Cranky Hanke’s Screening Room: OK, I’ve Gone Blu-ray—well nearly

Cranky Hanke’s Screening Room: OK, I’ve Gone Blu-ray—well nearly-attachment0

There it is, sitting there like a visible conscience. It’s a box. It contains a lot of packing and another box. It’s all on the nice armchair that only gets used by cats—who, I might add, are not pleased with its presence—and the occasional intrepid visitor who doesn’t mind getting up covered in cat hair. Inside the innermost box lies—or so I am told—a 100 percent region-free Blu-ray player. I’m assured it will play any region DVD and any letter code Blu-ray disc. State of the art technology at my fingertips and all that. It’s of the “so simple it operates itself” variety—no tricky settings, just pop those babies in and go. What it is not, however, is “so simple it sets itself up.” Therein lies the reason it’s resting on the chair.

Now, I’m not a complete technology neanderthal. Justin Souther can attest to the fact that I was able to explain just exactly what he needed when someone gave him a turntable and he wanted to experience vinyl for himself. That, however, is part of the problem—my basic technology knowledge was learned somewhere around 1968. In a lot of ways the underlying concepts are the same, but now I have to contend with things called fiber-optic cables and six speakers where two used to be just dinky-doo.

All this is more or less already in place—overlooking for the moment that one of the rear speakers has a break somewhere in the wire that I’ve been meaning to get around to finding for five or maybe six years. The problem I’m facing is that all this stuff that’s in place is in place for existing equipment. While this equipment is rendered sort of obsolete with this latest toy, it encompasses my Direct TV hook-up and a two machine set-up of DVD player and DVD recorder—none of which is replaced by the new machine, since it does not record. On the one hand, this isn’t a huge deal, since the new machine hooks into the TV monitor with a different cable, allowing me to leave that part alone—just changing the TV’s input setting to play things from the new player.

The problem arises from the apparent existence of only one fiber-optic input on the receiver, and I haven’t the least intention of changing cables back and forth everytime I go from one to the other. My plan then is to use the fiber optic cable on the Blu-ray player and relegate the rest of things to plain old stereo through RCA phono cables. In light of the fact that the only thing I watch on TV comes from Turner Classic Movies, even stereo is guilding the lily in at least 80 percent of the cases. At least that’s how all this plays out in theory. In short, there’s no reason I can see why this shouldn’t work. That, of course, is not necessarily interchangeable with impure practice.

But if I’m honest with myself, the real sticking point is getting involved in shifting all this junk around and wading into those masses of confused and confusing wires kept just of out view by the junk itself—not to mention my unconfirmed suspicion that some kind of hole for at least one cable is going to have be bored before this is over. And then there’s speaker wire that needs attending to. Just thinking about this prospect makes me feel the need of a nap. What I’m really hoping, of course, is that some poor sucker…I mean some kind friend of mine will volunteer to do this for me.

And once it’s done and actually working, I have to face the fact that I have a grand total of two Blu-ray discs at my disposal—King Kong (1933) and Tommy (1975). Now, I can think of much less pleasant titles to have on hand. In fact, I’ve been going through Tommy withdrawl, since I haven’t seen it since we ran it theatrically—a year ago. I bought the Blu-ray soon after that and it’s been sitting here—still wrapped—ever since. So I imagine I can get the good out of it with no trouble. Actually, the only reason I have King Kong is because it’s left over from the AFS screening in July. I really don’t expect it to be that much better than the plain DVD—there are limitations to the source material.

Of course, this will be followed by the temptation to start re-buying all sorts of things in Blu-ray—something I intend to keep in check. I expect to switch over to Blu-ray on new acquisitions, sure, but I hope to keep some perspective on this. Yeah, I figure I’ll replace certain titles. A Clockwork Orange (1971), The Shining (1980), Moulin Rouge! (2001), and Across the Universe (2007) come immediately to mind. And I know how terrific the Blu-ray of Night of the Hunter (1955) looks. Plus, in the case of things like Modern Times (1936) where I’ve never had a commercial copy, I’d go for the Blu-ray. But someone’s going to have to do a good job of selling me on the necessity—or even point—of buying most 1920s, 30s, 40s, 50s and, in many cases, 60s titles all over again. If anyone has a case to make to the contrary, I’m willing to listen.

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress since December 2000. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

51 thoughts on “Cranky Hanke’s Screening Room: OK, I’ve Gone Blu-ray—well nearly

  1. Ken Hanke

    I probably put you to sleep with that last post

    No, but my problem — to the degree it is one — lies in going from DVD recorder to the receiver, and I don’t know if it has a coaxial output, though it probably does. But as I said, my entire use for the thing is pretty much to record movies off TCM.

  2. Kilgore

    There are several options available that could possibly solve your dilemma. Depending on your connections, you might be able to use a converter that will change the coaxial to the toslink, or vice versa. Or, you could get a toslink switcher, which would require you to turn a dial when you wanted to go between the two different sources (much easier than switching cables, but requires you to get off the couch). Again, a link:
    http://www.monoprice.com/products/product.asp?c_id=104&cp_id=10423&cs_id=1042302&p_id=2948&seq=1&format=2

    I will work for beer. :)

  3. Dionysis

    Coaxial cables will allow a 5.1 Dolby Digital signal to be received, but it will NOT allow DTS surround to be output. That requires a optical digital audio cable. However, running into the same issue myself recently, I bought a splitter which plugs into the one optical digital audio input on my receiver and allows up to three different optical digital audio cables to be routed to the one input. It switches automatically to whatever device is powered on. I did something similar regarding HDMI inputs; I have more devices than inputs on my Samsung HD monitor, so I bought a splitter that does the same thing for the video signal. They’re pretty cheap and work great.

    Also, I thought that Blu-Ray was not regionally encoded? I know that the now defunct HD DVD discs were region-free (as I bought one early on). I also bought an internet-enabled Blu-Ray player, as well as a digitial media player that sends up to a 1080P signal to my monitor from a flash drive or external hard drive.

  4. Jim Donato

    Thank goodness I got off of this merry-go-round 18 years ago! Oh, I used to be bleeding edge. I still have the amazing king’s ransom SLHF-2100, which sported a touch LCD interface remote ca. 1991. But when I read this I’m so glad I just don’t care any more. I only just got 5.1 at the household and that was enough to wrap my head around.

  5. Ken Hanke

    What keeps getting overlooked here is that 5.1 sound being lost to that part of my set-up is a matter of indifference to me. My TV watching really is limited to TCM. I don’t even know if the have 5.1, but mostly I’m there for movies that predate stereo, let alone 5.1. It’s mostly the whole rash of wires and moving shit around that has me frozen into inaction.

    Also, I thought that Blu-Ray was not regionally encoded?

    Apparently, they have an altogether different encoding that’s not 1,2,3, but A, B, C.

  6. Ken Hanke

    But when I read this I’m so glad I just don’t care any more.

    You perhaps understand why the box is still on that chair…

  7. Blu-rays are encoded A, B, & C. HOWEVER, what we are finding is that a lot of older titles are region free, unlike their dvd counterparts. I stock a few from Britain, and plan on getting DEEP END soon.

  8. Ken Hanke

    I’m still trying to figure out why my computer (without warning me about changing regions) plays my Region 2 Music Lovers.

  9. Dionysis

    “I’m still trying to figure out why my computer (without warning me about changing regions) plays my Region 2 Music Lovers.”

    Here’s why:

    “Older DVD drives use RPC-1 (“Regional Playback Control”) firmware, which means the drive allows DVDs from any region to play. Newer drives use RPC-2 firmware, which enforces the DVD region coding at the hardware level. These drives can often be reflashed or hacked with RPC-1 firmware, effectively making the drive region-free. This may void the drive warranty.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DVD_region_code

  10. Ken Hanke

    Except that this isn’t really an older drive — which is to say less than 2 years. The one prior to it wouldn’t play R2, so I think something odd is going on. And, no, it’s not a R0 disc. It gets the can’t play signal in the regular DVD player.

  11. Dionysis

    “Except that this isn’t really an older drive—which is to say less than 2 years. The one prior to it wouldn’t play R2, so I think something odd is going on. And, no, it’s not a R0 disc. It gets the can’t play signal in the regular DVD player”

    Hmmm, that is odd. Beats me.

  12. DrSerizawa

    I don’t have any HD TVs so Hi-Def is lost on me. But what I really love is those commercials for Blu-Ray they put on DVD discs. We can’t see the improved resolution because they are on DVDs. Who thought of that?

  13. Ken Hanke

    But what I really love is those commercials for Blu-Ray they put on DVD discs. We can’t see the improved resolution because they are on DVDs. Who thought of that?

    The same people who came up with commercials showing you — on your crappy old TV — how much better the picture is on the TV they’re trying to sell you? I was delighted when one of those George Takei Sharp commercials actually included a line about “which you can’t appreciate because you don’t have this TV.”

  14. Arlened

    Well, when you get of your couch, let me know. Having recently moved (again), I have just set up a bare bones system. With much swearing and some blood (mine) being let. House mates have decided I have the better system and more “stuff” and have decided my better equipment should go in the great room. And since it’s my equipment…get the picture. I may tackle this during a snow storm.

  15. Me

    What kind of DVD player is it? I am also looking into getting a Blu Ray player but would like to also record with it. Ive been using an old vcr recorder to record my Netflix movies on, then i return them that way there is no wait the next movie is in the mailbox when im finished with the other, i am hoping to try this with a dvd burner but i fear it may be more difficult.

    I just recently bought a new laptop and it can play bu ray movies but i cant get Netflix to stream on it because of some error with Microsoft Silverlight.

  16. Ken Hanke

    What kind of DVD player is it?

    It’s a Pioneer BDP 330.

    I am also looking into getting a Blu Ray player but would like to also record with it.

    It doesn’t record. I don’t see a Blu-ray player that does. If you do buy a recorder, I suggest you get one of the Panasonics with the built-in hard-drive that stores the information and allows you to burn it to disc. I also think you may be thinking of a machine that will copy the disc that’s in it. I’ve never seen one that will do that. A computer might, but a stand-alone recorder, I don’t think there is one. You need two machines — a player and a recorder — and you probably need something like a Sima Pro Color Corrector to defeat the copyguard encoding.

  17. DrSerizawa

    Copying DVDs is illegal. Unless you are making a back up of a media you own. Recording movies from broadcast or cable is not illegal. If one waits a few months after release one can get most movies used dirt cheap from Amazon. That’s if there’s still someone who respects copyrights.

  18. Ken Hanke

    Copying DVDs is illegal. Unless you are making a back up of a media you own.

    Honestly, that’s always struck me itself as primarily a pretty fiction — or to put it another way, I know of very few people who are making back-up copies, though it’s often used as an excuse.

    If one waits a few months after release one can get most movies used dirt cheap from Amazon.

    And cheaper than that in used bins at rental places once the demand for copies drops.

    That’s if there’s still someone who respects copyrights.

    I’m afraid that there aren’t many people who do, which, in many respects, is a large problem. I can’t claim 100% fealty to the concept, but all my transgressions have tended to involve copies of things that are not commercially available.

  19. DrSerizawa

    I made some DVDs out of VHS tapes I had of stuff that wasn’t available, but I’m one of the few people I know who doesn’t pirate anything I can buy.

    Most of the younger people I know have never bought music. Who knows what’ll happen to the industry if no one can get paid for making music. No one works for free, especially people who claim it isn’t about money. On the other hand since the corporations abuse the artists so heavily I have little sympathy for their problems. I guess I’m conflicted on it but if the artists can’t make a living at it it’ll be bad news.

  20. Ken Hanke

    I made some DVDs out of VHS tapes I had of stuff that wasn’t available, but I’m one of the few people I know who doesn’t pirate anything I can buy.

    Well, there’s also the fact that you’re not getting the best quality in a copied version, but I realize that doesn’t bother a great many people. Personally, I want the best quality I can get. At the same time, there are a lot of things recorded off TCM that I like having reference copies of, but would never actually buy.

    Most of the younger people I know have never bought music.

    It was a simpler time in some ways and the impact was much less, but I can well recall how very many people with tape recorders could live off each others’ albums back in the 60s and 70s. My problem with this was that ultimately I wanted to physically own then records themselves.

    On the other hand since the corporations abuse the artists so heavily I have little sympathy for their problems. I guess I’m conflicted on it but if the artists can’t make a living at it it’ll be bad news.

    Tricky, isn’t it? I find it more so when dealing with things that are 70 or 80 years old and no one actually involved in make a thing are the only ones benefitting. Often, the corporation making the money has only the most nebulous (if any) connection to the outfit that actually made and invested in the thing.

  21. DrSerizawa

    I can well recall how very many people with tape recorders could live off each others’ albums back in the 60s and 70s.

    True, but it was a lot of work. And reel-to-reel recorders were expensive. I bought a Dokorder Dub-a-Tape in Japan (not available in the USA) that had a second pair of reels for easy copying. Today copying music is a snap and the piracy is 1000X what it was back then.

    Amusingly, in Taiwan you could buy pirated vinyls in copied jackets for 25cents, a time when vinyls were about $3. The copies were pretty bad and unless you bought a click-and-pop assassin they were almost worthless. That didn’t stop sailors from buying stacks of them.

    I did a little of that but mostly I recorded my vinyls onto cassettes to use in my portable player that I got in Hong Kong. This was when 8-tracks hadn’t been replaced with cassette players in cars yet and cassettes were in their infancy. I guess I just dated myself.

  22. Ken Hanke

    True, but it was a lot of work. And reel-to-reel recorders were expensive.

    We were all pretty much middle-class brats, and I can’t think of a single one of us who didn’t have a reel-to-reel recorder (the big debate was whether Sony or Roberts was better — the fact that I’m saying Roberts and not Akai dates me). But, yes, it was all more involved and not something everyone did. Conceptually, it’s not much different, though.

    This was when 8-tracks hadn’t been replaced with cassette players in cars yet and cassettes were in their infancy. I guess I just dated myself.

    I’ll go futher. Since it took ages to convince me that something moving at 1 /78 IPS could possibly be better than something moving at 3 3/4 IPS, I not only held on to 8-track for a very long time, I actually bought a Panasonic 8-track recorder. That way I could copy my records — and movie soundtracks, too — and take them along in my MG Midget. (I figure a chunk of the readership is going, “What the hell are they talking about?”)

  23. Ken Hanke

    A masochist as well as a movie critic.

    It’s worse than you know — that was the first of three MGs and two Jags.

  24. Dionysis

    “I actually bought a Panasonic 8-track recorder. That way I could copy my records…and take them along in my MG Midget”

    I can relate; did something very similar myself, except I drove an Austin Healey Sprite. Great fun when it ran, but a constant drain on my meager resources. Eventually ditched it and got a Datsun 2000…much like the MG and Sprite but far more dependable. I wish I still had it. But the 8-track stayed for a while, ultimately replaced by a cassette deck.

  25. Ken Hanke

    I can relate; did something very similar myself, except I drove an Austin Healey Sprite.

    Which is the same car with a different name on it — something which cheesed the Austin Healey folks no end, since the Midget proved vastly more popular, even though the Sprite pre-dated it. My first was a 1972 one, but I later picked up a 1965 Midget — at that point, they weren’t even bothering to paint the engine, so you had an MG with a green Austin Healey engine in it.

  26. DrSerizawa

    To be fair as bad as those British sports cars were Rolls-Royces maintenancewise compared to the Fiat 850 Spyder. Though I have to say that my favorite Brit experience was when my friend Bruce was cruising to Flagstaff in the winter in his TR4 and his transmission mainshaft broke in half. If you wanted a good European sports car you bought a Datsun 1600 or 2000.

  27. Ken Hanke

    I have to say that my favorite Brit experience was when my friend Bruce was cruising to Flagstaff in the winter in his TR4 and his transmission mainshaft broke in half.

    My MG experiences were never so bad as that. In fact, they were mostly involving that damned hydraulic clutch. Okay, so there was that unfortunate cold morning when I pulled out the choke and it just kept coming — all the way out of the dashboard.

    If you wanted a good European sports car you bought a Datsun 1600 or 2000.

    All well and good, but they’re not European anything and certainly not British sports cars. There’s something about the Brit sports car bug that once caught, it’s hard to get rid of. I still want an MG TF, and I still kick myself over not spending $1200 on an Austin Healey 3000 when it was offered to me in 1974.

  28. Dionysis

    “was cruising to Flagstaff in the winter in his TR4 and his transmission mainshaft broke in half.”

    I took a trip from Roanoke, VA to Orlando once in my Austin Healey. Made it down and back okay, but when I was about 1/2 mile from home, the steering wheel came off in my hands and the car jumped the curb and crashed into the corner of someone’s garage. I also had a English Ford Cortina (what a piece of junk) and the transmission fell out of the car through a rusted floorboard and landed in the highway.

    Ah, the adventures.

  29. Ken Hanke

    Well, I’ve driven from Tampa to Lake Wales — 65 miles — with no clutch, and done the same trip with nothing but the hand-brake for stopping power. Nothing as exciting as the steering wheel coming off.

  30. DrSerizawa

    All well and good, but they’re not European anything and certainly not British sports cars.

    Sorry. I made a poor attempt at irony. I shouldn’t try that on Sunday morning before coffee.

    I once traded my Datsun pickup to a friend so she could move apartments. She let us have her MG Midget for the weekend. It certainly was a lot of fun. Too bad the Brits couldn’t design some reliability into their cars. If you thought their cars were bad, try their motorcycles. I can’t remember how many times I had to push my BSA 500.

  31. Ken Hanke

    Sorry. I made a poor attempt at irony. I shouldn’t try that on Sunday morning before coffee.

    Oh, I understood you. I was being annoyingly literal-minded.

    I once traded my Datsun pickup to a friend so she could move apartments. She let us have her MG Midget for the weekend. It certainly was a lot of fun.

    And here I am years later stuck with a Nissan pickup truck that I don’t especially like, but which I have to admit is the perfect height to get in and out of as the years rack up, and which simply will not die and give me the excuse to get something else. I also find it convenient that it’s a 5-speed and since no one knows how to shift anymore, no one wants to borrow it (of course, that would be true with a nice MG, too).

    Too bad the Brits couldn’t design some reliability into their cars.

    They were very reliable about having trouble. Funny thing is when I was born my dad had an MG TD, which he kept into the early 1960s (and sold for $400 — insert copious weeping here) and apart from the electric fuel pump sometimes needing a tap to start (so what else is new?), it never had all these problems.

    If you thought their cars were bad, try their motorcycles. I can’t remember how many times I had to push my BSA 500.

    No, thanks. Driving is enough of an adventure without the added fun of trying to stay upright. I did have a friend who had a Norton — until he turned one way and the wheel decided to go the other.

  32. I made the switch to Blu-Ray when I saw the new release of NORTH BY NORTHWEST sitting in the store a few months ago. I don’t regret it.

    I try to buy Combo packs at the moment – which come with a DVD version included also, for a dollar or two more, so that I have the option of watching the film on my laptop as well as my TV.

  33. Ken Hanke

    What has all that to do with Brit sports cars? Oh…wait a minute, you’re the one who’s on topic.

    I have the option of watching the film on my laptop as well as my TV.

    That does raise an issue — not from a watching standpoint, but from a frame-grab one.

  34. I’m afraid that there aren’t many people who do, which, in many respects, is a large problem. I can’t claim 100% fealty to the concept, but all my transgressions have tended to involve copies of things that are not commercially available.

    My vhs collection in the mid-90s was a couple thousand tapes… all 4th gen uncut versions of obscure films that couldn’t be found except through trading by the mail. When they started releasing these on vhs commercially at a decent price I started buying them.

    That’s if there’s still someone who respects copyrights.

    The irony is that the biggest arguments I have are with younger people who are trying to make a living with copyrighted material, whether it be musicians, artists, writers, photographers, etc. They want THEIR industry protected, but everything else is fair game.

  35. Ken Hanke

    The irony is that the biggest arguments I have are with younger people who are trying to make a living with copyrighted material, whether it be musicians, artists, writers, photographers, etc. They want THEIR industry protected, but everything else is fair game.

    I am so glad I’m not the only person who notices that.

  36. Jeremy Dylan

    The irony is that the biggest arguments I have are with younger people who are trying to make a living with copyrighted material, whether it be musicians, artists, writers, photographers, etc. They want THEIR industry protected, but everything else is fair game.

    I remember, not to long ago, having a conversation with a friend of mine who is an aspiring musician, during which they revealed that they had never paid for a single album. Not on CD, vinyl, through iTunes, etc. They’d never paid for recorded music.
    Despite my increasingly agitated arguments, they didn’t seem bothered by the fact that this is not only illegal, but shitting on the very industry they’re aspiring to be part of.
    It wasn’t even one of those ‘Greedy label take majority profit, therefore I not rip off artist’ bullshit arguments, they just didn’t feel like paying for something when they had the option not to. The fact that a record company had invested money in the recording and many talented people had put time and effort into the composition and recording didn’t seem to indicate to this person that they deserved financial renumeration.

  37. Ken Hanke

    I’m truly surprised no one has shown up to argue against the concept of intellectual property rights. (This is the second attempt at posting that. Let’s see if it makes it through the “new and improved” website design this time.)

  38. Jeremy Dylan

    I’m truly surprised no one has shown up to argue against the concept of intellectual property rights.

    Maybe they saw me glaring disdainfully through the computer monitor.

  39. Ken Hanke

    Progress! It’s out of the box and has been looked over. Plus! Batteries have been put in the yet another remote control! Some shiting around has occurred and now my wife is dealing with the amazing amount of dust and assorted animal hair that has accumulated behind things that are never moved. It’s all very exciting for a Sunday morning.

  40. Ken Hanke

    Fait accompli! Well, there’s still that speaker wire. Now, to find time to do more than sample the Tommy disc (all that’s happened so far)…

  41. brianpaige

    Some stuff from the 60s is a definite upgrade on blu ray. For instance if you have old DVDs of James Bond movies the newer blu ray discs are vastly superior. It’s like night and day.

  42. Ken Hanke

    Well, since I don’t have any old James Bond movies — other than the ’67 Casino Royale, which I already bought the upgrade on (albeit not Blu-ray) — I can’t weigh in on that. I am finding that Edwin’s comment about the upconvert on DVDs is pretty well true.

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