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Universal Pictures' Blu-ray Strategy

By: Ben Gourlay | Editorials in HT & Movies | Posted: May 22, 2008 4:00 am

A Look At Universal Pictures' Blu-ray Strategy - Continued


Because Universal were the last to step up to the Blu plate, they know they have a lot of lost ground to make up. But reading the list of specifications for the two Mummy films gives me a lot of hope that they will do the right thing, albeit finally, to the Blu-ray customer.



First off, the video. Whilst it has not at the time of writing been ascertained as to what codec Universal will use, it's comforting to know that new masters have been struck for both Mummy films. Whilst they didn't look terrible on HD-DVD, they also didn't look stellar. Universal copped a lot of flack for releasing quantity rather than quality; so if Uni can slow it down a little and focus more on quality, this would be a good thing, and this is certainly a good sign for the future. That said, don't expect full re-masters for every Blu-ray release.


Now, the audio. Universal have already publicised their intention to use the DTS HD Master Audio encoder for all their Blu-ray releases, ending their agreement with Dolby laboratories. Most HD-DVDs featured a lossy Dolby Digital Plus audio track, whilst some featured lossless Dolby True-HD. This to and fro of lossy and lossless is almost certainly due to the lack of available disc space on a 30GB HD-DVD. Now that there is an extra 20 GB available, these extra bits will be used to ensure the best possible audio presentation, and importantly to consumers; a standard expectation for lossless audio, as per almost every other studio.


Next, the extras. Universal cultivated a pretty good standard of porting over all the DVD extras onto the HD-DVD release, and this in turn seems to be continuing. This alone is comforting, and I wish other studios would follow suit (I am looking at you, Fox). But it doesn't end there. For HD-DVD, Universal featured on many discs a 'U-control' feature, which at its heart utilized picture in picture and branching elements available in the iHD environment (iHD was to HD-DVD what BD Java is to Blu-ray.) At the time, the grace period for Blu-ray manufacturers was still in effect, and no players had secondary video decoders, necessary for this type of feature. This was to come with BD profile 1.1, which is now in full effect, and can be found on the PlayStation 3 (on new firmware) and almost all Blu-ray stand alone players moving forward. So, it's a relief that Universal is not only including these features, but in the case of The Mummy movies, creating new ones where the HD-DVD had none. Again, it would be wrong to assume that all Universal Blu-rays will have these features, but again, it's a good sign.


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