Today I found a package behind the screen door of my house (a remarkable number of couriers seem unable to read the ‘Stephen Dawson, Writer, Office at Rear’ sign on the house). Within was a ‘Testmold’ Blu-ray from Sony Pictures of Men in Black. So what? This is, as SPE says, ‘the first BD-Live enabled Blu-ray title outside the US Market’.
But that is a problem. BD-Live means the disc has what I am going to persist in calling ‘Web-enabled features’, even though that is a term I lifted from a specific HD DVD. To give an idea of just some the things that may become available on Blu-ray, here is what I wrote about that HD DVD (complete with screen shots).
As for Men in Black, apparently the BD Live feature is the ‘BD Live Interactive Trivia Game’ wherein ‘Fans will be able to play each other over a network as they answer trivia questions’. While I can’t say this sounds especially exciting, I do have great faith that Blu-ray disc producers will eventually come up with some fascinating stuff using this technology.
All this leads to a problem. How do I test discs? Until recently I was using the Panasonic DMP-BD30 Blu-ray player, followed by the DMR-BW500 Blu-ray recorder. Both are excellent units, but neither does BD Live (although both remain, as I write, the only non-games BonusView Blu-ray players on the Australian market). In any case, Panasonic weren’t interested in a long-term loan and wanted both units back.
There is, as I write, only one Blu-ray player on the Australian market that I presently feel fully comfortable recommending, and that is the Sony Playstation 3. It does 1080p24 output via HDMI, it handles all audio standards including DTS-HD Master Audio since the 2.30 firmware, and it is fully BD-Live compliant!
Three things would make it better for my purposes:
- A proper disc tray – I still cringe a little on devices that draw discs inside. It’s the old man in me, I suppose, who was brought up on the surface vulnerability of vinyl,
- A box shape so that it fits in with everything else, and
- The ability to deliver the new audio standards as bitstreams as an alternative to internally decoding them.
Of those, only the last one is important in my view, and that’s only because I need to test the decoding capabilities of home theatre receivers. There are, in fact, good reasons why internal decoding in the player is preferable to that, to do with the dual audio streams required for both BonusView and BD-Live.
Fortunately for me, and for my Blu-ray disc reviews in Sound and Image magazine, Sony Computer Entertainment will be lending me a PS3 for a while. This constitutes my usual disclosure. But just so you know, it was I that approached them, after having considered all the options available for review equipment. As it is, I also have here the 30 Days of Night Blu-ray, which has a BonusView special feature, but which, since it arrived after the Panasonic players departed, I cannot fully report on until I receive the PS3.