The BD-Live Roll Out

Posted in on March 26th, 2008 by Dave

ps3.jpgI am sure that most people who follow the Blu-ray news will know that BD-Live was included with the recent 2.20 firmware update for the PS3. This has largely been expected since December last year when Sony Pictures Home Entertainment Executive VP of Advanced Technologies Don Eklund said “It’s the studio’s assumption” that PS3 will be a BD-Live player;. This was further demonstrated when Playstation 3 systems with beta BD-Live firmware were used at CES 2008 to demonstrate BD-Live functionality both at the BDA booth and the Blu-ray Interactivity presentation at the Sony Booth. The arrival of the firmware upgrade was a little surprising with regard to timing – many expected Sony to wait until the release of the standalone BD-Live players like the Panasonic DMP-BD50 – however it appears that the impending arrival of the Sony Pictures Home Entertainment BD-Live titles in early April might have been the motivation for the firmware release.

bd501.jpgPlayers that conform to BD-Live will also support Bonus View (aka Final Standard Profile (aka Profile 1.1)) but also require the network connection and at least 1GB of non-volatile memory for storage of downloaded content. Of course the PS3 easily meets these requirements. While all new BD players are now required to support Bonus View, the same is not true for BD-Live – consumers will be given a choice to have the network connection and extra memory, allowing for tiered pricing for players based on the feature set.

war1.jpgThe first BD-Live title War was released by Lionsgate, first thing 2008. The network interactivity on this title focuses around the Yakusa Fighter game, which is kind of like a rock paper scissors game, where the user pre-selects a sequence of moves for his fighter who then does battle with a similarly scripted fighter selected by someone else. The game is considered not particularly compelling by some. None the less this title stands as the first title to be released with BD-Live functionality.

saw4.jpgThe second BD-Live title is also from Lionsgate – Saw IV was released Jan 22nd 2008 with the Molog (Movie Blog) feature, which allows the viewer to participate in online discussions. A user would watch the film through a menu selection on the BD Live page, which allows text comments to be added to the scenes. The comments are saved to the MoLog so that other fans can view it, see what their friends have to say, and see commentary from the the director in a way that is less invasive than an audio commentary. This feature was demonstrated as part of the Blu-ray Interactivity presentation at the Sony Booth at CES 2008.

walkhard.jpgApril 8th, 2008 will see the release of Walk Hard – The Dewey Cox Story from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. One of the first pair of Sony titles to have BD-Live, this title will feature downloadable video content via BD-Live. Sony says that concurrent with the disc’s official street date, users will be able to download three “mini-featurettes” with star Bill Hader in character as Derek Stone, a historian and expert “Coxologist.” These extras will be available exclusively via BD-Live. Downloadable content was part of the demonstration at the Sony Booth during CES 2008, where they demonstrated the download of a ‘special message’ from Will Smith, star of the movie Hancock due in cinemas July 4th weekend.

A number of studios presented their BD-Live efforts during that CES presentation. Along with the already mentioned Lionsgate Sav IV Molog presentation, we were treated to a presentation by Danny Kaye, executive vice president of global research and technical strategy for 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. As well as discussing the opportunity to download new content for given titles, such as perhaps an Oscar winner’s acceptance speech or other specific ‘live’ events, Fox demonstrated the ability to play networked multiplayer Java games.

avp.jpgKaye showed an upcoming Blu-ray release of Alien vs. Predator that allows the user to choose to be one of three characters from the movie, create an avatar in the game and choose a weapon. Two players, using standard BD remotes, can play against each other online by shooting at each other’s character while the movie is playing in real time. The character, weapon, onscreen movie action, and other players’ actions all change the experience of playing the game.

The game was also available to play at the BDA booth, where they had a camera to take an image for the avatar and you could experience the game first hand.

godzilla.jpgSony had Dean Devlin on hand to talk about Blu-ray releases of his films and Don Ekland demonstrated Blu-ray’s some BD Live features for the title. From a BD Live menu on the Godzilla disc, he sent a ringtone selected from the BD Live menu to a cellphone in the audience, which then played the ringtone on the phone.

Ekland also demonstrated that a Sony PSP, put it into to USB transfer mode with a PlayStation 3, was able to transfer a special portable version of the whole film to the PSP. Ekland noted that it will take less than three minutes to to transfer a typical film and that there are currently 25 million PSPs worldwide now that can take advantage of this feature.

meninblack.jpgAnother Devlin film coming out soon on Blu-ray, Men in Black, was loaded and used to demonstrate a trivia game. It was similar to the game “Scene It” in that clips from the movie were shown and two players with their BD remotes or PS3 controllers attempt to answer questions as quickly as possible. Although the demonstration was local with two players, the play could be done online.

Also of interest at CES, the company RCDB was demonstrating their Related Content Database (RCDb) which provides software and services for network-connected Blu-ray discs and players. The company offers server platforms and rapid development programs to help content providers adopt BD-Live. On hand they were demonstrating a feature where, instead of the ‘static’ trailers that are present on many current Blu-ray titles, you can browse and download trailers for current or imminent releases or even current theatrical releases.

6thday.jpgWhile a number of these titles are well in the future, it is of note that the Arnold Schwarzenegger film The 6th Day has also been announced as BD-Live enabled, though there is no word on what the online features will be for this title, which is due April 8th, 2008 along side the Walk Hard disc.

Sony has also set up a web page specifically dedicated to their BD-Live releases.

As for the other studios, looking into Disney’s future it is expected that National Treasure and Sleeping Beauty: Platinum Edition will have BD-Live features, though more recent information on National Treasure do not have any indication of BD-Live content.

Of course, we have seen online content from Warner, Paramount and Universal on their HD DVD titles. It will be interesting to see if their releases for BD moving forward also support the online features, or if the Blu-ray Disc market is seen as different from the HD DVD market back in the format war times when internet interactivity was heavily promoted as an advantage that HD DVD enjoyed and Blu-ray did not.

Universal Studios appears to be firmly committed to BD-Live also committed to BD Live, though the studio is not ready to announce any concrete plans.

The adult content studios are also interested in BD-Live features. Towards the end of the year, Digital Playground will be adding BD-Live features to its content. It boggles the mind a little just thinking about what BD-Live might offer to the adult industry.