By Harry McCracken | 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…