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Blu-ray vs. Digital Downloads: Tale of the Tape
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June 16, 2009 | by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Some have said Blu-ray is already obsolete and that digital downloads and rentals will soon overtake the video world as they did music. We say, not so fast.
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Posted by Tom  on  06/16  at  12:52 PM

I rented a digital HD movie on the PS3 and OMG, it took forever to download.  We couldn’t even watch it that night.  That was with 6 mbps download speed too, hardly slow.  Also, the picture and sound is no where near a blu-ray with lossless audio.

Even with Dish 1080P video on demand, the audio is sub par compared with blu-ray

Thanks but no thanks, I’ll stick with blu-ray as the picture and sound cannot be beat.

Posted by jkmwiest  on  06/16  at  12:59 PM

Some form of recorded to disc media will always be around.  You don’t see books disappearing do you? 

Inevitable improvements in the audio compression formats and video resolution of downloads may someday egual that of BD, or the next optical medium, but people want a library they can put their hands on. 

Furthermore, when the resolution and audio aspects improve, they will lend themselves exclusively to recorded media first while downloads continue to play catch-up due to bandwidth issues. 

Not every title in someones collection will be recoded in the latest greatest audio/video resolutions, (and who can afford it), but there are enough of us who will want some of our titles to be available in the best formats possible, primarily because our systems can decode them, and we can tell the difference.

Posted by Scott  on  06/16  at  02:36 PM

I don’t think people care about having something they can put their hands on, look at the CD market.  People download more songs than purchase CD’s.  Once digital downloads hit 1080p, have comparable sound to BR and take less time to download, it is over for any physical format.  I think that will be within the next 5 years.  I would rather pay like $40-$50 a month to have unlimited rental downloads from a place like Blockbuster, than actually own the discs.  You would have every movie available at the touch of a button, much better than fumbling through discs.

Posted by Ryker  on  06/16  at  02:40 PM

Did not even mention the download and bandwidth caps that most braodband providers are leaning towards.
Add to that, the Internet is getting more and more congested every day.  When is the last time you were able to download anything at the full speed of your broadband connection?
Owning a BD, I can watch what a want when i want.
You better believe I bought my old favorites again.
I now have Bladerunner on VHS, Laserdisc, DVD, and BD.

Posted by dev  on  06/16  at  03:10 PM

I agree.  i have and 8mbps broadband internet connection and i tried downloading a high def movie through the xbox 360’s set of offerings at the time and it took four hours to download and i was so pissed off over the pixel blocking and artifacting due to compression that i wanted to ask microsoft for my seven dollars back.  not to mention who doesn’t have a blockbuster within 15 minutes of their home these days? not many!  and now i can rent a new release blu ray for five dollars for two days and the crappy four hour download still costs seven.  i will have saved two dollars and two hours of my time.  i’m sorry but if there aren’t leaps and bounds made i don’t think your five year take over will be happening.

Posted by Paul  on  06/16  at  03:23 PM

Let’s not forget the whole disaster scenario on dowloads vs disc either.  If my basement theater floods, my gear might be toast, but chances are my disc library will still be usabe.  If my hard drive crashes and I have no backups (which they say 83% of us don’t have) I loose everything. 

I also like that with a physical disc once I have bought it I can watch it as much as I want and wherever I have a player.  Ask anyone with kids how often favorite movies get watched… I think I can recite Cars in my sleep!

Posted by Howard  on  06/16  at  03:27 PM

Apple TV for me!  I have an HD-DVD player and although, there is no doubting the extra detail, even a home theatre geek like me thinks the 720p on AppleTV is more than fine and the quality will probably get better!

Posted by HTPC Guy  on  06/16  at  03:42 PM

In the event of a disaster you are far better off with digital because the physical storage is much smaller and you can make multiple copies and store them in different locations.  If my basement floods (if I had a basement) I would have a backup of all of my digital content on my NAS backup device.  In fact recently there was a wildland fire near my house and I simply grabbed my PC case and backup unit and put it in the car in case the fire progressed.  That way I had all of my personal documents, digital photos, music, and home movies.  If I had copied my DVD collection to my HTPC I would have had all my movies as well.  Good luck packing 400 DVDs in the car in a hurry.

Posted by Scott  on  06/16  at  03:47 PM

It is called technology people, how many young people do you see buying CD’s, the same will come about for movies.  Technology will evolve, we will be able to stream full 1080p HD movies.  Compare a Commodore 64 to the computers of today, back then general public didn’t think what we have today was possible.  They will figure out a way to increase bandwidth and download speeds, they get better and better.  That’s why I said it will start with a Blockbuster type company offering streaming for all movies, for a fee each month, then go from there.  Files are portable, you get a USB drive and store the movie on there and go, it’s not that difficult.  Personally, if they make a new physical format, it should be in the form of a USB drive.  You can buy a 1TB hard drive for less than $100 now, technology gets better and cheaper.  If you don’t backup what you have on your PC, you deserve to lose it.

Posted by This Guy  on  06/16  at  04:58 PM

You know what I find funny?  That nobody ever talks about the download businesses going out of business.  What would happen with all of your DRM-laced digital downloads if the company you bought them through went under?  Could someone else pick up the licenses?  Sure.  Is it guaranteed?  No.  Will a company like Apple ever go out of business?  Probably not, but I’m not taking that chance.  If tomorrow they stopped making Blu-rays, I could go out and buy a couple back-up players and know that I will be good for a while.  Can you really honestly say that about digital downloads?

Posted by Scott  on  06/16  at  05:29 PM

If it is a purchased digital download, then you would have the file on your PC, so what would it matter?  If your PC was damaged and you didn’t back it up, then you’re screwed, but that would be your fault for being a moron and not backing up your files.  If a digital download company went out of business it would make no difference, disc or file you would still own it.

Posted by Paul  on  06/16  at  05:35 PM

@HTPC guy:

You take people’s intelligence for granted.  We all know we should backup our files, but only 1 out of 5 of us do it.  What if a fire started in your computer room? Your NAS and all of your DVD backups are toast!  Unfortunately I know this from experience, and I had everything backed up twice, once on a NAS, and monthly backups on DVD.  I was stupid, and had everything in the same room, not anticipating a fire in that room! Now my NAS is in a different room of the house, and the DVD’s are stored in a third room in a fireproof safe.

@Scott:  Unfortunately you have two sides competing against each other when it comes to technology.  When studio’s release 2k,4k or even 8k movies, the files will be so large that it will take time for download speeds to catch up. Then a newer format will emerge, and the cycle will repeat again…

Posted by Scott  on  06/16  at  06:29 PM

Here is where I disagree, Blu-ray hasn’t really caught on, or DVD would be almost dead by now.  1080p is great, if thay come out with 2160p, then fine.  To most humans on this planet, after that it won’t matter.  Most people won’t notice enough of a difference to warrant the costly upgrade.  Going from 720p to 1080p is a decent difference, 1080p to 2160p won’t be as dramatic.  Beyond 2160p, I doubt most people will be able to see a difference at all.  As far as backing up your PC, that is why there are services like Carbonite.  I bought 2 inexpensive hard drives 120GB each.  I have a fireproof safe that I keep one in, the other I keep at work.  Every couple of months I bring the one from work home and add all new files to it.  Both drives combined cost me $70, not that much compared to losing all of my pictures, music and video.

Posted by Rich  on  06/16  at  07:10 PM

One of the BIG reasons Blu-ray has not caught on is Microsoft. As an aged developer who is using windows 7 RC right now, I am frustrated that Microsoft will not offer Blu-Ray native support. One of their position statements says something to the effect that digital delivery will make blu-ray a non-issue.

But these guys sit at computers all day connected on systems that have seemingly endless bandwidth, yet watch video in something less than high-def.

They certainly don’t resemble the video enthusiast with a HTPC or even the average person at home who has just upgraded to DTV and doesn’t have the bandwidth on their broadband cable to get the quality they can get via HD broadcasts. Where I live, at least, and I suspect in most locals, there will not be high enough bandwidth to provide streaming hi-def content for many years yet.

The second big thing that held back blu-ray was the very thing that should help it—the digital transition. People have spent money upgrading their TVs; this is money that is possibly not being spent on blu-ray players.

Posted by Josh  on  06/16  at  08:18 PM

Hard disc formats will be on top for at least another decade simply for the fact that the majority of the world still arn’t technology inclined enough yet to know how to get and use digital media. Just look at how the switch to digital tv went. The government had to extend the date, coupons had to be handed out, millions still had no idea what was going on. Digital media is going even further beyond that.

Vhs to DVD to blu-ray isn’t as big of a format change as say dvd/blu-ray to non-physical/digital format.

Posted by Kev  on  06/16  at  08:23 PM

Here in Australia we have fairly stingy monthly download limits, My plan is 25Gb per month at $89.95.  If I go over that, I’m throttled back to 64kbps for the rest of the month.  I really can’t afford to go blowing my downloads on HD movies, so it’s blu-ray for me for the forseeable future.

Posted by Chris Artman  on  06/16  at  10:05 PM

DOWNLOAD = POOR QUALITY = OVERCOMPRESSION, No thanks!!!  If I can download 30 Mbit/sec 1080p AVC and 7.1 DD True HD lossless audio, then we’ll talk…  Sorry, but 40 GB downloads aren’t happening anytime soon, so I have no interest.  that means thay would compress the living #### out of the A/V and reduce quality compared to Blu Ray… NO THANKS, SHOVE IT…

Posted by Soundzilla  on  06/16  at  11:22 PM

Downloads are nowhere near the quality of picture and sound on Blu-ray. Amazon’s among the worst. Blow up that Netflix or Amazon stream to 90 inches and it looks like ###. Not to mention audio isn’t even sure to be in surround let alone uncompressed PCM master quality surround.

There’s a LONG way to go before bandwidth is available in homes to allow Blu-ray quality entertainment on demand.

Even then, I don’t trust that they’ll be able to get a pictures as good because of the temptation to compress the hell out of the picture to squeeze every last bit out of the bandwidth. It’s Blu-ray all the way for me.

Posted by Scott  on  06/16  at  11:32 PM

I thought at first HD DVD might make Blu-ray go the way of Betamax.  Blu-ray will fail eventually, because it isn’t catching on very fast, but I think the economy is what will kill it, unless they reduce prices on discs and players by the end of the year.  If they hit a $99 MSRP on some players and a $19.99 MSRP on all new discs, $9.99-$14.99 on catalog titles, they may be able to defeat DVD.  I highly doubt Sony will reduce prices, so it will probably fail.

Posted by Paul  on  06/17  at  12:31 AM

I think another piece that will make or break downloads even if the speed and cap issues are solved is DRM.  Scott pointed out that you can make copies of a file, well some you can, you sure can’t do it legally with most paid for video downloads. 
So then we have to get into fair usage, because I don’t believe that I should have to pay for a movie several times depending on where I want to watch it.  With physical media, I can bring it into the car for the long trip to the grandparents house, and then bring it inside so everyone can watch Disneyfor the 100th time.

I think digital download has a future, but it’s not there for me yet.  I want high bitrate 1080p and DTS master audio, because yes I can tell on my projector system, which is where I watch movies.  720p downloads are fine for TV shows, but the lossy compression and long download times make me bitchy.

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