Big Blu Upgrade Dept.

Something I forgot to comment on when the news broke was word about the new Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc spec, the 4K disc format that is ostensibly going to be to Blu-ray Disc what BD was to DVD. It's such a strange piece of news, because there are a few things in the spec that I genuinely like — higher color depth, for instance — but for the most part I can't see this as being anything but another shot by the studios across the bow of the streaming services, and a waste of everyone's time and money.

There's a dwindling market for physical media, and most of the people doing the serious buying of discs are collectors. Ultra HD is a collector's format, but most of what it offers is going to be wasted on the vast majority of existing titles. Anything that doesn't have a 4K master will have to be redone (more time, more expense, for what payoff?); anything that does have a 4K master is likely to be only a a current title or one of the few golden-boy titles that come out in every format — perennials like Taxi Driver, The Terminator, etc.

A lot of why I bought into BD was out of the feeling that more of the titles that previously never showed up on any home video format at all were now finally getting a shot at being seen in a version that was as close to a theatrical experience as we were likely to get. When Criterion threw its support behind the format, for instance, I leaped for joy: the prospect of seeing Kurosawa in HD, for instance, was too good to pass up. (A pity they lost the rights to Ran, though.) Then came the cult-movie folks like Arrow, offering stuff as strange and far-out as it got. How useful is a new format going to be for any of that material? Not very.

How likely am I to upgrade any of my existing titles? I dunno; it depends on what's offered, and whether or not it's any kind of real leap forward. Blade Runner, for instance, or the aforementioned Criterion (assuming they bother to support it). Maybe the occasional Hollywood big-ticket title that I actually care about (Mad Max: Fury Road; Edge of Tomorrow). Precious little outside of that. How many anime titles not shot on film, for instance, have 4K masters? What's there to do with them but upsample them a la FLCL, with correspondingly disappointing results?

It'll be at least a year or more before we see any software or hardware, and who knows if this'll even be offered for PC users. You'll forgive me if I don't hold my breath (and turn Blu, hardy-har).

Tags: Blu-ray Disc technology

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This page contains a single entry by Serdar Yegulalp in the category Uncategorized / General, published on 2015/05/17 10:00.

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