/ Technology

Is it still worth buying Blu-rays?

Did you know that UltraViolet, which was used to store and play digital versions of Blu-rays, closed down in July this year? I’ve taken a look at the alternatives.

Anyone who’s bought a Blu-ray should be familiar with the UltraViolet logo – often added as a sticker to the front cover of a film that participated in the service.

It basically acted as a cloud storage system for physical media you’d purchased. Your Blu-ray would provide you with a code to prove your purchase, which would then give you access to a digital version of the film.

But back in July, UltraViolet closed for good:

This led to one member getting in touch to ask ‘is it still worth buying Blu-rays?’

Is there still a market for physical media?

While UltraViolet was still active, you could have saved your online film collection by making an account with Flixster and linking it to your UltraViolet library.

Flixster is shutting down too, but Google has agreed a deal for your films to appear on the Google Play Movies app. Some won’t be available due to licensing issues, although many will be.

This is disappointing, but there are still reasons to buy your favourite films on Blu-ray.

While Samsung has stopped making players, we’ve tested six this year from other major manufacturers, such as Sony, Pansonic and LG, which shows that the curtain hasn’t come down on physical media just yet.

Blu-rays vs streaming

Watching Blu-rays can be a great way to make the most of a large screen HD TV and a soundbar or home entertainment system, with higher quality video and audio than a standard DVD player or streaming service can manage.

Unlike streaming services, they also don’t require a fast internet connection in your home.

If you do want to stream services as well as watching Blu-rays, you can often do it through your Blu-ray player itself.

Some come with smart TV apps such as BBC iPlayer, Netflix and Amazon Video.

Moving on to 4K

Some Blu-ray players can also help breathe new life into your old DVDs and Blu-ray discs. If you have a 4K TV, an upscaling player can enhance the picture.

For an even more enhanced setup, you could buy an Ultra HD Blu-ray player and enjoy a picture with four times the detail of Full HD.

They don’t have to cost the earth, either. You can pick up a Best Buy for less than £200, but the discs can be pricy.

Do you still buy Blu-rays? If so, will you miss the digital UltraViolet service? Or have you moved on to 4K? Let us know how you’re enjoying your home entertainment.

Comments

I have some Blu-rays and no temptation to send them anywhere except my player, so Ultra-Violet has never been useful to me. I have a good Panasonic Blu-ray player, but find that ordinary discs play more easily. Not only do Blu-rays take longer to load and play, they can be temperamental. One particular one plays on one machine and not on another. There is a difference in quality between an ordinary DVD and a Blu-ray, but it isn’t so great as to ruin a good film in the old format. I won’t miss Ultra-Violet and I’ll continue to buy my films on some form of DVD and actually own them for good.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Duncan – exactly as I used to do regarding audio. However, at the house move earlier this year my (pretty substantial) vinyl collection – including a low number Beatles white album, went to a hospice shop – I can rebuy on line as CDs or loss-free download as the mood takes me. I spent a couple of dozen evenings a few years ago streaming my CD collection to MP3 format on a NAS – for local use (the drive whizzed up to an incredible speed – just as well they were in balance). I have all the CDs of course, but now in the loft – as proof of ownership lest the RAID5 gets a raid (sorry) – but NAS is more convenient for listening wherever given the plethora of CAT6 in the house. I do realise that now all the agencies in the world know my music tastes (remarkably similar to yours, with early stuff dominated by Bing, Ella and Ink Spots), but I don’t mind.

Of course that was a few years ago – and at a good bit rate. However, now I have a better hi fi – and the difference between what I thought was “perfect” MP3 and WMA is quite significant – so the exercise will be repeated, this time loss-free (the RAID array has been supplemented with an umpty terabvyte one so this will only take up a small corner).

This comment was removed at the request of the user

My mother used to like Pat Boone. My take – lovely songs (particularly the ballads – “I’ll be home, Friendly Persuasion, April Love..) but he couldn’t sing for toffee! Wavered, whispered… couldn’t sustain… A couple of his on vinyl were in the collection – Great, Great Great and Moonglow. Elvis on the other hand had not only a cracking repertoire of tunes, but an unwavering sustain capability and a damned good backing group. His up tempo/ R & R and ballads hit the spot all ways. His versions of American Trilogy and Unchained Melody particularly bring his capabilities to the fore.

Talking of “white singers making money out of black singers’ songs… I remember there was a company called “reditune” which used to supply tapes to pubs back in the 70s which contained barely passable covers for a lot of famous songs. There was a particularly poor rendition of Stardust playing as my father and I were enjoying a pint in our local. MY father’s immortal line to the landlord… “Has Nat King Cole turned white?”

So far St Helena has raised ~£350 (including the gift aid) from my collection – and I’m sure there are some left. They had one chap there who clearly knew the wheat from the chaff so the white album would have probably fetched about a hundred.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Interestingly, Louise, I think your own topic header both asks and answers the question. If I may:

While UltraViolet was still active, you could have saved your online film collection by making an account with Flixster and linking it to your UltraViolet library.

Flixter is shutting down too, but Google has agreed a deal for your films to appear on the Google Play Movies app. Some won’t be available due to licensing issues,

UV was a terrible concept. Far from allowing films to be played ‘anywhere’ it was difficult to operate, and – contrary to what was said on the box – did not download the blu ray to your device. Instead, it streamed it.

There’s a huge gulf between downloading and streaming. If you download it, you can convert it and keep it forever. Streaming is an extremely temporary arrangement which can disappear without notice.

We have a media system in our house; it contains blu ray and HD films and TV series for which I’ve paid. I have the original discs and might have extracted the video material from them, and converted it to be stored on the media server and run through iTunes to the Apple TVs we have.

The important bit about all that is that I own the discs. The converted files merely play through the media system in our house but the video companies have been running a massive scam on consumers for years.

They tell us that, although we buy the Discs, we can’t do things with them, such as extract the video (copy) and convert it. I may be wrong but isn’t this the equivalent of the Coop selling carrots but telling you you’re not allowed to cook them? Or Ford selling you a car but telling you it can’t be used on roads?

We have learnt that we can’t trust the TV and film companies to continue to supply discs on demand or stream them; they go bust, sell up or change the licensing.

Your own header states that clearly. But it’s equally clear that you favour remaining with the physical media. Good. Because we buy it and can always access it, so long as the lights don’t go out.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

I think there was a time when UK law almost got changed so as to legalise copying your own discs. I think we discussed it on Which? back then.

My experience of libdvdcss is that is can only decode some DVDs – to play all DVDs you really need proprietary software.

That said, I’m a big fan of Handbrake and used to use it to back up the DVDs that it could read.
PS – I’ve seldom ever bought Bluray discs but do find they give superior audio.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

On Windows, PowerDVD from the Cyberlink PowerDirector suite can be used for playing Blurays and DVDs. I have versions from Vista and Windows 7 days. The latter works on anything from XP to Windows 10. My copy came from a charity shop for £3.99.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

There are no Blu Ray or DVD titles I haven’t been able to decode. Macs are remarkably good at playing just about anything, in fact.

Ian, I think that ought to be the case for any software that has paid to licence the decoding algorithms – even on Linux.

If you were going to back-up DVD’s on Mac, what software might you use for that?

I think the problem with the freeware codecs is that, to avoid those fees, they are reverse engineered and so don’t quite manage all discs. In particular, I used to find that I could not use Handbrake on Linux to transcode all of the latest blockbusters. That said, Handbrake is still a useful tool for making compact and portable MP4 copies, e.g. for USB sticks playable on modern TV’s.

I’ve been using Handbrake for years, Derek; nothing comes close, frankly. Most commercial offerings are built on Handbrake’s engine and the handbrake guys won’t even accept donations.

Decoding the latest Blu Rays almost always requires reloading a library or two, and WinX HD Video Converter for Mac is also quite nippy, as it can deal with you tube and other streaming services but for the trickiest discs nothing beats MKV.

With MKV it extracts the relevant files,but they still have to be processed with Handbrake to make them AppleTV-friendly. Generally I find you need to use three or four different packages to get the final product. The last is iDentify, which looks up the film or series, downloads the artwork and other information and parcels it up for iTunes to display.

The studios claim they use anti-copying tech to combat piracy but that doesn’t really stand up any more. The crims will always find a way to copy the film,even if it means sitting with a video cam in the cinema, so the only people they end up punishing is us – the honest ones who’ve actually bought the darned thing.

If I remember rightly the law briefly changed, then changed back again:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/article/33566933/ripping-music-and-films-illegal-again-after-high-court-overturns-new-law

A shame but, however much we disagree with it, we’ll have to remember that it’s what the law says when we’re discussing it here.

Perhaps the above posts should be…hidden? I don’t think we want Which? to be held culpable for encouraging ripping.

Oh dear!

Of course I copied all mine in that tiny window of opportunity….

Joking apart, I think I comply with the new law, certainly in spirit if not also letter. I have indeed made a copy of my entire collection for my personal use, but at the same time I have to all intents and purposes put the originals out of reach, so no sharing and only one active copy accessible to me. What say others?

Roger Pittock said 26 November 2019

Oh dear! Of course I copied all mine in that tiny window of opportunity….

Darn those pesky time stamps 🙂

Xtree sorts out timestamps. We discussed that a while ago – and I really need to buy it (not for fraud I hasten to add, this simply reminding me of the fantastic suite on offer, document and hex file compare being the two principal ones I’d use).

Sadly, not available for Mac. Unixtree is the closest.

I expect most Unix (e.g. MacOS) and Linux systems have readily available utilities covering Xtree’s functions.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Duncan, does ytree do document and hex file compare? I’d usually use diff or kompare for the former and don’t ever do the latter.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Thanks Duncan – that looks yet another “Norton Commander” clone. It doesn’t seem to offer much beyond semi-gui file management for terminals. Do you actually use it yourself?

This comment was removed at the request of the user

No bother – but, for Linux terminals find, touch and rsync probably already cover those tasks…

I have not got round to buying any Blu-rays yet. Maybe I’m not keeping up with technology.

They’re no use unless you have access to a player…

If you have a player and a nice TV, then they do give better quality video and sound than DVDs.

The other point is that the standard of mastering – certainly in the early days – was rather variable. Not all Blu Rays are created equal…

I don’t doubt that they are better but I don’t get a great deal of enjoyment from sitting in front of a screen.

I’m currently working through a boxed set of BBT (Big Bang Theory) which certainly has it moments 🙂

We’ve just finished it – for the second time. It’s good, partly because some of the characters do remind me of people I met at Uni, but I think the writers did seem to make Sheldon less likeable in series 11 and 12.

We don’t even have any DVD’s now, although there is a DVD player lurking in a cupboard somewhere.

We always found it difficult to find films we wanted to see again on a small screen and even fewer we would wish to watch more than once at home. We do watch [and occasionally record] old films on Talking Pictures TV though.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Agreed, Duncan . . . but some of the old British films are quite enjoyable when you ignore the awful sets, the stilted diction, the hammy acting, and the trite plots.

Well, the sets have improved; still not too sure about the trite plots. But the same can be applied to films from the US. A Wonderful Life is a prime example. Regularly feted as the ‘best’ film of its genre, it’s beset by the technical limitations of its day.

Generally, I think both TV and cinema output have stayed about the same quality here and in the US, while the Australians, who were late starters, have made impressive strides.

The equipment needed to make a film or TV programme has plummeted in price and leapt in quality over the past 15 years. What’s not really changed is the abilities of those who produce them, as opposed to those who direct them.

Making a quality show is dependent on a really good director, excellent actors and superb writers. If any one of those three is lacking then it won’t be good.

Like John, I’m not keen on watching films more than once, so it’s not worth buying DVDs. On the other hand I have listened to the same CDs many times.

As with good books there are films that are worth seeing again. I don’t subscribe to streaming services so rely on a small collection of DVDs (and tapes) with an eye on the tv schedule.

One attraction of some old films (usually British B&W) on Talking Pictures” (channel 81) is the location shots showing life as it used to be; people, transport, buildings, industry………

Generally, I see films as something to watch when there is nothing more constructive to do. At the moment the sun is out (unexpectedly) so I’m about to build a cold frame in readiness for the next growing season.

I’m a bit of the two extremes of movies I love. I love fantasy and sci-fi that doesn’t take itself too seriously. And for that watching in HD is the best choice.

But the others I love are the story led films with few special effects and the effects that were there were delightfully home made and you could watch them on an old B&W TV and it would make no difference.

On a completely off topic note…

When I was a kid my favourite films that if they remade now they would ruin are: Darby O’Gill and the little people (such bad accents and full of naff stereotypes but somehow I still love it), Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Goonies and Honey I shrunk the kids.

One they have not ruined was the new Mary Poppins. You could tell the special effects were better but it wasn’t so sleek that it removed the soul. And they used the old school animation style – that touch made me very happy!

Aaah! “…..old school…” reminds me of end of term. My school used to show a film all the inmates before release, usually something semi-educational like “The living desert”. But one year they chose “The Belles of St. Trinians” which went down particularly well with the audience. I still enjoy it on the very rare occasions it reappears.

We got Henry V…

I do enjoy watching some things again: Sci Fi space operas, such as Star Wars, the Alien Franchise (1 and 2, anyway) reward repeat viewing, if only to spot continuity errors or SFX missed the first time around.

Classic comedy also rewards: The Good Life, M*A*S*H. BBT, Drop the Dead Donkey and several others are still funny, even years after they were made. Python also endures, although not Fawlty Towers.

“The Plank” was a shortish film that bears repeat watching, for casual amusement, from time to time. I prefer the original with Eric Sykes and Tommy Cooper to the remake with Arthur Lowe

My vote for the best sitcom series ever goes to One Foot in the Grave. It was consistently funny [agonisingly so at times], had fairly unpredictable plots, was blessed with great characters and actors, and was garnished with the most exquisite dramatic irony in the story lines.

I liked The Plank. Another in that vein – The Picnic….

I have seen too many changes in technology (and have had too small a budget) to have wanted to invest seriously in any new technology, so blu-ray has passed me by anyway. What DVDs I have will do fine until my DVD player conks out, and that will be that, DVD collection off to charity.

I don’t even have a set-top box anymore or an aerial, so I watch whatever freeview is available on i-Player, STV Player, etc. I bought a smart TV that still works fine 6 years on, although the STV player app is rubbish. I hook up my laptop to the TV and watch STV that way instead. If apps disappear from the TV, but the TV itself works fine, I will carry on hooking up my laptop, which is cheaper to replace than a good smart TV. Stuff giving more money to all these manufacturers, their pricing new technology obscenely high when it first comes on the market, their making people want new products when they don’t need them, and built-in obsolescence.

Och, I know they’ll get me anyway, they’ll invent a new cable to link devices, won’t they, change the shape and size of the plugs or something.

(I could rant on about climate catastrophe too… it’s related, but off topic…)

This comment was removed at the request of the user

It’s a Samsung, Model UE40F6320AK.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Not having a smart TV, I either plug the TV into a laptop, which Sophie mentioned, or just watch iPlayer on the laptop.

I do not have a smart tv either and go online by my smartphone or pc. Sometime I link an iPad to the tv through Apple tv. However, surely if a tv loses some of the apps that were originally present you don’t just replace it; you get one of the plug-in devices that makes it smarter?

Indeed.

Thanks, Duncan. I had to double check because it was a while ago, but I did set up the updates to be made automatically. Bizarrely, however, there were some apps to be updated in the Settings area, but not the STV Player.

I tried pressing and holding the select button on the app a few times, but it just opened the app each time.

I checked the version of the STV Player app I’ve got and it’s the same as the one you can download from Samsung’s list. I deleted the old app and installed the new one to see if it works. I haven’t tried yet, but I suspect it’s just the app that’s rubbish. If this “new” app doesn’t work I’ll just carry on with plugging in the laptop.

It would be nice to know if it’s worth buying the more expensive blu ray players above £500

Do they give better picture quality, especially when comparing to players under £200?

Or are they all the same?

This comment was removed at the request of the user

I’m glad you mentioned amps and dacs, because I recently found some videos about them and other gear

Have a look and see what you think

Thomas & Stereo, he compares a $150 preamp to a $4000 preamp
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LwMXMtSprxI

he compares a $3000 speaker to more expensive ones
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ErVRAz4oTQ

he talks about high end audio and different types of speakers
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nFMxhp-8hWk

Next Best Thing Studio
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vc1GPxGahmI
and
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I9WYa7-YJss
he compares expensive dacs to cheap ones

Zero Fidelity, about different types of amps
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-yrTvD4ocJk

So there probably is a difference in sound quality between cheap equipment and expensive equipment. But I’m not sure about picture quality difference between cheap and expensive players

This comment was removed at the request of the user

wev says:
10 March 2020

duncan, I don’t know if you will ever read this, but I hope you one day come back to Which Conversation

your opinions are sorely missed by everyone

I looked into UV once and it was basically a mess of a system. Never used it past trying to set up one film. I avoid anything with Google. I chase 4k where I can get it, it is good when presented well, live sport for example.

Blu-ray I use for the 4K films I want so see the best quality (2001 or Alien etc.). I stream 4k films via Apple, quality is good (very good) but not the same as a hard copy. However disks are £20 a throw, if you wait for the films to drop in price on iTunes, less than 1/2 the cost of a disk. The trick is the balance between the two for personal wants. I don’t buy HD only films anymore on hard copy apart from a select few. I stream them.

A lot of interesting technical stuff here, but which would lose a lot of people. I stopped buying DVDs a few years ago and just buy on Rakuten now. Then I can either stream it – wherever I am – or download copies to watch if eg I am on a plane. Quality is fine.