So Help Me, I'm a Blu-ray Player Owner

By  |  Friday, February 18, 2011 at 9:49 am

Back in October of 2009, I wrote that I found Blu-ray boring and that I hoped to avoid it by segueing directly from DVD to a 100% digital approach to home video that didn’t involve shiny discs. The post sparked a lively debate, with some commenters seeing my point and others defending Blu-ray.

So I feel obligated to provide an update: As of yesterday evening, there’s a Blu-ray player in my living room.

To be precise, it’s a PlayStation 3. Rather than buying a box with the principal purpose of watching Blu-ray movies–although I’ll admit I’d recently flirted with that idea–I bought the PS3 because it’s a significant piece of general-purpose consumer electronics. I figured I needed ready access to it so I could write about it…just as I own a Windows PC, a Mac, an iPhone, an iPad, an Android phone, and various other major platforms.

(Another reason I bought the PS3: I recently replaced my scary, bursting-at-the-seams entertainment center–which was so dense with electronic boxes that it was probably a fire hazard–with a roomier one.)

But even though I didn’t buy the PS3 primarily for its Blu-ray capability, I do admit that I’m sort of glad to have the option. The era of 100% digital entertainment is getting off to a slower start than I’d expected: Too much stuff isn’t available in streaming form, or is available only in standard, definition, or lacks the bonus materials that come with shiny-disc versions. Some titles can only be bought when I really want to rent them; others can only be rented when I really want to buy. And nothing works on every single gizmo I own that’s capable of playing movies.

The first two Blu-ray discs I bought were both Disney cartoons made when a guy named Walt Disney was still around to make them: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Alice in Wonderland. I don’t think Snow White is currently available as a legal stream or download. The recent reissue of Alice is, but the Blu-ray version comes with a bevy of worthwhile bonus material, and I’m not sure whether any of it is available anywhere but in the shiny-disc version. (Apple’s iTunes version makes reference to “iTunes Extras,” but I can’t figure out what they are, and they work only on Windows PCs and Macs.)

Am I going to go from Blu-ray skeptic to Blu-ray addict? I don’t think so: If I just want to watch something once and it’s available in non-physical form, that’ll probably still be the cheapest, simplest option. And for now, the only place I can watch Blu-ray discs is in my living room: iTunes, Amazon Video on Demand, Vudu, and other options all give me more flexibility.

But it’s officially official: My strategy of avoiding Blu-ray entirely didn’t pan out. For now, the video I consume is going to come in multiple flavors: streams, downloads, DVDs, Blu-rays, and the occasional musty old VHS tape. I’m still looking forward to doing away with physical media, but it’s going to take a while. Ask me again in, oh, 2014 how it’s coming along…




12 Comments For This Post

  1. kailsabin99 Says:

    Check our ps3 media server or vuze's transcoding/media server if you haven't already.
    Before my Apple TV I used my PS3 as a media center connected to my computer running ps3 media server and it worked great. Transcoded anything, including video_ts folders of ripped DVD's or DVDs in the disc drive.

  2. GadgetGav Says:

    It's a shame you couldn't make the leap Harry, but I doubt you'll become a BluRay addict. I bought a PS3 a few years ago for the same reasons – a game console that could also play the latest movie format. I have to say the BluRay user experience is AWFUL. There is no consistency. Some movies allow skipping of previews, some you can only use fast forward (I haven't yet found one that forces you to watch them at 1x). Some movies you can use an app on your iPhone to control the player, but most you can't – why isn't that a one-time install..? Worst of all, I don't think I've yet found a BluRay movie that will remember where you were if you hit stop part way through, even on a PS3 that has a hard drive in and could store a small file. Every DVD I put in to the same player can do this..! Why did they take that useful feature away when they developed a new format? It makes no sense. Do movie execs not have families that interrupt the 2-hour window for movie viewing? It's like they developed all of the BluRay UI & UX on paper without ever actually testing any of it.

  3. JaredNewman Says:

    So how long until we're pwning noobs together in Modern Warfare 2?

  4. @Bobby626 Says:

    Blu-rays bring the best quality and experience by far. It beats streaming quality BY FAR in both video and audio (even if the stream claims it 1080p, it's not as clear quality as the blu-ray would be). Also, when streaming, you're not getting HD sound, which is like watching HALF the movie. If you have a good receiver for sound and are streaming movies, you are putting the receiver to waste. You should go here and check out reviews for some of your favorite movies. Some blu-rays are better than others in quality. For instance, The Hurt Locker is one of the blu-rays which they call "reference quality". Some blu-rays have amazing sound, while lacking in the visual section and vice versa, but it's ALWAYS going to beat streaming quality. Streaming won't catch up with blu-ray quality until the average user has a 100mbps connection, which won't happen for another few years or even more. If you want to get the best out of sound, you should invest in a receiver that does DTS-HD MA, which is so far, the best. Only some of the older blu-rays have DTS-HD MA, while most of the newer releases today come with it.

  5. digitaldistro Says:

    I also use my PS3 as a media server, streaming ripped DVDs and music from my PC and displaying on my TV. Add in Netflix, VUDU,, NHL Gamecenter, all the stuff to rent or buy on PSN and life doesn't get much easier than that.

  6. Bard Says:

    I like the format, though I’ve only recently adopted it myself. Though I like streaming media, there’s still no match for blu-ray’s quality, and prices have come way down for discs. I wanted the player primarily to watch a blu-ray-exclusive release, but it’s also my media hub, being one of the wi-fi models with Netflix, etc.

  7. Rip Says:

    You should be Bluray owner, unless you enjoy pixelated DVD quality movies passed as so called 720p on net.

  8. Jim Says:

    I’ve had a bluray player for a little over a year now, but still haven’t bought any movies for it. I got it for the hdmi output (fewer cables is only reason really) and for the ability to stream netflix.

    A friend of mine loans me movies from time to time on bluray. The picture is definitely better, but not so much better to justify the price difference for me.

  9. Reynaldo Rivera Says:

    Harry, you'll become a PS3 addict, not a Blu-Ray addict.

    With all the streaming options the PS3 offers in addition to the Blu-Ray support and the very excellent DVD/SD video file upscaling you'll be convincing everyone you know to slim down their entertainment center with on of those bad boys.

  10. pond Says:

    What I want: quality (resolution + bitrate) more like BD than DVD; convenience of streaming; catalog depth of Netflix (plus).

    What might do it: if Netflix teamed up with a box maker to push your top 5 say (or however many would fit on your storage in the box) movies at near-BD quality: 1080p with good bitrate. This could be done overnight. It could also employ p2p tech to work with other boxes, thereby saving Netflix a ton of bandwidth charges. It would go on all the time, slowing down when you access the web for other things at the same time (in other words, it would set itself as lowest priority in your network).

    When you’re ready to watch something, turn on the box, select a movie. Watch it with no buffering hiccups, at high quality, with whatever extras, and great sound. When you finish watching, you’d get the choice of deleting the movie/TV show from the box to make room for the next one in your queue, or keeping it to watch again.

    Apple could do this vertically, if they put a hard drive into AppleTV version 3, or let us hook up external hard drives to it. Amazon might get into this to have something to challenge Apple. Google might do it with their G-TV partners.

    The only block I can see is Hollywood execs going Charlie-Sheen at the thought of their ‘content’ on our hard drives at home, and the phrase, ‘p2p.’

  11. Benj Edwards Says:

    I have owned a PS3 since January 2008, and I own exactly one Blu-ray disc for it: Spider-Man 3, which came with the system. It is still in shrink wrap.

    Between Netflix streaming, DVDs looking so good on it, and Blu-ray discs being so expensive, I’ve never needed Blu-ray and I don’t miss it. Sure, I’ve rented a few, but until Blu-rays are as cheap as DVDs ($10 or less), I won’t be buying any.

  12. jltnol Says:

    Why would you choose two much older films are your first BluRay purchase? No doubt Disney has done a good job of restoring them, but really, to get the real Blu-Ray experience, something newer may be better to judge the quality over downloads.