Monday, 23 May 2016


“The greatest enemy of progress is not stagnation, but false progress.” - Sydney J. Harris

Watching movies at home is wonderful, especially if you have a good HDTV and a Blu-ray player. Although Blu-ray discs are a fantastic technology, there are several things about these discs that I abhor with a vengeance. These relate to the manufacturing and production of these rather than the technical aspect of the Blu-ray disc. My major bugbear is the zone restriction embedded in the disc. This is to protect the commercial interests of the large film studios, but it is a feature so easily circumvented that it is simply of nuisance value. I have a multi-zone Blu-ray player, so I can enjoy discs that I have purchased in USA, Europe and Asia, but some friends of mine had a player that was restricted to the Australian zone and hence they were unable to watch US Blu-rays. Until they found out on the web that they could reprogram their player with their remote control and now it is converted to a multi-zone player!

An extremely useful feature that I often use is the subtitle option. Even English subtitles on English speaking films is sometimes a boon, as the sound quality, accents or the complications of the script make subtitles necessary. I watched “Gosford Park” recently on disc and was livid when I discovered that the disc did not have the benefits of subtitlitng or captions for the hearing impaired. The soundtrack of this movie contains so many asides, so much mumbling, some strange accents and also so much overlapping conversation that it was painful to try and decipher what was being said half the time. This was a pity as the film is a very good one. The other benefit of subtitles of course is that one may turn on the Italian or French or German or Spanish subtitles and practice one’s language skills.

Another thing that annoys me is the excessive piracy and copyright warnings on the Blu-ray disc. In some discs there is even a 60 sec “trailer” about “stealing movies”, as well as the conventional FBI warnings about oilrigs and prisons and how you are not able to show these movies at those venues. I pay full price to get my disc and then I am bombarded by all this nonsense that I can’t even fast forward through! Add to that the Dolby trailer and numerous company logos, distributor logos, production company animations, etc. It can be anything up to 5 minutes before you actually get to see the film! And of course some discs contain trailers of other movies, sometimes as many as five, which once again you cannot fast forward through. Ten minutes later, you can watch your movie.

Speaking of pricing, most Blu-rays are excessively priced, especially when first released. If the prices were more reasonable and consistently low, then I think the piracy problem would be minimised. I usually wait until I buy my disc for my collection and instead of paying anything between $20-$30 for a newly released movie, I wait for a few months and am able to buy it anywhere between $7-$10. Most people would prefer to own a copy of the original rather than the pirated inferior versions and this would be possible if the prices were consistently low.

Have you ever tried to read the film credits on the back of a Blu-ray cover? The font of the used is so small and narrow that it is often illegible. I once even tried to read it with a magnifying glass on a particular Blu-ray but failed to get any satisfaction. Similarly, the colours of the fonts used are also a rather bad choice as the contrast is very bad and makes reading the synopsis or credits a difficult undertaking. This is simply bad design.

For all their shortcomings, Blu-rays are much superior to DVDs and this explains their popularity and greater market share. Now, that we have got used to them and grown to love them (and hate them) it’s time to adopt a new technology, Blu-ray 3D! And maybe tomorrow Violet-ray! And the day after Ultraviolet-ray, X-ray?

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