Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Rant O'Clock: Blu-ray

Q) How awesome is Blu-ray?
A) Not very.

I finally got around to shoving Avatar on Blu-ray into my relatively new Blu-ray player this week. I then sat back, waited patiently for the movie to start (because Blu-ray discs take their sweet time to load), and prepared to be dazzled (to a level of dazzlement never before experienced) by the most visually impressive film ever on the most visually impressive video format ever.

At least, that was the plan.

Half way through the movie I was less dazzled and more… how can I put this… completely pissed off, when I started getting large obtrusive scene selection "thumbnails" popping up. They'd pop up for about five seconds, disappear for a short while, then reappear with increasing frequency. They were incredibly distracting and made the film unwatchable from the half-way mark onwards.

Given that I've only watched a dozen or so Blu-ray movies so far, I wasn't sure if this was a real problem or some sort of bizarre "feature" that I needed to turn off. After farting around with all the remote buttons and menu functions, I just couldn't get the pop-ups to go away. I eventually hit the stop button and walked out of my home theatre room in disgust.

After googling "how crap is blu-ray?", or something similar, I quickly found out that many other people had experienced the same problem with the Avatar disc on several different brands of Blu-ray player.

The manufacturer of my Blu-ray player proudly proclaimed that they had a firmware upgrade to fix the problem. Great, thanks Pioneer, it's good to know that all I need is a high speed internet connection and a USB stick to get my new Blu-ray player to actually do what it's supposed to do.

Could you image having to upgrade the firmware on your toaster each time you inserted a new kind of bread? Or upgrade your car when you try to give a friend a lift who you've never had in your car before? 'Sorry Jim, the firmware on the Pontiac is four months old, so it won't take passengers called "Jim". On the bright side, the toaster is up to date and will now toast fruit loaf.'

Given that my Blu-Ray player is less than six months old I'm absolutely gob-smacked that this was necessary. Firmware upgrades to add additional functionality are one thing, but having to perform a firmware upgrade just to get the basic functionality (ie video playback) to work properly is ridiculous. If I have to have internet access to get my Blu-ray player working I might as well just download illegal rips of the movie off the internet and dispense with an optical media player altogether.

If you add the fact that you can't be guaranteed your Blu-ray player will play any given Blu-ray disc properly to the fact that Blu-ray discs take such an inordinate amount of time to load, you realise Blu-ray is about as impressive as anything else, you care to think of, that's slow and unreliable. Public trains? Domestic bread makers? The Tax Office?

Blu-ray schmu-ray. Long live DVD!

Technical bit - My Blu-ray player is a Pioneer BDP-120.

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