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What is Blue Ray?

Updated on January 3, 2011

What is Blue Ray?

What is Blue Ray?  Well, first we must correctly identify the name, Blu Ray.  Right about now you're saying to yourself "but blue is spelled incorrectly" and you would be exactly right.  The industry renamed blue ray, because both blue, and ray are common words in our vocabulary, so they were incapable of being trademarks.  Preceding Ray with Blu suggests they're both unique (somehow) and our government would recognize them as a proper name.  So we are given Blu Ray, a name forever challenged by spell checking software, and rightfully so.

Well Then, What is Blu Ray?

Typically the lasers used in optical drives (cd and dvd drives) use and project a beam that is red.  When engineers were working with technology to create a disc capable of reading at 5 times the capacity, they ended up using a laser that emitted a beam that was in the violet part of the spectrum.  Somehow violet was named blue, and it is a series of rays of light, so we are left with blue ray, renamed Blu Ray.

They probably thought Viole Ray would be too subtle.

So, Why Do We Need Something New?

I feel your pain.  Until a couple of years ago, I was a dvd collecting machine.  Now with several hundred of them, I of all people would rather they not be obsolete.  Essentially there are two limiting factors.  First and foremost is industrial grade greed.  Second is storage capacity.

We will start with storage capacity.  A standard dvd can hold 4.7 gigabytes of data.  That is equivalent of about 8 cd's.  That is generally enough to show a full feature length video with a resolution of 720P.

A standard Blu Ray disc is capable of holding roughly 25 gigabytes, or the equivalent of about 42 cd's. 25 gigabytes is generally enough storage to show a full feature length video with a resolution of 1080p.  In order to do the same thing with dvd's, we would have to stand up and change the disc 3 or more times during each film.  The industry understands very well that we are lazy and don't want to do that, and that new technology means that many people will rebuy their entire collection.

I am not one of those people.

How Does Any of This Matter?

Ultimately, it does not. The differences in resolution typically do not alter your whole movie watching experience. A funny movie in a lower resolution is still going to be funny. If you would cry watching a scene in a movie, you would not cry more completely because of a higher resolution.

The differences between dvd and Blu Ray is literally all in the details. When you see a woman on dvd, you can tell that she's pretty. When you see that same woman on Blu Ray, you can see each crease in her lip, every sparkle in her eye, the pores of her skin, and often enough, flaws you otherwise would have never seen. High definition can be a disenchanting experience.

Watching nature programs filmed in High Definition, or HD, is unsurpassed. Animals and nature are excellent subjects to be viewed under the unrelenting eye of HD cameras. People are often better seen at a distance.

HD reveals things that were never meant to be seen. Often times you can see where computer graphics are introduced into an organic scene. Often times you can actors so closely, it is simply distracting. The textures in clothing, the depth to their eyes, and all the things surrounding them come to the forefront.  Minor fluctuations in their makeup become much more pronounced.

Whether or not you make the leap to high definition television is entirely up to you. If your vision is good enough to see the details, watching television and movies can be a renewed experience. Whether or not there is worth in that renewal is for you to decide.  Eventually lower definition televisions will all be replaced with a higher definition set.  Many Blu Ray players will not play on lower definition televisions.

How Does Industrial Grade Greed Change Things?

Dvd's are capable of storing a movie in 720p. True 720p by any definition is high definition. While it is not the highest, relatively compared to the 480 that we were accustomed to for decades, 720p looks pretty darn good. A common mistake is the difference between true 720p and 1080i. On a high definition television, 720p will look substantially smoother and higher quality than 1080i.

As stated earlier, I was an avid collector of dvd's. My uncle had always collected VHS tapes back when they were the only medium available. I could not get too excited about VHS, because from the day you purchased a VHS tape, it began to degrade, and was always subject to being eaten by your player. Dvd however was supposed to last decades, when treated with proper care. But something was amiss.

Businessmen were lurking in the shadows, molesting our 720p. MInd you, not early on. Early on, they wanted to sell dvd's so they were exactly what they should have been, 720p. Later in the game though, when development on the Blu Ray was picking up speed, movies began being released and released with a grainier version of themselves. It doesn't cost any more to create discs with higher quality video, so I am left to assume the concept was, release it on dvd so that there is a justifiable difference between dvd and Blu Ray. Meanwhile, they charge significantly more for Blu Ray discs and devices, when their manufacturing process is nearly identical.

As more titles became available, and the Blu Ray players were commonplace, people would rebuy the same movie for the increased video quality.

480i 480p 720p 1080i 1080p So? What's Next in Resolution?

As of now, there isn't much being discussed to replace 1080p technology, other than 3D. The Blu Ray format and capabilities should be a safe purchase for the next 5 years. I would anticipate a medium change before we increase resolution again. Some sort of memory card which requires no moving parts with a reader will likely replace the disc within the next 5 years.

Blu Ray discs can be found on sale for prices similar to that of dvd prices just a few years ago, but you have to watch for those sales. As a matter of principle, I will not be replacing any of my dvd titles with Blu Ray.


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