The misadventures of Blu-ray in HTPC land

If you’ll humor me, I’d like to take a brief break from all the CES coverage to complain about the sad state of Blu-ray on the PC. We’ve been, err, blessed with this format for more than five years now, yet the simplest task of watching a movie is still frustratingly complicated and expensive. I’ve taken a live-and-let-live position on the issue, but recent events have broken the proverbial camel’s back and prompted this outpouring of negative emotions.

I should probably preface this rant by explaining the current state of my home theater. In short, it’s a mess. In recent years, the bulk of my income has been diverted to finance causes like college, vehicles, rent, and occasionally some beer and ramen noodles. As a result, the home-theater setup I’ve assembled is really just the culmination of random, opportunistic acquisitions over the years. This motley collection consists of an aging 4:3 projector, some respectable tower speakers, a pre-HDMI Pioneer receiver, several game consoles, a DVD player, and a basic HTPC. If I want to watch something at a resolution above 800×600, I turn to my desktop PC.

Notwithstanding the high-def deficiencies of my living room, Blu-ray discs appeared in my stocking over the holidays. Even though my primary PC has had a Blu-ray drive for a couple of years now, the number of Blu-ray movies in my pre-Christmas collection is relatively small. My enthusiasm for the format waned after installing the drive and wasting several hours of my life discovering that my monitors were too old and lacked the necessary HDCP support. Very few things frustrate me more than having hardware that’s willing and able to do the job, but can’t because of artificial restraints.

About a week ago, I realized there was an Asus Blu-ray drive collecting dust in my parts closet, so I decided to give the ol’ HTPC some upgrade love. A full HD projector is on my short list of near-future toy purchases, and I figured that preparation would be the Boy Scout thing to do. My current projector uses an analog VGA input, and I vaguely remembered reading somewhere that HDCP specifically required a digital connection to crash the party. In addition, software developers have had a couple of years to refine their playback solutions. What could possibly go wrong this time?

The short version: after two hours of researching and downloading various software titles to watch my new copy of Terminator 2, I shelved it and popped in the DVD version instead.

Now, my HTPC is nothing specialβ€”it’s powered by a 2.7GHz Athlon II X2 running on a 785G motherboard, but it certainly has enough grunt to decode a Blu-ray movie. As it turns out, the issue I encountered was an artificial restriction present in newer versions of PowerDVD that limits Blu-ray playback to HDCP-compliant digital outputs. The VGA rebellion had been crushed. You win again copy protection. Best three out of five?

A few days later, I thought I found salvation in an older version of PowerDVD that still supports analog outputs. For whatever reason, that version crashed upon loading the Blu-ray menu. After few more swings and misses on the software front, and I finally stumbled upon a trial version of Arcsoft TotalMedia Theatre 5 that actually worked. At last, my shiny circular coaster could project its Schwarzenegger-laden wares onto my wall.

To celebrate this victory over my digital oppressors, I fired up T2 and sank into my Sumo beanbag with a can of Mountain Dew and the butteriest bag of popcorn I could find. This celebration was short-lived when I realized that the trial would eventually expire, forcing me to shell out $99 for the privilege of watching my movies in Arcsoft’s theatre. No thanks.

Because I don’t have a lot invested into Blu-ray movies at this point, I’m uncertain that I ever will. Already, the vast majority of my viewing is dominated by streaming services like Netflix and Hulu Plus. I don’t even subscribe to basic cable anymore, opting instead to funnel the savings into a fatter Internet pipe. By the time I get around to upgrading my home theater equipment to something more awesome (and high-def), HD media streaming should be coming into its own, rendering Blu-ray superfluous for my purposes.

The inevitability of streamed entertainment doesn’t mean that content producers want to make the transition easy for us, as Cyril recently lamented. I get funny the feeling that the ongoing back-alley knife fight between producers and distributors is partially intended to prop up Blu-ray sales while the industry figures out the most efficient way to extract every possible cent from streaming content.

Still, things didn’t have to end up this way. While production companies and studios blunder about trying to boost Blu-ray sales and reduce piracy with iron-fist tactics, they are actually shooting themselves in the foot. Had my original attempts to play Blu-ray discs on the PC been successful, I guarantee that I would own more than a handful of titles today. Even today, if I could play Blu-ray discs reliably using VLC or Windows Media Player, I’d be more inclined to purchase more Blu-ray titles. I doubt that I’m alone in this situation.

To promote the format, Blu-ray content providers should encourage and subsidize the development and distribution of playback software instead of locking the format down so tightly that people look for a path of lesser resistance. I can’t think of a similar garden with comparably high walls surrounding it; Apple may tightly control its products, but it opted to bypass Blu-ray in favor of streaming.

I’m not here to argue the financial merits of such a move. Undoubtedly, many good trees were lost to analysts printing projections of various ways to pimp Blu-ray media and licensing agreements to the masses. I’m simply here to state that, from a PC enthusiast’s perspective, I think things could have been done a lot better. There is no reason that Blu-ray and streaming services shouldn’t coexist on an HTPC. Streaming HD feeds are likely to remain highly compressed in the near future, ensuring that physical discs offer a superior experience, at least from a quality perspective.

Unfortunately, there are many question marks regarding the future of Blu-ray on the PC. HTPC communities have been clamoring for native playback support in the forthcoming Windows 8, but so far the outlook is grim. There are also some extensions in the works for the popular media playback software VLC. Libbluray is an open-source “research project” library for VLC that enables some Blu-ray playback capabilities on PC, Mac, and Linux. The development of this library is still in its infancy, and it must be compiled from source, which will scare away most casual tinkerers. Hopefully, the library will become easier to use as the project matures.

For now, I think I’ll continue taking a wait-and-see approach to Blu-ray. If good playback software becomes available at a more palatable price point by the time I upgrade my projector, I will probably take the plunge. I like the consolidation and expandability that HTPCs offer over their set-top-box counterparts; I just wish somebody would throw us enthusiasts a bone.

Comments closed
    • LoneWolf15
    • 8 years ago

    “As it turns out, the issue I encountered was an artificial restriction present in newer versions of PowerDVD that limits Blu-ray playback to HDCP-compliant digital outputs. The VGA rebellion had been crushed.”

    With no disrespect, this was big news back when it happened. You didn’t hear about it?

    For my use, I ended up getting a Popcorn Hour C-200 content streamer so that I could put a BD-ROM in it. Truth be told though, most of my content is digital. It’s rare that I use a disc any more.

    • ALIAS
    • 8 years ago

    to me using a HTPC to watch a physical blu-ray disc is a tedious task. none of the full retail players you pay money for actually seem to work flawlessly when it comes to playing the movie at 24p. they all have that stutter at some point and it gets annoying. now decrypting and watching off the drive is no problem at all. plus you dont have to spend any money to actually watch a blu-ray movie. MPC-home cinema works just fine. even get lossless audio playback. I have a table top blu-ray player and a HTPC with a blu-ray drive and i use both. until playback software for PCs becomes a hell of lot cheaper, i will never get rid of my standalone player especially since i mostly watch rentals.

    • burntham77
    • 8 years ago

    You can’t just throw together an HTPC with whatever you have laying around and expect things to go smooth. Blu-ray requires a little bit of research and effort when it comes to picking hardware and software. And money, too. If you don’t want to deal with it, just buy a cheap Blu-ray player and use that until Blu-ray is more convenient in Windows. That’s what I did with DVDs. If you want in on Blu-ray, you’re going to need to move into the digital age. Simple as that.

    I have a nice little (and I mean little) HTPC in my living room that handles Blu-rays just fine. Sure, I had to buy playback software from Cyberlink, but I was able to find a copy for less than half price on eBay. Heck, the Blu-ray drive itself was more expensive than the software. Mind you, I am using fairly new hardware connected to a nice Samsung LCD via HDMI, so HDCP is already taken care of.

    The software integrates itself into WMC well enough, but having native Blu-ray support in WMC is, of course, the ideal situation. In the meantime, I have a perfectly fine Blu-ray setup on my HTPC, which means my wife can keep the PS3 in the other room when she wants to watch her own movies.

    Although to be fair, I only watch one or two rented Blu-rays each month, since Netflix streaming keeps me busy the rest of the time.

    • moresmarterthanspock
    • 8 years ago

    Ewww, DRM is yucky. Almost like girls were yucky because of the cooties they carried in grade-school. Fortunately you have a choice. Stay away from Blu-Ray, avoid DRM. Stay away from girls, avoid cooties. Ok, that was kind of an immature comparison. But seriously, DRM is yucky. Stay away from Blu-Ray. Stick to online streaming, or go outside and play. πŸ™‚

    • Chrispy_
    • 8 years ago

    For many, the MPAA and RIA are perceived as evil parasites that stifle creativity and leech profit away from the artists themselves.

    Whether this is true or not doesn’t matter. DRM, HDCP and other stupid schemes serve ONLY to annoy the crap out of paying customers. The pirates have already downloaded, watched and deleted the movie by the time the Blu-ray hits the market.

    When getting hold of a pirate movie is easier than installing adobe flash player, the entire purpose of DRM schemes are ridiculous. If I legally had a DRM-free Blu-ray movie (I know they don’t exist) and I wanted to convert to a different format for viewing elsewhere I’d still probably just download the pirate copy from the web because it’s faster and more convenient than re-encoding it myself.

    • Rectal Prolapse
    • 8 years ago

    It boggles my mind that David had problems playing Blu-ray in this day and age. I’ve been playing blu-rays on my HTPC since around 2007, one a Core 2 Duo E6400 running at 3.0 GHz on an NVIDIA 8800GT, using PowerDVD or ripping the disc myself. Even got a 1st generation LG Blu-ray/HD-DVD drive, with onboard audio on my Gigabyte P965-DQ6 motherboard.

    No issues at all, with 2006-era monitors that already had HDCP.

    This is like a blast from the past! Retro-rant about HDCP and DRM and copy-protection and the evils of the content providers. Wow, it’s 2006 all over again! πŸ™‚

    With that said – Blu-ray playback software is expensive – you can buy a DLNA-capable standalone blu-ray player for <$100 now and if you only play Blu-rays or remux them, it can be the easier route.

      • Palek
      • 8 years ago

      Agreed on all points.

      I have the exact same LG Blu-ray/HD-DVD combo drive, works fine even now. (I did get bitten by that stupid HD-DVD audio delay issue in PowerDVD 7.3 Ultra, which eventually led me to get rid of my 4 HD-DVDs and re-buy the films on Blu-ray).

      Blu-ray playback software is indeed quite expensive but PowerDVD generally comes bundled with Blu-ray drives so it’s really not a big problem.

        • vipw
        • 8 years ago

        You double paid for the content and don’t feel like a sucker?

          • Palek
          • 8 years ago

          Didn’t you re-buy your favourite albums on CD after your tapes died? How is this any different, exactly?

          Buying into HD-DVD was a one-time, small gamble (4 discs) that turned out to be a mistake, and only because Cyberlink refused to fix an obvious bug in their software. Not something I could have foreseen.

          My experience with Blu-ray, on the other hand, has been nothing but audio-visual perfection.

          And no, I don’t feel like a sucker at all. I happen to really like the films I bought again on BD. I can watch them over and over again, so the investment is well worth it.

      • Celess
      • 8 years ago

      Note that the title of the blog is 56K Lounge; this was about using VGA port not HDCP.

        • Rectal Prolapse
        • 8 years ago

        This begs the question: Why is he using VGA? I stopped using VGA back in 2006. If you’re serious about picture quality at an affordable price it would be prudent to give up on it.

        Oh – and if you have the cash, AnyDVD HD could help bypass HDCP — in theory the blu-ray software should see that the copy protection flag is not set and pass it without HDCP. On the other hand, can you trust a player to do this? The silly PS3 still insists on HDPC for playing games…ugh.

    • d0g_p00p
    • 8 years ago

    man reason why i download bluray rips. the crazy software & hardware combo to just get basic playback is insane. Also the same reason i stick with DVDs when i want to purchase a movie. i can actually watch the disk on pretty much everything i own and i can loan it out to friends as well

    • Krogoth
    • 8 years ago

    The whole thing is the reason why artificial restrictions are completely lame. They only serve one purpose. To feed the bottom of line hardware vendors and content providers by forcing customers into cycles of forced obsolescence.

    Artificial restrictions completely fails at stopping piracy.

      • ybf
      • 8 years ago

      Well, no, it doesn’t. A complete fail would be allowing BD-encoded movies to be cleanly copied and sent over the network to be played by systems that haven’t paid a royalty. This prevents that. It prevents pretty much only that, but that’s what it’s designed to prevent, and that’s good enough for the purpose.

      It most serves the content creators and license holders. They still make good money selling copies of something produced years or decades ago. If the best-quality version of the content ever gets out of their control, their income drops to spare change. Doesn’t matter that we all used to be delirious to have it on worn-out nth-generation-copied VHS tapes, there’s still plenty of demand for the latest and greatest.

      The hardware and software developers would prefer not to have to deal with HDCP. It’s clearly a technical PITA, and they have to pay for the privilege of incorporating it into their wares.

      And obsolescence is the opposite of what the content and playback vendors want. They want you to know your copy is playable until the technology wears out, so you’ll pay more for it up-front. And planned obsolescence doesn’t work when the playback units are bulletproof and last for decades, the way BD players will. Buying Star Wars every time a new format arrives is a personal problem, not a technical one. Buying anything else instead of renting is also a personal problem (can’t imagine anything I’d want to watch enough times to justify it).

      I gave up on ever playing BD on a computer two years ago when I first tried it using PowerDVD to a VGA-connected HD monitor and it blocked me. It’s too easy just to use a cheap external BD player connected to the HDMI ports on the HDTV. Upgrading to HDCP compatible hardware end-to-end would be a logical move as well. So this whole problem only affects those who went HTPC before checking out the pitfalls of their (our) component selection.

    • liquidsquid
    • 8 years ago

    Without reading every comment in this thread, my mid-adventure with BR is this:
    Only with BR playback does my i3 with Intel integrated graphics make the video driver lock up every hour or so. System still runs, but video goes away. Forces a 10 minute reboot process to finish the movie. Everything about my system is otherwise perfect. DVDs, DVR, etc all perfect except…

    When playing anything with Dolby HD or anything resembling surround-sound through the HDMI to the TV, the volume goes way the heck down and the DR is terrible. Super 8 was a mess for audio, clipping and distorted. Research showed this is a CODEC issue, but adjusting the CODEC settings increased the volume a bit, but the crap still remains.

    I gave up on BR and went today and purchased a dedicated BR player. I will use the HTPC for liver TV , light gaming, and Netflix only.

    BTW whoever is saying streaming is as good as content from disks either has amazing artifact filters on their TVs or they just don’t care. Anything I have seen from YouTube is overly compressed, NetFlix likewise, and unless you have a fat pipe, it takes FOREVER to get good content. Faster for me to drive to the store and get a disk, and a heck of a lot less frustrating getting tot he end of a movie.

    • Pax-UX
    • 8 years ago

    Blu-ray is easily so long as you remember everything must be HDCP if you don’t well you should have done your homework. Plus it will cost money for a player, that’s what licensing is all about. A valid player is required to do it legally.

    But blu-ray on a PC… what’s the point??? Nothing uses it beyond the movies. I’d say more blu-ray movies are ripped on PC then played. The PS3 is the only blu-ray player you’ll ever need.

    • GokuSS2
    • 8 years ago

    “Look Harder”
    [url<]http://lifehacker.com/5806252/how-can-i-play-blu+ray-discs-on-my-computer[/url<] Two methods and I have tried them both. Work good.

    • VinnyC
    • 8 years ago

    In my mind, you buy a blu-ray movie to get the highest quality picture and sound available. By attempting to playback a blu-ray movie on a HTPC, you are already potentially sacrificing the ability to correctly bitstream audio to your surround sound receiver. Yes I realize many videocards can now at least decode TrueHD and DTS HD MA and output an 8 channel LPCM track, but I want my receiver to do all that processing. (I realize it’s the same information, but I stand by my point). And then there’s the people who rip everything. Yeah it’s convenient but you are losing audio and video quality in the process. Again, you buy a blu-ray for the BEST audio / video quality.

    As much fun as tinkering with PCs is, when it comes to watching a blu-ray, it’s easiest for me to just use my PS3 (the slim ones can bitstream everything). I’m not afraid to have more than one device hooked up to my home theater either. In fact, my home theater has the following: NES, SNES, N64, Wii, PS2 slim, PS3 slim, and a computer used for watching everything else.

      • mcnabney
      • 8 years ago

      You are clueless. I ripped all of my BluRays (all seven of them) into MKV containers including the lossless tracks. If I want to pay $99 for extra software I can get the DTSHDMA icon on my receiver to light up, but it is the exact same data as LPCM 7.1. VLC manages it just fine since I can’t seem to get Windows Mediacenter 7 to handle MKVs without crashing. Probably something to do with 32/64 bit codec support (yes, I have tried Sharky, CCCP, and others… no dice)

      This is a temporary solution. I’m waiting for 4K to actually update my collection. FFDshow, when precisely adjusted, can make a good DVD look ‘almost’ as good as an average BluRay.

    • dale77
    • 8 years ago

    My HTPC (and new desktop) play bluray with no issues. I buy bluray when I have the option because I want to view the highest quality source on my home theatre. If you are happy with DVD res on your 50″ plasma, that’s fine too.

    I reckon Dave’s problems stem mostly from his unwillingness to commit cash to this effort, but I can sympathize with those who say “just buy a blu player”. But we are PC hobbyists here right?

    • thermistor
    • 8 years ago

    I now have 2 HTPC’s. One in bedroom, hooked up to a 22″ Samsung monitor. This is only for analog cable TV and Netflix streaming.

    The other, newer one, just built this xmas, using a new Silverstone case (the lone big purchase), and an AMD 4550, mATX, and a lowly Core2. I have a 5.1 analog sound system courtesy of a fairly OK Logitech set. Everything from gfx card to TV has all the HDCP compliance BS on it.

    The TV is a 37″ Panasonic Viera, and the computer is hooked up via HDMI. I guess it was new for xmas, too, so then counts as the big family purchase.

    To echo the author of the blog: If I pop in a BR-ROM and fire up a BR disk, and this bad boy doesn’t promptly show me hi-def love, the BR-ROM and disk go back for refund or on e-bay. The minefield is too big, and the HDMI spec too cumbersome, for a limited-budget enthusiast to do anything but walk away.

    Good news is DVD and Netflix look awesome. And the kids like playing flash games on the big screen.

    • Dr66
    • 8 years ago

    Hi David,

    Why not invest in one the recent entry level video cards that include a hdmi 1.4 or 1.4a port
    and the latest version of UVD or purevideo hd? It should cost less than $100….
    Been down the same road if not there’s always the PS3…..

    • Dr. Zhivago
    • 8 years ago

    No offense to the author, but if you’re having this much trouble playing Blu-Ray on your PC, you’re doing it wrong. I understood from the get-go that a fully Digital Audio/video environment with full HDCP compatibility would be what was needed for the most trouble-free playback. They mentioned this YEARS ago when HDDVD was still around. It’s not like this is new information. I even waited until the HDDVD/Blu-Ray wars were over to even buy a drive. I also believe that there should as few conversions between analog and digital as possible. So, by outputting to Analog and then having it reconverted back to digital and then back Analog again like you are doing seems really silly.

    Arcsoft Total Media Theater is the player software I have used since I have owned a Blu-Ray drive. It has worked very well over the years. When there has been problems with certain titles, they have been quick to release updates. I do not work for Arcsoft, nor do I sell this software, this has just been my experience. I also do not work for any content creators.

    And streaming services and Blu-Ray coexist quite happily on my PC’s. I also build systems for a living and they work as well.

    There seem to be more and more of these types of articles on the tech related sites I have been reading for over a decade. They are neither helpful, nor informative. They only serve to illustrate the ignorance of the author. I would assume you were a Mac user primarily by the way you write and the lack of knowledge you seem to display.

    Good luck.

      • Celess
      • 8 years ago

      Again, the title of the blog is 56K Lounge; this is about low tech and primarily the VGA.

        • Palek
        • 8 years ago

        Low-tech -> Blu-ray -> Does not compute.

    • indeego
    • 8 years ago

    Gotta be a first world problem where I ignore the HD container because the content is so lackluster.

      • My Johnson
      • 8 years ago

      I think the only sufferers are Michael Bay or James Cameron fans. I watched 5 minutes of Avator before turning it off. Transformers barely lasted a minute.

    • End User
    • 8 years ago

    I buy content on Blu-ray because that is the best quality source. It is the data, not the disc, that is important. I access the disc once and then place it into storage. I use the data many times.

      • kilkennycat
      • 8 years ago

      Quote: I access the disc once and then place it into storage….

      Please name the tool(s) that you use to transfer a Bluray movie to your data storage…..

        • sjl
        • 8 years ago

        Not that I would break the law or anything, but I hear that MakeMKV does a decent job of transferring the data from BD format to MKV, without transcoding anything, and that it’s eminently feasible to transcode from MKV into whatever codec-and-container combination of your choice using something like Handbrake.

        The big issue is interlaced VC-1, which FFMPEG doesn’t (yet?) support. Mostly (to the best of my knowledge) in BBC BDs.

    • r00t61
    • 8 years ago

    Blu-ray DRM – the poster child for frustrating the legal, paying customer, while doing NOTHING to deter organized piracy, since (if one were so inclined) a person could find a beautiful open-source x264/mkv encode of any Blu-ray he desires on the Intertubes.

      • willmore
      • 8 years ago

      I’m not sure open-source means what you think it does.

    • Goty
    • 8 years ago

    This post reads like someone complaining that he can’t play the PS3 game he just bought on his PS2.

    • ShadowEyez
    • 8 years ago

    Well put. This is exactly the kind of thing that is frankly killing the HTPC market, along with the fact that one can get a PS3 for $300 and have blu-ray, game console, netflix/streaming, and even simple web browsing in one unit.
    15 years ago when DVD’s started replacing VHS, this was not an issue as CSS was not as hard to get around and free software players were everywhere. Game consoles were also not as functional, so an HTPC made sense, but in this day and age of PS3 and blu-ray units with streaming apps and built-in ethernet and wifi, what’s the point of an HTPC?
    Enthusiasts like control of equipment and software, and don’t mind (enjoy actually) the time to build and install so it all works just right. The problem with the home theater stuff now is that even once it’s all built, there’s no straightforward way to get bluray working and all the streaming content you want (who wants to torrent search when you want to see a certain movie at a party in a moments noctice?). Contrast with a PS3 or newer bluray set-top and you have all the functionality and content (and bluray works) at less price, hassle, and usually cost. That’s a tough pill to swollow for HTPC.
    I know with HTPC well set up you have the ability to store movies (and that’s after ripping them all, tagging them, getting a program to search and playback, and integrating all in) but that’s functionally the same as streaming from netflix, hulu, or any of the growing number of streaming services that do it for you.
    The reason piracy is declining (though I’m not saying or predicting it will ever go away) is that to get the content is easier than torrenting, and the content is more and more avaliable, though as a recent blog post on TR pointed out, TV shows are still not there yet. The fact that all this content does not need an HTPC does not make it easier for HTPC.
    Any I saying HTPC is going to disappear? Not likley – I’d even like to set one up sometime, and I’ve built many computers and enjoy them as a hobby, like most of you πŸ™‚ In order for me to consider an HTPC, I’d have to see clear advantages over a $150 blu-ray player that can stream all sorts of contact, has wifi/ethernet, and takes 1 minute to set up.

    • Geistbar
    • 8 years ago

    Speaking of blu rays, they seem to be doing a rather slow job getting lots of old classics out on it. You can get everything new, but many older movies are getting a very slow treatment- Indiana Jones still isn’t out, nor is Lawrence of Arabia, while spaghetti westerns are essentially limited to Sergio Leone’s work. Other classics, like Alfred Hitchcock, have seen limited representation, the French New Wave has pretty sporadic showings on it as well, and I think the only representations from Kurosawa are because of Criterion. Probably many other things that I’m not familiar with to complain about.

    For their average customers, getting only newer stuff out is mostly fine (though I expect Indiana Jones will do quite well with them), but for the enthusiasts of film, getting the old classics out is critical. It’s not like they’ll sell poorly either, which is why I’m surprised by it. I’ve only recently become truly interested older movies, but I must say that I find much of it far more entertaining than many recent Hollywood showings. I’ll be quite disappointed until they fix this.

      • willmore
      • 8 years ago

      The licensing costs are probably going to prohibit too much back catalog getting movied over. If it costs $3 to make a disc and your customers will only pay $5 for it, you’re not looking at much profit incentive. And, hey, 4K’s just right around the corner, what’s the hurry? πŸ™‚

        • Geistbar
        • 8 years ago

        The studios own their own properties- it’s costly to someone like Criterion, but Paramount and Warner do their own transfers too, and they don’t have to pay people for their own properties. As for 4k, most of the smart studios are doing a 4k transfer and just scaling it down for their bluray transfer- that way they won’t have to do it all over again.

        I know they’re taking their time on it because other things are more directly profitable, but that doesn’t change that I’m disappointed by it- I want to see old classics in good resolutions. Except for some of the really cheap film stocks, the resolution is there in the physical film reels. I’m not even much of a crazy movie enthusiast either, as I said, I’ve only gotten into older films recently. They missed that the direct profits aren’t all the profits; the enthusiasts of a field will do a large part in shaping popular perception of a product, and that includes film.

          • willmore
          • 8 years ago

          No, I mean the actual license to make each individual disc. There’s a fixed overhead to do that and it’s way larger than DVD ever was.

          Please don’t mistake my pragmatism for disagreement! I, too, would like older movies on a better media. I’ve bought a handful of BDs and they’re all old movies. Maybe not as old as your westerns, but the director is dead, so that’s a start, right? πŸ˜‰

          [too many spelling edits.]

            • Geistbar
            • 8 years ago

            Ah, my bad then- you are right that the disc costs do add up. I’m not sure how much it’d factor in here though- if you sell 100,000 discs, you pay the license cost 100,000 times, whether that’s from 20 different old movies, or from Avatar all by itself. They would have had to pay to have 20 different films transferred of course, but that’s separate from the disc license cost.

            It’s funny actually- I don’t even consider spaghetti westerns that old. Mid 60’s isn’t that long ago, even if it was over 2 decades before I was born. I’ve been limited in what I’ve seen of it though, which is disappointing. I think what makes that era appealing to me is that shots were still done slowly- Star Wars popularized the idea of quickly switching the shot around, and while it works well, it can be a bit distracting as well- along with the fact that it was the first true foray into color film for the average director. They had had technicolor since the 30’s I believe, but many directors had to deal with black & white through to the end of the 50’s.

    • otherstuff
    • 8 years ago

    Well said.

    I’ve been in doubt, whether to invest in Blu-ray or not, because of those issues. I like having a collection of physical discs, but I just couldn’t live with those DRM issues. DRM makes me look for alternatives.

    If I wanted, I should be able to grab the entire disc and re-edit the film. This is no easy feat on a Blu-ray.

    You claim DRM prevents lost sales, I claim it cause lost sales.

    And there is science too, to back that up.

    Film industry: Come on, make your products accessible, or just go away.

    • yogibbear
    • 8 years ago

    PS3 / dedicated blu-ray surround sound hometheater system can both be had for < $300….

    Plug HDMI out from these into TV.

    Win. Or at least that is what I do.

    My HTPC has no blu-ray drive. It is purely for playback of downloads and streams.

      • willmore
      • 8 years ago

      And you’re still stuck with the stupid BluRay menu structure/navigation. BluRay has perfected the method of making playback as hard as possible that Disney pioneered with their DVD movies.

      “Can’t I just watch the damn movie so that the kids will shut up?” “No, you must watch 30 minutes of promos, first. Many of them for movies that you already own or that are entirely inappropriate for the children. Oh, and since we used up so much space on the disc for the promos, the main feaure is lower in quality and doesn’t include a nice DTS audio track. Thanks for giving us your money for this limited edition special disc!”

        • My Johnson
        • 8 years ago

        I’m too poor for blue ray fidelity. Looks like I ain’t missing anything.

      • TakinYourPoints
      • 8 years ago

      Yup, PS3 is the best way to go and still one of the fastest set-top players on the market. I’ll stream some movies but the ones I truly care about I have on Blu Ray, there really is no comparison in terms of quality.

      • plonk420
      • 8 years ago

      (also @My Johnson) i just got my mom an LG blu-ray player (late 2011 model) for $58 at some big evil chain. hell, that’s pretty much the price of a bd-rom drive by itself! it even claims to support AVCHD and MKV (tho i didn’t bother testing it. i’m fine with my boxee that i take to friends’ places).

      it didn’t seem noticeably slower than my PS3 on the discs i took to test it with (Spy Kids, Planet Earth, Firefly (for BD+)).

      downside to this specific one is that it had only HDMI and composite (not having component wasn’t of any consequence. was expecting to use HDMI, anyways).

    • TheEmrys
    • 8 years ago

    While I understand there are licensing issues between Sony and Microsoft, but it very much behooves Sony to reduce a very large and glaring incentive for the everyday computer user to not get into ripping movies. If I had a BD plug-in for WMC, I know I wouldn’t care in the least if I had it stored in 1080p format.

    • ronch
    • 8 years ago

    I never even bothered with Blu-ray. Too expensive, too restrictive. DVD is cheap, looks and works just fine, and doesn’t incorporate Martial Law with it.

      • plonk420
      • 8 years ago

      just because your tv is too small or your eyes are not sensitive enough, doesn’t mean DVD is and should be enough for the picky/overly rich.

      i’m tickled pink by a good DVD master (like Fringe), but some things just NEED high def like BBC/NHK/Discovery’s EarthPorn.

      not to mention some DVDs just look downright terrible (bitrate-starved or post process-ruined).

        • ybf
        • 8 years ago

        In some cases BD is not a noticeable improvement because the movie itself has been digitally processed to look more like film than video. The DVD version is plenty good, then.

    • Forge
    • 8 years ago

    I bought AnyDVD years and years ago, to defeat Macrovision on my HTPC. I bought the “HD” upgrade to defeat the various self-defeating limitations of Bluray and HDDVD. I generally rip my Blurays to MKV immediately after purchase now, and rarely, if ever, pull out the original discs. πŸ™ πŸ™‚

    I should really write about all of this for you guys’ benefit, but I’m lousy at self-starting when it’s writing.

    Someone yell at me and I’ll go write.

      • Duck
      • 8 years ago

      I’ll write it for you… Don’t buy into blu ray until they stop encrypting the bloody content.

      • plonk420
      • 8 years ago

      exactly. i have AnyDVD HD, and what is this? (altho, admittedly, there are few discs i buy any more on day 1 as i used to. the “blu-ray pq tier thread” and my taste/seen movies don’t meet/are updated as much as they used to be anymore)

      • jpostel
      • 8 years ago

      Ditto. AnyDVD HD for the copy and Windows Media Center + MyMovies + TMT for the playback.

      I prefer to do straight data copy of the BD rather than transcode because I find the sound quality better. I don’t have a crazy good sound system at home but I’d rather have the option to upgrade the sound system than have to re-rip all my movies.

      Side note – we have gone through two sets of good speakers due to child-related damage, so we won’t buy really good speakers until my kids are grown.

    • WillBach
    • 8 years ago

    All of my problems with HDCP were fixed by [url=http://www.hdfury.com<]HDfury[/url<] My father has one of the early HD TVs that were HDCP compliant with DVI. But after the TV was sold, the HDCP spec was changed, something to do with the handshake. So no HDCP device that we've purchased has ever worked with that TV. We got HDfury green edition to connect an Apple TV over VGA.

    • squeeb
    • 8 years ago

    I feel your pain. Blu-ray playback on PC can be a chore. I’ve had a reader myself since two black fridays ago but have probably only used it 15 times. So tired of dicking around with PowerDVD, the disc load times, and half-assed menu mouse support. Not to mention it will sometimes throw Windows into basic (non-aero mode) and I’ll get stuck there even after quitting the app out.

    I’m a huge fan of streaming these days and have Netflix, but do appreciate something in top quality – so I do purchase my favorite movies from time to time in Blu-Ray, think my last one was Aliens (which I might add is an excellent transfer).

    So yea, I just use my PS3..

      • cjcerny
      • 8 years ago

      There’s a very subtle but important point here…”I just use my PS3…” What the haters are missing is that Blu-ray technology and DRM is just fine–you can pop a disc into a PS3 or a player connected to a modern TV via HDMI and not have a single issue, and it’s been that way for a few years now. It’s only in PC land that you begin to run into DRM or playback issues. The DRM issues are the result of end users actually not thinking about them and the rest of the stuff is just shoddy software and drivers. You can waste a lot of energy hating on the hassles that DRM brings to playback on your PC, but it isn’t going away anytime soon, so you just have to do what it takes to build a successful custody chain instead of writing blogs about why it is such a pain.

    • demani
    • 8 years ago

    Yeah- I just got bit by HDCP recently not because mymonitors weren’t HDCP compatible (they are) but because I run two screens in Mirrored mode on the HTPC (Samsung 46″ LCD in the living room, 24″ Gateway LCD in the Bedroom) I was unable to. After some sleuthing it became apparent that the second screen was an issue- it didn’t matter which, just that I had two. Apparently HDCP is getting locked down to one screen only (making it harder for the bars to put something on multiple TVs off one feed). Pissed me the hell off to realize that A) there isn’t a utility to tell you that you have a protected/approved path in place, and B) that simply unplugging a monitor would allow it to work.

    As for DVD software- yeah, MS needs to just integrate it so its a non-issue, like watching DVDs is. Of course since they are now favoring the streaming avenue, and cutting the MCE stuff out altogether in Windows 8 that doesn’t seem likely. Brilliant. The customers really won this one-capitalism wins again!

    So much suck-no wonder AnyDVD is so popular. Eliminate the BS so it can be used in a rational matter (two screens in separate rooms isn’t irrational- my wife likes to head to bed before I do, but we can keep watching together (the rooms are adjacent so its just to make it easier no watching from way off to the side, plus its easier to just chill the bedroom when it’s 103F outside rather than trying to counteract the big TV).

      • TakinYourPoints
      • 8 years ago

      Yeah, there is no way Microsoft is paying for the BR licenses to get playback on Windows. They can sell streaming content themselves on the XBox, there’s no incentive to spend money so customers can use media from elsewhere.

      There were no real streaming options when DVD was the dominant format, so it made sense for DVD playback to be a part of OS X and Windows. Not anymore with Blu Ray, not while they can offer their own HD streaming.

    • yokem55
    • 8 years ago

    Hack, Cough, hack, hack, *make*, hack, <spend a minute choking on phlem>, hack, *mkv*, cough, cough….

      • irvinenomore
      • 8 years ago

      Yarr!

    • jrr
    • 8 years ago

    playback in VLC is definitely a prerequisite before I’ll consider buying into bluray – it’s DVD and streaming until then.

      • NeelyCam
      • 8 years ago

      You’re missing out, then.

        • Geistbar
        • 8 years ago

        They might be, but I don’t really blame them- I haven’t used any of the newer versions of PowerDVD and it’s peers (no Blu ray drive), but back in the days of my first computer with a DVD drive (a decent number of years after DVD itself), they were just really horrible pieces of software. I’d have no desire to return to them now, even for better resolution.

        Honestly, I think if I did have a drive and some blu rays to watch, I’d rather go through the trouble figuring out how to rip it to my hard drive so it could be played back with whatever I want, [i<]solely to avoid those horrible programs[/i<]. As an aside, I never particularly liked VLC- MPC seems to give higher quality playback (possibly just a self reinforcing bias on my end though) with a simpler interface (admittedly, that's completely subjective).

          • NeelyCam
          • 8 years ago

          I meant (s)he’s missing out because (s)he’s staying with DVDs instead of moving to BluRay. But yeah – I agree BluRay player software could use some help.

          AnyDVD HD works well for ripping BluRays.

            • Veerappan
            • 8 years ago

            Yeah, but it would be nice to have a LEGAL way to play back Blurays on my MythTV-based HTPC.

            If someone were to buy me a Bluray as a gift, my only option would be to rip it on a Windows machine with AnyDVD HD, and then transfer the content over, something that is far from instant gratification.

            • Duck
            • 8 years ago

            That’s why the best content is from ‘ARRRRH! Shiver me timbers!’ types.

            • cygnus1
            • 8 years ago

            Or with a fat enough pipe, just download the MKV. I feel no guilt over downloading a copy of a movie that I have a legally purchased physical copy of.

            • NeelyCam
            • 8 years ago

            One could argue that your legal copy was priced as such because it came with previews of other movies you’re forced to watch (-> the publisher expects to get some additional revenue from you buying the other movies). By downloading the MKV you’re skipping those previews, preventing the company from getting that well-deserved extra revenue.

            • Geistbar
            • 8 years ago

            You’re completely correct. However, not only would I not feel any guilt at skipping such things, but I would feel elated. I have nothing good to say about forcing people to watch garbage advertisements for something else on a product you have purchased (if it is free, or some other special circumstances, that’s a different matter).

            If they were smart, they’d realize that BS like that is one of the many reasons for piracy. All the same, I won’t blame them for getting a bunch of bean counters together to determine it is worthwhile for them (it is their job after all), but if I can’t do anything to skip them (with their permission or not) I will certainly not be buying any of their product.

            • NeelyCam
            • 8 years ago

            Make a Windows-based HTPC..?

            • Geistbar
            • 8 years ago

            I agree with that- once you start seeing stuff in HD it really is an improvement over most DVDs (so long as the studio did a good job with the transfer).

            It is sad when the best course of option with something you’ve purchased is to make a copy of it and then stuff the original a corner somewhere though. I guess they don’t really care about blu-ray playback on PCs much, but I’d be pretty uninterested in anything that I can’t put through my playback software of choice. If not for programs like AnyDVD, I wouldn’t even be planning to get a blu-ray drive for my next computer.

            • TakinYourPoints
            • 8 years ago

            It’s an improvement over all DVDs and HD streaming options. There really is no comparison, but again it sucks that hurdles exist to make it tough to use on PCs or older monitors.

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