I’d like all of you media companies and distributors out there to tell me something. Why should the consumer purchase your blu-ray products when you’re loading it down with so many protections and encryption schemes that they have to update their firmware on their players to even play some of the discs? That means that the consumer is at the mercy of their player manufacturer’s ability to constantly produce new firmware, plus they have to hope that the updates will fix whatever’s causing their disc not to play, and if it doesn’t, it could be a month or more before the next firmware comes out. Why should any consumer be expected to buy your movies if they won’t even be able to play them?
Case in point. I was recently sent a copy of the new blu-ray release of Helldriver to review. I put the disc in my standalone Samsung blu-ray player in the living room and tried to play it. The laser in the player was going nuts, grinding away back and forth, while the video and audio kept pausing while the laser would try to re-sync itself. Once I got into the movie itself, it played to a point, but every once in a while it would stop, re-sync and start again, and sometimes the audio would get out of sync and I’d have to stop it all together and then hit play again to get it to sync back up. Then I figured, ok I’ll take it in and play it on the computer instead. Of course the computer wouldn’t have a problem with playing it, right? Wrong! The computer was actually worse. The video came up completely thrashed and blocky and the audio was jerky and stuttering. At this point I figured, ok, I’ll contact the company and tell them I have a defective disc, as that’s all I could think it could be at that point, and in fact, it apparently was defective to some degree. They sent me a replacement, which now appears to play ok in the standalone player, even though I do hear the laser scanning around before the menu, and I haven’t really tried to watch the full film yet. So I figured, ok, this is a good copy. I had done a firmware update between trying the old copy and the new one, so just to confirm it wasn’t a firmware issue, I tried to play the old one again. It still had the same issues as before. Ok, good. Being a conscientious individual, I’d have felt bad if I had asked for a new copy when all I needed was a firmware update. As it turns out, the original copy actually does have something wrong with it.
At this point, I took the new copy in and tried to play it on the computer. Same issue as before with the bad copy. It came up with garbled video and audio and played very haltingly, even freezing up PowerDVD 11 for various lengths of time. Mind you, I have the latest codecs installed and the current version of PowerDVD, which plays other blu-ray discs just fine. So what’s the problem here? I don’t know what the problem is honestly. I don’t know if it’s some funky new protection or encryption scheme they’re using or what, but that’s not the point. The point is that I, as an end user, shouldn’t even have to think twice about it. I should just be able to pop the disc in and have it play. End of story, full stop. When I have to worry about firmware updates, software player compatibility and other issues, it makes me not even want to own the product, much less blu-ray in general. I can pop in DVDs and they work just fine with no problems or player issues whatsoever. Why should an end user have to struggle to watch a film on blu-ray that they could just as easily watch on DVD with no problems, often for less money?
So to all you media companies out there struggling to come up with new protections and encryption schemes, I’m telling you all right now, stop it, or you’re going to kill any chance blu-ray has of gaining wider acceptance. These schemes will be defeated by software, regardless of what you come out with, and it’s only making things harder and far more frustrating for the consumer, when all they want to do is to sit down, watch a film and relax without having to troubleshoot why this $25 disc they just purchased of their favorite new release won’t play properly in their player.
If you agree, or if you have blu-ray and have had to deal with issues like this, please feel free to comment here, and to write to the companies that produce these problematic releases. The consumers need to be heard.