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DVD Versus Blu-ray: Enjoying A Film At Its Best

June 3rd, 2009 9:00am EDT
Wall-EOne can only assume the somewhat recent onslaught of the "need" for Blu-ray comes only from a desire to have people buy films and television show sets over again. After having to update a copy of 'Sneakers' from VHS tape to DVD, a completely reasonable choice, the buck stops here. Yes, the technology is interesting at best, but it is brutally frustrating at worst.

The problem is not with the players, although they are extremely expensive still and the best player is still the one that comes in the PlayStation 3, the problem instead lies way back in the beginning of the cycle - the production of the films and shows themselves.

Having only seen approximately twenty or so films and TV shows on Blu-ray with a 1080i equally amazing Samsung screen, this is mere layman's commentary. If you are looking for technical jargon-y ranting, please stop now and go somewhere else (I recommend extremetech.com, engadgethd.com, or cnet.com with some slight hesitations). This will not be about the technical aspects of Blu-ray and DVD formats, but instead a battle of the formats from the perspective of someone who wants to enjoy a film at its best.

The best way to group testing on Blu-ray versus DVD is by: animation, CGI-heavy films, modern non-CGI films, and pre-1980 films now on Blu-ray.

Animation

If you are using Blu-ray to its potential (with an HD 1080i screen that costs somewhat close to a small mortgage if you wish to use the technology to its best abilities) it blows away standard DVD if you are watching, say, "Wall-E" or anything else from Pixar or Dreamworks. The colors explode on the screen and it truly feels like you are watching moving art. Even without previewing it, one can assume that 'Coraline' will be worth the extra money to buy on Blu-ray when it comes out on July 21st.

An interesting conversion will be the Blue Ray October 6th release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Disney's first animated film (1937). Since it was filmed with 35mm it would need to be cut if they wanted to release it in widescreen, which would greatly diminish the overall quality of the film, also breaking its remaining thread of authenticity.

Overall, stick to spending money on buying newer animated films and shows on Blu-ray and save older ones for DVD.

Coraline



CGI-Heavy Films

Filmmakers like Michael Bay and Gore Verbinski thrive on the use of CGI in their films. Suffering through 'Transformers' and the first 'Pirates of the Carribean Online' on Blu-ray was the most painful home theater experience to date. These types of films, that worship green screens and any chance to use CGI instead of practical effects, work in the theater but become monumental failures at home on Blu-ray.

The downfall of Blu-ray is that it practically takes out a fluorescent yellow highlighter and circles all uses of CGI. Watching a film that depends on CGI instead of practical effects and actual filmmaking becomes almost physically difficult on the eyes to watch.

Watching 'Transformers', which was an average popcorn action film in theaters, felt like I was watching a video game instead of an actual movie. If you love 'Pirates' or big CGI productions, stay clear of Blu-ray and enjoy them on DVD with your big home theater screen.

Transformers

Image © Paramount Pictures




Modern Non-CGI-Heavy Films

Unlike CGI-heavy films, there are extremely impressive examples of Blu-ray successes with films that choose practical spectacles over created ones. The best example is 'Planet Earth', the BBC series. Freelance media writer Mike Lewis (nifftystuff.com) said that if Best Buy, Target, and all stores wanting to push Blu-ray players and massive 1080i TVs constantly played 'Planet Earth', they would easily recover from recession losses.

For those looking for fictional narratives, or specifically action movies that hold up well on Blu-ray, there are quite a few. Doug Lyman's 'Bourne' trilogy, 'Crank' and anything by the anti-CGI dream team that is Brian Taylor and Mark Neveldine, and even the new 'Bond' films, are worth the extra funds.

If you are looking for TV sets worth the epic Blu-ray box set prices, go with any show that was shot with HD cameras, as they transfer well ('CSI', 'Grey's Anatomy', 'Dollhouse' released on July 28th, 'True Blood', 'Lost', and 'Burn Notice' to name a few worth the blow to your wallet). Big recommendation for 'BSG'fans: the 'Battlestar Galactica' complete series is being released on Blu-ray on July 28th. The massive Viper versus Raider fights will be worth the sticker price.

Battlestar Galactica




Pre-1980 Films

Blazing SaddlesAt first glance there is something almost criminally wrong about releasing films through Criterion, like Truffaut's '400 Blows', on Blu-ray. That being said, '400 Blows' and 'The Last Metro' are visual tearjerkers for all film buffs. Stanley Kubrick's '2001: A Space Odyssey' is equally mesmerizing and worth a Blu-ray purchase.

However, with film produced before Blu-ray and HD filmmaking were a twinkle in filmmakers' eyes, Blu-ray's viability with pre-1980 films are on a strict case-by-case basis. As well as '2001' held up through the transfer, Mel Brooks' 'Blazing Saddles' was a complete transfer failure.

It is highly suggested that you research any film you want to buy on Blu-ray if it was made roughly around or before 1980. For example, should 'Jaws' be released on Blu-ray, wait for reviews to appear on the internet or even rent it before you purchase it. For now, keep your DVDs and wait out on buying them again on Blu-ray.

What films or TV shows have you experienced on Blu-ray? Any horror stories or interesting suggestions? Let us know in the comments!

Sarah Lafferty
Story by Sarah Lafferty

Starpulse contributing writer