Netflix and chill? Or Blu-Ray and Chill? With the Oscar Awards over, movie buffs are going to catch a few award winning films they haven’t seen yet. Today’s movie consumers are using streaming services like Netflix over buying physical copies of movies for convenience. Consumers also get high-definition 1080p quality as advertised, but are consumers truly getting the same Blu-Ray high definition?
Buy on Blu-Ray or Stream Online?
Let’s start off saying that neither mediums of consuming your movie and TV shows are wrong. Streaming services have many advantages, like watching as many movies and shows as you want and its conveniently portable. Services like iTunes and Google offer rentals and to own for users to stream. But what you do sacrifice with streaming, even though it is advertised as HD, is the quality of picture and sound that you can get from a Blu-Ray. So here is where a physical disc collection of movies is best – for movies you want to collect and watch again.
Movies on blu-ray have picture quality in 1080p HD and retains it’s sharpness with very little compression. But to stream HD movies, editing through compression on the movie is required so that it can get to the user via the internet. The technology to transfer large data just isn’t quite there yet to give us exactly what Blu-Ray can do. The movie file you get on the disc is somewhere in the 20-40 GB while the movie you stream is a total of about 2 GB. Bitrate for the video goes from about 30 – 40 mbps for Blu-Ray to about 8 mbps for streaming which is equivalent to a DVD. Bitrate matters more during a scene with a lot of motion, whereby higher bitrate reduces the amount of blur and artifact. Compression for streaming will make the picture not as sharp, soft and slightly blurred so that it can be streamed without issues. Plus, Blu-Ray’s large capacity allows users to get bonus content, which streaming doesn’t offer, though some offer one bonus content as oppose to many documentary and deleted scenes to name a few on a Blu-Ray copy. See here for picture comparisons of blu-ray and streaming movie servces from AVSforum members.
And of course, audio quality is sacrificed. Streaming will have compressed audio rather than uncompressed audio. Just like uncompressed or lossless audio for music, the quality of sound loses it’s impact, especially sound effects being weak on an action packed scene. Sometimes, sound effects have the ability to shake your house, if volume is loud enough, but with streaming quality compressed audio, you’re not likely to get that. Also, surround sound usually comes in Dolby TrueHD (lossless audio) with up to 7.1 surround sound. This was made for HD home theatres with high quality sound. Streaming services offer audio that is compressed with Dolby Digital at 5.1 surround – which gives you less impactful sound with lesser quality. The amount of speakers in your home theatre doesn’t necessarily matter, but the quality of sound you are getting doesn’t come close to what you will get from a blu-ray copy of a movie that is similar to a movie theatre.
So if you’re ever wondering if you should buy a Blu-Ray copy of your favourite movie or just stream it, consider these fine details on a movie. If it is an award winning movie and you truly enjoy it as you are a collector, definitely buy it on Blu-Ray. But if you just want to go through the mill of various movies to watch and never see it again, then streaming via rent or subscription services are the way to go despite having a lesser quality. In the future, if bandwidth and internet speeds become much faster, delivering a Blu-Ray quality picture and sound quality should be possible, but at the moment, it just isn’t quite there yet.
Let us know if picture and sound quality matters to you when you enjoy a movie.