by Michael S. Palmer
I feel like Captain Willard reaching the end of the river. It's been a long arduous journey
into the heart of darkness exploring Blu-Con 2010. But as I did last week, we have all mercifully reached the final panel of discussion: "Blu-ray and Music: Storytelling Through Sound." Featured on this panel were two major label music executives, Adam Sosinsky (Sony) and Jim Belcher (Universal), as well as an independent who focuses on the niche audiophile market, Mark Walderp (AIX Records).
For a brief moment I thought this panel was going to focus on how sound is half the cinematic experience and how Blu-ray offers the best soundtracks available. I was half right. It was an odd panel. So much less enthusiastic than everything else in the day, it could've almost been called "Hey, Don't Forget About Us. Blu-rays Can Play Music Too!"
The major label executives seemed unsure about what to do with Blu-ray. Concert footage and CD bonus materials were presented, and to be sure, they looked and sounded great. But after years of failing profits, the major labels seemed afraid of innovation. Leaving them unable to make Blu-rays or concert films for only their top acts. And then, due to the complicated nature of production and soaring egos of successful artists, they're unable to coordinate the release of these concert Blu-rays until months after the artist is no longer on tour. Essentially, the music department of these studio-owned conglomerates wish they had the marketing and financing muscle of their movie-making siblings.
Conversely, the independent and entrepreneurial Mark Waldrep with his low overhead made six Blu-rays this summer over a few days and currently has released the second best selling 3D Blu-ray. Granted, there aren't many 3D Blu-rays out yet and audiophile music recordings are admittedly niche. Still, it was a striking comparison. An excited and bold independent using the latest technology to expand business. And the old giants sad Blu-ray isn't a magic bullet that'll restore the youth and mega-profits of days gone by.
Universal and Sony do have some fun Blu-rays coming out soon. Universal released 'The Police: Certifiable' and Sony gave us a sneak peak at an upcoming 3 CD, 3 Blu-ray Bruce Springsteen boxed set entitled 'The Promise: The Darkness On The Edge of Town Story'. For concert films, the Blu-ray experience is, in most cases, a better experience than actually going to the concert. The audio will be cleaner and less distorted by sheer decibel levels. And of course the HD video puts you all over the concert venue, from right up on stage to deep within the roaring crowd.
AIX releases seem to be a hybrid between a "concert" and a "traditional album recording". Meaning, they produce these events by putting musicians in one room together to perform classical, jazz, and folk selections (I'm sure there's much more to this; we had a limited sampling) in single takes. Mr. Waldrep said Blu-ray's 7.1 audio channels capabilities means that listeners will be getting a better experience than actually being in the room with the musicians. Further, because there's no crowd at these "live" recordings, it's not a concert film and, according to Mr. Walderp, therefore much more repeatable. It's simply an album, which happens to include video.
Blu-ray as "a spinning disc" is the best on the market, and perfect for audiophiles because it requires no tampering or processing to make it sound right. It's a full resolution recording where each instrument and vocalization sounds exactly as it does in the real world. And though AIX's releases include footage of the musicians' performances, music on Blu-ray doesn't necessarily need to be concert-esc. Any album could be mixed in multichannel sound with still images or some kind of B-roll displayed over it. Universal, for instance, has re-mastered and is re-releasing Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' 'Damn the Torpedos'.
What do you think, dear readers? Do any of you own any concert films, or repeatedly watch concert films? Are you looking forward to lossless multichannel music releases? Or are CDs and MP3s still good enough? Hit up the forums and let us know.
And with our Blu-Con 2010 coverage coming to a close, I'll leave you with what ended the day at the Beverly Hilton. See you next year!
"Many of you haven't voted yet on this election day, but consumers have already voted with their wallets, and the winner is Blu-ray." – Craig Kornblau (President, Universal Home Entertainment)
A little corny? Yes, but I'm all for a world where everyone gets to enjoy Blu-ray as much a I do.