Why I Think Blu-Ray is Pointless

Recently I read Hardcore Gaming 101’s article on the Thunder Force series, and got to the point where there were screenshots comparing the Playstation and Saturn versions of Thunder Force V. The Saturn version looks better, I’ll admit.

But that didn’t impress me. I didn’t see it as a sterling reason to choose the Saturn version over the Playstation version. Thunder Force V is such a fast-paced game that you’ll be too busy dodging hails of bullets and generally staying alive to notice the purdy pictures, so the quality of the graphics is practically irrelevant. There are other factors to consider as well–not the least of which is that I don’t have a Saturn, but I do have a Playstation. My preference is clear.

I tend to see the Blu-Ray vs. DVD argument in the same light. When I’m watching movies, I don’t really care about the visuals as long as I can follow the movie itself. Sure, if I get the Blu-Ray of Lord of the Rings I’ll be able to see a few more strands of Gandalf’s hair, but is that going to help me enjoy the movie any better?

One Blu-Ray release that did almost sell me was that of Star Trek: the Original Series. The reason is because those have the Originals and the Remastered edition on the same disc, while on DVD you have to buy them separately. Even this advantage is negligable though, because I know my own tastes–I’m going to prefer the original version, and in that case why not just buy that version on DVD and save myself some money? And we’re talking about a TV series from the 1960s… its not gonna look that good in high-def.

That’s another thing. When I look at my current DVD collection, very little of it consists of movies. I mostly have TV series, anime, and cartoons. I’m an animation freak. Now, here’s a sad truth: A lot of animation (TV animation at least–Disney and stuff is a whole other matter) was “digitally remastered.” That means that the source for the DVD and Blu-Ray contents are now entirely on a computer, as opposed to being on film and stuff.

And here’s the thing: with a film, you can try to re-digitize it and get more information off of it. With a digital file, whatever is in there is all that will ever BE in there. And unfortunately, a lot of companies did this “digital remastering” at a time when nobody suspected high-definition screens to be a marketable consumer good. So they saved the sources in standard definition. That’s right, for a lot of old television and animation, what’s on the DVD is the best you’ll ever get. Some companies try to get around this by artificially upscaling the image, but that’s really no different than those old DVDs which were just recordings from a video tape. Don’t think that’s a thing of the past, either: some DVD releases still do that. If they’re not going to make the most of technology they’ve already got, then why on God’s green earth do we even need the next step up?

And another thing, and this argument is kind of cliche now, but its also true: The thing with VHS to DVD was that DVD had practical advantages. They didn’t degrade. They didn’t require you to rewind them or adjust the tracking. You didn’t have to worry about the tape being eaten. On the manufacturer’s end they’re cheaper to produce and ship (since they’re lighter)–a factor that made the now-ubiquitous season sets possible. Blu-Ray, so far, offers better picture quality and some negligable features you need an internet connection for. Some have also claimed the medium itself is useful for storage if you have a BD burner and the like, but to be honest, anything I’ve ever wanted backed up in these last couple of years, I put on either a USB thumb drive or an external hard drive, either of which is better than an optical disc for this kind of thing.

Do I think Blu-Ray is the wave of the future? Things seem to be looking that way–if you go into Wal-Mart there is just as much space dedicated to Blu-Ray as DVD and we’ve even got budget blu-rays now.

That being said though, unless something happens, I personally will probably not own a Blu-Ray player for at least the next ten years. Practically all the animation, television and movies I want are either already out on DVD, or they’re going to hit DVD before (or concurrently with) the Blu-Ray in any case, and for the reasons I’ve outlined I see little reason to upgrade.

But hey, maybe I’ll get the Saturn version of Thunder Force V some day too.