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BD-Live is the latest incarnation of connecting local disc-based content with real-time, remote and in some cases, multiple user interactivity. WebDVD applications could do it to some extent with DVDs, but were almost exclusively confined to playback on a computer. Profile 2.0 gives set top BD players that capability, and with today’s faster broadband, more efficient compression techniques and a new generation of users plugged in to social networking, the opportunity for this to work exists. Content is still the key, though, and in these early stages, the pickings are slim for BD-Live.
Connecting to your title’s BD-Live network can be tedious. Initiating it is easy: just click on BD-Live from within the title’s menu. The Hollywood studios have their own systems to deliver this material and vary greatly in what’s offered and how to get there.
Disney (WALL-E) is by far the most sophisticated network and expansive range of features. Paramount (Iron Man) has the least in terms of offering, but you can also access their BD-Live system easier. Warner (The Dark Knight) is in the middle.
The Disney BD-Live Interface
All require you to register with an email address, user name, and password and in most cases, a home address. An on-screen keyboard allows using the player’s remote control arrow and enter keys to submit info. Disney is the most rigorous in qualifying users, citing their family orientation and concern for security. After the initial registration though the Blu-ray player, the studios process and send you a confirming email to then log back into BD-Live through the player. Customer support needs some upgrading all around, as requests to have passwords resent can take days for a response.
Iron Man had only a simple, multiple choice, time-based (the quicker you select the correct answer, the more points) trivia game available. BD-Live isn’t necessary to implement that, but apparently so many people wanted to explore Iron Man BD-Live that Paramount’s site crashed when the BDs were first released. Warner had a few more interactive features available for TDK, including downloads of movie trailers and live special events such as the one with director Christopher Nolan. But Disney is head and shoulders above them all. The BDisney-Live Network, although not yet fully decked out, has numerous options for playing private games or against online opponents, social networking to chat with friends during a movie, promotions, Movie Rewards and more to come. Disney has announced they will integrate the use of laptops, iPhone & iTouch and other interface devices to eliminate the cumbersome navigation and data entry via the BD player remote.
The Sony S350 operated reasonably well in BD-Live. It’s a far cry from using the Internet from your computer, but content and performance upgrades should improve the experience.
Note: Even though the S350 may be running its most up-to-date firmware, you will be prompted from time to time by the respective BD-Live sites to update their software. Do that. Considerable development is underway for BD-Live applications. Just how much the audience for Blu-ray packaged media wants all these extra interactive - what some might call interruptive - additions to the movie experience remains to be seen.
It’s hard to knock the Sony BDP-S350. The machine does its job, is dependable, quiet, built solid and looks good in delivering the key features for a Blu-ray player, all at a reasonable entry-level price. Spending a few bucks for a 1GB Flash drive and upgrading the player’s firmware instantly makes the S350 into a full Profile 2.0, BD-Live machine. Some traditional features like still frame advance and reverse aren’t available, and the on screen display could reveal more information about elapsed, remaining and total time simultaneously. I had a few quibbles with the arrangement of settings in the Xross interface, but these are minor, especially if connecting your BDP-S350 to your AV system via HDMI 1.3 and using Easy Setup to configure the defaults to get up and running with the least hassle for optimum viewing and listening pleasure.
One closing trivial nit to pick: When you have a Blu-ray disc loaded in the player and click Home to access the S350’s menu, under Video you’ll see a graphic rectangle with a disc in the center. It’s labeled “BD-ROM.” That’s the movie you’re going to watch! Why so techy calling it BD-ROM? I know, I know, it is a Blu-ray Read Only Memory disc, and the Blu-ray Disc Association doesn’t have all the format variations the DVD Forum has for DVD-Video, DVD-Audio, DVD-R, DVD+R and so on. But I’m watching a movie here! Just call it “Blu-ray” or “Blu-ray Disc” in the user interface. Maybe even display the title. The BDP-S350 is certainly smart enough to do that.
|Model ||BDP-S350 |
|Output Resolutions ||
|HDMI Version ||
|Audio Format Support ||
DTS-HD Master Audio (Bitstream) •
Dolby TrueHD (Bitstream)
|Supported Media Formats ||
|BD Profile ||