while I don't generally buy too many films anyway, I certainly prefer a Blu-Ray disk to a standard DVD disk. But so what? The more important person is not me, the film critic who dedicates a chunk of his time to the movie industry and cinema, but you, dear reader, who watches and enjoys films: do you own a Blu-Ray player and what percentage of films that you buy are in standard versus Blu-Ray format?