The Business of Buying Blu-Rays
Before the release of his film Prometheus, Ridley Scott wrote an article in the Huffington Post proclaiming that blu-ray was the ‘only way to see a film’.
Blu-ray is a twelve year old concept. It has been twelve years since the formation of the Blu-ray disc founding group (now known as the Blu-ray Disc Association); eleven years since Sony’s first demonstration of a blu-ray recorder; and eight years since Samsung unveiled their first blu-ray disc player. The format has seen off the likes of HD DVD to secure its place as the ultimate home-viewing experience (Jay Baruchel would tell you that the battle came down to gamers and porn).
But what about Netflix? No doubt, the online service has seen a meteoric rise over the past few years, with its cheap monthly subscription plan and well-received exclusives such as House of Cards and Orange is the New Black. It’s popularity cannot be taken away and, credit where credit is due, the media-streaming giant caters to a demographic that wants an easy, efficient and, most importantly, portable viewing experience. Netflix can be viewed from your computer, games console, tablet, iPhone and the traditional television.
That being said, Scott cannot see why there are so many who believe physical media is a dying breed, and there are legions of dedicated blu-ray collectors out there who would take his side. After all, it would take years, if not decades, to match the quality the blu-ray format provides without the need to insert a disc into a disc-tray.
This is not an article debating the benefits and downfalls of Netflix and the physical media. As a cinephile I am a fan of both services. I can swim in the blue of the blu-ray collection lining the walls of my home, while Netflix is my ever-reliable, go-to guy when the craving for Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead becomes too much.
No, this is the guide for any aspiring collectors who have turned up late to the party and finally decided to jump on the 1080p bandwagon.
First things first – my name is so and so and I’m a blu-ray addict. Admission is the first step to recovery.
Many people are often deterred by the myth that blu-ray DVDs are overly expensive. While that may have been true during the dawn of the era, it certainly isn’t the case now.
The Bargain Bin
When the Samsung BD-P1000 first shipped in 2006, it cost a hefty $999.99 (enough to leave a sizeable hole in the average man’s bank account) and double the price of the Toshiba HD-A1 HD DVD player. However with eighty-four percent of films released by studios that year confirming their allegiance to blu-ray, it is easy to see the rapid decline in prices when the other BDA companies began to ship their own players. The blu-ray sales rocketed past their Toshiba counterpart which would see itself become the inevitable loser in the physical media war.
The films themselves followed a similar pattern. Hot on the heels of the first Samsung model were classics such as 50 First Dates, Hitch and A Knight’s Tale; costing $30 a unit. However, the launch day titles (much like the next-gen video game consoles) were uninspiring to say the least. Only ten were available at the time, though by the turn of the year, it had swelled to something closer to two hundred.
You could probably purchase those three films for about $4 if you looked in the right place. That is key here: the longer a movie has been on blu-ray, the less you will be able to buy it for. Although the price of new-releases has fallen significantly as well (you can pick up Pacific Rim for as little as $13), your best bet when starting your collection is to keep an eye on the bargain bins at your local supermarket or online retailer.
When I bought my first player back in 2011, there was a list of films I had to have on my shelf. District 9, 300 and Pan’s Labyrinth lingered at the top and I was sure I’d have to spend the best part of a measly weekly income to accommodate them. A short trip to the store later and I had all three for less than $12. With more and more blu-rays taking up shelf-space as time goes on, those must-have titles will dwindle down to a price that proves a sound investment when they ignite the pixels on your home cinema system.
If you don’t have to have it – don’t have it
It cannot be stressed enough. The price of new releases may have reduced since 2006 but spending $20-$25 on the latest blu-ray movie with the shiny slip cover or the beautiful cold touch of the limited edition steelbook packaging can still rob the avid collector blind
Can you really be a collector without any money to collect with?
The simple answer is no.
When you’re next in the local Best Buy or Walmart and you’re holding whatever Michael Bay is offering today, just think to yourself – do I really need to have this on my shelf? Or would I prefer to pick up three movies I love for the price of one that was … well, just okay? The odds are that film will see a massive drop in price before you know it, lending credence to the adage ‘slow and steady wins the race’.
So, put down the latest gross-out comedy, you don’t need to see those nipples and toilet jokes in high-definition just yet, do you? For every movie you somewhat enjoyed, there are ten better movies that you really admired just waiting to take up a cosy spot on your movie pile, for a fraction the price.
Or perhaps, you bought a film on release day, and you didn’t enjoy it as much as the first time round. You begin to look at it and wonder what The Smurfs is doing next to The Godfather trilogy (if this is the case, a serious organization of your movie collection is in order). You can take advantage of trade-in systems that reward you with cash or store-credit – which both help in the hunt for those elusive quality deals.
Read the Reviews
Another question you must ask yourself is this – will this film be worth the blu-ray upgrade? Will the viewing experience be bettered by the upgrade to 1080p and lossless audio? To be honest, I’m a sucker for picture quality and, as a personal rule, will no longer buy anything other than blu-ray. But there are some titles out there that become a nightmare to sit through once they’ve undergone the ‘restoration’ process.
The original transfer of Full Metal Jacket was particularly bad, awash with an awful artificial grain. The same applies to the first Total Recall transfer which made Arnie look as plastic as the Barbie aisle in a toy store. Even Gladiator lost arrows somewhere along the production line.
Thankfully these titles have gone under the knife for a second time and come out smelling (and looking) like roses, but it is imperative to check the internet or your monthly film magazine to get an idea about picture and audio quality. While most films look fantastic on blu-ray, there are still some out there (American Psycho) that look, pure and simply, like dog shit.
However, every collection needs that one blu-ray to simply …
Show Off its Capabilities
Everybody has that one film that converted them to the blu-ray way of thinking and for any self-respecting collector passionate about their hobby, it is an unwritten law that you must have those ultra-impressive transfers shining on your shelf.
It is widely believed that James Cameron’s Avatar is the pinnacle of the high-definition movie experience and it is hard to argue against the fact. The film looks mesmerizing, just as it did on the big-screen, and has often been the one I force upon visitors to justify my obsession. However, the film’s plot and script aren’t as enthralling as its visual effects, hampering the finished product .
For true lovers of cinema, the Taxi Driver blu-ray is the one to show your friends, capturing every dot of film grain and grime the original had. Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey is the perfect example of painstaking restoration at its most impressive. The sci-fi classic looks as though it was filmed ten years ago, let alone forty. Anything David Fincher has made, including Alien 3 (in fact, the entire Alien Anthology looks astounding in 1080p), is worth every penny spent. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Seven, in particular, make the most of the technology, and bear a washed-out, dirty patina, soaked in gloriously drab greys and blacks. His films have always made you feel grimy, but the accentuated colour palette of the blu-ray editions ensures that you’ll need a bath afterwards.
With technology expanding further every day and 3D and 4K televisions slowly integrating themselves into our home cinema systems, the capabilities of high-definition physical media can only climb to higher and higher heights. Blu-ray offers the best film experience outside of the movie theatre for film fans and usually revives the old classics in better shape than ever. Whether you’re dipping your toes in for the first time or building a mammoth collection, there has been no better time to invest. For all cinephiles, it needs reiterating, blu-ray is the ONLY way to see a film.
What do you think? Leave a comment.