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Matsuda, Knowles Talk Blu-ray

14 Nov, 2012 By: Chris Tribbey

Harry Knowles, a film critic and founder of Ain’t It Cool News, looks at 2012 and sees an important year for Blu-ray Disc.

“This has been an extraordinary year in terms of catalog Blu-ray titles,” Knowles said, speaking Nov. 14 during the sixth in a series of Blu-ray virtual roundtables. “We’re finally seeing the titles that people say are their favorite films of all time.” He pointed to Jaws from Universal Studios Home Entertainment and praised the work the studio did with bonuses for the release. He also singled out Lawrence of Arabia from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and Bond 50: Celebrating Five Decades of Bond 007 from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Victor Matsuda, chair of the Blu-ray Disc Associations’ global promotions committee, said Blu-ray catalog sales were up 20% year-over-year in 2011 and that percentage should be higher for 2012 by the time the year ends.

Here’s a selection of the Q&A portion of the roundtable:

Q: Victor, do you expect further growth in the release of catalog titles?

Matsuda: Product matters, in this case catalog titles, are ultimately decisions that each studio makes. That being said, referring back to success that we have seen the past two years, I would certainly expect that we will continue to see the studios release more and more catalog titles.

Q: Harry, any thoughts on some of the top titles to hit Blu-ray that are recently out of theaters?

Knowles: I love current releases and how quickly they're hitting on Blu-ray. Right now, I seriously cannot wait to put this ParaNorman Blu-ray in. The colors and the handmade artistry will really come to life in the format. Watching Dark Shadows at home from Tim Burton was so much fun simply because I got to see a great collection of deleted scenes that, frankly, I would have put back in the film. Recent releases hitting on Blu-ray are great — but for me, it is the catalogue titles that blow me away! Feel free to ask on specific new releases if you want.

Q: Victor, how many titles are now available on Blu-ray?

Matsuda: We are now at approximately 7,000 Blu-ray titles.

Q: Victor, have there been any further developments on 4K on Blu-ray?

Matsuda: We are still at the same point that we mentioned during virtual roundtable No. 5: The BDA has established a task force to study 4K and other potential enhancements to the format.

Q: Harry, how did you go about selecting the films for your list. What criteria did you use?

Knowles: Well, I wanted to fixate on the titles that I really love. A title that I didn't mention that I do love and it shows just how amazing Blu-ray is. That's The Girl on a Motorcycle. The director, Jack Cardiff, was one of the great DPs in film history and the movie is obscure. So obscure, but here it is in 1080p ... beautiful to watch — and it is in my library forever. For this, I was asked to put together a list of my favorite releases of the year — and what I discussed just now ... well, they're my faves. That Hitchcock set is stunning. The Star Trek: The Next Generation — Season One is brilliantly realized. Made me re-evaluate my entire thinking on the series. Titles are key — these are all obviously great titles. The quality of the transfers and restorations, the actual value for the purchase price, the extras on all these titles were amazing. Bond 50? What film lover doesn't take that home.

Q: Victor or Harry, do either of you know what percentage of releases come with digital copy or other type of extension?

Matsuda: We do not have an actual percentage, but it seems that most of the new releases are now packaged with some kind of digital extension. It doesn't seem to be as prevalent with catalogue releases, but it’s certainly present on some of them. Ultimately, it’s up to the content creator to decide what, if any, extensions to offer. That said, I think consumer interest in these extensions will drive increasing available.

Knowles: I don't know the actual percentage, but I'd say that so far as my format reviewing takes me, about 80% or more of current films hitting on Blu-ray have the option of getting the digital copy. I think the industry could do more on that with their catalogue titles. It should become standard throughout the format.

Q: Harry, with all the films you watch, what's your view on the quality of restorations overall?

Knowles: Restoring classic films is a very expensive and absolutely necessary process for film. When you think about the value. After a restoration, you can do digital re-releases in theaters to help boost awareness of the title, giving folks the chance to revisit the films in theaters. But it really is on Blu-ray where you can examine the restorations and see the love and care. Star Trek: Next Generation —Season One is an amazing example for TV to follow with how to really offer something more than anyone has ever seen before. At best we saw all those in sub-420p as they were broadcast. This show was never meant to be seen better than that. That Paramount launched this enormous restoration. ... It floored me. I never expected the show to look this beautiful. That's amazing.

Q: Harry, if you had to pick one title based purely on the bonus feature, what would it be? What about based solely on packaging presentation?

Knowles: For packaging, Bond 50. It is beautiful, elegant packaging. The Skyfall reserved spot really touched me. The studio didn't have to do that. Yet, when that Blu-ray hits next year, I'll be able to put it in this set and it extends the use of the set. The “BUY” sticker on the They Live release makes me snort laugh every time I see it. But Bond 50 is the hands-down winner. The discs are easy to remove, safely stored, and it feels classy as you flip through it. It's great. On the special features side ... I really, really love the Jaws Blu-ray. That Blu-ray exclusive doc, The Shark Is Still Working, is brilliant. But then the interviews and historical context for the filming of the movie — I watched every second of it ... then called friends to watch them again.

Q: Harry, you're a big fan of restorations. What others stand out to you?

Knowles: My favorite restoration of all time is on Orson Welles' Touch of Evil. Now domestically in the United States, this isn't yet available in Blu-ray. But there was a limited-edition U.K. Region B Blu-ray that has it. … I've heard rumblings that we'll get it in 2013.

Q: Any final thoughts as we close out this virtual roundtable?

Knowles: I wasn't the first adopter of the format, but as my personal collection reaches the multiple of thousands of titles, I can say this is the best home video format ever created. The beauty of the format is paramount. It’s the Internet option that gives Blu-ray its longevity. I love how the trailers sometimes change on a Blu-ray because they've streamed new content. The “Harry Potter” Blu-rays have fan events where you watch the films communally. That's outstanding. Film is a social beast. It is meant to be shared and watched together. Then with extras like second screen that you see on titles, where you watch with your iPad and it syncs with your Blu-ray player. It is so much fun. So revealing. We movie fans have never had it better.

Matsuda: Yes, it was really exciting to engage with someone as passionate as Harry, and we really appreciate him hosting today's roundtable. Building on the success that we have enjoyed so far this year, we think that the great selection of titles along with excellent hardware options, will make for a very Blu holiday season. Lastly, we look forward to continuing to work with the BDA and its member companies to promote and share the latest information regarding the format.

About the Author: Chris Tribbey

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