Weekend Open Forum: Blu-ray versus Digital Distribution, is it even a contest?

By on November 21, 2008, 5:06 PM
Even with digital distribution still on its early stages, for many it already poses a serious threat to other traditional distribution mediums. Be it music, videos, software or even books, among the young there's likely as much people preferring digital over hard copies.

But with such a broad topic, let's just touch on the video part of the equation. A great deal of TV shows and movies are already being (legally) distributed over the Internet and it's proven successful on certain markets, yet still lacking the widespread appeal that could put companies to make billions on monthly sales. There's also the video on demand (VOD) option which unlike Internet-based services only offers a limited catalog and relies on local cable services. VOD also resembles better a rental business model, while true digital distribution services are meant to replace retail sales with content that can be downloaded multiple times as needed by its virtual owner or licensee. The most unpleasant side of digital distribution can be resumed in three letters, however: DRM.


At the other side of the fence is Blu-ray (and old fashioned DVDs as well). In short, you get your hard copy, virtually no restrictions to do away as you wish over time, and in the case of Blu-ray, high resolution playback in all its glory. It probably lacks the 'push a button' comfort of digital but still stands as the traditional trusted model for most.

So, what's your pick for best medium? Do you believe digital is definitely bound to replace hard copies in the long run? What's been your experience so far with current on demand and Internet downloading services? Has your experience with digital distribution of software/games and music opened the door for you to download movies as well?

Discuss.




User Comments: 18

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gbe300 said:
I would like to see more companies embrace Digital Distribution. I would hope that as we move forward the issues for needing DRM will disappear. Right now the main reason for DRM is Artists and Studios wanting their cut of the money from ppl enjoying the product. What I hope for is a day when our favorite artists do not have a "label" that they are slaves to and can offer their music as a DD at a fair price. In this way if ppl like them and want more they help support the artist by buying their goods. This is a bit different for movies and games but I think a similar situation could exist. In the game market we have the monthly fees to support development and ongoing releases. This could work very well as we have see over the past few years as games have adopted to this model with open arms (*cough* WOW*...). For movies this would be a lot harder, but I am sure they could find a way to thrive with DD. Costs will become reasonable again (in theory) as now they would not be paying for material charges like discs, shipping and reseller costs etc. There will need to be a balancing point on both the consumer side and the commercial side for equal respect both ways. Respect of the goods to purchase for your own use and respect for not over charging or DRM'ing your clients to death. But I think the hardest concept that will need to be shifted for this new model to work is that of the gross profits. When I have to pay an increased sum for anything so that a fat suit can take 90% of it for his own pocket I have an issue with that. So I think the business model of investing in films and the profit to be made off it needs to shift from people (actors included) making millions of dollars for their time. (Think of the margin that is needed in sales to cover the costs of actors getting paid millions upon millions of dollars... so much of a difference could be made if they returned to "normal" salaries... For me I would rather see a good story with unknowns then a bad story with all the high priced actors, but that's just me.)Just my two cents. But I definitely think if embraced Digital Distribution can not only make companies much more money, but could open the doors to whole new client bases for them to sell to. [Edited by gbe300 on 2008-11-21 09:17:18]
windmill007 said:
I like blu-ray for the ultimate quality for sure. To distribute that over broadband would mean you would need like 25GB or more data. Now there is compressed HD....you can get 720p which takes up around 4GB and I could see them being able to stream that size of a file. I like Netflix to get my blu-ray fix...but for sure in the future you will download your HD. I just hope they stay away from DRM. They got to realize most people hate DRM and would rather pirate then put up with the restrictions it places on the legit users. Sure even with out DRM you will have piracy but if you make it easy enough for people to do what they want and cheap enough people will pay. I love streaming with my PS3..I love the convenience of being able to play a movie when I want without messing with discs. But I do think they need to adjust there pricing. $4.00 for a drm one-time showing movie isn't going to cut it. Now give me the movie for $9.99 with unlimited views and maybe we will talk or just make it $20 a month for whatever movie you want to view unlimited times... Sound fair? It does to me.
JDoors said:
I bet the market penetration of Blu-ray, weak as it is, is still better than the market penetration of people with high enough bandwidth and PC horsepower to display HD content. Even if it's not, a $200 Blu-ray player and a high-def TV is all you need, while digital distribution is, and will remain for the time being, better left to Uber-geeks. Uber-geeks will disagree, of course. I've been 'round the block time and again with upgrade after upgrade and it's always the same: People with the hottest stuff tend to believe everyone else has or will, very soon, have the same capability. Sorry guys, but the bandwidth just isn't there yet. Blu-ray players will rule for a while yet (and that's not addressing the issue of owning a hard copy, which requires either humungous storage, which most people don't yet have, or even MORE hardware, skill and ongoing costs).
dgower2 said:
Question: If you download the HD movie, presumably on your computer, how do you watch it on your new 47" 1080p TV?
captain828 said:
> What's your pick for best medium? Bluray> Do you believe digital is definitely bound to replace hard copies in the long run? Most certainly, but not for at least 3 years; why? you need a huge bandwidth for a 50GB bluray digital copy downloaded by thousands of individuals and this is something most ISP's cannot cope with.> What's been your experience so far with current on demand and Internet downloading services? Never used them for movies so I can't tell.> Has your experience with digital distribution of software/games and music opened the door for you to download movies as well? I was thinking about that, but still not going to start downloading movies. What the movie industry really needs is something like steam; you download the movie, but it is not tied to a certain PC - it's tied to an account in the same manner as Games on steam.@dgower2: HD TV tuner anyone?
sngx1275 said:
[b]Originally posted by dgower2:[/b][quote]Question: If you download the HD movie, presumably on your computer, how do you watch it on your new 47" 1080p TV? [/quote]I do it with a DVI to HDMI cable to the TV, and an optical cable from my sound output to the optical in on my receiver. That means the TV doesn't get sound, but who wants to hear sound from the TV's speakers when you can run a DTS 5.1 to a real sound system?But back to the discussion at hand. I watch a fair amount of 'on demand' content from Netflix, I really like that and its ease of use. So it is a monthly fee, get whatever you want (well whatever they offer) and in whatever quantities you want online.I have also purchased a VOD over my cable box (about once a year) and had no problems with that, except that I always feel a bit ripped off when I see a $3.99 charge on my cable bill the next month. This is primarily why I won't "rent" movies from iTunes, it just seems like too much money.Bluray (contrary to Julio's statement?) is full of restrictions too. Sure you own a physical copy of the disk, but you can't legally watch it on anything that isn't specifically made to play bluray movies. I don't even think you can watch it if you have a TV that doesn't support HDCP. You are completely restricted with what you can do, just like digital copies with DRM, the only difference is you own a physical disk, casing, and maybe some insert booklet if you are lucky.You can also download bluray rips (illegally) that are compressed, but still incredible quantity. There are release groups that pride themselves on making the very best quality possible at relatively small file sizes. You can get them in 720p form or 1080i or 1080p.The latest compression codecs and online are where its at, and I think that the piracy route is always going to be leading for quality and small file size. I think the problem is, DRM is complicated so companies don't want to switch from what they are using until they are forced to (someone cracks the DRM). So we are left with something that is behind the latest codecs, which means larger file size, and is pretty restricted.Digital downloads have the possibility to be identical to bluray quality (just stream the source) but you need insane bandwidth. They can be extremely close to source quality, but that would require ever changing codecs (this doesn't happen daily or anything, but certainly more often than every 10+ years like the DVD to HDDVD/Bluray) and companies to be very active with more DRM. But the real problem is bandwidth, very few people in the US have the capability to stream a movie in HD with any expectation of near bluray quality. Maybe in other, smaller countries where it is easier to get broadband to everyone at really high speeds it could be. But the US is a huge market that will/is playing a big role in where this goes.Sorry this wasn't better put, was just tossing out a bunch of thoughts.
mctommy said:
With the current cap going with Comcast, it will put a lot of brakes on d/l HD programming instead of just buying the bluray or good old movies.If more isps are gearing toward bandwith cap, HD movies can say bye bye.
adhmuz said:
At least in the US you get fairly high speed connections for a reasonable price. Too get a 1MB/s download in Canada it cost at least 50$ a month and its capped too. My ISP caps at 100GB dl/up a month which could translate to 4 movies. Already with steam every reformat requires nearly 40GB just to download all my games, it is a vary convenient service I must say not having to fumble with CDs but with bandwidth caps the idea of HD movies on demand is just not a good idea. Final thought, Blu-ray FTW in the HD market, as for SD it is a plausible solution.
sngx1275 said:
Yes, download caps imposed by ISPs are directly in opposition to any digital answer to entertainment.I want to go back to the point I made earlier about illegal downloads being nearly as good as a pure source but at a fraction of the bandwidth. Here is a capture from the bluray of TitanicL [url]http://hdimage.org/images/tgbj4xvl0ft0j0dc7ghr_source2.
ng[/url]Here is that same frame, but from a good encode group: [url]http://hdimage.org/images/58cq8r3iun18z9lpe535_encode2.
ng[/url]Load both of them up in tabs, then switch back and forth, if you can tell a difference I will be surprised.
Julio said:
[quote]Bluray (contrary to Julio's statement?) is full of restrictions too. Sure you own a physical copy of the disk, but you can't legally watch it on anything that isn't specifically made to play bluray movies.[/quote]I didn't put this too clearly but I was referring to restrictions as a direct comparison between digital and blu-ray, where in the former you always have the potential issue about the movie just being "gone" for one reason or another (DRM server reliance, anyone?).But absolutely, you are correct that Blu-ray presents a few annoying quirks to the consumer that are absent from standard DVDs besides the non-sense region codes (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blu-ray_Disc#Digital_rights_ma
agement).As for that last HD rip mention and the screenshots, the images look almost the same, both very crisp and impressive. Though a majority of the time the quality drop becomes more evident when in motion and in dark scenes.
captain828 said:
@sngx1275: just curios... what group is that? is it PerfectionHD by any chance? ;)@Julio: "Though a majority of the time the quality drop becomes more evident when in motion and in dark scenes."not true at all... even grain is kept to its pristine nature included on a blurayall you need are good encoding skills... and a powerful multi-core CPU (or encoding farm)you should download a 1080p sample from a respected group to try and see if there are any notable differences
Julio said:
I didn't say you couldn't encode to make it look perfect, but rather that badly encoded movies usually become noticeable on fast motion and dark scenes.
captain828 said:
yeah, I know how crappy a bad encode can lookbut seriously now, Steam with movies would be killer!
DragonMaster said:
Considering we're talking about the same video and sound quality, I still believe in BluRay with the average user's Internet connection and computer processing speed is at right now :The majority of the Internet connections there are on this planet are slow. As long as you can't download something with a BluRay-equivalent quality in less than a couple of days, and without capping your connection, BluRay wins, as the only realistic option when downloading online is standard definition. Maybe some people don't matter that much about this, but for movie renting, the physical format is WAY better than a bandwidth-wasting download with a DRM license lasting a few days only.As for the processing speed, computers built 2-3 years ago can't playback H.264 content without struggling. They need a GPU upgrade. HDD space is a problem too. A Blu-Ray disc is 50GB. That means that only a little more than 20 titles would fit on a 1TB drive. People also hold a lot of pictures and music on their computers these days, so someone that buys a lot of movies would have to get multiple 1.5TB drives, without talking about the noise.[quote]At least in the US you get fairly high speed connections for a reasonable price. Too get a 1MB/s download in Canada it cost at least 50$ a month and its capped too. My ISP caps at 100GB dl/up a month which could translate to 4 movies.[/quote] In fact, in a few Internet speed studies, Canada was actually better than USA. Here I can get a 5mbps/800kbps 100GB/100GB connection for $30 CAD a month, which would be impossible to find in USA. My ISP's 100GB cap isn't blocking me or charging me anything, they would transfer me to another connection with other large bandwidth users, to prevent an overall slowdown for the "normal" bandwidth users.
windmill007 said:
[b]Originally posted by dgower2:[/b][quote]Question: If you download the HD movie, presumably on your computer, how do you watch it on your new 47" 1080p TV? [/quote]If your computer can't handle playback or for more convenience you could always get a PS3 and stream the HD movies via Tversity. The PS3 is an amazing machine....and I don't even use it for games really.
sngx1275 said:
[b]Originally posted by captain828:[/b][quote]@sngx1275: just curios... what group is that? is it PerfectionHD by any chance? ;)[/quote]It is. I rarely get any 1080p stuff cause my Mac Mini connected to my TV can't play it back reliably so I mostly get 720p encodes. I don't see PerfectionHD doing any 720, I stick to Esir and CtrlHD for 720p stuff, but I know at least Esir does do some 1080s.
captain828 said:
ahh, well I've found you on HDBits... happy leeching ;)
adhmuz said:
[b]Originally posted by DragonMaster:[/b][quote]In fact, in a few Internet speed studies, Canada was actually better than USA. Here I can get a 5mbps/800kbps 100GB/100GB connection for $30 CAD a month, which would be impossible to find in USA. My ISP's 100GB cap isn't blocking me or charging me anything, they would transfer me to another connection with other large bandwidth users, to prevent an overall slowdown for the "normal" bandwidth users.[/quote]What ISP is that and still 5mbps is only about 600KB/s half of what I'm currently getting
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