Most technology and movie enthusiasts have heard about High Definition Blu-ray, a technology that delivers higher storage capacity on an optical disk and delivers an enhanced viewing experience – one that is, in fact, considered even better than a movie theatre. However, to maximise your investment, the technology and how it works in conjunctions with High Definition (HD) TVs needs be understood.
Says Nelmari Claassens, Sony Pictures Marketing Manager at SterKinekor Home Entertainment: "Developed by a consortium driven by Sony, Blu-ray is a technology that stores a lot more data on a disk, 25 Gigabytes (GB) on a single layer disk and 50GB on a double layer disk. In addition to this benefit, Blu-ray technology is developed as a high definition format, delivering a better viewing experience with sharper and clearer images.
"However, there is much more. Sony is investing huge R&D in this technology and has delivered enhancements with each new version or generation released. For example, the latest version of the player includes Picture-in-Picture (PiP). This feature includes a separate picture screen that can deliver running commentary from crew or the producers on that particular scene.
"In addition, Blu-Wizard 2.0 takes 'customisation' one step further and allows users to create their own playlist from the special features disk, watch these special features and return to the point they 'left off' to continue watching the rest of the movie. Users can experience this with the release of Resident Evil: Extinction in April."
Blu-ray works best in conjunction with technology such as HD TV and 7.1 surround sound. We are all familiar with the current analogue TV but this will eventually be phased out with the uptake of HD TV. HD TV requires an HD broadcast to deliver the best quality viewing and, by 2010, we should see a significant number of stations streaming HD footage.
High definition television (HDTV) delivers a much higher resolution (more dots or pixels per inch that provide a sharper, clearer picture) than traditional analogue TV. In addition, HDTV offers more scan lines. The picture we see on a traditional TV screen is created by a series of 'lines' that 'paint' the picture. SDTV delivers a 480 line signal but HDTV delivers 720 or 1080 lines, enhancing the image and delivering almost 3D quality.
Another factor is the scanning type. There are two — interlaced (i) or progressive (p). These describe the different ways TV can paint the picture on the screen. Interlaced is when every other line is 'painted' and then goes back and fills in the lines that were missed. Progressive scanned is where the signal 'paints' the entire picture from top to bottom in one pass. The progressively scanned image is slightly enhanced with a smoother, sharper view.
HDTV offers two choices with scanning: either 720p lines painted all at once or 1080i lines painted in two passes.
To further enhance the viewing experience, we need an enhanced audio experience. This is done with 7.1 surround sound – the latest version in surround sound technology. It features seven channels of sound that are positioned in various areas, including one for low-frequency effect (such as the rustling of leaves in the background). The speakers are positioned in left, right, centre, left surround, right surround and rear centre positions, providing a '3D' audio experience.
Claassens concludes: "The Blu-ray format is here to stay and the increase in Blu-ray movie titles is further encouraging people to purchase this technology. For example, Sony Pictures has an exciting line up of new titles over the next few months, including 'Gattaca', 'Almost Famous' and 'Are we done yet?'. In March and April we will see the release of 'Daddy Day Camp', 'Resident Evil: Extinction' and 'Superbad'."