Viva Blu-ray!

There is war in the world, and possibly a major economic problem, so I am going to outline the reasons I like Blu-ray with reference to my experience last Thursday night. My wife and I had some time to kill, so we went to the nearest convenient cinema to see The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. We both rather enjoyed the movie, but this post isn’t about that. It is about the pros and cons of Blu-ray.

The cons of Blu-ray are few: I have to wait longer to see a movie (it was only the other night that I finally saw The Dark Knight), and there is an increased danger of the accidentally learning of twists and surprises in a story prior to seeing the movie.

The pros of Blu-ray are many, at least compared to my experience at Cinema 1 of Hoyts Cinemas, Belconnen Mall, Canberra, ACT:

  • At home my Blu-ray movies start on time. In every case (so far) I can skip unwanted trailers and the like, so there is rarely more than a couple of minutes delay while I get the projector warmed up. At Hoyts a movie scheduled to start at 8:50pm saw us being admitted five to ten minutes late, and then having to endure several advertisements and at least four movie trailers. My guess: the movie started at least 20 minutes after the advertised time.
  • At home my Blu-ray movies end on time. The Hoyts program promised a finish of 11:51pm. We were supposed to pick someone up by midnight. I suggested to my wife that I’d be prepared to make the major (for me) sacrifice of departing as soon as the final credits began to roll in order to make it. The final credits actually began to roll after midnight, so half way through the movie I found myself sending text messages, warning of delays.
  • At home my Blu-ray movies sound wonderful. Actually, the movie sounded okay at the cinema too. But all those trailers and advertisements leading up to it didn’t. They were obviously on optical tracks printed to the film, and heavily scratched as were several of the prints, with one having a continuous scratch throughout its entire run time right down the centre of the screen. The crackles made that clear. They were turned up loud and the distortion levels were very hard on my ears.
  • At home my Blu-ray movies have the correct aspect ratio. That also was largely the case for the movie at Hoyts. But not entirely. The last advertisement before the movie was showing stretched horizontally into a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, making its contents short and squat, and even showing black bars to the top and bottom. Then the movie started up, showing the Warner Bros and Paramount logos (apparently this was a co-production). The logos for both were tall and skinny. The masking curtains were in for a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, so it seemed that the picture was not enjoying the benefits of an anamorphic lens. Fortunately, within a few seconds the curtains were opened up and the appropriate lens put into place, correcting this.
  • At home my Blu-ray movies are sharply focused. This was not the case at Hoyts.
  • At home I get decent black levels. At Hoyts I would estimate the black levels to be consistent with a contrast ratio of about 2,000:1. The many dark scenes in this movie lost a lot of detail.

That will teach me to go to the movies!

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