Posts Tagged ‘Blu-ray’

Yearly News Roundup – 2019

Tuesday, December 31st, 2019

And just like that, 2019 is nearly over. Or maybe already over by the time I post this because, a) this thing took longer than I expected to finish, and/or b) you live on one of the Line Islands and you’ve reached 2020 earlier than everyone else on the planet.

So I guess this is as good a time as any to review 2019 and summarise everything that has happened over the last year. Or at least the things that I can remember right now.

And don’t forget to enter our 20th anniversary competition, where you can win some cool prizes simply by finding a codeword that we’ve hidden in a news article, or maybe even in this very article ūüėČ

As with our usual “weekly” roundups, let’s start with the copyright stuff.

Copyright

Torrenting is down as expected, but that’s not because of the effectiveness of all the anti-torrenting laws and measures, but because people have moved onto other ways to get their piracy fix. Piracy streaming is now the go-to for people because streaming technology and people’s broadband speeds have improved to the point where HD streaming is possible and easy. Direct downloads are also making a comeback via private forums and chat groups, encrypted and password-protected download links, coupled with decent download speeds even for free hosting services. The downloader benefits from these two methods because they’re largely free from monitoring, and there’s little chance of a nasty email from your IPS informing you that you’ve been caught.

Streaming piracy has become even more popular in 2019

The response from the other side? Sites continue to get taken down, operators sued, new laws passed. So basically the same old, same old game of whack-a-mole.

With access to even faster download speeds, Blu-ray rips and 4K downloads, once the domain of the most hardcore due to their 25 to 100 GB downloads, will become more popular. At least for those that are still bothering to download stuff.

High Definition

Unless you’re somehow immune to our cross-promotional efforts, you should know that we now have our own YouTube channel. We’ve taken everything we’ve learned over the years to focus on the niche of 4K upscaled (and sometimes, native 4K) content, mostly trailers, but also behind-the-scene clips and even music videos of our own creation. I can confidently say that our 4K uploads are some of the best you’ll see on YouTube, and that’s largely down to the effort we take to upscale the content from the best possible sources. None of this ripping from a muddy YouTube HD upload and then doing a simple bilinear 4K upscale, with so-called 4K uploads looking worse than the original HD version.

You can’t expect quality upscaled 4K if you’re not working from a pristine source

We’ve also learned a lot about not just how YouTube works (and how channels that focus on quality often lose out to channels that focus on speed), but also how the whole trailers game works (it’s way way more complicated than what I originally thought – there’s a real art to how to best promote a movie, and some studios are simply better at it than others).

And some trailers are just better than others, and here’s our top 10 for the year:

Check out our choice of the top 10 best trailers released in 2019, plus five more notable mentions

Moving away from shameless self-promotion, the home video landscape remains in flux as streaming takes over everything and anyone who is anyone is coming out with their own streaming product (and at the same time, taking their stuff off Netflix).

But the one that has the best potential to disrupt Netflix is probably Disney+ and so far, it’s going to take a while for this to happen, if it happens at all.

The Mandalorian is probably the best Star Wars anything since the original trilogy (okay, Rogue One was pretty good too), but with the first season now over, there’s nothing really on Disney+ that’s a must-see. The other Star Wars shows, and the Marvel originals are months if not years away, and in terms of catalogue content, only a tiny fraction of the Disney and Fox library is on there (and Disney is not in a hurry to add more).

The Mandalorian is the best thing to have happened to Star Wars in ages, and the one show on Disney+ that makes the service worth signing up for

At the same time, Netflix is releasing about 1,362 new shows and original films every month. And while many of them are completely missable shows, many are really quite fantastic. I just hope Netflix doesn’t run out of money soon, because their production costs are enormous and without theatrical runs for their movies, they’re missing out on a potential billion dollars in box office takings.

The current big debate over original IPs versus more and more superhero movies involves Netflix and other streaming outfits too. One side argues that Hollywood (and cinema chains) is too focused on the next Avengers phase or Star Wars, and not giving movies like ‘Richard Jewell’ a chance. The other side argues that superior movies like ‘Richard Jewell’ and ‘Uncut Gems’, both in cinemas right now, just don’t make economic sense when the inferior ‘Star Wars’ is obliterating them in terms of ticket sales. In the case of ‘Richard Jewell’, I know for a fact that Warner Bros. did promote it as much as its other movies (in terms of trailers, promotional clips, etc…), but moviegoers are just not biting.

The question that some have asked is that would ‘Joker’ have made so much money if it had been simply called ‘Arthur’ and was not based on DC Comic’s IP? Most likely not!

So can you really blame Hollywood for being unoriginal when unoriginal is what pays the bills? The same for cinema chains, who will always show more love to an uninspired Marvel film over a film like The Irishman.

I’ve uploaded some great trailers for some really interesting films this year, but they will never get as many views as says a Top Gun 2 trailer or a Wonder Woman sequel. The only exception is Christopher Nolan, who’s original films are more anticipated than even the most anticipated franchise titles.

The other raging debate is over the apparent focus testing of movies, and how it’s ruining creativity and originality. The re-designed Sonic is what started this debate, with many believing that the original design, as bad as it was, would have made a weirder and less mainstream film that would have lived on as a cult classic. A movie so bad, that it’s good.

Spare a thought for the talented cast and crew of Cats, a movie ruined by scarily-awful CGI

But then the horror movie known as Cats happened, and its director Tom Hooper appears to have ignored all calls for focus-testing and character re-designing, and well, we now know that perhaps some changes should have been made. If Paramount can avoid what happened to ‘Cats’ with a re-designed Sonic, as pandering as it was, then I think they would believe that it was a change worth making.

And finally, disc sales continue to slide, as even 4K Ultra HD can’t save physical media from being made obsolete by digital and streaming. I had promised to write our 2018 disc sales analysis almost a year ago, and it’s almost time to write another 2019’s. I’ll probably combine the two together, and I’m not making any promises, but hopefully, that analysis will be uploaded soon. Spoiler alert: Blu-ray disc sales have fallen, not as much as DVD sales, but still quite alarming despite the increasing popularity of 4K.

Gaming

I haven’t covered gaming news as much in 2019, but the three big stories are the continued success of Nintendo’s Switch, and the two new consoles from Microsoft and Sony, the funnily name Xbox Series X and the PS5.

Ultra HD Blu-ray Logo
Sony finally jumping on the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray bandwagon

While I can go on about ray-tracking, 120 FPS gaming and SSD storage, but what interested me the most was the fact that Sony’s PS5 will finally support 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray playback, having skipped it in the PS4. I guess you can surmise that Sony now realise it was a mistake to not include UHD disc playback with the PS4, although they will argue that the cost of the drive and the fact that games are getting bigger and bigger were all factors in Sony deciding to jump aboard the UHD, and BDXL train. While I haven’t found any concrete information on what kind of disc drive the Xbox Series X will be using, but I would be very surprised if it turns out to not support UHD Blu-ray playback.

#Celebrate

On that note, we come to the end of this roundup, and (almost) 2019. Hope you all have a great time celebrating the new year, and may this new year be your best yet!

See you next year.

Weekly News Roundup (March 31, 2019)

Sunday, March 31st, 2019

Welcome to another edition of the WNR. It’s going to be a light one this week, as while we have a big announcement from Apple to cover, that was pretty much it.

Still, it gives us plenty to talk about this week, so let’s not waste any time.

High Definition

So the big news of the week was Apple’s entry into streaming video courtesy of their upcoming Apple TV+ service.

First of all, let’s talk about what it isn’t. It isn’t really a Netflix rival, at least not yet, because Apple TV+ will only host original content that Apple themselves have produced. So there won’t be any third-party licensed content that’s still the bulk of content on platforms like Netflix and Amazon.

Photo showing Jenifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carell at the Apple TV+ launch event
Apple will hope its big star line-up will help to make Apple TV+ a success

And even with relation to original content, Apple’s content spend of $1 billion is only a fraction of Netflix’s annual spend on original content, so Apple’s ambitions, so far, are much more limited compared to Netflix’s.

Apple TV+ also won’t work on most of the non-Apple devices you actually own. While Apple is opening up Apple TV slightly, allowing it to work on selected smart TVs and even on the Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV+ won’t be accessible on your Android device, on your PC or in your browser. This could change at some point, but it looks like Apple wants the content on Apple TV+ to be mainly consumed on an Apple device (which is not surprising).

Using unique content to draw users into the Apple ecosystem is one thing, but what Apple may be even keener to do is to keep the Apple TV hub relevant in the age of Roku, Amazon Fire and Google Chromecast. Apple can’t make their 30% off of Netflix if Netflix doesn’t think it’s worth having their app integrated into Apple TV, and Netflix won’t think Apple’s 30% money grab is worth it if Apple TV is not popular enough.

Apple will hope that exclusive Apple TV+ content from the likes of Steven Spielberg, Oprah, J.J. Abrams, and shows starring the likes of
Jenifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carell, will help grow the Apple TV user base. Or at least grow it enough to make Apple TV an essential platform to be part of.

This talk of Apple reminded me of an old news story from way back. Way back as in when Steve Jobs was still alive, and when Toshiba’s HD DVD was still trying to beat Blu-ray. Jobs said then that Blu-ray was a “bag of hurt” and despite Apple being a member and a board member of the Blu-ray Disc Association, Apple never did bother to include a Blu-ray drive with any of their computers.

Apple never bothered with Blu-ray, but discs still have a place

Now Apple is getting into video distribution having skipped discs entirely, and this probably means something for discs (and not in a good news kind of way). But discs do still have a place (anyone who regularly tries to download high-quality 4K content will know this is the case), and they will be around for a while yet, even if they are no longer the default go-to for most people. What do you think? Do you still use discs? Let us know by voting in our latest poll.

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That’s all I have for you think week. Let’s wait and see what the next week brings us.

Weekly News Roundup (February 24, 2019)

Sunday, February 24th, 2019

Only a couple of days left in the shortest month of the year, which is just as well, as summer here in Australia has become unbearable. With March comes possibly one of the best seasons ever, and it is also my favourite month as it will be my birthday again. Yes, I’m quite vain and I definitely think this song, and the entire month of March, is all about me.

A little ’70s music trivia aside, we have a few news stories to go through, so let’s get started.

High Definition

Well, it may not be the actual end of an era, but to paraphrase Winston Churchill, it definitely feels like the beginning of the end. Samsung has confirmed that it will stop launching new Blu-ray player models in the US. Initially, it was thought that only 1080p Blu-ray players were affected, but it soon became clear that Samsung plans to stop launching even new 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray players!

Samsung's UBD-M9500
Samsung’s UBD-M9500 4K Blu-ray player, the last the company plans to release in the US

Those following Samsung won’t be too surprised by the move, as the company hasn’t brought out a new Blu-ray/4K player since 2017. Samsung’s denial of support for Dolby Vision also meant that their players just weren’t what people wanted, considering how popular Dolby Vision is compared to the rival HDR10+ format. The unpopular nature of Samsung’s players, and the fact that the marketplace for Blu-ray players is quite crowded may partly explain Samsung’s decision, but it is still quite a blow for physical media.

That a major CE firm is ending support for such a major disc format, and so soon in the format’s lifespan, does not bode well for the format, or physical media in general.

The decision is also a weird one because Samsung’s TV business is doing quite well, and it’s weird that Samsung would then force its TV owners to seek out a rival brand’s Blu-ray player. With that said, it’s not as if Samsung will stop selling Blu-ray players, but merely not planning on releasing any new models in the future – they will simply continue to sell their last released players, the UBD-M9500 (in fact, the 2016 model, the UBD-K8500, is still for sale too). The fact that there’s not a lot of upgrade potential for Blu-ray and 4K players, probably also contributed to Samsung’s decision.

But buyers not satisfied with a 2017 model will definitely have to look elsewhere.

And part of the reason why Samsung is defocusing from its physical media business is the existence of streaming, and in particular, Netflix. But just because Netflix is dominant, it doesn’t mean there aren’t things that the streaming giant is worried about. Disney’s upcoming streaming service, Disney+, appears to be one of those things.

Netflix and Disney have previously worked together well as the Hollywood studio used the streaming platform to offer its movies and shows to a wider audience. While this generates some revenue for Disney, it also loses them some in terms of physical and digital sell-through for the same content, but with a wider audience now caught up to the happenings of the Marvel Universe, for example, it has led to higher box office receipts for the studio. There are many terms you can use to describe Disney, but stupid is not one of them.

Still photo from The Punisher
Marvel’s The Punisher cancelled by Netflix, who no longer wishes to help Disney now that the studio is launching its own streaming platform

But this past partnership is now proving to be a problem now that Disney, whether they think so or not, is directly threatening the dominance of Netflix with Disney+. Disney+ will now host much of the same content that has drawn subscribers to Netflix, and will create new content based on franchises that Netflix wish they had.

So Netflix’s steely move to cancel all remaining Marvel co-productions, including ‘The Punisher’ and ‘Jessica Jones’, is a quite understandable one. Better to lose a finger now, than a hand, later.

And the ominous statement following the move from Marvel TV‚Äôs Jeph Loeb shows the frenemy side of Netflix and Disney’s relationship, as well as a hint on how Disney will take it to Netflix via its Marvel (and other) franchises. Loeb wrote in response to the cancellations: “Our network partner may have decided they no longer want to continue telling the tales of these great characters … but you know Marvel better than that.”

Wow!

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So while we await the Avengers like epic battle between Netflix and Disney+, we have come to the end of another WNR. See you next week!

Weekly News Roundup (December 16, 2018)

Sunday, December 16th, 2018

I finished bingeing (or is that binging – nope, doesn’t look right) Narcos: Mexico. It was great. I mean, I wouldn’t put it anywhere near shows like The Sopranos or The Wire, but it’s a high quality production featuring some great acting and an amazing but true (well, mostly) storyline. It’s also reminded me that I should go watch Scarface again, which is exactly what I’m doing just before I started writing this WNR.

Also watched Alpha, suspected animal abuse aside, loved it for the beautiful cinematography and simple story.

And yes, there was still time for some news …

Discs sales are on the decline, that’s clear as day. Blu-ray sales peaked in 2013, it appears, while DVD sales peaked long ago. While Ultra HD Blu-ray has lifted Blu-ray’s numbers a bit, the general trend is still down, especially for DVDs.

Walmart Blu-ray and DVD Sales Rack
Blu-ray and DVD sales still doing well in certain locations, says Walmart

The very first Black Friday sales figures I tracked for DVDs had the revenue for the week at $386.35 million (this was in 2008). This Black Friday, that figure has dwindled down to $116.45 million.

Sure, Blu-ray revenue rose from¬†$27.68 million in 2008 to¬†$104.37 million in 2018, but that doesn’t come anywhere near plugging in the hole left by declining DVD sales.

But according to an EVP at Lionsgate, the decline in discs sales isn’t happening everywhere, and in rural USA, sales are still going strong.¬†

And the recent Black Friday sales also show one important thing – people still do buy discs in great numbers, but only if the price is right. The discounting of UHD titles from their usual $25 to $9 on Amazon really helped, and that’s because the perceived value of discs have dropped in a day and age where $11 per month gets you thousands of titles, including many exclusives, like Narcos: Mexico, that you would have paid good money to watch and own previously.

Scene from The Kissing Booth
Netflix’s most re-watched Original film in 2018 was The Kissing Booth

Speaking of Netflix Originals, the streaming giant has put together a review of 2018 in terms the most “popular” shows and movies that have premiered in 2018. Netflix is notoriously shy about releasing actual watch figures, so they’ve used some interesting metrics to measure the popularity of shows, movies and even the fastest rising stars.¬†The Kissing Booth¬†was the most popular Netflix original film because it was the most re-watched;¬†On My Block¬†just beat out¬†Making a Murderer: Part 2¬†as the most popular original series because it had the higher¬†average watch time per viewing session (I think that’s what you would normally call binge-factor), and¬†The Fab Five from Queer Eye were the most popular stars because their Instagram follower count increased the most.¬†

And you know what, hardly any of the movies and shows listed by Netflix will ever make it to Blu-ray or DVD. And this, perhaps more than pricing, is the biggest obstacle facing physical media.

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Alright then, that’s all for the week. There won’t be a WNR next week as I’ll be away for the weekend at a wedding. Might not be one after that as well, considering it’s so near to Christmas and all that, but will try to pop on and say hello. And now, back to Scarface.

Weekly News Roundup (December 9, 2018)

Sunday, December 9th, 2018

So I watched two action movies this week. The action genre is not one of my favourites, although I really don’t mind it too much. But the differences in experience in watching the two action films, ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ (I know, I shouldn’t have waited so long) and ‘Geostorm’, couldn’t be bigger. Well one movie has quotes like “You will ride eternal, shiny and chrome”, and the other has lines like “It’s GENOCIDE, LEONARD!” – so let’s just say one movie was “Mediocre, Devlin! Mediocre!”

Between the adrenaline rush that was Fury Road, the snooze-fest that was “Gravity” for idiots aka “Geostorm”, I also watched Netflix’s ‘Dogs’ dogumentary. “Sniff-Sniff”. What an intense week!

Oh yes, I had some time to write a few news stories too.

Copyright

Another week, another disappointment for Denuvo. They should be used to it by now. Only weeks after citing how important it was for games to be protected by Denuvo, if only to cover the first two week’s of the game’s release (when most of the piracy occurs), Denuvo’s owners, Irdeto, has had to deal with an embarrassing setback.

Not only did Denuvo fail to protect ‘Just Cause 4’ for two weeks, it couldn’t even protect the game for two days.

Just Cause 4 Screenshot
Just Cause 4 cracked in less than a day – #DenuvoDoesntWork

With the game currently being slammed by users for having too many issues, it seems to me that the publishers of the game, Square Enix, maybe should have invested the money they spent on licensing Denuvo on actually making the game work properly before release. The poor reviews plus the availability of a pirated copy should hurt ‘Just Cause 4’ sales, which is bad news for the fantastically talented people that worked on the game, but probably what was deserved for the people at Square Enix that made the decision to use Denuvo.

High Definition

So Black Friday has come and gone. I hope you didn’t spend too much, or if you did, you spent it well. And apparently, a lot of people spent good money on Blu-ray for this Black Friday, in particular, on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray.

Deadpool 2 Ultra HD Blu-ray
The Deadpool 2 UHD edition was discounted to $9 during Amazon’s Black Friday sales, down from the normal $25

Blu-ray sales, including UHD disc sales, were up almost 9% compared to last year’s Black Friday, and a lot of the growth was driven by UHD sales. The stats seem to imply this (unit sales up 3.4%, but revenue up a higher 8.9% – seems to suggest people were buying more expensive Blu-ray discs than last year, which could mean box sets or, more likely, UHD discs). The fact that Amazon, one of the main drivers for Blu-ray sales during Black Friday, discounted a lot of UHD discs to as low as $8, also seems to point to an UHD inspired buying frenzy.

Blu-ray sales, including UHD disc sales, were up almost 9% compared to last year’s Black Friday, and a lot of the growth was driven by UHD sales. The stats seem to imply this (unit sales up 3.4%, but revenue up a higher 8.9% – seems to suggest people were buying more expensive Blu-ray discs than last year, which could mean box sets or, more likely, UHD discs). The fact that Amazon, one of the main drivers for Blu-ray sales during Black Friday, discounted a lot of UHD discs to as low as $8, also seems to point to an UHD inspired buying frenzy.

There is also the fact that the top 10 Blu-ray sellers for Black Friday week were all titles that had UHD editions (and were either recently released UHD titles, or had UHD editions that were heavily discount). 

In other words, cheap UHD equals big Blu-ray sales!

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So that’s the end of another WNR, as we count down to the end of the year. I’m also writing this on the new WordPress editor, and I must say with such a nice and clean writing environment, I feel more productive already!