Sunday, November 30, 2014

Why Can't More BluRay's be Like "The Polar Express?"


I know December isn't until tomorrow, but tonight I decided to start my Christmas movie watching season with "The Polar Express.". Being one of the best 3D films ever made, I of course chose that format to watch it in (and since my therapist has challenged me to look on the positive things in my life, I consider it a blessing to be able to still be able to view this film in 3D).  Unlike most BluRay 3D releases, this set only comes with one disk.  If your BluRay player doesn't detect a 3D TV it informs you of your need for one to view the film in 3D, then switches to a 2D menu so you can watch it without the third dimension.  If the disk senses the 3D TV it will go straight to 3D with the option of switching to 2D if (for some crazy reason) you decide this is how you want to watch the movie.

Oh, and all of the special features are included as well (most of which are in standard definition, but what can you do).  All of this on one disk.  I find this fascinating because this release shows just how pointless all these multiple releases are.  Every 3D movie you buy on BluRay comes on it's own disk.  Usually the movie is all you'll get.  Once in awhile you'll get a trailer for a 3D movie or a commercial recommending you buy a 3D TV (yeah, I know), for the most part, though, all your getting is the movie.  I'm not sure why this is.  Some people who work in the industry tells me it's because giving the 3D version it's own disk gives the manufacturers the space they need to make it look the best the movie can look.  I have no problems with this response.  However, when you watch "The Polar Express" in 3D it looks great.  I mean, it looks demo worthy. 

The thing is, when you compare this to Disney's "A Christmas Carol" (also a 3D motion capture film directed by Robert Zemeckis, ironically enough), both of the disks feature demo worthy presentations. Maybe there's a difference in the sound quality, but it all sounds great as well.  Yet "A Christmas Carol" has it's own disk for the 3D, where "The Polar Express" shares it's 3D with everything else.  I bring this up because it occurred to me: Why can't more studios do this?  Look, if giving the 3D version it's own disk results in a better presentation then I say go for it.  I'm paying lots of money for these disks, so I want them to look and sound as good as they can.  Yet the reality is that studios are starting to cut back on 3D releases because they don't want to pick up the extra costs associated with extra disks for a version that might sell a fraction of the regular version.

If there is a movie where these extra costs don't seem to make financial sense on the outside, then they need to put the 3D version on the same disk as the 2D version.  Really, there is no excuse not to.  We know the studios can do this.  We know it can look great even without the extra space on the disk.  Heck, when Sony released their first BluRay 3D's they all included the 2D version to assure people who didn't have 3D TV's at the time (which was pretty much nobody) that these disks would be future proof.  They would work on their current TV's, you didn't have to upgrade to watch them, but the 3D version was there for when you did.  Somewhere along the line that line of thinking stopped, and I feel it's time to bring it back.  The studios need to insure that if I movie was made with 3D in mind, that there is a way to put the 3D version on disk.

Even if it has to share space with the 2D version and give up some of the quality (of which there is some debate it will), I think most film lovers would prefer to have it at a compromised level than to not have it at all.  Back when there was the big "widescreen debate" going on, studios would have to cater to two types of people: Film lovers who wanted to watch their movies in the format the directors originally filmed them in, and the everyday consumer who didn't like "black bars" and insisted the image be cropped so they wouldn't have to look at them.  Most studios made two versions available to appease both groups (I also want to mention practically all those full screen versions are practically un-sellable now).  When economics dictated that it would be financially cumbersome to do that, the studio would have to choose which version.

Sometimes they picked the consumer friendly full screen version.  In fact, they did this a lot.  Just ask Disney, who would almost always choose to compromise how the film was intended to look in favor of the more commercially friendly (but incorrectly looking) version... whoa, I just got a huge sense of déjà vu there.  Some studios put both the widescreen and full screen versions on the same disk.  Yes, this compromised the picture quality a little, but given the choice between that and no widescreen at all, it was an easy compromise for most film lovers out there.  I think the compromise of the 3D and 2D sharing the same disk is one that fans of, say, "Frozen," would be more than willing to make.  Also, from a marketing perspective, this would make a lot of financial sense as well as help push the market towards selling more 3D TV's.

There would be less disks to make, only one version of the product on the shelves (thus eliminating consumer confusion about different versions), and if more people had more movies in 3D (whether they intended to buy them or not) they would likely consider making sure their next TV they got would have 3D capabilities to insure they could watch them.  In short, it's a win-win for everyone.  Of course, the whole idea of the combo packs was also to do this very thing, but it doesn't work when you sell the products outside of the combo packs.  That's another topic for another day... and possibly another blog.  Anyway, I think this is something that is worth bringing up to the studios as a compromise if they insist on holding back on 3D releases because that extra $0.25 BluRay disk is just going to cost too much money.

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