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Sony Pictures Schedules First BD-Live Blu-ray Releases for April, Sony to Update PS3 to Support BD-Live

Posted on Thursday, March 20th, 2008 12:21 PM and updated on Thursday, March 20th, 2008 3:30 PM

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story on Blu-raySony Pictures has announced that they will be releasing two movies on the Blu-ray high definition disc format in April that will contain BD-Live functionality.

On April 8th, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment will release The 6th Day and Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, with both sporting "exclusive downloadable content" that will not be available on the disc. The feature that enables these downloads is referred to as BD-Live, which has also been known by the moniker Profile 2.0.

BD-Live is not available on any Blu-ray player currently available for sale, and Sony is rectifying that by upgrading its Playstation 3 game console with new firmware by the end of March that will enable BD-Live functionality.

According to the Sony Press Release concerning the BD-Live update to the PS3:

BD Profile 2.0 requires an Internet connection and at least 1GB of local storage. The following features have all been demonstrated as possibilities with BD-Live and will vary by movie title.

  • A variety of downloadable content can be offered, including bonus scenes, shorts, trailers, subtitles, ringtones that can be sent to mobile phones, images, and more.
  • Interactive movie-based games can pit players who are sitting in the same room, or are across the world and online, against each other.

Online connectivity was a feature that was available on the HD DVD format from day one (two years ago), and it's nice to see that ability come to the Blu-ray format. With the addition of Bonus View features this past Winter (aka Profile 1.1), it's good to finally see parity between the formats (the PS3 was updated in December 2007, just ahead of the January releases that used the Bonus View feature).

Sony PlayStation 3

Does Your Blu-ray Player Do BD-Live? 

That leaves the players. Unless you have a PS3 as your Blu-ray player, you're most likely out of luck when it comes to accessing the BD-Live features on these discs and those that are coming in the future (like Disney's Sleeping Beauty in October). This is why I've been saying that the only Blu-ray player worth buying is the PS3, even though it has its own set of compromises which keep it from being the holy grail of Blu-ray devices.

I expect the BD-Live content on these first two discs to be less than thrilling. As is the case with most new features on new formats, it's going to take some time for the movie studios to leverage the features and make really compelling content using them.

I just watched the HD DVD of The Bourne Ultimatum the other day, and it has the ability to download new content via an Internet connection. As far as I can recall, there is no new content from the day the disc was released, and what is there is an online poll, a featurette about filming the movie in New York City, and a couple of trailers. No mention of the fact that the movie won three Academy Awards. No updated trailers for similar movies coming from Universal Pictures (the studio responsible for the movie). That may have to do with the virtual shut-down of the HD DVD format that's happened in the past two and a half months, but I suspect that the studio wouldn't have done anything regardless.

Time will tell if the studios find something that catches on with audiences. But if you're going to spend $400+ on a Blu-ray player, don't you want it to have the latest and greatest features? I sure do!

Rumors are circulating that the Panasonic DMP-BD50 will be released around the beginning of April, which is BD-Live and Bonus View capable. Sony will have two players out starting in summer that will be capable of both (perhaps with a firmware upgrade in the case of BD-Live). If the PS3 isn't your style, then I'd suggest holding off on that Blu-ray player purchase until some of these new players hit the market.

Other Firmware Upgrades 

Also included in the Playstation 3 firmware update (v2.20):

  • "Resume play" will enable PS3 system to start playing a Blu-ray disc and DVD at the point it was stopped, even if the disc had been removed.(*1)
  • "Audio Output Device" will be a new Remote Play setting, enabling PSP to serve as a remote control for music played through PS3.
  • PS3 system's Internet browser will be enhanced: Video files directly linked from a Web page will be able to be streamed, and the browser's view speed will be improved.
  • DivX and WMV format videos that are larger than 2GB will be playable.
  • "Mosquito Noise Reduction" will be added as an AV setting in the control panel of the DVD/BD player for improved movie playback.(*2)

*1 BD-J format disc is not supported.
*2 BD discs recorded with BDMV format are not supported.

While some may get excited at first glance of the "resume play" feature, the footnote that accompanies it indicates that it will not work with discs in the BD-J format, which is just about every commercial movie released on Blu-ray (if not every single one).

One of the biggest lacking features in the Blu-ray titles I've seen so far has been the omission of a bookmark feature so that you can resume a movie where you stopped watching it. HD DVD's had it, and I understand that some Blu-rays do as well, but I haven't seen one yet that has had it.

Sources: Sony Press Release, Sony's Playstation Blog, EngadgetHD

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