Cool Beans

Back in 1998, I was an 18-year-old movie aficionado with a job that paid far too much. I wanted to upgrade from VHS tapes to one of the newer digital formats. There was DVD format, which was fairly costly and there was DIVX (Digital Video Express), a cheaper, CD-based format, but which required one to go online and pay per movie view — like renting. Not knowing which format would catch on, I decided to take a risk by investing in the DVD format. Thank heaven I did. DIVX didn’t last one year.

Over the last few years, we’ve been thrown into this boggle again. Until recently, there was a huge battle between HD-DVD and Blu-Ray formats. Some stores would only rent or sell one format. Motion picture studios were contracted to print in one format. The Xbox 360 contained an HD-DVD player, and Playstation 3 with a Blu-ray. Unlike DIVX and DVD, this battle went on for years – until this year.

In February, following Warner Bros., Netflix and Best Buy announced their discontinued support, and the coupe de gras hit HD-DVD when Wal-Mart announced that it would also no longer sell the format.

Because each format’s players are so expensive (along with the discs themselves) and the outcome unsure, this time around I held out in purchasing either format until the feud was over. Not that Blu-ray has won, but I finally have invested — and it was worth every cent, all 40,000 cents I paid for it.

If you’re looking into getting a Blu-ray player, I’d recommend simply buying a Playstation 3. The PS3 costs the same as a Sony Blu-ray player. I see two advantages in buying the console. A PS3 can play video games as well as watch movies and, two, when connected to wireless Internet, the PS3 will automatically upgrade your player’s software.

Even though retail stores charge an obscene amount for Blu-rays, there are cheaper ways to go about getting them. Blockbuster Video has a large and growing selection of titles and they cost the exact same price as standard DVDs to rent. Amazon, eBay and other online retailers charge up to 50% less than Wal-Mart, Best Buy and Circuit City.

To view the best image when using your Blu-ray player, you’ll need a 1080p digital television and a good surround sound system. The clarity of the picture and the crispness of the uncompressed audio are second to none. Until now, I always thought that nothing could compare to seeing a movie in theaters. But when I brought the Batman Begins Blu-ray to a friend’s theater room that had a 1080p digital projector, I was in awe at the silver screen experience I enjoyed in a private theater. Now, if only the cost of a 1080p projector would go down.

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