To Blu or Not To Blu – Some Final Thoughts

The possibility of releasing on Blu-ray without the required huge costs and the risks of unsold discs that come with pressed product will be here in 2021. What does that mean for me? And what does that mean for you?

Let’s start with you.

It’s quite possible that you may not know or understand the basic difference between the DVD and Blu-ray formats. If you do, feel free to skip ahead. If you’re one of the many, many people who don’t know, here’s the scoop.

Mainly, there’s a difference in image quality. DVD’s are in “standard definition” and the image is 720 pixels wide and 480 pixels high. Blu-rays are “high definition” and the image is 1920 pixels wide and 1080 pixels high. For old movies like silents, the image is 1440 pixels wide and the rest is filled with black bars at the sides.

Bottom line: twice as many pixels, and therefore twice as sharp. That’s why so many people ask “Are you going to release that on Blu-ray?”

I’ve found some people may be a little confused about the actual disc itself, and this will hopefully clear this up. Blu-rays and DVDs are the exact same size. Blu-rays hold more digital information (all those pixels), but that’s something you can’t see with the naked eye, if I may use that expression on television. A Blu-ray player will play both Blu-rays and DVDs. A DVD player will only play DVDs. The plastic case for a Blu-ray is slightly less tall and often the plastic is blu, er…blue. 

So, do you need to buy a Blu-ray player? No, not really. 

Most classic film disc releases are on both DVD and Blu-ray, and often in the same package as a combo pack.  That way if you do make the switch you don’t have to re-buy the disc. 

Until recently, it’s been rare that something will be released as Blu-ray only, but this has changed in the last year or so with outfits like Criterion and Kino Lorber releasing some classic film titles just on Blu-ray. The reasons for that — making the title unavailable to DVD-player-owners — I’m sure make sense to whoever the distributor is. What I know, from releasing When Knighthood as a DVD/Blu-ray combo pack, is that the cost of adding the DVD to the Blu-ray process is minimal.

So, what does the opportunity to release something on Blu-ray mean for me? Producing for the resolution bump-up isn’t a factor as we do all our work in 2K or HD anyway. The plus is that it opens up the catalog to anyone who has passed on any of the Undercrank Productions releases because “I don’t watch anything unless it’s on Blu-ray”, and making these unseen-for-decades films available to fans is our mission.

The catch, for me, is something called “authoring”. This is the process that takes the video files and menus and makes them integrate and flow with one another. Doesn’t have to be fancy, with animation and sound effects triggered by every touch of the arrow or enter buttons on a remote. But a disc has to be authored.

The companies that made authoring software stopped making and supporting these applications a few years ago or longer, right when those of us who used DVD Studio Pro (Mac), Adobe Encore (Mac/PC), and Sony Vegas (PC) were looking to start authoring for Blu-ray. Some of the video editing softwares no longer have file-rendering output options for the kind of files needed for Blu-ray. 

There is a Blu-ray authoring software that “the big kids” and I’m assuming duplication houses use called Scenarist, but the monthly license fee for ownership is not for a fingerling-potatoes indie like yours truly.  This means paying a duplication/replication company several hundred dollars to author the Blu-ray. I can do this for DVD myself in less than an hour.

When Knighthood Was In Flower was already made up in both DVD and Blu-ray for the original release in July 2017, so making it available in an MOD Blu-ray now didn’t involve any extra steps or costs. The DVD edition of it is already available as an MOD product, and the MOD Blu-ray will be available before the end of 2020. 

But re-issuing anything I’ve already released will not just be clicking on something. It will come with a price tag.  One that I will now consider adding as a line-item to budgets for projects I Kickstart and produce in 2021.

I hope this series of blog posts has helped answer the question “Why don’t you release that on Blu-ray?” and has helped explain the process.


Earlier posts in this series:

For some details on the Blu-ray and BD-R format, here’s a Wikipedia article on the subject.

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