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Blu-Ray: the little technology that can - part 2

How does the format and the player stack up against DVD?
How does the format and the player stack up against DVD?Blu-Ray Disc Association

With money I received for graduation, I bought a 19" LCD HDTV. This year, for Christmas, I received a Blu-Ray player. The two combine to form what is supposed to be the next generation of video viewing in high-definition. I have performed a series of tests on it, comparing its capabilities and formats with those of theaters and DVD players to find out if it is worth your time and money.

The first article in the series covered how Blu-Ray held up to the movie theater experience.

This second article focuses on the Blu-Ray player and DVDs..

What Blu-Ray means for your DVD collection

Absolutely nothing.  Seriously.  You won't ever find a Blu-Ray/DVD combo unit because... the Blu-Ray player plays either format in the same slot!  People who were portable gamers in the Game Boy Color/Advance era or users of current-gen gaming consoles are familiar with this "backward compatibility," or ability to play both the new media and the old media with the same machine.

In addition to this, my player also upconverts DVDs to 1080p - a phrase that basically just means that the Blu-Ray player takes the information on a DVD and converts it to be a higher resolution so it doesn't look fuzzy on a larger television.

Upconverted DVD vs. standard DVD

So does this make a visual difference?  I placed disc 1 of one of my favorite British television series, "Life on Mars," into my DVD player, and disc 2 into my Blu-Ray player.

The difference wasn't huge, but it was noticeable.  The upconverted DVD playback was, in fact, crisper than the standard playback. Again, I can only imagine that the difference would be more noticeable on a bigger HDTV.  If you've had the same standard DVD player for long time and have a larger HDTV, or don't have a DVD player at all, getting a Blu-Ray player might be a good way to get the best of both worlds.

Blu-Ray vs. standard DVD

The next test I performed involved the 2005 sci-fi movie "Serenity." I already owned the film on DVD, so I purchased a Blu-Ray copy to test the formats on their native players against each other at the same time.

For this older film, the difference was again, not huge, but noticeable. The picture was brighter and sharper, the colors move vivid.  The switch from DVD to Blu-Ray wasn't too far from what people who wear glasses experience when they put them on for the first time. You can see details you didn't notice were missing before, and switching back again just isn't quite the same.

Also, one of my largest concerns was what would happen to computer generated effects in a live-action movie. The examples I"d seen in Best Buy's store display were very jarring and discouraging, but I noticed no such oil-and-water visuals in "Serenity."

Blu-Ray vs. upconverted DVD

This is the only test I did not actually do. However, given my experience with "Life on Mars" and "Serenity," I think it's safe to infer that the difference in picture was more dramatic for Blu-Ray discs on the Blu-Ray player.  If you already have an upconverting DVD player and are pleased enough with the output, you are probably the least likely to see Blu-Ray worth your time right now.

A couple final notes on the format

  • Blu-Ray technology works best on an HDTV.  If you don't have one, the smaller models aren't too expensive, but you would need to spend about $250 on a TV and, depending where you go, about $130 for a Blu-Ray player. 
  • An HDTV is also well worth it on its own - if your cable/satellite provider doesn't give you HD, give the antenna a try and you'll notice the difference in clarity and brightness instantly.
  • Blu-Ray technology gives the best picture with an HDMI cable. This will usually have to be purchased separately and can be purchased for about $30 for a shorter length.

Anyone who noticed my position here and read these articles may be wondering what I'm doing writing about live-action media.  Well, I'm going to cover anime on Blu-Ray in part 3!

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