What is Blu-Ray?
Blu-Ray technology extends the capabilities of standard DVDs.
CREDIT: SamsonMagnus / Shutterstock
Ever since its introduction to the consumer home market in 2006, Blu-Ray technology has come a long way in solidifying the way we view and hear movies, providing users with a more definitive answer over the DVD format.
Blu-Ray is an optical disc storage medium that extends beyond what DVD is able to do. Where a DVD (Digital Video Disc) usually stores about 9.4 GB of storage on a dual-layer disc, Blu-Ray is able to store 50 GB of space in the same space (or 25 GB for a single layer), allowing those who release movies, games and other video programs to compress for higher quality. The Blu-Ray discs themselves are about the same size as a DVD — 12 centimeters (4.7 inches) in diameter and 1.2 millimeters thick. However, taking a close look at the bottom of each disc, you can see that Blu-Ray is formatted a bit differently, so they're easy to tell apart.
Most developers utilize the dual-layer (50 GB) discs, mainly because that gives them more room to get the utmost quality out of discs. Very rarely do developers use that much capacity, but there are certain cases. For instance, the PlayStation 3 game "Killzone 3," developed by Guerrilla Games, utilizes the format and takes up approximately 45 GB of space on the disc – which is about equal to nine standard-size DVDs.
Because of the large storage space, audio and video can be improved upon greatly. Where DVD delivers a fairly standard picture, Blu-Ray allows for the removal of small video lines, creating a sharper visual image in the process. Running a DVD of "Marvel's The Avengers" alongside a Blu-Ray copy at the same time, you can see the slight differences in detail.
The development of the technology took several years for Sony to perfect and get down to a reasonable price — an initial BDZ-S77 player was released in Japan in 2003 for a whopping $3,800. (Nowadays Blu-Ray players can be had for about $200). Several features had to be implemented, including a DRM system to avoid pirating of materials (at the request of various Hollywood studios) and an ultra-thin coating polymer, applied by TDK, that made the discs next to impossible to scratch – a great improvement over the easy damage a DVD could take from something as small as a drop on the floor.
After the BD-ROM specifications were finalized in 2006, Sony began releasing various players to the public, with additional hardware manufacturers, including Pioneer and Samsung, jumping on board. At the same time, Toshiba tried to compete with its own HD-DVD technology, enabling the same kind of picture quality embedded in a specialized disc format, but it eventually faded out in favor of Blu-Ray, bowing out of the market in 2008.
One of Sony's biggest coups with Blu-Ray technology came in the form of the PlayStation 3, a game system that came out in late 2006. Not only did the system support regular and BD-ROM formatted games, but also enabled movies to be played on it. It's still a highlight with the system today, even though Sony has noticeably "slimmed" it down with new smaller models.
Since its release, Blu-Ray has gotten more popular over the years, with all major studios (and home video developers) hopping on board with the format. Though not all major blockbusters are released for it yet (Disney's still taking its time with various classics, though "Aladdin" is currently slated for a 2013 release), various popular releases have come out. "Star Wars: The Complete Saga" is a huge draw for the format, along with "Marvel's The Avengers," and others.
3D Blu-Ray has also seen an increase in production over the past number of years, allowing users who owned a compatible Blu-Ray player (including the PS3) and 3D-supported TV to watch their movies in utmost visual clarity. Such releases as "Avatar," "The Amazing Spider-Man" and various Disney/Pixar releases, including the most recent "Brave," are huge hits with home theater owners.