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Many Players Need Firmware Update To Play Spider-Man 3 on Blu-ray Print E-mail
Thursday, 18 October 2007
Spider-man 3 on Blu-ray is one of the Holiday season’s most highly anticipated releases on the 1080p high definition Blu-ray format but early adopters may have problems playing the disc in many of today’s Blu-ray players.

Using a review copy of "Spider-man 3" on Blu-ray on local tests at AVRev.com, the disc struggled to play in the brand new Samsung BD-P1400. After an excruciatingly long load-up time, the disc starts to freeze and skip from the very start. Audio dropping out, picture stuttering, you name it. Compared to the mainstream consumer’s expectation for DVD playback, most couldn’t make it to the actual film. According to various reports, other players including units from Sony, Pioneer and other stand-alone Blu-ray players are reportedly having issues with the blockbuster and feature laden HD release.

Playstation 3 does come to the rescue. The game machine plays the disc like a champ. Although one of the first Blu-ray players on the market, the Sony Playstation 3 is without question the most reliable Blu-ray player on the market. While a game machine isn’t suited for many home theater applications, the lack of format incompatibilities paired with a low entry price makes the Playstation 3 the way many enthusiasts test the waters in a ferocious HD disc format war.

The release of Spider-man 3 on Blu-ray isn’t the first time that new blockbuster Blu-ray title has failed to play on existing machines. When "Pirates Of The Caribbean" 1 and 2 were released by Disney/Buena Vista, there was hardly a player out that could play the movies. All the first generation Blu-ray players required an immediate firmware update which requires a DVD-R disc being burnt on a PC and run on a machine or the units to be connected directly to the Internet. Each and every one of the AVRev.com reviewers and editors who were using the Samsung BDP-1000 were unable to play new Pirates Blu-ray discs without the firmware update. The new BD-Java encoding of disc (which was necessary for the interactive Liar's Dice game) ironically prevented the movie from playing. So a consumer pays $30 for a disc to watch the movie, and the bonus features of the disc make it not play at all. How intuitive is that?

"Pirates Of The Caribbean" wasn’t the end of Blu-ray titles being released and failing in many of the early players. Most recently, FOX released "The Day After Tomorrow" and "Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer" on Blu-ray. Both of these titles played on less than a handful of the players out there. Again, now it was the BD+ encoding of these discs reportedly that affected successful playback. A firmware update was needed by Samsung for the BDP-1000, which reportedly loaded the movie in an agonizing five plus minutes and then played the movie with more than its fair share of jitter, skipping, and freezing. The Samsung BD-P1200 reportedly did not play the movies at all. After inserting either of the discs, a screen appeared that stated the player could not play the discs and that a firmware upgrade was needed. Some of the newer players did better with the Fox and Disney titles. Playstation 3 still remains the most stable of the available players.

Consumers are struggling to understand why they need an HD disc player when DVDs work perfectly well in their systems. The difference between DVD and HD discs need to be seen and heard and then the upgrade is obvious. What is also obvious is the need for the Blu-ray camp to get their standards more stable so that studios can release top titles that work with relatively manageable number of Blu-ray players on the market. While the Playstation 3 is a tempting audience – it's not the only audience. A guy who drops $799 on a "top of the line" Blu-ray player, hooks it up via HDMI and is looking to the best video currently available doesn’t want to hear that his player won't play that latest disc or that he needs to spend hours burning and running firmware update discs before he can watch a new Blu-ray film.

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