Big Blue Meets Big-blu

Movie studios don't miss a thing when it comes to keeping a tight watch on the effectiveness of Blu-ray copy protection. Recently, in an apparent attempt to close an assumed (I assume) breach, 20th Century Fox updated its BD+ copy codes in an effort to keep the door firmly locked. The first disc I noted a problem with was (surprise!) Avatar, which was so firmly locked it would not play. After an inordinately long loading cycle it decided it couldn't get along with an Oppo BDP-83 player, which I've admittedly been lax in updating. The same proved to be the case on another current but not updated model, the Pioneer BDP-320. Same long wait, same lack of a payoff. Or at least not a welcome one. All I got was a bright red screen telling me to update my player.

In a bit of a shocker, however, Avatar did play on my old Panasonic DMP-BD30, which I've had for nearly three years (mid 2007). It took its sweet time to load (and don't push the wrong button in the pop-up scene/setup menu or it will re-load again—the voice of experience speaks). But it played fine once it got past the loading marathon. Which makes me wonder: when Fox updated its codes, did it simply choose those that were already in that 2007 Panasonic player?

I think I know a bit about current technology, though computers often don't seem to like me very much. But I can update a player or two on a lazy afternoon. And I love Blu-ray and have no desire to go back to those fuzzy, low-rez DVD pictures. Yes, I'm fickle. DVD was once a revelation (I still own more of them than I care to admit), and truth be told most of them are still watchable—though now accompanied by a gnawing sensation that something is missing. That "something" is easily satisfied by a great Blu-ray version of the same film, such as the new transfer of Tombstone (my favorite Western), or Armageddon (the best big-rock-the-size-of-Texas-threatens-to obliterate-the-planet-but-we're-saved-by-a nutty-group-of-oil-riggers film that Michael Bay ever made—a movie that looks jaw-droppingly good on Blu-ray whatever you might think of it… (ahem)… dramatically).

One of the few annoyances of Blu-ray, however, is that player updates are even necessary. Another is the unwelcome pile of trailers that open many a disc—Disney, are you listening? But I digress. I can't recall ever having to update a DVD player to watch a new disc, and I've watched hundreds of them. True, such an occurance isn't common on Blu-ray. But if it happens when you're about to show a new film to guests on a movie night….

Not all consumers are computer-saavy enough or equipped to perform an update (which often requires a computer plus high-speed Internet access). If we want Blu-ray to fight off the encroachment of inferior but cheaper and more convenient downloads, the Blu-ray experience needs to be as nuisance-free as possible. That was one of the reasons for the phenomenal success of DVD.

Speaking of Big Blue (Ferngully…er, rather Avatar the movie, not Big-blu the format), on Blu-ray it looks vastly better (on my 60" Pioneer PRO-141 plasma) than it ever did in the theater, even if the home experience is currently 2D vs 3D in the IMAX theatrical venue where I first saw it. Word is, however, that when the 3D version comes out in the fall it will initially be exclusive to those who purchase a Panasonic 3D plasma. In fact there are so many exclusive contracts being cut between set makers and studios for the early 3D titles that it's doubtful if more than two or three 3D titles will be available for the sets from any given manufacturer. I'm not sure that's any way to get folks to buy a ticket for a ride on the 3D railroad. Time will tell if this is a good ploy or, ultimately, a serious drag on acceptance of 3D sets.

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COMMENTS
kelsci's picture

Exclusivetivity for 3D movies depending on what set you buy? Rediculous and absurd. Imagine if they did something like this with the birth of dvd; only XX movies from XX studio will play on a Toshiba dvd player. Somebody is trying to be a HOG if this is going on in the 3D camp. I could care less about 3D but when the buying public gets wind of this IMHO the sets will be sitting in the stores. I do not own a BD player but my brother does. I have only observed one BD disc he bought SWORDFISH and I was not impressed with it at all. His player a Panasonic 60 something upconverts dvds that look like high-def broadcasts from satellites so this player is A-1 great on the video note. He also bought the BD disc of STARGATE but I have not had a chance to evaluate that one though in a review I read on this disc, some parts look great. I will have to see that for myself.

willdao's picture

The fact is that grossly encumbering DRM schemes such as this only serve to hinder adoption of technology and sales of media; they tick-off ordinary consumers, with no obvious interruption in the flow of file sharing (apparently, cracks for the new DRM regime were posted in the cracker communities within 24 hours of this new regime's release). So, if the file sharing community is unhindered, and ordinary conumers are frustrated, and/or alarmed, and/or defeated by such...one wonders: what's the upside for studios?

David Vaughn's picture

The studios treat all of their consumers are crooks, which is why they have the DRM on the discs. It's totally asinine because as willdao says, the encryption was cracked within 24 hours. As for 3D, the exclusives are going to kill the adoption of the standard IMHO, and frankly, I don't care. I've never been a big fan of 3D in the theaters (although Avatar looked great), but 3D won't get me going to the theaters any more than I go now, which is only a couple times a year. I enjoy movies in my own home with a front projection system that looks better and sounds better than my local theater. As for the Blu-ray player updates, Tom, you hit the nail on the head. I just had to upgrade a friends Sony BDP-300 player and it took nearly 30 minutes to do, not including the time to download and burn the disc. How many consumers will go to this trouble? David

David Vaughn's picture

The studios treat all of their consumers are crooks, which is why they have the DRM on the discs. It's totally asinine because as willdao says, the encryption was cracked within 24 hours. As for 3D, the exclusives are going to kill the adoption of the standard IMHO, and frankly, I don't care. I've never been a big fan of 3D in the theaters (although Avatar looked great), but 3D won't get me going to the theaters any more than I go now, which is only a couple times a year. I enjoy movies in my own home with a front projection system that looks better and sounds better than my local theater. As for the Blu-ray player updates, Tom, you hit the nail on the head. I just had to upgrade a friends Sony BDP-300 player and it took nearly 30 minutes to do, not including the time to download and burn the disc. How many consumers will go to this trouble? David

Sam Chin's picture

If you keep the Oppo connected to the internet, it will update automatically. There is an Asus wireless adapter that works with it if you don't have a network cable handy. BTW, how is thd BDP83SE analog audio comparison coming along? Am awaiting the verdict from your pair of golden ears.

ed's picture

I, too, anxiously await the BDO83SE analog audio comparison, esp. wrt the Cambridge Audio 840c player.

Scott's picture

Hi: Although updates seem to be more frequent, the problem of disc compatibility is not unique to blu-ray. I was a very early DVD adopter. My first Panasonic player choked on some new releases, after I had owned for about 9 months. My retailer took it in for service, but was never able to get a firmware update that solved the issue. I received a new, updated Panasonic model for free, solving the issue. FYI, Oppo service is outstanding. I had some issues with a USB based firmware update. I sent them an email, and had a disk version mailed to me and in-hand two days later.

David Vaughn's picture

Tom, One other thing...your blog coincided with a phone call from my Dad on Friday night about Avatar not playing on his BD-35. I ended up spending the next hour on the phone walking him and his wife through the process of downloading the firmware, burning it on a CD, and then updating the player. Sadly they don't have Ethernet run to their equipment rack (something I'll fix this summer). This madness has to stop! David

Seth G.'s picture

They build a better mouse trap, we build better mice. Problem is all of us honest folk who are supporting the studios in the first place by buying the content get caught in the trap and our heads ripped off. Until studios realize that everyday people are not copying their content these things - are going on elsewhere in the world by much more organized groups not individuals. Back when video tap was introduced the studios scoffed at it...now video sales to the public are something they can't live without. As far as 3D goes it can be fun but rarely does it add much to the movie and lord knows it hasn't changed my movie going habits! I spend more money going to the cinema than I care to admit though with my local cinema going to sony 4K - its a bit of a disappointment images are not nearly as good as the film they replaced and now all the small budget independent and foreign films I used to enjoy seeing have disappeared And Tom, fern Gulley Your right in pointing out they are the same film -I thoug

William Cummins's picture

Tom, I have not had a responce to the question, why no Denon products in the comparison? To that end I waiting for your findings, I am very interested in the oppo 83 as a universal player/ Blu-ray.I am useing a Denon 2910. What HDMI do you prefer?

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