Chris’ Piss: Special Collector’s Edition

This week I’d like to talk about something near and dear to our hearts: Movies.  Once upon a time you bought movies on VHS because copying those led to signal degradation and who wants that.  Then along came DVD which promised better picture quality and subsequently copies were just as pristine as the originals.  But now Blu-Ray has moved in and is starting to wage war on your wallets.

Now I’m going to talk about resolution in general. I won’t get into specifics, you can look up the wikis if you like.  The maximum film resolution for movies is approximately 4000 pixels across (They call this 4k).  Current Hi-Def standards are ~1/4 of that at 1980 pixels across. DVD resolution is ~1/4 of that at 720 pixels across. The problem is that the human eye can really only distinguish 1980 pixels at a screen size of approximately 50″ (most common living room configuration for the cost at this point).

So after all the boring specifications, where does that leave us?  Blu-Ray is not the maximum resolution out there, and a lot of studios are starting to master all of their movies at the 4k resolution (Criterion) but it is overkill when there aren’t the tv’s to support it and there won’t be anytime in the near future.  We don’t really even have the computer monitors to support it.

So what does Blu-Ray buy us? Time under the current regime of equipment restraints. How much time? I’d say at least 5 years. The thing is home theater tech in general is evolving.  Digital downloads are now becoming much more accepted. In a few years, it may not matter what media our movies come on, and this brings me to my next point.

Hey studios, WTF????? Why do you feel the need to put out 7-8 different versions of your movies now for every release? Blu-Ray 2 disc, Blu-Ray 3 disc, DVD 2 Disc, DVD 3 disc, DVD specific store bonus version some with schwag some without.  So far only 1 title I’ve seen released so far has done it right – Disney’s Sleeping Beauty.  Sad but true. $30 (which is the typical price nowadays for a Blu-Ray) bought you the Blu-Ray, the DVD & a digital copy of the movie.  Why can’t all releases be like this?

The media is cheap enough, and including these extra copies goes a long way towards getting the most value for your dollar. This way you have a dvd for the mini van, a Blu-Ray for the living room, and the digital copy for your iPod/iPhone.  I can’t stress enough that eventually it might all be digital distribution. Once fiber is commonplace and broadband is ubiquitous all of your media needs will be served via downloads.  Think about it – One massive server per household which is fed by a nice fat pipe. It feeds to all of your televisions and all of your devices.  If a drive goes down, no worries, since all your media rights will be stored online somewhere, it knows what you own and will let you redownload them accordingly, just like Steam does now for your videogames.

This could be for all new Music and all new Movies. iTunes does a heavily DRM’d version of it now. It IS the future, and we just have to make sure we’re in a good place to take advantage of that.

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