RESOURCES - Archiving Articles - Why Blu-ray means business

Discussions on Blu-ray-availability of titles, drives, software support, and pricing-appear everywhere. A strong thread of discontent also appears in a few, suggesting that the day of the optical drive is over-both for ingestion and production in studios as well for distribution to consumers. The ruckus over HD DVD and Blu-ray is seen as much ado about nothing. And nothing could be further from the truth.
Make no mistake-Blu-ray will fast become the standard medium for low-cost archiving and distribution for sound business reasons.

In the Studio
What is the most valuable commodity in the studio? Time . To save time, it is essential to preserve, retrieve, and repurpose content using an effective backup and archive system that includes RAID, tape, and an optical archive. Time lost to recreating or rediscovering old content is painful.

Many think though that cheap hard drives make RAID the preferred or only solution for storage and archiving. Users in this camp are in for a rude awakening as the cost of electricity continues to push the cost of maintaining this strategy ever upward. (Don't forget--it's not just the cost of spinning all those drives, it is the cost of both spinning and cooling the drives which adds to the overall cost.) Also, can anyone defend relying on any one technology for asset protection in a creative industry?

Second, in HD production, the capacity of dual-layer Blu-ray directly lends itself to project archives. One disc may contain the essential parts of a project, making it convenient to store and retrieve these in the future. Large-capacity hard drives, though, push a "pack rat" mentality, since there's all this space and you don't want to store just one project on there. Plus, the data tends to be scattered about on these discs, making the ongoing search for pieces and parts another time-waster.

Third, although archiving on powered-down cheap hard drives on a shelf might be a pleasing notion, who knows if drives can spin up again in three, five, or ten years time? There's little reason to doubt that Blu-ray discs will be able to. And if you don't trust those accelerated-aging optical media tests, consider how many of us have 20-year-old CDs that we can still play.

For the Consumer
There's also been a lot of ink put out about how content is going all-digital and will be distributed over the Internet. Nice notion, too, and I'd love see it happen, especially at my own house. But as in many homes, I can't get broadband in mine. So what about my ability to be part of this streaming world?

Even if I could, how fast could I download an HD movie anyway? If I can't get 1.5Mbps service, when could I expect the 100Mbps or 1Gbps that I would need to actually download movies, the World Cup, or the Super Bowl, at least in the same week as the event?

Meantime, I'm committing my PC and my Internet connection to a night-long download. Frankly, I'd prefer to use my NetFlix service instead. That way I can get three movies at once, rather than one.

Finally, the essential reason that Blu-Ray content will drive consumer demand in an HD world is that consumers like to have something they can look at, hold, and put on the shelf. There's a strong perceived value in that, particularly as the rows of movies and content grows. Try feeling that same way about a mass of bits on a hard disk.

Granted, the music industry has had to change radically because of download technology and MP3 players. But music is quite different from film. First, it's short—making it much more portable. Second, music is a more passive kind of entertainment. Meaning it adds value even in the background. But movies are a commitment kind of event. You need to sit and pay attention to them.

Sure, Blu-ray is overkill for today's letterboxed movies in standard-def format. But it is also obvious that broadcasters and studios will continue to move all content development over to HD simply because it is too costly to produce everything in two formats. Sports and documentaries demand HD, but simple economics says that producers will go for one standard for all productions.

But in an all-HD world, no one will tolerate HD-on-DVD—having to swap in and out a two-disc or three-disc HD movie in their player. For that matter, what type of clamshell case will you find that will not only give today's consumer the movie, but also the expected extras that come on the two-disc DVD albums?

In fact, Sony and the other Blu-ray developers should be congratulated on having done a remarkable job in creating a suitable format ahead of demand for HD content, rather than after it. (Most have forgotten that CD-ROM storage came about two years late while we suffered through multi-dozen floppy installs of software on major applications.)

Much of the discussions about technical and quality problems with Blu-ray hardware and playback will be resolved by 2007. Since we will have to make choices then about OS upgrades (Mac, Linux, or Vista ), then would be the time to also upgrade to Blu-ray.

Source: David Doering - Aug 17, 2006

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