I'm telling you. This guy was amazing. He had a paunch, but he wasn't exactly fat. His thick black hair had been shaped into the most amazing bowl cut I'd ever seen. He wore a white button-up dress shirt that his mom must have bought for him sometime during the holidays. It was flapping freely, untucked from his pants. His blue tie matched his blue blazer, which looked exactly like the kind Disney employees used to wear while manning the Space Mountain ride back in the late seventies. It didn't help that the guy was wearing a Disney nametag. I watched as he piled up a plate full of brownies. The caterer and I both stared in amazement as he studied and fondled each piece before laying them on his plastic tray. He took the desert squares back to his table. I thought he was going to be sharing with his comrades, but no. One by one, he shoved those tasty treats into his weirdly captivating face. He looked like a humanized version of Augie Doggie. After he finished his plate of brownies, he pushed it away. Happy. Content with himself. He then took a look around the courtyard and stated at the top of his lungs, "Panasonic is going to be the leading provider in home entertainment for the next twenty years. And we are having lunch here...THINK ABOUT THAT!"
The man's mind had just exploded. He was excited. Jubilant, even. He could hardly contain himself, and the only thing that seemed to be holding him back was his plate of pilfered brownies. What had him so on the edge? Well, we had all been invited to the Panasonic Labs as part of Disney's recent two-day Blu-Ray symposium. And minutes before offering us a lovely catered lunch, Panasonic unveiled its new Next Generation Blu-Ray player for all in attendance. The DMP-BD30. A glorious little hunk of black plastic and metal infused with the latest Hi-Def hardware. My fellow journalist's excitement was almost enough to get me worked up about it.
Even though I don't really care.
I personally believe that both HD DVD and Blu-Ray are elitist forms of consumer consumption that detract from the actual film being presented on these particular formats. A couple of weeks ago, I was treated to an HD presentation, in which Transformers was showcased. And it looked amazing. On a theater sized screen with the best possible player and sound system. Something most of us aren't going to be able to afford. Now, I've seen the Next Generation of Blu-Ray presented in the same forum. And, gosh darn it, try as I might, I can't tell the difference between the two. Even though I'm supposed to be trumpeting this new Panasonic DMP-BD30 player, the overall image almost looked a little bit more blurry to me. But to make that generalized assumption, or say that the HD I saw was better, I would have to take every minuscule detail about the way it was presented to me into account.
Wouldn't I? Seriously?
I'm the wrong person to be asking about the format wars. I have a Zenith tube television from the late eights. And I watch bootlegs that look like they were recorded off an old inner tube on it. That, too me, is pristine perfection. Something about the black of the tube, and the grainy streaks in the video heighten my visual experience. I truly believe that movies, first and foremost, are a story medium. They are overlaid with a visual artistry. When you choose how to view these works of fiction in your own home, you are basically choosing the canvas upon which they will be displayed. Cinema is the only artistic medium where the artist lets you choose the platform upon which he will be placing his work. The size of the screen and adjusting the color palate is completely at your control. Heck, you can even turn something like Raiders of the Lost Ark into a black and white film noir with one slight turn of the tint button if you so choose.
The idea that HD-DVD or Blu-Ray is extremely important to our survival on this planet is a Pop gimmick. It is being used to resell video titles in an already overcrowded market place.
Sure. I get it. If the movie is good, its super awesome to have it seen in this sort of High-Definition format. Where you can become sexually intimate with an actor's nose pores and double-check for ear hair. But, like 3-D, or any other visual gimmick, the effect of Hi-Def wares off after about fifteen minutes of looking at it. Then you realize that all the bells and whistles in the world aren't going to make Hatchet or Epic Movie any more enjoyable to sit through. Like a girl's (explicative removed), these things just aren't so pretty on the inside. It's like Mike Patton said, "You can dress up the dead man, but you can't bring him back to life."
Look, if you have the money, go to town. I know I'd fully buy into the conceit of exchanging all of my Standard DVDs for an HD or Blu-Ray upgrade. If I were a millionaire. But I'm not, so I'm quite content with my $5 discs from outside the dollar store and my $50 TV that I picked up at a garage sale. Trust me, I want to get excited about all of the these new formats, but its tiring. And I don't get it. While visiting Panasonic, they showed us the difference between their earlier BD10 model and their new BD30 model. To my eyes, it was like trying to differentiate between CENTURY font and CENTURY SCHOOL BOOK font. The conversion rate is miniscule at best.
The one thing Panasonic was extremely excited to show off, was the fact that you can play a CD on the new console while viewing pictures off a memory stick. They kept talking about it like I was going to throw a slideshow party within the next week, and that this function was detrimental to my wellbeing. Maybe slideshow parties are all the rage in Japan, but I honestly can't remember when I was invited to one last.
Actually. This guy with the bowl cut was getting me kind of hyped about a slideshow party. In his overtly loud monotone, he kept telling everyone in attendance that he was going to throw one when he got home. He was going to show off this trip to Blu-Ray Hollywood for all of his friends. I kind of wanted to be there. I found this fellow journalist to be way more engaging than the new DMP-BD30 demonstration.
But hey, don't get me wrong. The Panasonic DMP-BD30 is a great piece of hardware. It truly is, if you are into that kind of thing. It's going to make Panasonic the leading force in home entertainment for at least the next twenty years. And I had lunch at their laboratories...
THINK ABOUT THAT!
Here is the official Panasonic Next Generation Blu-Ray Disc Player press release. Welcome to the future, and the exciting new DMP-BD30:
Panasonic, a leader in High Definition technology, announced today the introduction of the DMP-BD30, the next generation High Definition 1080p Blu-ray Disc player. The DMP-BD30 is the first Blu-ray player to be introduced with Final Standard Profile, which adds a variety of new and enhanced features to the Blu-ray arena and one that separates the Panasonic Blu-ray player from the rest of the field. Also unique to the DMP-BD30 is the inclusion of an SD Memory Card slot for playback of High Definition content recorded in the AVCHD format. The SD slot also allows for viewing of digital still images recorded to an SD Memory Card.
Final Standard Profile is an advanced function added to the Blu-ray standard, which opens the door to new functions such as Picture-in-Picture (which displays a second image in a sub window) and Audio Mixing (allows the consumer to switch the sound between the main and sub windows).
"The DMP-BD30 will contribute greatly to Blu-ray's mounting lead over the competing format," said Gene Kelsey, Vice President, Panasonic Entertainment Group. "Panasonic's adoption of the Final Standard Profile adds a whole new dimension to the entertainment experience. For example, when the added value features inherent to the Final Standard Profile are incorporated into a Blu-ray movie, the viewer could have a myriad of entertainment options. One of the more intriguing aspects of the Final Standard Profile is the Picture-in-Picture feature that would allow the movie fan to access a variety of entertainment enhancements, such as having the director or an actor pop up to discuss a scene you are watching, or with an animated movie, you might see the actor performing their character's voice over, all while still watching the movie. Not only do these features give Panasonic a strong advantage in the high definition market, but they provide the movie community with numerous opportunities to embellish the viewing experience with additional creative elements."
With an SRP of $499.95, the DMP-BD30 also features a myriad of technology advances, including Deep Color Compatibility, and HDMI 1.3B, that bumps the step gradation from 8-bit 256 all the way up to 12-bit, 4,096 step gradation. To further enhance the viewing experience, the DMP-BD30 also provides 1080/24p playback, so the consumer can enjoy the same 24-fps (frames per second) reproduction as the original movie. This eliminates the need to utilize 3.2 pull down, a process to convert 24-fps images to 60-fps, resulting in a smoother picture.
The inclusion of a multi-function SD Card slot is another new addition to the Panasonic Blu-ray player. Coupled with the AVCHD codec, the DMP-BD30 allows for images recorded on a high capacity HD SD card to be outputted directly from the player's HDMI terminal in their original 1080p form. To further benefit the user, the DMP-BD30 provides an AVCHD Direct Navigator function that makes it easy to search for particular scenes. The player can also play back JPEG still images on an SD card, such as those recorded with a Panasonic Lumix digital camera. The DMP-BD30 converts the images to 1920x1080 resolution, ideal for viewing on a1080p HD Plasma and output them through the HDMI terminal.
Like its predecessor, the DMP-DB30 features the EZ-Sync™ HDAVI Control that allows the consumer to operate their Panasonic home theater system with one remote. With one touch of the EZ-Sync button, all the components turn on, the correct TV input is chosen, the TV's built-in speakers are muted and the home theater starts playback.
"Panasonic's commitment to excellence in entertainment and technology is evident in the establishment of Panasonic Hollywood Labs, where a great deal of research went into the development of Blu-ray," added Kelsey. "PHL has become one of the major centers for the authoring of Blu-ray titles and works closely with studio engineers in developing High Definition compression technologies."