The End of the DVD-Video (and Blu-ray never got stared)

Something happened at the end of March (2012) that was not forecast to happen until the end of the year. According to Leo Laporte on TWiT (episode 346 if you want to watch it), those very smart people who do the numbers on this kind of thing, and do the forecasting, have decided that in March this year more people in the USA watched more movies over the network than they watched from optical media (i.e., DVD-Video and Blue-ray).

You can bet if this was so for the USA then it was probably so for most all of the Western World.

The expert view is that from this point on the numbers will never recover and so basically the era of DVD-Video being the main way we all watch post-release movies and TV series is finished.

I see a few downsides to this and following is the main one.

The vast bulk of streamed media is terrible quality when compared to a DVD-Video, and even crappier when compared to Blu-ray (I assume, but I have never ever watched anything on Blu-ray).

The average relative compression on a DVD-Video edit of a movie is about 40 percent (although this varies significantly depending on the length of the movie and how it was digitised). The average relative compression on a streamed edit of a movie is a massive 70 percent. They have to do this to make it quick to stream or download.

That is huge compression and the result is that you generally cannot watch it in full screen without experiencing artifacting, colour shifting, digital noise fogging occurring, a degraded sound-track, and sometimes all four. Not to mention the occasional pause if the buffer empties.

You don’t have to be Einstein to work this out. The average 1.5 hour streamed movie is about 800MB whereas on DVD-Video it is about four times larger at 3.5GB. The reason it is four times larger is that it is, in relative terms, four times better quality.

The alternative is to watch movies in a reduced sized ‘window’ in order to compensate for the visual impact of this occurring. But then if you are consuming said movie or TV series on a smartphone or tablet then the picture is so small much of this visual and sound degradation is not that intrusive because of the relatively tiny viewing screen and the seriously useless (generally mono) speaker.

Before anyone posts a comment pointing out that many movies are available from iTunes or Netflex or Amazon (etc.,) in at least two edits, the ‘crappy’ cheap edit and the better quality more expensive, so-called 720p edit (which is not really 720p at all but is somewhat better than the crappy edit), I already know this.

So the experts say that in the ‘new world’ of watching post-release movies and TV series the DVD-Video will now die off rapidly to the point that there will be very few new DVD-Video releases by mid-2013 (that is just 12 months away). The two options we will all have will be over-the-network for about 90 percent of us (those that don’t care much about image or sound quality) and Blu-ray (for those that want high quality sound and image).

If this is what happens, and what they are saying in this Internet era where (for most people) convenience trumps quality, then I am going to have to finally buy a Blu-ray player because I will not be able to get new release movies on DVD-Video anymore.