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When You Buy a Blu-ray Player, Demand BD-Live

Posted on Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008 12:35 PM

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I've said in this space before that if you are going to spend money on a Blu-ray player, you should only get one that is capable of delivering two features of the format that weren't available right away: Bonus View and BD-Live.

Bonus View (formerly called Profile 1.1) allows movie studios to include picture-in-picture content while the movie is playing. A popular use of this is for director/actor commentary, but it can also be used to provide different camera angles, real-time storyboard comparisons, and green-screen special effects comparisons. The possibilities, though, have just begun to be explored. Fortunately, the majority of players currently for sale now have Bonus View functionality built-in, but you'll want to make sure, just in case.

BD-Live (formerly called Profile 2.0) is less common in players in stores. It uses a network connection to the Internet to provide downloads of additional content, live chats with others watching the movie, surveys, and a bunch of things the studios haven't even thought of yet.

These two features were built-in to the now-defunct HD DVD format from the beginning, and every HD DVD player ever made was able to be updated to enable the functionality when it was ready. Not so with Blu-ray players, and that issue has been a major sticking point with me when I talk with people about the value proposition of Blu-ray over DVD. Not everyone can immediately recognize the benefits of 6x more resolution and lossless sound, but everyone can see how cool it is to watch a special effects sequence and see the actors performing the stunt against a green screen, and to watch a video by the movie's producer showing off his favorite scenes in the movie.

The BD-Live content released so far hasn't been very compelling, but Disney is hoping to raise the bar when it releases Sleeping Beauty with BD-Live functionality next month. In fact, Disney is leading the charge for more BD-Live content on its discs.

In a recent New York Times article, the president ofDisney's home entertainment unit, Bob Chapek, is quoted as saying:

“BD Live is not a niche product,” Mr. Chapek said. “We see mass adoption of the technology.”

The company announced plans to release Pinocchio, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Fantasia, Fantasia 2000, Beauty and the Beast in the next two years. The article goes on to mention such features as chatting with friends online during the movie (the comments appear on screen after you type them into a computer or cell phone), participating in trivia contests, and sending movie mail, where you can insert yourself into a scene from the movie and send it to friends.

Whether or not these features, or these movies for that matter, appeal to you, it's the potential of the features that should be compelling. Those of you worried about the black helicopters circling overhead (in silent-invisible mode, of course) won't like the idea of having your movie player connected to the Internet, but you can always plug that cable in when your fellow conspiracy theorists aren't looking and enjoy participating in an online chat with Oliver Stone about one of his movies, or downloading an isolated score for your favorite movie.

Bonus View and BD-Live are not optional features, and never should have been left out of the Blu-ray format to begin with. Don't saddle yourself with a player that can't deliver both features. Sony and Samsung are promising updates to their current players that will enable BD-Live (most likely in time for Sleeping Beauty), but some other players on the market are saying "no" to BD-Live, and you should likewise say "no" to them.

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