Wednesday, November 30, 2011


About Blu-ray, streaming and the proverbial 'wave of the future!'

by Nick Zegarac

In response to the most recent spate of debacles in transfer quality on several time honoured classic movies (West Side Story, My Fair Lady), I have decided to kick off a brand new series on NixPix entitled Why Aren't They On Blu-ray yet?!?
But before we get to that it must be said that the Blu-ray market is, frankly, a mess and the studios have, in no small way, been almost exclusively responsible for submarining this hi-def digital format. They have systematically lowering consumer expectations, releasing 'fly-by-night' substandard transfers or 'bumped up' 1080p discs instead of taking the time and money to remaster their catalogues and release true-HD transfers. Some studios have had better track records than others. But one way or another, they all have been guilty of cutting corners.
And now it appears as if the insult to the collective consumer intellect doesn't stop there. We're now being told that 'streaming' is the wave of the future - not Blu-ray. Yet there are inherent problems with 'streaming' that bear more fruitful discussion on message boards and certainly an honourable mention in this column.
For starters, 'streaming' a full movie 'clogs' up one's computer memory for long periods of time - slowing down productivity and accessibility to other functions until the full download is complete. I certainly hope the studios aren't suggesting we all invest in two computers per household - one for their nonsense and the other to get basic chores like book keeping and emails looked after!
Second, streaming cannot and does not equal the bit rate currently available on Blu-ray. So, although the studios are down playing this loss of quality as marginal at best, I assure you on larger monitors and HD displays it will be noticeable.
Third, 'streaming' requires an HDMI hook up between one's computer and HD projection monitors. As someone who's computer system is located in an entirely different part of the home than my home theatre this presents a definite problem.
Do I start drilling holes through walls and ceilings now to run my cable from my computer to my TV or do I relocate one or the other to a room in closer proximity, which also means relocating phone jacks?!? Personally, I'm not willing to do either. I designed my living space to suit my needs, not to cater to the whims of what is rapidly becoming a very fickle marketplace!
Fourth, as a collector whose private library of films and television currently houses more than 3,000 titles, I have a real problem with once again 'renting' my entertainment for a modest fee from the majors on a rotation of availability. 'Streaming' is essentially DIVX all over again. You 'rent' a title for a short window and for a nominal fee. The info is decoded by the studio and sent to your computer where it is briefly stored and then exported to your TV.
You can watch what you stream during this pre-determined time frame. But you can't burn what you've saved onto a disc to enjoy over and over again whenever you feel like it once your time is up. Since not even the majors can afford to keep an 'ever growing' roster of films and TV available at all times, titles will come and go on their websites and be available for home viewing only when the studios decide to make them available.
Now, let's be clear. Moratorium is a part of any format. No studio can afford the licensing fees for rights to everything in their catalogue all at once. But at least on DVD or Blu-ray the consumer is given the option to buy and own every title they put out for the life of the disc format - not merely for a 24 to 48hr. 'rental' duration. And you can always find used copies on Amazon or elsewhere to own.
Fifth - home entertainment formats have become as depressingly obsolete as computer technology. When we made the quantum leap from VHS/Betamax to Laserdisc, DVD and Blu-ray the conversion in formats was justified on the basis that the quality of the image and sound we were experiencing was always getting better. Streaming is a step backward from the advancements already made in the digital format on Blu-ray. Should it be considered an option? 
Arguably, yes - for those tech heads who relish and can afford more and more obtrusive gadgetry invading their lives. But should it be the ONLY way to experience movies and TV from now on? Decidedly and emphatically - NO!
Streaming is not the wave of the future but a quaint relic from the not so distant past! In an economy as soft as ours this isn't the time to convince, cajole or force the public to embrace yet another format over what's already being offered - especially when Blu-ray's true potential hasn't been fully mined for possibilities and likely never will be before the format becomes extinct.
Finally, I'm fairly computer savvy, but my concern herein is for those who are not and presumably will never be 'streaming' anything from the internet because they cannot figure it out or simply can't be bothered.
I know I'm not alone here. We all have family members and friends who don't own or perhaps cannot afford a computer and internet access to 'stream' their entertainment. But even these unfortunates find stuff to buy and watch from the $4.99 bins at Wal-mart or Best Buy.
My sincere hope for 'streaming' as a format is that it will miserably fail.
I'm tired of clever marketing from Hollywood that wants me to invest, re-invest, then invest some more in changing technologies that have proven not so much advancements in pristine picture and sound quality as they are marginal regurgitations of something I already own on another format. 
So, this collector is calling on all collectors all over the world to put a stop to their collecting for the time being and for a purpose. Send a clear message to the studios that what you want is quality over quantity. You can have it too without the introduction of a new format. Blu-ray exists and, when done properly, is the best way to see any movie - past, present or future.
We don't need more gadgets or formats. All we need is a commitment from Hollywood to give us their best. Support this cause. Boycott 'streaming' and voice your complaints about substandard transfers of time honoured movies on Blu-ray. We deserve better than what we're being offered. But it's our choice to either speak up or put up. I'm tired of putting up. How about you?
Voice your complaints accordingly:

Buena Vista Home Entertainment(distributes Disney, Pixar, Miramax, Hollywood, Dimension & Touchstone)
350 South Buena Vista Street
Burbank, CA 91521

CBS Home Entertainment(distributed by Paramount)
5555 Melrose Avenue
Hollywood, CA 90038

The Criterion Collection
578 Broadway, Suite 1106
New York, NY 10012
(212) 431-5199

DreamWorks Home Entertainment(distributed by Paramount)
1000 Flower Street
Glendale, CA 91201

HBO Home Video (distributed by Warner)
1100 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10036

Lionsgate Entertainment (formerly Artisan)
2700 Colorado Ave., Suite 200
Santa Monica, CA 90404

MGM Home Entertainment(distributed by Twentieth Century Fox)
10250 Constellation Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90067-6241

Miramax (distributed by Buena Vista)

7920 Sunset Blvd., Suite 230
Los Angeles, CA 90046-3353

New Line Home Entertainment

116 North Robertson Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90048

Paramount Home Entertainment(distributes DreamWorks, CBS MTV, Comedy Central)
5555 Melrose Avenue
Hollywood, CA 90038

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

10202 West Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232-3195

Starz Home Entertainment (formerly Anchor Bay Entertainment)(distributes Anchor Bay, Manga Entertainment, Film Romain)

2950 N. Hollywood Way, 3rd Floor
Burbank, CA 91505

Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment(distributes MGM)

2121 Avenue of the Stars, 25th Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90067

Universal Studios Home Entertainment

100 Universal City Plaza
Universal City, CA 91608

Warner Home Video

4000 Warner Blvd.
Burbank, CA 91522

The Weinstein Company(distributed by Genius Products)
345 Hudson St. 13th Floor
New York, NY 10014

No comments: