Experiments In Blu-Ray

A while ago, the DVD drive in my computer died, so I bought a Blu-Ray drive to replace it. We have a few Blu-Ray discs, in those combo packs that include both DVD and Blu-Ray.

Out of the somewhere-around-10 discs we have, last time I tried, I could only get one working in VLC (Kung-Fu Panda, the oldest title we had). And that’s with going round the internet, trying things people suggested.

The problem is, there’s so much paranoia at the movie companies that they insist on so much encryption and DRM, that it’s easier to rip the disc and watch the file (essentially pirate the disc) than it is to watch your legitimate disc on your legitimate drive.

I rather think these companies are shooting themselves in the foot, doing more to encourage pirating than to discourage it.

Having heard that saga, my parents offered to buy the family a Blu-Ray player (stand-alone box). I helped them pick one, but it didn’t seem entirely straightforward to link it with the system we have. The projector doesn’t have HDMI in and the sound system only has analog stereo in, the player has HDMI out and coaxial digital audio.

Did research at the time, found gadgets on Amazon that convert HDMI to VGA, so we got one of those. Haven’t tried it yet.

In the audio department, my past research was looking more at amps and new sound systems. Today I looked into digital-to-analog converters. Here’s what I found (just about exclusively from Amazon reviews):

For this type of job, there are two kinds of gadgets: converters, and decoders.

Converters only work when your device can be made to output in PCM or LPCM (I read what they were, I don’t remember now. Doesn’t really matter, check your device’s manual).

If you’re stuck with a device that will only output in something like Dolby Digital, you need a decoder. Decoders also seem to have a bit of an issue with lag: takes a bit of time to process the audio, so lips moving on screen are ahead of sound coming through speakers.

Fortunately, we only needed a converter.

Most had overall positive reviews, but it’s always worth looking at the negative reviews.

I looked at the one-star reviews: there were a lot of plain “it didn’t work!”-type reviews, that could easily be attributable to not knowing about the PCM thing. Then there were a few “it worked, then it didn’t”-type reviews, and you can find reviews like that for just about everything. There were also some “it says digital to analog, but it means analog to digital”, on a couple of similar products, which seemed to contradict the positive reviews of people it worked for, who are trying to do the same thing as me.

And then there were some weird reports on the type of power connector that came with one of the products: “came with a non-American plug!” “came with an American plug!” “came with some weird USB thing!”

In the end, you just have to give something a go, though, don’t you?

We’ll see how it goes.

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