BD-Live problems

The other day Sony kindly sent me its new BDP-S550 Blu-ray player, due for release in Australia in November. Aside from some other virtues, this is a BD-Live player. That is, it can support the Web-enabled content becoming increasingly available on Blu-ray discs.

I quickly ran it through its paces with a number of BD-Live discs I had to hand. It worked pretty well — if very slowly — with all of these. Problem is: these were all Sony Pictures Entertainment discs. All these are structured similarly, and give similar BD-Live content: primarily downloadable trailers. So I was keen to see something else.

So I’ve been hassling Universal, trying to get ahold of ‘Heroes’, either Season, since this has BD-Live content. Season 1 would allow me to compare with the HD DVD version. I’m still hopeful this will arrive soon. But this morning Paramount sent me the new super duper two disc Blu-ray of Iron Man. I’m really looking forward to seeing this since it scores an impressive 8.1 on IMDB. But duty came first. I immediately went to check out the BD-Live content.

Problem was, when I tried to access this from the menu, the disc popped up a message saying:

‘NO NETWORK CONNECTION – Your player is not currently connected to the Internet or is not BD-Live capable. [pointless suggestions followed]’

Since the player was currently connected to the Internet and was, apparently, BD-Live capable, I assumed that there was some incompatibility with this particular implementation. I was about the send off an email to Sony, but thought I’d better perform some extra checks. First with the player: I dragged out yet another Sony disc with BD-Live stuff, fired it up and it all worked (albeit slowly) as it was supposed to. So then I loaded the problematic disc in a Playstation 3 I have on (very kind) loan from Sony Computer Entertainment. Since until very recently the PS3 has been the only BD-Live player available, I figured that all BD Live content would be tested on it.

But there was a problem. This performed in an identical manner. That is, not at all with the BD-Live content on this disc, displaying the identical message with regard to their allegedly being no network connection.

I rang up Paramount PR and reported the issue. I thought, perhaps, that this feature hadn’t been enabled for points of origin outside North America, or that it was being held back by some equally trivial issue. Paramount said that they hadn’t had any similar complaints from others. Well, I tend to test the unexpected, so I wasn’t surprised by that.

I googled around a bit, and found that this disc was causing major problems for North American users. But their problem wasn’t mine. Their problem was that the disc would sit there for tens of minutes, even hours, showing a ‘loading’ logo, without proceeding beyond it. Some persisted and eventually it turned out for them that some twelve megabytes of something or other had been downloaded. Others gave up is disgust. Some disconnected, or switched off through their PS3 menus, the Internet, and their discs loaded rapidly, whereupon they could enjoy their movies.

But after a while my problem started to be reported on the same discussion thread.

So, time for a theory. Imagine: you release a popular Blu-ray disc but you’ve made a strategic error: whenever it is loaded it immediately, without asking, goes off to examine an Internet site to see if any additional data is available. There is, and it immediately, without asking, downloads it. This seems to be about 12MB from what I’ve read on this thread.

Now, with hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people loading the disc on the first day or two of release, the site slows to a crawl. A certain blue logo seems permanently lodged on the screens on hundreds, perhaps thousands, of TV sets. Some eject the disc and start again, which just makes matters worse. A few are clever, or stumble upon the idea, and yank Internet from their PS3s, and the disc loads quickly and plays nicely. Meanwhile dozens, perhaps hundreds, of people ring your switchboard and demand to know what’s going on.

Their complaint is not that they can’t access the BD-Live feature. Their complaint is that they can’t get the damned movie to play.

What do you do?

One solution might be to take down the site. The disc must have some check routine to see whether the player is both BD-Live capable, and actually connected to the Internet. Maybe this involves some kind of pinging of the site. If you take down the site completely, then the BD-Java routines on the disc might interpret this as you not having a BD-Live capable player, or an Internet connection.

I’m going to make a wild guess and suggest that this is what has happened here.

UPDATE (Thursday, 2 October 2008, 10:26 am): Seems all my theorising was askew. Paramount advises me:

Good News – as our release date is next Thursday – 9th October – the site was not activated as yet – they did this at 5:00am last night so please try this again now and let me know how you go.

With reference to your information about the US – this has nothing to do with Australia as we have a different master to the US master so there is no connection between the two.

 So there you go. Well, it is working, and working very nicely.

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