Thursday, November 24, 2011

Taking the Blu-Ray Plunge

If you haven't noticed, I like films.  Give me a DVD/Blu-Ray/Digital Copy with loads of features about the film, and here's my $40-50 thank you very much!  But for those of you who are stuck with tons of DVD's lying around and everyone with a HDTV in their homes, it's hard to watch those standard releases and not see the inherent issues when comparing them to their Blu-Ray brothers and sisters.  You'll notice graniness, fuzziness, and hear less-than-clear audio where you never saw them before.  I noticed this with X-Men: First Class and Thor.  Blu-rays are the real thing.
But, are they really worth re-investing your money to replace their DVD counterparts?  To decide this, consider the following:
  • Does the value of the disc and experience you will get from seeing it in high-def equal the price?  If you have an HDTV, you are probably someone who appreciates the high-def experience, otherwise you wouldn't have spent $1200 or more on that 42", or (in my case), a 58" monstrocity.  However, this doesn't mean you should fork out tons of cash for the heightened experience.  Walmart and Amazon offer plenty of titles at extremely fair prices ($8 for Hero, Hellboy, Memento, etc), but be careful you're not getting a lower-quality product for that grerat price.  Even though the new Lord of the Rings Extended Edition is only $39.99 (today only at Fry's), there are so many issues with the transfer of that series (new colors and a filter applied to the entire transfer) that the $10 cheaper price tag might not be worth it. 
  • Does the film have all the special features included in your original DVD?  If you own more than 30 titles, you know that they came with a varying amount of documentaries, deleted scenes, etc.  Some older titles (1999-2005) came with just the film.  Today, there are many versions of your film available.  Do you research before committing to a buy - does the new version contain every feature and more that appears on your original DVD?  Check places like Amazon and for confirmation.
  • Determine if this version is a good transfer.  In the case of The Godfather Restoration set, Coppola had to complete a transfer using several diffent master prints due to the age of the film.  In the case of Star Wars IV-VI, Lucas' decision to alter the master prints has left them permanently damaged, the result of which is a 1080p release that really isn't a 1080p release.  Forking out $40-$90 for these is gonna be tough, regardless of whether it's got 15 discs and a shiny ring inside.  On the other end, when I purchased the extended cut of Stargate for a mere $5 at Target, the flaws in that transfer did not matter as the overall release was pretty good.  Again, research is the order of the day.
  • Beware of Hollywood 'Double-Dipping.'  This is a tactic designed to make you buy multiple copies of the same release over a period of time.  Iron Man 2 saw more releases of this type than should be allowed: 'limited release' steelbook, steelbook molded in the shape of IM's helmet, standard release, DVD release, blah blah blah.  Clerks celebrated their 15th annivesary by simply slapping the 10-year content from 'X' and coverting the film to Blu-Ray.  For $8, not a bad purchase; for $8.01, no...
I already have three of you: why do you task me so??

Recently, I became a collector of Steelbook titles, that is a title whose case is made of molded aluminum with artwork painted right on to the case.  In most cases, there is no difference between this version and others.  Jurassic Park, Fast Five, and Green Lantern all offer steelbook variants.  Purchasing these titles sometimes requires deep pockets ($40-$50 as they are imported from Germany, UK, etc), but the joy of seeing these displayed on my shelves is more than worth the price.  Also, I've started collecting other special editions, like gift sets (Tron: Legacy 5-disc set inside an Identity Disc comes to mind).  Again, I see these as ways to extend my experience by showing off the gift inside my DVD rack.  Some of these sets can be tempting, but be careful that the asking price is fair - charging $99 for the Jurassic Park with T-Rex figure (when the steelbook was $40) is unreasonable, as the only upgrade is the dinosaur itself.

I'm heading off to Walmart to check out their $8 bin again.  Hopefully, I can nail a transfer with a slipcase!

Happy Thanksgiving!!!!