Hauling Like A Brooligan

Stephen Gallagher

The Turn of the Tide

Looks like the high-definition format war is as good as over and that the next time I upgrade my Jason and the Argonauts, it’ll be to a Blu-Ray disc.

I mean, I haven’t got a Blu-Ray player or anything. I haven’t even got a hi-def TV. But at some point I will. I was an early adopter with digital, buying one of Sony’s first widescreen sets with an integrated digital receiver. Despite some early problems with the technology – to which Sony responded with exemplary customer service, I have to say – the damn set goes on and on and won’t die.

(Having said which, I’d still choose it over almost any hi-def TV that I’ve seen to date. The hi-def sets render more detail but I find their images crisp, crude, and unpleasant to look at. I quite like the look of plasma, especially for movies. But the LCD screens affect me like a singer whose technique is beyond criticism but who simply doesn’t make a likeable noise. And when a hi-def set displays your everyday TV broadcast signal… ech!)

So I’m in no rush anyway. On Deadline Hollywood Daily Nikki Finke reports that Wal-Mart and Netflix – giant retailer and world’s largest online movie rental service, respectively – are abandoning the HD-DVD format and going with Blu-Ray only from now on.

I could have predicted this. But only because Blu-Ray has the cooler and more memorable name. When you have no idea what the subtle differences in the technology may be, such things assume an absurd importance. I can see the lumpy-sounding HD-DVD struggling on a while longer, but essentially it’s rolling off down the belt that carried away Polaroid Super-8 self-processing cartridges and the Advanced Photo System.

Rita Rudner once said that she wasn’t going to buy a CD player until they promised that they wouldn’t invent anything else. But once you pass the into the digital realm, new technologies don’t necessarily make your old technology obsolete. Your CDs will rip to your MP3 player. Your DVDs will play on a Blu-Ray machine.

The disc and the case that you bought were an irrelevant part of the purchase; what your money paid for was the data. I never had much of a VHS collection, but I’ve got quite a number of DVDs. I give the cases away and file the discs in sleeves which allows me to keep my shelves free for books, as God intended. Trust me; DVD cases do not furnish a room.

When discs become obsolete I’ll no doubt upload the stuff I want to keep into whatever the new format will be, and keep everything in even less space.

Except for Jason and the Argonauts. That, I’ll have to buy again.

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3 responses to “The Turn of the Tide”

  1. Interesting points. Better picture! Dynamic sound! Sharper! Clearer! Crisper! Aye, and all that. Home cinema has to a point been hijacked by tech. Speaking from experience here – I have a blu-ray player(well, a ps3), and a plasma display. The picture quality really does take the breath away, and the sound drops you smack bang into the action or haunted house or intimate conversation. But great picture and great sound can sometimes put a movie on your shelf you might otherwise not have fancied. Independence Day’s not that great…yeah, but just look at that picture, just listen to that there explosion! Mmmm. Kind of reminds me of a story about the Taj Mahal; might be off a bit here but it went something like this: the guy who commisioned the building in memory of his dead wife got so involved with its build, its majesty that his final act was to point to his wife’s coffin and say something like: “get rid of that.” Not sure of the story’s accuracy. My missus once scoffed my my new tv. “You used to watch movies on a 14” portable and still enjoy them. True. Very true. But on my new set and surround sound system just look at that image! Listen to that explosion!!!!

    Steve, you really must come by mine one evening and have a look and listen.

  2. “You used to watch movies on a 14″ portable and still enjoy them.”

    Me too. But I was always dreaming of the Cinerama screen at the Theatre Royal in Manchester.

    My take on it: for a while, the TV experience stayed the same while the cinema experience deteriorated. Then the fundamentals of TV began to change – probably driven by the higher quality of DVD – and in the past ten years they’ve met somewhere in the middle. The multiplexes around here are technically OK but tend to offer a dispiriting evening out.

  3. I agree about LCDs – I just can’t get to like them, and I’m in the same boat as you: you know you’ll have to get an HD set at some point but, for the time being at least, I’ll stick to my Panasonic 32″ CRT. I think High Definition is being kind of forced onto people when really, for normal domestic viewing, a PAL digital set is more than adequate. I suppose I can see the point with HD if, say, you’re in pub and they’re showing football or something on an enormous 60″ screen, then I’ll admit a convention PAL image looks pretty duff. But when you see people still watching TV on old 4:3 sets with a crappy analogue signal or on widescreen digital tellys with the ‘auto fit’ mode selected so everything that isn’t broadcast widescreen is stretched to fill the screen (or ‘goldfish bowl’ as a collegue of mine calls it), it makes you wonder if the majority are going to notice, or appreciate, any difference. I regularly look at transfers from film to HD video on professional CRT monitors (although they don’t produce CRT monitors any longer but that’s another story) and even some industry people can’t tell you if they’re looking at SD or HD output. What chance then has Granny Goggins got?