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DVD Producers Panel Discusses Possibilities, Challenges of Blu-ray

By Stephanie Prange | Posted: 25 Jul 2008

SAN DIEGO—Blu-ray Disc will require a new strategy in restoring movies because of its higher resolution, DVD producers said at a Comic-Con International panel hosted by Bill Hunt of The Digital Bits Web site.

Film grain and older high-definition transfers in less than 1080p resolution will require studios and DVD producers to take a new look at older films.

“The transfers that they did even a few years ago — high-definition transfers — are not good enough,” Hunt noted.

“A lot of movies were done as 1080i transfers,” said DVD producer Robert Meyer Burnett. “They are not acceptable.”

He noted as an example The Fifth Element, which was a “reference quality disc on DVD” but had to be re-released on Blu-ray after they redid the master.

With some classic movies, film grain is more perceptible on Blu-ray.

“If directors had the same film stock they have today there would be no grain,” Burnett said.

Some studios are removing some of the grain, but “removing some of the grain removes some of the actual detail,” Hunt said.

Also, Hunt noted, some films, like gritty war movies, are supposed to show grain.

“Recapturing the theatrical experience” should be the goal, Hunt said.

Panelists told the fan audience that studios look at the sales numbers when deciding what to release and that fans should support their favorite shows and genres with buys to make sure more of the product they like is released.

One audience member noted that consumers have “gotten wise” to the studio strategy on TV DVD of releasing a complete series after releasing all of the seasons on DVD and some are delaying purchases. He wondered if that would cause the studios to stop releasing certain shows in successive seasons, or in complete sets.

Producers noted that is a problem, even with movies.

“[The director of Rambo] announced the week before it came out on DVD that there was going to be a new cut,” said producer Cliff Stephenson, who is working on a different version of the film for DVD, which is “a little bit rearranged” and “more emotional.”

One fan asked why Blu-ray packaging is not as elaborate as DVD packaging.

“This stuff costs money to do, so it has to be a title that supports sales,” said DVD producer Charles de Lauzirika.

“Think back to DVD when it first came out,” noted producer Scott Devine, of Light Source & Imagery. “Packaging was very standard.”

He said Blu-ray packaging would follow the same model.

The audience expressed support for Blu-ray, with many of them raising their hands when Hunt asked how many had a player. One panel attendee said she went out and spent $3,500 to buy an HDTV home theater system when Blu-ray won the format war.

A fan asked if the producers are doing more extras for Blu-ray.

“There is more discussion about shooting things specifically for Blu-ray,” Lauzirika said.

Picture-in-picture commentaries are requiring that they shoot video instead of just recording audio, they said.

BD Live's Web-connected capabilities may not be used to best advantage with games and social networking, some said.

“What better social experience with movies is there than going to a packed movie theater,” Lauzirika said. “I don't want to sit on my couch and watch Bobafet35 saying, ‘Oh, I love that scene.’

“The thing that BD Live can do for you is we can be able to add content” such as live commentaries, Stephenson noted.

Another fan asked how they designed Blu-ray releases for the differing hardware profiles.

“It's sort of a balance,” Stephenson said. On the Rambo disc, they offered audio only for those without picture-in-picture profile players. On Crank, they burned the picture into the film on a separate track.

Hunt noted that most of the Blu-ray players out there are PlayStation 3s that can be upgraded to the higher profiles.


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