Booze, Baseball, and another "B"

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

You knew it was coming....

A big portion of the talk surrounding the new DVD formats (HD-DVD and Blu-Ray) is that they will not be compatible with analog connections on TVs. That is, they'll downconvert the image from 1080 resolution to 540.

This was confirmed today.

To see these new technologies in their correct resolutions (that is, the REASON you forked out all that money), you have to have HDMI on your TV.

Oh, what a STUPID idea.

What makes it dumb? Let us examine.

First off, why this draconian implementation of technology? To combat piracy. Everyone knows that all people who buy DVDs just burn them and give them to their friends, thus preventing the further sale of that DVD title.

What's that? You don't burn your DVDs? Neither do I, but we still get shafted on this either way.
Hollywood has become so paranoid about piracy, blaming it instead of: terrible films, high energy prices, inflation, or the poor economy for the recent drop in box office revenue. Hollywood is so paranoid about piracy that they're not only sticking stupid anti-piracy ads in front of the movies I pay $10 to see in theaters, but they're also sticking them on the $20 DVDs I buy to watch at home! This, after putting the horrible region coding of DVDs on us too.

IF I AM PAYING MONEY TO SEE IT, I AM OBVIOUSLY NOT PIRATING IT!

Second, who's going to be buying Blu-Ray and HD-DVD players? Is it going to be the guy who's just finally getting an HDTV just in time for the big game? NO. It's going to be what we commonly refer to as "early-adopters." That is, people who usually buy technology soon after it comes out because they're interested in the best. Many of these early adopters already own fantastic HDTV sets, sets which do not have HDMI inputs. HDMI didn't become widespread until very recently (not more than two years ago), after DVI was out already, which was supposed to be the original solution to piracy and digital delivery. So these early adopters, the people who basically make or break these upcoming formats, are going to be largely shafted. Will they run out and get new HDTVs that have HDMI connections built into them? Some of them probably will, but others are probably going to decide that: $1800 for a new player, $100+ for new cables, and over $2000 for a new TV that isn't any better than what they have already, just isn't going to be worth it.

Additionally, this move is going to be just terrible on consumers' viewing experience. On top of the fact that the content won't look nearly as good as it should (especially for the price paid), it's going to vary widely between different configurations. For example, a Sony player might downconvert Columbia/Tri-Star Home Video discs just fine, but make Warner Bros discs look terrible. Or you could see something like, Pioneer players downconvert everything ok, but Samsung players can't downconvert anything worth watching. It's a mess. On top of that technological mess, there's also the fact that most TVs that are HDMI enabled, only have one HDMI input! So what happens if you've got your set-top box (either cable or satellite) hooked up, and you want to get a PS3 and one of the new format players? You're also screwed.

The people who make these decisions are so stupid it's not even funny. They obviously are completely out of touch with the situations they're dealing with, yet they have the power to decide things that are going to effect everyone. It's like asking a baby whether or not to launch a a nuclear missile. Someone with no understanding of anything even remotely connected to the situation, has all of the power. Someone whose decisions affect everyone.

If the TV manufacturers were able to get new technologies to market quicker, such as SED, early-adopters (such as myself) probably wouldn't be so pissed off about stupid moves like making HD movies not HD. Of course, they'd have to make the sets more robust (with more inputs for example), which is another hurdle which hasn't been crossed.

That being said, Hollywood just took away my inclination for buying a new-generation optical disc player (which probably would have been Blu-Ray). There is some hope left though. Image Constraint Token does not have to be used, it's up to the content producer to decide whether or not they want to put it in. Hopefully the studios will take a moment to read some of the backlash these moves are generating, and decide to hold off on making such an ill-advised move.

Contact the Blu-Ray Disc Association here.

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