Reps from Walt Disney, Sony, Universal, and Fox gathered for a panel at this year’s Blu-Con 2.0 to discuss the present and future of BD-Live.
Currently, 4 million Blu-rays connect to BD-Live every month. 50% of users return to the various portals (1984-esque tangent: Sony remembers your player’s I.P. address, and thus knows if you repeatedly access digital content. Big Brother knows where you are at all times!).
I’ve always wondered why BD-Live features have been so lackluster. Apparently, the challenge here is education. Studios and retailers are already educating the consumer on alien terms like HDTV, HDMI, 1080p, 7.1 and Blu-ray. Creating a brand new social experience for BD-Live and having to educate the consumer even further is an uphill battle on top of an uphill battle. Which is why the current strategy for studios is to build upon technology and habits that already exist (via iPhone apps, and partnerships with popular websites like Facebook and IMDB.com). To them, BD-Live should be not only an extension / augmentation of the movie, but also of the consumer’s life.
Here’s a run down of strategies / features by studio:
How can they make it easy, dynamic, and interactive?
Their first BD-Live title was ‘Sleeping Beauty,’ and since then they’ve had the ‘Hannah Montanna’ movie tied to Radio Disney, and the recent ‘Snow White’ features include “living menus” that change appearance according to the time and local weather, as well as the ability to receive a phone call from a Disney princess.
‘Lost - Season 5’ will feature “Lost University” (http://www.lostuniversity.org/). LU, with its Polar Bear mascot, is a Blu-ray/BD-Live exclusive, and gives Lost’s rabid fan base a chance to not only learn about the show, but also to study the themes and mythology built into the Lost universe. Disney hopes that ‘Lost’ fans who have yet to go Blu will buy Blu-ray players in order to participate.
SONY: Every release since April of 2008 has featured BD-Live (and of course, it should, given that their parent company invented Blu-ray). Initially, the BD-Live link was to a portal for additional content downloads and a chance to fill out surveys to let Sony know how they’re doing. Snore.
Recently, however, Sony’s focus has been two-fold. 1) The chance to edit clips from the movies (as seen on ‘Step Brothers,’ ‘Year One,’ and the upcoming ‘Snatch’) and post them on Facebook. And 2) “MovieIQ,” which is a live interactive database about the movie’s cast, crew, and production. A nifty feature bound for ‘Julie & Julia’ (Dec. 8th) is the ability to choose and email yourself recipes from the movie as it plays.
UNIVERSAL: Admittedly arriving late to the Blu-ray world last year, Universal sees the BD-Live experience as something that should be “simple and sharable.” On their discs, look for “community screenings” (everyone around the country, or world, watches the film at the same time, chatting about it via BD-Live), and integrated Facebook / iPhone applications. Recently, for ‘Fast & Furious’ Universal released a car customizing iPhone app (build a car, and share with your friends online) that has proved popular.
FOX: Sharing similar buzz words as simple and social, Fox introduced “Live Lookup” with ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’ a few months ago. Integrated with IMDB.com, it’s similar to Sony’s “MovieIQ”, but for my money, much more fluid and visual. Frankly, it’s a shame that we have to have two different versions of the same feature, but I guess simplifying would involve too many lawyers.
Fox is also looking to get into community screenings, citing the desire to “elevate catalogue titles to event status.” Seems like in addition to dressing up, throwing props, and singing along to the ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show’, the first rule of the ‘Fight Club’ Blu-ray will be to not talk about the fact that everyone’s supposed to show up to watch the flick at the same time.
WARNER was not in this panel, but they are very excited to host global community screenings for ‘Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince’ (Dec. 7th).
It’s clear, despite all efforts, that BD-Live has a way to go. Studios are researching their little hearts out to give us features like “Live Lookup,” and attempting to integrate their products into the arenas we already occupy. “Lost University” seems like a good start, but is admittedly only for die-hard fans. In the not-too-distant future, we could see e-commerce (the ability to buy products literally used in, or as seen in, the movie), editing movies in real time and inserting them into the film, putting your voice / likeness into the movies, or features akin to Google maps (posting/tagging user generated clips online that tie into filming locations).
Perhaps in addition to developing and selling their movies, bold new filmmakers will also create exciting opportunities for interactivity in watching their movies, which is usually very passive (except for popcorn consumption). Or maybe it’ll be you, dear readers, with the next kick ass idea. What do you want from BD-Live? What’s a “gotta have it” toy you’d love at your fingertips as your favorite flick unfurls in glorious high def?