Weirder Blu-ray

I didn’t actually watch Die Hard 4.0 (known to Americans as Live Free or Die Hard) the other day when I received it. But on Friday I spoke to Pioneer about this Blu-ray disc’s behaviour in its BDP-LX70A player. I wanted to know whether any new firmware was available to address this issue (ie. the disc starts up with a bright red screen with yellow text saying ‘This player is not equipped with the latest firmware to give the optimal video and audio presentation’).

Pioneer weren’t aware of any. I plugged the player into my network and ran the firmware update procedure, but the player reported that the firmware was up to date.

Anyway, while I had Pioneer on the phone I fired up the player and tried to play the disc so I could explain more fully what was happening. A message was presented by the player: ‘This operation is prohibited by this disc’. That is, the disc apparently would not allow itself to play. That was weird. After fiddling with switching the player on and off a few times, I managed to the get the disc playing again.

Last night it’s Australian election night. I watched the coverage for a couple of hours and once it was clear what was going to happen, I decided to watch the movie. Same problem with the disc (playback prohibited). The only way I could get it to work was to play another Blu-ray disc for a few minutes. Eject that, switch the player off and then switch it back on again. I pressed on through the red ‘your player is inadequate’ screen and started enjoying the movie. If the video or audio were less than optimal, it wasn’t obvious to me. After an hour or so, I thought I’d better check on the election, so I paused the player and went back to TV input. The concession and victory speeches were about to start, so I watched them. During that, the Pioneer powered itself down (it has a default power down if left on pause for a while, but you can switch it off, which I hadn’t).

So I try to start up the DH4 again, and get the ‘prohibited’ message. I switch it off and on, I switch discs and then go back to DH4. All to no avail.

Okay, I’d been meaning to try the disc on the Panasonic DMP-BD10A Blu-ray player, so I plugged that unit back in and whacked in the disc. After a few moments, the disc starts playing. No ‘play is prohibited’ messages. No red firmware warning screens. It just played.

I’ve been a little down on the Panasonic Blu-ray compared to the Pioneer for one main reason: the former lacks 1080p24 output. Panasonic doesn’t seem to realise the importance of this. Having said that, I was able to run the Panasonic’s output through the DVDO iScan VP50Plus to convert its 1080p60 to 1080p24. Also, the Panasonic won’t output bitstream Dolby TrueHD and so forth (still, it internally decodes them to PCM and that sounds pretty good), and is restricted in its playback options (eg. no slow reverse with Blu-ray).

But on the plus side, the Panasonic is so very, very much faster than the Pioneer, it’s a real pleasure to use.

Incidentally, I couldn’t see any difference in the disc as played back by the Panasonic compared to the Pioneer (after 1080p24 conversion), and there appeared to be no differences in special extras, or in the very basic popup menu layout.

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