It hasn't even been a year yet and Blu-ray is already changing it's players.

In a story from Video Business, "the Blu-ray Disc Assn. has mandated that all hardware streeting after" October 31 "must be able to play back picture-in-picture video, as driven by BD Java interactive technology."

Currently, a lot of the "players on shelves now can handle BD Java, but to varying degrees. Few Blu-ray players include picture-in-picture capability, for instance, not even the PlayStation 3."

In fact, "Sony's current and summer 2007 stand-alone models and available Pioneer and Philips units are among those lacking the picture-in-picture feature."

Since there two players to contend with, "studios will have to navigate how to best create titles that play universally. A title with a highly touted picture-in-picture feature, for example, might not play properly on all players."

Also, "Pioneer has upgraded its own BD Java playback with a firmware update, as posted on its site earlier this week. Prior to the upgrade, Pioneer owners could not see Lionsgate's intended flashlight graphic within the menu portion of its Blu-ray version of The Descent."

Getting a title to offer the picture-in-picture feature may not be as easy as offering firmware for it.

"There was a grace period between the launch of the first generation Blu-ray launch and October," said senior VP of advanced product development at Pioneer Electronics, Andy Parsons. "After October, [manufacturers] must conform to the full range of specifications."

In addition to this, "after Oct. 31, all Blu-ray players must hold a minimum 256MB of persistent memory storage, which will help power the picture-in-picture feature. Also, any Blu-ray player that features an Internet connection is required to have 1GB of such memory, in order to hold whatever content users decide to download from the Web."

Lastly, "studios have not released a true picture-in-picture Blu-ray product, according to manufacturing and studio sources. Lionsgate worked around the issue for The Descent, by creatively placing two versions of the film on a large capacity Blu-ray 50GB disc to give the appearance of picture-in-picture technology."

While all the currently available Blu-ray players can of course play Blu-ray titles, a problem could arrive between players (and discs) that offer many bells and whistles, as opposed those that simply offer the minimum amount of features.

"The whole problem comes in when some manufacturers toe the minimum line and some others might make twice the minimum [functionality] on players," offers DVD producer Van Ling. "In my view, I shouldn't have to know what every single player can do. Rather than downgrade my creative vision for the lowest common denominator player, I want to create something [that fully realizes Blu-ray abilities]."

Cinemark Movie Club
Evan Jacobs