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2. Blu-ray and High Definition technology
(Warning - written in 2011 - some things change)
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I hope that the following article can help you all make up your minds about high definition without being pummelled with adverts that say ‘new is better’. As we all know, some of the time this just isn’t the case; just because something is new, it  does not necessarily mean that it is better. It all depends on how you view it.

Blu-ray and High Definition Technology can be overwhelming at first, but I aim to change that if I may.

First,  I’ll give you the tiniest bit of background if I may…

Blu-ray discs went on the market to coincide with the launch of the Sony Playstation 3, which has a built in High Definition player and uses Blu-ray discs to contain the large amounts of data that next generation gaming requires. There was an ever so slight (or maybe not so slight) format war between two High Definition brands - Blu-ray and HD DVD - and their main distributors (Sony and Microsoft), which resulted with Blu Ray becoming the dominant contender in sales and then eventually becoming the sole provider of HD home entertainment.

Things move on and no matter how much I miss my old VHS tapes, the newer DVD and Blu-ray have made film viewing a much more enjoyable experience. Way back in 2005, the last major VHS title was released and now roughly speaking around 99 per cent of all film releases are now on DVD, a format to love, a smaller device, an improvement to the audio and visual capabilities of film quality and just plain nifty.

We are having the same sort of upgrade overload that we had back then, but as DVD was able to trump VHS in almost every way – Blu-ray can now do the same.

'So why is Blu-rayso special?'  This is something I get asked quite frequently, so I'd like to take this opportunity to just go through my opinion as to why Blu-ray is the bees knees. I'm not going to say that people should rush out and replace their beloved DVD collection, I'm merely saying here that High Definition is an excellent enhancement to what we already have.

So what is High Definition?

Blu-ray discs have more space on them, which allows for more information/data to be stored. More data means a higher sound and picture capacity - almost twice as much as a DVD.

Trust me folks, it would be much better to go into a shop with at least a basic knowledge of what you want before you are leapt upon by eager salespeople.

Here are some numbers you'll need to be savvy about; 570px, 720px and 1080px. Basically these numbers are your television's output pixel resolution, I.e. the quality of an image on your screen:

570px is what high definition can push a DVD output to using a Blu-ray player,
720px is the resolution that most next generation computer games are pushed to (they can be higher)
1080px is the full High Definition image/audio capacity available.

If you're thinking of buying a Blu-ray player, basically it'll be like I mentioned previously with the televisions - they will all do relatively the same thing but will differ very slightly. Brands will set the price, so go with whatever you've set your budget at. You'll get a good one for between about £70 to £150, (2011 prices) but of course you can go higher if you want to. Not too shabby.

I always recommend getting a player that is produced by the same company that makes your telly, because they will most likely have an excellent symbiotic relationship. If you don’t want to do this, not to fret guys – it won’t make much of a difference to be honest.  Just get a package that suits you and work at getting the most out of your system. Which will be quite easy.
To enhance your sound, I'd recommend going for a player and surround sound package (we got our package for three hundred quid)  - because explosions in Die Hard can never be loud enough! Annoying the neighbours is also fun!  (I joke!)

I found one such package for £150 and I can't imagine watching TV without it. It just completes the experience. When perhaps a child or member of the family you live with wants a Playstation could be a little bit sneaky. As long as you have access to it when they aren't using it, the PS3 is like two Christmas presents in one, as it acts as a Blu-ray player. Two birds, one stone.

Remember, to gain access to full HD you've got to buy the HDMI cable separately.  I cannot fathom the reason why a cable isn't included with your Blu-ray player (apart from the inevitable expense of course) but unfortunately it's just the way it is. There are varying prices slapped on these cables and again, some are designed to complement the hardware it's going to be used with. For example, Sony have their own brand HDMI cable that goes with the Playstation 3. This combination will undoubtedly push the quality to the maximum, but in my opinion you could buy any one you wanted. I've had three cables in my short life and all of them allowed my little telly to display perfect images.

Ok, so now you’re good to go…

Once set up, you’ll face the inevitable next task of going out and finding a film. When buying or renting a Blu Ray disc, I'd definitely recommend thinking about the following things.

First, not every film that gets released in HD needs to necessarily be viewed in HD. Some romantic comedy for instance may be overkill when it comes to choosing whether to spend those few extra pennies or not. I'm not saying that watching something that isn't visually stunning won't improve the image and sound quality - I'm saying that there are much better films to see in HD.

One example would be to get older films that you've perhaps seen at the cinema years ago or films that were released in the 1970's or 80's that have quite grainy visuals.

On the opposite side are films with visually stunning special effects or lots of action. Films shot in IMAX (basically the image covers the whole massive screen) and those scenes really need to be viewed on a Blu Ray disc.

In the future I can definitely foresee DVDs will be replaced by another format – most likely Blu Rays. Right now though, you don’t have to worry about upgrading your collection. Buy what you want and is most convenient for you – as Blu Ray sales aren’t quite the goldmine yet that manufacturers have intended. It will probably be this way for a few more years *fingers crossed*.

So, you've got a little bit of an idea of what you want (I hope), so now I'll include one of my personal (if not a bit strange) observations.

When testing out full HD, I came across two copies of one particular film  on both Blu Ray and DVD in my collection. This anomaly was confusing, but useful.

I put on both copies on different channels, queued up the same scene and pressed pause. I flicked between the two channels and noticed two things immediately - that the Blu Ray copy is much, much brighter (as well as being clearer) and that the Blu Ray copy is much more spaced out with a finer, detailed image.

I then remembered that high definition is twice as pixilated, so there is one more thing that you can do to test it. While streaming 1080px go right up to the screen without blinking. The pixels are so tightly packed together that your eyes will not adjust and hurt you. No more square eyes for us people.

I then realised with dismay that I had too much free time on my hands!


When you buy a Blu Ray player, one of the most important things to remember is that it is more like a computer system than just a disc reader. It needs to update its internal system to keep up to date. The reason for this is Blu Ray discs that are being released today have new information on them to improve their quality.

A Blu Ray player is manufactured to receive updates directly from the online company website – which is quite a good thing. You know when you buy something and around two years later you would most likely need to buy the latest upgraded product? Updates will ensure that most electrical products have up-to-date software so that you don’t need to replace what you have as often. Saves money and you don’t need to go to Curry’s as often as you would. To me that is definitely like heaven…

Some Blu Ray players are wireless and can tell you that it needs an update or some will need to be hooked up to the internet to receive these signals manually. Either way, it’s gotta be done at least once a month to maintain efficiency. Don’t worry folks; it doesn’t take too long either.

If the updates are not downloaded regularly, they will start getting senile. One day a disc you love won’t play or may skip. The next day, a brand new release will display ‘error’ on the screen and won’t allow you to watch it. Any number of things can happen, but I think of it as a machine dying from the inside out. Sounds a little dramatic I know, but it’s how seriously I take the updates. I was trying to update our player. It refused to do much, so I called LG support, we swapped our mumbo jumbo and the nice lady on the phone told me that since July 2010 – the thing needed 18 updates. I laughed for a little bit, and then requested a disc with them all on so I could download them manually. Excellent customer service, it really was.

What angered me is that when my mother and my friend purchased their Blu Ray players – they were not advised to update as part of the sales process. Eager salespeople jump on you, get you to buy something that you don’t completely understand and then forget something as important as this.  However, it is very easy to update now and if you already have a Blu Ray player just flick through the instructions to see how. Or just contact your manufacturer like I did and they will send you everything you’ll need.

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