Amazon has put Star Wars on Blu-ray up for pre-order on its site: the original trilogy for $45 or $90 for the whole thing. The release date looks like September 2011. One more time, just for old times sake, let’s all buy the same six films for the very last time. Well, until the ultra mega special holographic boxed set comes out in 2013.
Gizmodo recently paid a visit to the headquarters of the Criterion Collection as they begin the process of releasing all their movies in HD on Blu-ray.
But with that huge uptick in resolution for the consumer, Criterion is faced with a lot of problems that they didn’t have when their masters were converted to standard definition for DVD. After all, they’re often dealing with old films, created before there was fancy low-grain filmstock and digital processing. And with the technology they have today, how much restoration and processing is too much?
Really, the mission of Criterion is “trying to replicate the original experience of seeing that movie when it was first released,” according to Phillips. While they certainly have the ability to process old films until they look like they were shot on a DV cam, that’s not the goal.
It’s difficult to know if Blu-ray will actually take off as a format, given the competition from other methods of obtaining HD media (iTunes store, HD cable, etc.). It might become a niche option like the Criterion Collection itself but a welcome one all the same. We watched The Darjeeling Limited the other night on the Starz HD channel on Time Warner Cable. It was 1080p but compressed enough that if you’re paying attention, you can see artifacts, especially with fast motion. But the worst part is that Starz didn’t bother to show the film in its original aspect ratio, which, with Wes Anderson movies, is more than half of the point! They chopped off the sides to fit a 2.39:1 film into 16:9. So for fans of films that deserve to be seen as the director intended, Criterion on Blu-ray might be the only option.
Amazon is having a Blu-ray sale…selected Blu-ray movies are 50% off. Titles include Mad Men season 1, No Country for Old Men, Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, Reservoir Dogs, and Gangs of New York.
A company called Cargo Cosmetics makes a line of makeup called blu_ray for use by people appearing on high-definition TV or film.
Developed in response to the needs of makeup artists shooting in high definition, these specialized products work for high-def and are ideal for perfecting the skin while still giving a natural look.
Available at Sephora. Has anyone used this? Does it work? Email me. (thx, doug)
Possible collateral damage from the ascendence of HD and Blu-ray: people want their movies to look nice and clean and sharp and without film grain, even if the feel of a movie calls for it.
Unfortunately, what seems to happening right now is that the studio marketing folks are conducting focus groups with new Blu-ray consumers, who are saying they want perfect pictures every time. As a result, a few of the Hollywood studios are currently A) using excessive Digital Noise Reduction to completely scrub film grain from their Blu-ray releases, or B) not releasing as many older catalog titles as they might otherwise for fear that people will complain about grain. Some studios are even going so far as to scrub the grain out of NEW releases that have been shot on film. Case in point: New Line’s Pan’s Labyrinth Blu-ray Disc. When I saw this film in the theaters, it was dark and gritty. The grain was a deliberate stylistic choice — part of the artistic character of the film. New Line’s Blu-ray, on the other hand, is sparkly and glossy — almost entirely grain-free. So much fine detail has been removed that the faces of characters actually look waxy. Everyone looks like a plastic doll.
(via house next door)
Earlier this week, Toshiba announced that they would no longer be manufacturing or marketing HD DVD players, which effectively ended the HD disc format war going on between HD DVD and the victorious Blu-ray format. Later that day, author and tech gadget enthusiast Steven Johnson twittered the following:
Chuckling at the fact that the ENTIRE PLATFORM died a month after I bought my HD-DVD player.
Thinking that it would be interesting to hear the tale of an early adopter in the age of hyper-obsolescence, I sent Johnson a few questions that he was kind enough to answer.
Jason Kottke: Warner Brothers went exclusively Blu-ray on January 4. When did you buy your player?
Steven Johnson: Basically our old DVD player broke, and so I figured we might as well buy a next generation player if we were buying a new one. Being the renowned technology futurist that I am, I analyzed the marketplace and decided that the HD-DVD/Blu-ray standoff was going to be around for a long time, and so I might as well just pick one and go with it. I think I had HD-DVD in my head because I had been thinking about buying the XBOX-360 HD-DVD accessory, so that’s what I bought. Right around December 20th I think.
Kottke: The pace of HD DVD’s collapse was dizzying, even by contemporary standards. How do you feel about owning a brand new piece of obsolete technology? You’re an early adopter…is this just how the game is played, even at this fantastic velocity?
Johnson: I thought it was pretty funny. I mean, the Betamax adopters at least had a few years to nag their VHS friends about the better picture quality, before the format died a slow death. But HD-DVD — they just took it out back and shot it! I think that’s what’s so striking about this. I can’t remember a standards war where the winner was crowned so definitively. For a few weeks there, I felt like the technology world was taunting me for my decision: I got email from Netflix saying that they were NEVER going to buy another HD-DVD again.
The consolation prize is that Apple introduced HD rentals with the AppleTV — which we also have — right as HD-DVD was dying, so I might be able to bypass Blu-Ray altogether, just out of spite.
Kottke: Do you think Blu-ray will achieve the popularity that DVDs did or is the age of shuttling bits around on silver platters over?
Johnson: I really hope so. I’ve been using the new Apple TV version for the past 48 hours, and the whole HD movie rental process is just completely painless, other than the fact that they should give you 48 hours to watch the movie once you’ve started it. (By the way, I don’t think enough people have commented on that Take Two upgrade: it is basically an entirely new product, and Apple just gave away the upgrade for free — I think as an implicit acknowledgment that the first iteration wasn’t fully baked. Still, how cool.)
Kottke: So you’re the owner of a machine that will perform its task perfectly for many years to come but is de-facto useless because you can’t buy any new media for it beyond the ~400 currently available titles. Is this becoming a more commonplace situation for consumers?
Johnson: Yes and no. There are more new standards proposed, and new innovations, and thus more obsolescence, but more and more of the new standards are coming in the form of software not hardware, so the transitions aren’t nearly as painful as my HD-DVD misadventure. My AppleTV box that I bought last year wouldn’t let me watch HD movies or browse Flickr photos, but after twenty minutes of a software update, I can now enjoy both with ease. I think that experience is probably going to be more commonplace than my getting burned buying into the wrong silver platter.
HD DVD is officially pronounced dead, having died last month when Warner switched to Blu-ray. You all can go out and buy Blu-ray players now. (And wow, that happened quickly.)
Update: Combining two recent trends on kottke.org: Hillary Clinton Is Your New HD DVD Player. (thx, raza)
If HD DVD wasn’t dead before, it probably is now. Netflix has announced that it will stop carrying HD DVDs by the end of 2008 in favor of Blu-ray discs.
Since the first high-definition DVDs came on the market in early 2006, Netflix has stocked both formats. But the company said that in recent months the industry has stated its clear preference for Blu-ray and that it now makes sense for the company to initiate the transition to a single format.
However, with online movie rentals/purchases gaining momentum, it’ll be interesting to see just how long Blu-ray can stay in the lead before selling bits on pieces of plastic becomes outdated. (via nelson)
Update: Best Buy is going to start recommending Blu-ray to its customers. (thx, fletcher)
The week before Warner announced that they were dropping support for HD DVD and backing the Blu-ray format, sales for players for the two formats were running roughly 50/50. The week after the announcement? Blu-ray players outsold HD DVD players more than 12 to 1. Blu-ray discs also saw a large increase in sales.
Not sure how this became Blu-ray central all of a sudden, but here’s a bit more news. NBC Universal and Paramount might be “opening the door” for a switch to Blu-ray.
These studios have commitments to release some discs this year in HD DVD, but both have ended their exclusive commitment to that format, which is backed by a group led by Toshiba.
It looks as though we finally might have a winner in the race for the high-definition successor to DVDs: Blu-ray.
With Warner on board, Blu-ray now has about 70 percent of the market locked up; Walt Disney, 20th Century Fox, MGM, Lionsgate and, of course, Sony are all on Blu-ray’s team. Warner Brothers has some of the bigger releases in 2008, including “Speed Racer,” the Batman sequel “The Dark Knight” and the sixth Harry Potter installment.
I feel like maybe I can actually buy an HD player now…