Blu-ray overview

Jan 12, 2011 No Comments by

In case you’ve been living in a yurt in Outer Mongolia for the past few years:

Blu-ray is a high definition (HD) audio-visual format.  It’s like DVD, only better.  The picture is startlingly crisp, colours more vibrant and sound subtly ear-splitting.  How much better than DVD it is will depend on your eyesight and whether you need spectacles.  And the quality of Blu-ray audio will only be fully realised if your TV is part of a decent home cinema set up furnished with surround sound speakers.  So there’s more to getting the best out of Blu-ray than simply adding a Blu-ray player to your ‘HD Ready’ TV.  If you have an old cathode ray tube (CRT) TV don’t even think about Blu-ray until you get a new one.  Compared with what they once cost, HD Ready TVs are now eminently affordable.  £300-400 will be enough to splash and see what you’ve been missing.  Broadcast HD TV such as Freeview HD and Sky HD  is streamed at 720p/1080i.  If your TV is only HD Ready it will cope perfectly well with 720p/1080i pictures.  If your TV is Full HD/1080p you will not get the best out of it unless you have Full HD content, which is where Blu-ray comes in.

Virtually every new TV sold in the UK these days is flat and thin and ‘HD Ready’.  The HD these sets are ‘ready’ for is either pre-recorded Blu-ray discs or one of the the HD TV services such as Sky HD or Freeview HD.  Lots of people have HD Ready TVs; not so many have any HD content to watch upon them.  In the beginning Blu-ray players were around the £500 mark.  Now you can get a very fine player for £100 or so.  And all Blu-ray players will also play standard DVDs, so you won’t have to junk your collection like you did with VHS tapes.

Blu-ray discs now festoon the aisles at HMV and the like.  New movies and TV series released on DVD will also be available on Blu-ray.  The discs are more expensive than the DVD equivalent, which is mad and evil in equal measure.  Mad because if the industry is trying to convert sceptics they should put as few barriers to purchase in the way as possible and evil because there’s no good reason for a Blu-ray disc to cost more than a DVD.  The unit cost of production is the same.  Such resolute piss-taking is part of the reason file-sharing is so rife – consumers see themselves being ripped off and respond in kind.