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It's the Picture, Stupid!

2 Sep, 2009 By: Thomas K. Arnold

In retrospect, our industry took a big misstep back when Blu-ray Disc first came on the market, and we all downplayed the improved picture quality, telling ourselves it wasn't nearly as big a leap as the diference between DVD and VHS. I don't know what we all were smoking — and I'm as guilty of this as anyone — but now that our TVs have gotten better and more and more Americans, the economy be damned, are buying high-def TVs, it's time to revisit this. When my kids are watching a movie on my 65-inch Panasonic plasma, I know instantly whether it's DVD or Blu-ray Disc. The Blu-ray Disc picture is so much cleaner and sharper — to the point where even my kids would rather wait until a film comes out on Blu-ray Disc than watch it on DVD.

I remember the months surrounding Blu-ray Disc's launch. Everyone talked about the picture being better, and there were even side-by-side comparisons. But our collective thought was that the difference wasn't as pronounced as the difference between DVD and VHS and thus shouldn't be played up in marketing materials or sales-floor pitches. Instead, we focused on more and better extra features, picture-in-picture and BD Live, features few people could even access due to 1) the ridiculous progression of "profile" players that were obsolete almost as soon as they hit the market and 2) the CE community's failure to provide consumers with wireless Internet connectivity for standalone Blu-ray Disc players. BD Live was all well and good, but if you have to connect your player to the Internet with a cord you're simply not going to do it — not when you've had Wi-fi in your home for years.

So now we're hearing from consumers, largely through postings to tech forums, that the picture quality really is a key reason for their transition from standard DVD. And then we go back to our own TVs and, lo and behold, they're right. In fact, I would venture to say that the improvement in picture quality that Blu-ray Disc offers over DVD is comparable to the improvement DVD offered over VHS — even so-called "upscaled" DVD as seen through my Panasonic Blu-ray Disc player.

Now, it's up to us to spread the word — particularly since it's becoming clear that Blu-ray is the very best picture available, and that a lot of the cable stuff that passes itself off as "high-def" really isn't, or at least it's not 1080p, the proverbial cream of the crop.

As they say, if you've got it, flaunt it.

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