The introduction of high-definition Blu-ray discs to the home market has been a game-changer for some home projection enthusiasts. Blu-ray has a much higher maximum resolution than DVD and uses advanced compression technology to render more detailed images. Film print collectors have taken note. "It was clear from the beginning that DVD would never be good enough to completely capture film, especially in larger screen format," says Chris Ullsperger who owns a 16mm print of Performance and a 35mm of Showgirls. "But the Blu-ray resolution is good enough."
Ullsperger says print collectors have bought into Blu-ray in a way they didn't with DVD. "The proof of that is that Peter Conheim likes Blu-ray," he says. Perhaps not coincidentally, Ullsperger is starting to see Blu-ray titles available that were previously accessible only by hunting down a film print. In 2005, Conheim bought a big collection of 16mm John Ford films from a scholar of the director. "Peter drove across the country to look at it. Basically open up every can of film and smell it to see if it was going to vinegar. There was just about every John Ford film, including some that 99 percent of people hadn't seen. What's amazing to me is that in such a short period of time a lot of that stuff is now on Blu-Ray."
Still, there are limitations. "Sometimes it looks too good. Or they don't do a good job of transferring it. If you've seen a good Blu-ray you know what a crappy one looks like."
Conheim agrees. "I don't buy a Blu-ray until typically I've read a review of it, and if they say this is a horrendous compression job, I don't buy it. But as a consumer format, it's the next best thing (to film). If you get a Blu-ray that's carefully authored with as much data as they can squeeze onto the disc as possible and still have the player be able to read it, that's the best you're going to find. But it'll be superseded by something else. It's a temporary thing."