Blu-ray Pluses for Families

Avatar_ExtendedDVD.JPGTo Blu-ray or not to Blu-ray, that is the question — with apologies to the Bard for debasing Hamlet’s famous musing. But the question is more than academic for families considering where to spend their home entertainment money. Blu-ray represents yet another investment in the never-ending line of technology advancements. Is it worth changing over your home entertainment system yet again?

While Avatar director James Cameron praises the quality of Blu-ray over standard DVD (“On Blu-ray, you can see the one-to-one relationship of what the actors did to how it was translated in the movie,” Cameron told attendees at the Digital Entertainment Group conference held in Los Angeles on Nov. 2, discussing the Blu-ray release of Avatar, which has become the No. 1 Blu-ray title of all time worldwide), parents of young children may be swayed more by a practical consideration: Blu-ray discs are less susceptible to damage from scratches and fingerprints than standard DVDs, thanks to the special hard-coating developed for them.

The more commonly touted advantage is, of course, the Blu-ray disc’s greater data-storage capacity — more than five times that of traditional DVDs. It is this greater capacity that enables Blu-ray discs to offer playback (and recording and rewriting) in high definition. Standard DVDs cannot store the amount of data needed to produce the sharp images and vivid colors of the increasingly popular HD, whereas a dual-layer Blu-ray disc can hold more than nine hours of HD video on its 50 gigabytes of storage. Of standard-definition video, the same disc could hold about 23 hours. Compared to a standard dual-layer DVD’s 8.5GB, Blu-ray discs’ storage capacity allows room for additional content and all those special features with which studios like to entice an at-home audience. High-def audio is also possible on Blu-ray.

Admittedly, the selection of movie titles currently available on Blu-ray is considerably less than DVD. Retail giant Amazon.com carries 150,000 titles on DVD but only 4,000 on Blu-ray, according to the company’s VP of movies and video, Bill Carr, speaking at the DEG conference. Yet DEG president Ron Sanders, who is also president of Warner Home Video, told the conference that, to date, standard DVD sales declined 14 percent while Blu-ray sales grew by 86 percent. Major movie studios Disney, Fox, Warner, Paramount, Sony, Lionsgate and MGM have released titles on Blu-ray, and, going forward, many studios have announced plans to release films on Blu-ray concurrent with standard DVDs. Many, in fact, release both together as a combo pack — with an additional digital copy that can be downloaded on other electronic devices — offering options for viewing almost anywhere.

Blu-ray 3D is yet another advancement to home-viewing options. Amazon, anticipating viewer interest and/or curiosity, offers information on its site about this format.

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