A little revisionist history tells us that the general public eventually turned from VHS to DVD when they realised how much better the picture quality was. Consumer electronics firms hope that impulse will convince people to trade in their old DVDs for movies in HD stored on Blu-Ray disk.
Firstly, people chose DVD because it was convenient: you don’t have to rewind the movie to see what you want to see. The CD-like disks are more resistant to the depredations of children and other family members. They also take up less space. Secondly, most people didn’t have a problem with VHS picture quality – pre-recorded tapes looked as good as TV.
HD quality on Blu-Ray is neither here nor there for 80% of the population. The quality difference is not worth re-buying DVDs that look great on SD TVs and scale up well enough onto HD screens.
The other two advantages of Blu-Ray over DVD are enhanced interactivity and increased capacity.
In the case of interactivity, I think the majority of movie fans just want to get access to the extra information: the pictures and supporting documentaries. Not many will step through scripts screen by screen. Few played the hide-and-seek games found on early discs. Few modern DVDs use the interactivity features of the format, specified more than 10 years ago. How many recent discs have the graphical buttons that overlay the screen during key scenes giving the option to find out more? It’s been a long time since I’ve heard of a DVD that offers alternative camera angles for a movie.
All we have left then is increased capacity. You can store a great deal more content on Blu-Ray discs. Hours of documentaries, commentaries and soundtracks, or whole TV series. Yet now we see that features are being released in dual Blu-Ray packages. It turns out that marketeers think that consumers would rather buy a pack with two discs half filled with content than a single disk filled with features.
Looks like DVD will be the last consumer hardware format. What do you think?