Video-on-demand services, including Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime, have changed the industry. For less than $10 a month, you can watch all the movies you WANT! What’s not to love? Well, how about the fact that you’ve just bought a beautiful new 4K HDR10 TV, and now you have to upgrade to Netflix Premium, almost doubling your subscription price? But the fact is that you DON’T need to. Have you heard of Blu-Rays?
Understanding Blu-Ray technology
The bottom of DVDs and Blu-Rays are covered with microscopic bumps and pits. A DVD or Blu-Ray player beams a laser onto it, which then reads the pits as 0, and the bumps parts as 1. This forms Binary code (a code made up of 1s and 0s, which forms the entire basis of computer functionality) which it then turns into visual signals and sends to your TV (also in Binary, as it happens). This is the movie that you see.
Blu-Rays differ from DVDs, however, because instead of using a red or green laser, they use a blue laser (or violet, if you want to be pernickety). This laser is more powerful and precise than the traditional DVD red laser, which means that it can read much smaller bumps and pits, which in turn means you can cram MUCH more information onto a single disk. The usual benefits are much higher sound and picture quality, and a heck-ton of special features. I think that Blu-Rays are what is still preventing physical media from becoming obsolesce, and what probably will for many years to come. Here’s why…
Blu-Rays are higher quality than Netflix
An uncompressed 4K video will burn through a terabyte of data an hour. A typical 4K Blu-Ray can hold 100GB of space. Most movies are around 100 minutes, plus special features, which, assuming the special features are about an hour, that means 3.5 terabytes of 4K footage per movie. Obviously, Blu-Rays don’t come as 30-disk packs, so what happens? A little thing called compression.
I’m not exactly sure how compression works (if you want a fuller explanation, check Wikipedia), but basically, it reduces file sizes by taking away specific information away in a way that isn’t noticeable to the user, for example, removing frames or part of frames that don’t change. That’s the theory, anyway. In practice, it’s sort-of significant, though not particularly.
The thing is that Netflix stuff is compressed A LOT more than Blu-Ray. It’s not as bad as it sounds, because compression goes mostly unnoticed. If you have an eye for detail though, (which I assume is why you bought your 4K HDR TV) you’ll probably notice. So how much more is it compressed? Well, Netflix recommends a broadband speed of 25MPBS for streaming 4K, whereas Blu-Ray has an average speed of 84MPBS (megabits-per-second) and sometimes even up to 128MPBS. So yes, Blu-Ray is better.
Blu-Rays play nice to your internet
OK, so I admit I may have missed out on the internet side of things. The fastest WiFi speed I ever experienced was 10MPBS. And while that could stream Netflix with plenty of internet left over, I only have the Basic plan, which is less than 720p. 4K will (theoretically) take at least 6 TIMES the bandwidth, and since the US has an average WiFi speed of 18.75MPBS, your internet is probably going to take a hit. Blu-Ray, on the other hand, has Zero impact on your bandwidth, because you’re not on the internet. And plus, your lounge/TV room doesn’t need Supa-Dupa internet just so you can watch all your movies. You’ll never see the red circle again!
They’re yours for life
Once you buy Blu-Rays, they’re yours. You pay a flat fee, and you keep them for life. Don’t fancy paying a cent more for media consumption? No problem. Your collection won’t grow, but it won’t go away either. Even if you’re on board with the pay-monthly idea, your favourite Blu-Rays won’t randomly vanish (Netflix do randomly remove movies to make space for new ones), only to be replaced by new “Blu-Ray Originals” that you don’t care about.
Blu-Rays aren’t Geo-Blocked
If you start watching Top Gear in the US at an airport, pause in the middle and then jet off to Slovakia, you won’t be able to finish until you get back because Netflix Slovakia doesn’t have Top Gear. They do this because video streaming rights are acquired on a per-country basis, so, for example, even if Netflix has the rights to Mulan in the US, they may not have those same rights in, say, Germany (they very well might, but let’s assume they haven’t), so while Netflix US can show Mulan, Netflix Germany can’t, because Netflix Germany don’t own the rights even though Netflix US do (remember, rights are acquired on a per-country basis), therefore showing it would be an infringement of copyright, which would mean up to 5 years jail time. So yeah, it’s bad.
Blu-Rays, however, are not subject to this. All you need to do is take your favourites with you, and you can watch wherever you want. Now, I know that DVDs and Blu-Rays are subject to region encoding, but this has been cracked since 2006, and you can watch region-encoded Blu-Rays with VLC (completely legal).
You can lend your Blu-Rays to people
Lending a Blu-Ray
“Oh man, you have this? Can I borrow it?”
“Sure! Just return it by Friday!”
Lending a Netflix movie
“Oh man, you have this? Can I borrow it?”
“Well, actually it’s on Netflix, but you can borrow my subscription if you like. You might not want to watch it from 5:00PM-9:00PM, because I only get 2 screens with my subscription and you might get locked out. Also, let me know when you’re done so I can change the password”.
But you shouldn’t stop Netflix altogether!
My family’s Netflix subscription is not primarily used for watching the Latest and Greatest films (not that Netflix HAS any of those). It is primarily used for children under 10 to watch Boss Baby: Back in Business, Sofia the First, Lego Friends, and Peppa Pig. We also use it to watch a classic Pixar movie occasionally (but those will disappear soon, thanks to Disney’s in-the-works streaming service), and Worst Cooks in America.
Netflix is great for catching a quick movie or TV while you’re on the go and you don’t have your Blu-Ray collection or putting something on for the kids on long car rides. And while I personally think that all Netflix Originals are a waste of server space, I understand that you might be hooked on Daredevil or Stranger Things. I’m not saying “Netflix is a stupid, good-for-nothing service, and all who use it are idiots (there are a couple of stronger words which I thought of there)”. I’m saying: “Netflix Premium is overpriced and there is no reason to subscribe when you can have Blu-Rays instead.
That’s my opinion, anyway, but if you think that Stranger Things isn’t worth watching unless it’s watching in 4K (I know that’s bad grammar) and that you also HAVE to watch Stranger Things or you might just die a slow and painful death, by all means, keep on with Premium! It’s your money, after all.