Saturday, 7 August 2010

Blu Ray play?

How do you solve a problem like this.  Here's my Blu Ray story so far.

Received a rental copy of 'Sunshine' from and settled down to watch it on Wednesday evening. About an hour in and the picture started to freeze, jitter and generally play up. It got to the stage where it was impossible to watch any more so we stopped it, ticked the 'damaged' box and sent it back.  Lovfilm to their credit, sent another copy straight away, along with the next film called 'Into the Blue'.

Wanted to be sure the first problem was a 'one-off' so stuck in 'Sunshine' and played it through.  It had playback problems just like the previous copy so I switched to the other one and the same problem happened with that too.

At this point I thought it must be the Panasonic Blu Ray recorder at fault.  I sat up for hours trying the same two discs over and over, looking up fault reports on the Internet and trying ordinary DVD discs.  Eventually I managed to get the machine to update it's firmware from 1.2 to 1.3 and then went to bed.

This morning I checked the two discs again - still the same faults.  I took them to a friendly PS3 and tried them in that - they worked fine so I concluded that it must be the machine and started proceedings to try and sent it back to Amazon where it came from.

I then tried Thompsons of Great Baddow and they were very helpful.  They suggested I turned it off at the mains and then reset, and also to try a lens cleaner in the machine.  Sam had done some serious dusting all around the TV in the week and we thought that may be what the problem is.  I went straight to Thompsons to buy the lens cleaner and I took the rental discs along to try on their players - just to see.

They hooked up another Panasonic Blu Ray player and we tried the 'Into the Blue' disc.  To my dismay, the same problems happened, in the same places only worse than at home.  We then tried it in a Sony player and the same thing happened although not quite so pronounced. I had to get home but was now totally confused - is it the discs or the player or both?

We went to collect some 'pre-recorded' Blu Ray discs and I am now spending the afternoon playing them to see if this is an issue about rental discs and the way they are created.  I'm 30 minutes into the BBC epic 'Planet Earth' at the moment - no glitches at all so far.  I have 'Bleak House' and 'Casino Royale' still to go through after the other 4 discs in 'Planet Earth'.

The only conclusion so far is that the PS3 is a fantastic Blu Ray player which starts very quickly, whizzes through chapter points and plays the discs faultlessly, even these rental copies.  Mr Thompson suggested that PS3s may well have additional error correction in them to cope with the rougher treatment they are expected to get being a games machine and not a standard home player destined to sit in a rack and stay put.

I have a suspicion that rental discs are cloned for the rental market and maybe more prone to errors and dropout than the proper retail versions.  My next step is to try and find someone who can lend me a copy of either 'Sunshine' or 'Into the Blue' so I can directly compare and see what happens.  I'm thinking of asking on Freecycle to see if anyone is willing to lend me the discs for a few days and let me take them back again.  Otherwise, I may have to buy them!

Into the Blue - £8.73
Sunshine - £9.97

Still got to try resetting to factory settings and cleaning the lens but based on the experiences in Thomsons, I don't hold out much hope that this will make a difference.

Update: 4.30pm
After a few hours of 'Planet Earth' the first three programmes have played without a hitch and the menus are very quick to navigate too.  However, I have noticed that there is some digital interference on some of the shots.  Typically on fast tracking shots from a helicopter which is following a subject like the wolf hunting or the birds flying.  It isn't much but there is a very small amount of digital 'wobble' just after the animal being tracked.  /next question then - is this on the disc (probably not) or is it the limitation of the player, the HDMI lead or the TV? Maybe its even more complicated and its an incompatibility issues but both the TV and the player are Panasonic manufacturered  in the same production year. I think I'll be taking a trip back to Thompsons for a more details look at these discs on other equipment.

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