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What is Blu-ray and How Does It Impact the Family Viewing Experience?

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What is Blu-ray, and what does it have to offer the familiy viewing experience? With the explosion of family and children's titles, which are among the biggest releases, many families are making the switch and investing in Blu-ray players. So, should you spring for the PS3 or another type of player and dive into the Blu as well? Here are some points that will help you understand the different aspects of Blu-ray and what the format has to offer, as well as some pitfalls to avoid when purchasing a player and information on how kids might be able to use the new functionality.

Q: What is Blu-ray?

A: Blu-ray is a media format designed to replace the DVD format. Blu-ray uses a different type of laser to read the discs, allowing more data to be stored on a single disc. As Blu-ray can store more data, it can provide a much better picture (Hi-def) than the DVD format as well as better audio.

Q: Will a Blu-ray player still play DVDs?

A: Yes, all Blu-ray players can play existing DVDs. Additionally, most Blu-ray players include technology advancements that allow the players to improve the visual playback of existing DVDs.

Q: What do I need to play a Blu-ray disc?

A: Blu-ray playback can require several pieces of equipment for the best experience. Additionally, certain players may not be capable of playing all of the special features on the new Blu-ray discs (see BD-Live FAQ below). Robert Silva, About.com’s guide to home theater, offers an extensive look at what to know before you buy a Blu-ray player.

Q: What is BD-Live?

A: BD-Live uses an Internet connection on the Blu-ray player to access additional content, features, and interactivity. This can include movie discussions, additional video content, and other related content. Not all Blu-ray discs contain BD-Live features. Blu-ray packaging will indicate discs that use the feature.

Q: What do I need to use BD-Live?

A: BD-Live requires two main components – a Blu-ray player that supports the Profile 2.0 (BD-J 2.0) system and an Internet connection to the player. The PS3 does support BD-Live features (may require a firmware update).

Q: Is BD-Live content rated as part of the movie?

A: No, the MPAA does not rate any BD-Live content nor is the content regulated. Each company is free to use the format as they please. Companies like Disney have announced plans to use BD-Live on a majority of upcoming titles while some other companies have not announced plans.

Q: Does BD-Live allow chats and other content that could put kids at risk?

A: Yes, on certain Blu-ray discs, kids would be able to chat (much like on Instant Messenger) with friends or send and receive mail. Various community forums are possible. Some studios (like Disney) require a BD-Live account to be set up, but if kids know the account information, they can still access public forums or send and receive messages.

Q: What other features does Blu-ray offer that are not available on DVD?

A: Blu-ray has more advanced interactivity options than DVD, allowing for elaborate games, educational content, and enhanced video options (like picture-in-picture viewing for commentaries and behind-the-scenes). The movie menu is updated and can be accessed while watching the movie. Also, many Blu-ray discs include a digital copy of the movie that can be used on a portable device like an iPod, PSP, Zune, and so forth.

*If you want to learn more about the technical aspects of Blu-ray discs and players, please see Robert’s extensive index of Blu-ray and related home theater information.
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