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To Blu-Ray or not Blu-Ray?

This is one of the questions I have been wrestling with for the last year or so from the position of being a film rental outlet watching the market for the dvd as physical artifact slowly decline. In this situation it is difficult to gage how much appetite/hardware there really is out there in order for it to be worthwhile to begin the switch-over to the fledgling High Definition
format.There are a few less than encouraging statistics and facts to deal with:

  1. Most analysts expect that Blu-Ray will be totally crushed by the eventual dominance of downloads, legal or otherwise and cable/satellite film on demand.
  2. DVD took 10 years to finally kill off VHS.
  3. For Sony in 2007 Blu-Ray players sales were expected to reach 27
    million households but in fact they still only amount to 10% of DVD
    player sales.Quite simply 'The format has not been the hit that many
    expected' [The Guardian 23rd December 2009].
  4. In order to make use of their High definition TVs many people are opting instead for cheaper dvd player "Upscaler" machines- which boost the defintion of ordinary dvd images
  5. Most back catalog films have not been 'scanned' at a high enough resolution to merit re-packaging in a high definition format.Most Film Shop customers are tired of endless format up-grades and don't have the appetite for another one, particularly bearing in mind point (5) plus the cost -at least £100 for a decent machine- together with the prospect of replacing many of the films they already own.On the other hand:
  1.  Film shop customers in general are also less likely to be impressed by the enhanced CGI effects in Avatar or Terminator Salvation, for example, which is marketed as one of the primary reasons for us to upgrade.
  2.  Most of the early adopters of the format have machines which are unable to access some of the peripheral features of the new discs. As ever, we continue to upgrade our consumer durables despite our long acknowledged awareness of the the principle of in-built obsolescence.
  3. There are 52% of households with high definition TVs waiting for the promised avalanche of content.
  4.  They look fantastic-up to 6 times better than standard SD DVDs.Some treasured films will be truly unrecognizable on the new format.The sound is uncompressed and potentially, depending on your hi-fi arrangement, much richer.
  5. The Blu Ray players magically enhance ("Upscale") your old dvds when you play them. Anyone who can explain how they do this please tell me.
  6. There are around 3 million Blu-Ray compatible Play station 3s in UK homes and sales of players has increased 150 fold since last year.
  7. It is now possible to buy a decent player which accepts discs from all regions (A=America. B=Europe) for around £100. In Fact, as I write, HMV stores are selling the excellent Limit BD-M100 multi-Region player for £50. Some very tempting films have finally been released-from my own point of view anyway- that have glorious aesthetic elements which will be immeasurably improved in this format. I am thinking of the colour in Antonioni's The Red Desert and a reputed overwhelming richness of tone in The Masters of Cinema Blu Ray of one of my favourite films- Sunrise. There are undoubtedly many more riches like this further ahead as film companies seem to have accepted that if Blu Ray is not their TGV to Dubai then it could at least be a temporary storm shelter while they decide on a new survival strategy.From a selfish point of view, If Blu-Ray succeeds as DVD did against video, then I can prolong my survival in this business, in the short term at least. This, as you would expect is a killer argument for me.From our customers point of view we are also being asked if we are going to adopt it anytime soon.

There are many possible additions and tweaks to these arguments but the only sure thing as usual is that nobody (really) knows anything.As it happens it doesn't really cost me much to tentatively, but not timidly proffer our first few Blu-ray discs for rental, in full recognition of the possible howls of disappointment that this will incur, to wit: The New World, The Hangover, Sunrise, The Red Shoes, The Godfather and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

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