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The History Of Blu-Ray: Everything We Know

ScreenRant logo ScreenRant 11/21/2022 Adam Corsetti

The 4K Blu-ray format has become the standard for the ultimate home theater experience, utilizing the highest quality audio and video signals possible. What is special about Blu-ray compared to past optical discs is the tremendous amount of data it can hold, allowing for 4K and HD video playback. The natural progression of Blu-ray would seem to have begun with DVDs being introduced in 1996. However, when looking into the history of Blu-ray, it's clear that its origins date back even further than that.

How DVD Came To Be

In the 1980s, VHS cassette tapes were the dominant format for movie and at-home video releases before giving way to optical DVD discs in the mid-1990s. In actuality, the technology behind DVDs had been lurking for decades, with several failed attempts to make it a mainstream video format. As an optical disc format, the much larger LaserDisc can trace its beginnings to 1963, when invented by David Paul Gregg and James Russell. For various reasons, including the high cost of the players and discs, LaserDisc struggled to gain a foothold as a home entertainment device in the VHS age. It was not until the smaller and cheaper-to-manufacture DVD format arrived that an optical disc finally became the first choice for movies, file storage, and games.

The Rise Of Blu-ray

In the late 1990s, HDTVs began to enter the marketplace, but the world still lacked a widely accepted format to record and playback 720p or higher resolution video. It was not until 2002 when the Blu-ray Disc Foundation came to be, with members including movie industry representatives, that Blu-ray started to gain traction as a relatively inexpensive medium to store large amounts of data. Fending off a challenge from the competing HD-DVD format, the discs produced with a blue laser became mainstream starting in 2006 when the first Blu-ray players were released.

Why Blu-ray Stands The Test of Time

The Blu-ray format has already enjoyed a lifespan rivaling the length of the VHS golden age. By adding more layers to the optical disc, the format has been able to meet the storage requirements for progressively higher-quality video. In 2016, 4K UHD players hit the market, along with dual and triple-layered discs holding as much as 100 gigabytes of data. This storage capacity allows for the playback of 4K movies complete with stunning HDR/Dolby Vision color gamuts, and high-quality audio, including Dolby Atmos. High-capacity Blu-ray discs have also found support with the latest gaming consoles, including the PS5 and Xbox One.

How Streaming Has Affected Blu-ray Popularity

There is no doubt that streaming services that provide the convenience of watching a 4K movie with a few clicks of a remote have put a dent in the popularity of Blu-ray players. Even with the best Blu-ray players offering the ability to use popular apps like Netflix and Disney+, most consumers opt to use their TV's built-in smart functions or other media players, like the Apple TV 4K to stream content. As streaming has gained popularity, the sales of 4K Blu-ray players began falling in 2019 and are projected to only decrease further in the years to come.

Why 4K Blu-ray Players Remain In Home Theaters

Unlike the downfall of VHS and DVDs, 4K Blu-ray is not under threat to be replaced with another form of physical media. Support for HDR, Dolby Vision, and Dolby Atmos remains inconsistent among the major streaming providers. The extraordinary amount of bandwidth required by streaming apps introduces complications with monthly data limits and the compression of 4K images. As a result, home theater enthusiasts who demand the best audio and video quality will not be cheering for the demise of the 4K Blu-ray format and the best Blu-ray players remain essential components.


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