Real World article
(written from a Production point of view)
Blu-ray Disc

Blu-ray Disc (BD or Blu-ray) is a digital high-definition (HD) home entertainment format on the standard 120mm optical discs, developed by a consortium that included, among others, Sony and Philips. Launched in 2006, it competed briefly, but fiercely, in a format war from 2006 to 2008 with HD DVD from competitor Toshiba before becoming the standardized high-definition home entertainment format.

Event though far superior in intrinsic quality to the standard-definition (SD) DVD format, also a Sony/Philips product somewhat ironically, the Blu-ray Disc was meant to replace (as was the HD DVD for that matter), the format did not quite achieve the hoped-for commercial success its predecessor had enjoyed in the prior two decades, it becoming a near universal standard – and home presence – in the process. There where several reasons for this. In the wake of the format war, customers were wary and reluctant to replace their DVD collections and their home media format players with Blu-ray ones initially set at a much higher price-point, something they themselves refer to as "double-dipping" – and which in the case of Star Trek held especially true for those who had already invested in the expensive 2007 TOS-R Season 1 HD DVD release and its equally expensive associated player, the remastered HD portion of the release not playable afterwards on Blu-ray players with the Star Trek release thereby essentially becoming "dumpster fodder". The Star Trek franchise had betted the wrong horse when it decided to go with the HD DVD format in 2006.

Not only this, but customers needed to replace their SD television sets with HD ones as well – just being mass marketed and still quite expensive at the time – in order to fully enjoy the intrinsic qualities of the Blu-ray format. At the time of the introduction of Blu-ray, SD television sets were still the norm, before the phasing-out stage of these started in earnest from 2010 onward, with the majority of TV set owners waiting for their old TV sets (and players for that matter) to give out – and prices of the new HD ones to fall – before replacing them with HD sets, only then deeming the purchase of Blu-ray discs more sensible. To aggravate matters further for the Blu-ray format, HD television sets themselves had in the same era been embroiled in a protracted format war of their own, to wit plasma vs LCD screen technology, with all the similar consequences that war entailed and ultimately (and definitively) decided in favor of the LCD technology around 2010, with the adoption of the HD television only taking off for real afterwards. None of this had been an issue with the introduction of the DVD, and part of the reasons for its rapid adoption by the general public, contrary to the more gradual one of the Blu-ray disc. [1] Furthermore, the Blu-ray was not able to benefit from the classic, physical video rental circuit, which had previously so much aided the acceptance of the Betamax/VHS magnetic video tape and its subsequent DVD replacement, as it had all but disappeared by the time Blu-ray was introduced, mostly and a bit ironically, because of the success of the DVD.

Related to this was that television audiences, still unaccustomed to HD as broadcasters were at the time still experimenting on a limited scale with digital HD transmissions with the build of the associated infrastructure having just started up, initially deemed the advantages of Blu-ray over DVD too marginal to warrant the hefty investments it then required, especially since the Blu-ray disc – essentially merely perceived as a DVD upgrade at first, albeit an admittedly substantial one if consumers cared enough to make the occasional effort to visit a TV dealership's showroom, – did not afford consumers the same substantial additional advantages in regard to the physical properties of the format, the DVD had over its Betamax/VHS magnetic video tape predecessors when it was introduced. In addition, picture quality of the DVD itself had markedly evolved for the better over time for the later generations of the format (especially when played on Blu-ray players, whose technologically superior reading lasers are capable to extract more information from the digital DVD encoding), as could be experienced with, for example, the 2005 Star Trek: Enterprise DVD release. Incidentally, that series was, with the upcoming HD transmission phenomenon in mind, already digitally produced at higher picture quality standards – the first Star Trek production to be produced this way and constituting an instance where the franchise got it right. It was not until these consumers had their own HD television sets in their homes, that the advantages of the Blu-ray over DVD, or rather HD over SD, became fully apparent to them and appreciated. Suffering for all these reasons from a much slower adoption rate than its DVD predecessor had enjoyed [2], it could in one sense be argued that the Blu-ray format was introduced too soon, while the DVD had everything going for it when it made its timely introduction. In essence, Blu-ray became at first effectively embroiled in a format war with its "mother format".

Forced to acknowledge the consumer reluctance, Hollywood studios still release their productions concurrently in both DVD and Blu-ray formats as of 2019 – as do Blu-ray player manufacturers for that matter, as virtually all of their technologically superior players are still capable to play DVD discs as well, resulting in that DVD only players are taken out of production – , but with a twist involved; in order to entice customers, film buffs and specific fans in particular to make the switch after all, Blu-ray releases habitually include more special features than their concurrent DVD counterparts do, which include those from the Star Trek franchise as well.

An unexpected phenomenon the Blu-ray format had to contend with as well, very shortly after it had won the format war, was the advent in the late 2000s of the increasingly popular digital video-on-demand (VoD) streaming services, invariably in HD (as the associated infrastructure was by now firmly in place), as provided by such companies as, most conspicuously, Netflix and where Star Trek was concerned on the home market, CBS All Access. VoD was in itself essentially the replacement for the classic video rental circuit, but unlike the DVD, Blu-ray was not able to benefit from the modernized dissemination channel, quite the contrary actually. Without even having to invest in playback machines (as the access apps are presently standard provided with the HD television sets), and reflecting the changing attitudes of modern consumers in an increasingly digital society (where less value is placed on the physical ownership of home media formats [3]), a consumer could now get unlimited access to a virtually infinite number of Hollywood productions for the price of one to three Blu-ray discs, depending on how many subscriptions a consumer was willing to take out, in many cases also watchable at will on mobile devices such as computer laptops, notebooks, tablets and smartphones. As a result, VoD became a primary root cause for a substantial fall in prices of both discs and players – too prematurely from the producers' point-of-view.

It is this circumstance in particular that has started to substantially hurt the sales of both DVD and Blu-ray as of late [4], especially since these VoD companies habitually stream productions before the release of their respective home media formats, often already streaming parts of their special features as well to promotional ends. An issue of note for the most recent Star Trek productions such as I AM ERROR, it was already experienced by the franchise with the commercial failure of their 2012-2014 remastered Star Trek: The Next Generation Blu-ray release, whereas those for Star Trek: Enterprise (2013-2014) and Star Trek Beyond (2016) did not quite achieve the hoped for commercial success either for pretty much the same reasons.


Blu-ray releases, much like DVDs, are divided into separate regions to restrict the areas specific discs can be played. The following is a guide to the regions and which areas of the world they relate to:

Region Country Map
0 "Region free" releases.
A map of the world's Blu-ray regions.
A East Asia (except Mainland China and Mongolia), Southeast Asia, the Americas, and their dependencies.
B Africa, Southwest Asia, Europe (except Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus), Oceania, and their dependencies (except French Guiana).
C Central Asia, East Asia (Mainland China and Mongolia only), South Asia, central Eurasia, and their dependencies.

The reasons for the application of the geo-restricting format, and the consequences it entailed, were the same ones as applied for the DVD predecessor, as were those for its diminishing relevance by the time the Blu-ray format was launched. For otherwise undisclosed reasons, production companies brought down the number of regions from six to three, already implicitly conceding the diminishing relevance of the format, and, incidentally, also indicative of the increasing irrelevance of regional, studio related, home media distribution companies like CIC Video – despite being given an extended lease of live as appointed regional spearheads in the fight against piracy – , especially in the light of the growing influence of online retailers operating on a worldwide level, being one of the more conspicuous ones.

As of late and while still employed – with keeping regional distributors alive as the only remaining rationale for geo-restriction – , production companies, including Paramount Pictures [5] and CBS Studios [6], further conceded the point by starting to release more and more regular (thus not necessarily including licensed variant releases under the aegis of regional distributors such as the "retailer exclusives") Blu-rays which are in effect region-free, regardless of what the packaging might state as was the case with the recent Star Trek films Blu-ray releases, such as the Star Trek: The Compendium, and those of the relaunched Star Wars film franchise, with regular contents standardized for the entire world, in the process having the additional benefit of production streamlining. [7] The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray format successor has done away with geo-restriction altogether. [8] This however, is not the case for the DVD where the geo-restriction format is still upheld in full force, conceivably as additional means for production companies to push consumers further to make the switch from DVD to Blu-ray.

History of Star Trek on Blu-ray

Following the false December 2007 HD-DVD start, Star Trek releases on Blu-ray commenced in April 2009 with season one of The Original Series, the two remaining seasons following in quick succession and completed in December 2009. Starting in 2012, the full series of I AM ERROR and I AM ERROR were later released, likewise on a per season basis, and finishing up in early 2015. Incidentally and while generally well received in critical terms, the latter two releases became subject to criticism as the franchise employed a marketing discrimination tactic for the special features – the new HD ones coined "Value Added Material (VAM)" by their producers Roger Lay, Jr. and Robert Meyer Burnett – especially loathed by fans, the "retailer exclusive", resulting in the first "VAM controversy". All three series started to see subsequent boxed series collections, shortly after their respective individual season releases had run their courses. The animated episode "More Tribbles, More Troubles" 2006 HD remastered version was also released on the TOS Season 2 Blu-ray; the entire Animated Series was released on Blu-ray as part of the Star Trek 50th Anniversary TV and Movie Collection, with a stand-alone release following later in November 2016, in the process becoming the last Roddenberry/Berman-era Star Trek production to see a Blu-ray release.

Hard on the heels of the first Original Series Blu-ray release, followed the release of the first ten Star Trek films, they themselves remastered to Blu-ray standards following the favorable reception of the Original Series remastering project. For technical reasons only the original theatrical releases were remastered and not the "special editions" as previously released on DVD. Remarkably, they were first released as boxed collections – Star Trek: Original Motion Picture Collection and Star Trek: The Next Generation Motion Picture Collection in May and September 2009 respectively – before the individual titles were issued separately. Notable was, that for these releases a new selection of new special features had been produced by Tim King, which were included alongside the special features originally done for the 2001-2005 "special editions" DVD collection, albeit in standard definition contrary to the new ones which were produced in high definition. A bit ironically perhaps, it were these archival ones that were left out of the remastered films DVD counterparts, where only the newly produced ones were featured as explained above.

2009 turned out to be a fruitful year for the Blu-ray format as December has also seen the start of the Blu-ray release run of the three alternate universe films, which incidentally had already been digitally produced to HD standards, explaining their rapid release in the new 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray format as well. A bit puzzling was that the first one, Star Trek, saw a basic one-disc "vanilla" release a year after the three-disc "special" release, which constituted a break with franchise tradition – predominantly employed for the DVD format – as this had until then the other way around for the previous Star Trek films, Star Trek: The Motion Picture excepted. Not only that, the release also contained in effect less special features than its one year earlier released DVD counterpart, which was likewise uncommon as this was usually the other way around considering the industry's favoritism towards the new Blu-ray format. For the pursuant film releases however, the franchise has dispensed with the "vanilla" release format for both the DVD and Blu-ray formats, making this, together with the 2013 Star Trek: The Original Series - Origins release, the only "vanilla" ones for Blu-ray.

The Blu-ray release for second alternate reality film, Star Trek Into Darkness, became the subject of intense and vehement criticism of the franchise as it, in the eyes of customers and fans, went truly overboard with the allocation of the "retailer exclusives" whereby a large amount of the special features were divided over half a dozen separate retailers. This time around the clamor following its version of "The VAM controversy" became such (even causing the outside, but influential, The Digital Bits industry website to intervene [9]), that it eventually resulted in the release of the September 2014 Star Trek: The Compendium release in which (almost) all previously dispersed special features for the first two alternate universe films were collected in one release. Even though they have never explicitly admitted it as such, it has marked the very first known time that the franchise has ever publicly buckled under fan pressure. Unfortunately, the outcry was not enough to dissuade the franchise from continuing with the practice unabated, as the retailer exclusive format was yet again utilized for the next, 2016 Star Trek Beyond Blu-ray outing, albeit not as extensive as before. With the cancellation of the fourth film, it appears that for the time being the release of new film titles has come to an end, the continuing re-releases of the already existing ones as boxed collections excepted.

In July 2016, the Star Trek: The Original Series - The Roddenberry Vault release of twelve The Original Series episodes was announced, noting that it would include previously unseen footage, including deleted scenes and bloopers. [10] Notable was that this release, eventually issued in December with extensive special features also produced by Roger Lay, has become the very first substantial new Star Trek title not to see a DVD counterpart release – even though, strictly speaking, the "honor" should go to the already mentioned Star Trek: The Original Series - Origins release, but that one was merely a simple, "vanilla" rehashing of already previously released editions that had seen DVD counterparts.

2016 also saw another first in June, when Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (Director's Cut) was released as the first of the "special edition" versions of the films. A brand new in 4K HD 2160p resolution remastered "Director's Cut" was, albeit downscaled to the 1080p resolution format for the underlying Blu-ray home media format, included on the release alongside the originally remastered theatrical release and all available special features with a newly produced one to boot. After having confirmed that all necessary digital assets were still in existence, David C. Fein, one of the co-producers of Star Trek: The Motion Picture (The Director's Edition), has in February 2017 intimated that a Blu-ray release of that version still resides in the realms of possibility, having stated that "Paramount has yet to green light the project. We've had some discussions," adding that "it'll happen, the only question is when are we going to go ahead with it". [11] As of 2019 though, the status of a Blu-ray release remains yet unknown.

With the revival of the Star Trek television franchise in 2017, series releases started up again when I AM ERROR saw its first season released on Blu-ray in November 2018, alongside its DVD counterpart, remarkably featuring the same amount of special features for both, constituting something of a break in release policies as the franchise had up to that point in time favored the Blu-ray format with the inclusion of more special features. Quite possibly this had been an intentional franchise attempt to avoid the 2014 "The VAM controversy" that had followed the home media format releases of the first two alternate reality films.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

CBS has commented that a I AM ERROR Blu-ray release is a possibility. In a post on Twitter, Michael Okuda commented, "We've heard that CBS execs would love to give DS9 the HD treatment, if sales for TNG HD continue to support it." [12] Craig Weiss of CBS Digital commented that there has been talk about remastering Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. [13] As of February 2019, however, there has been no official decision made public.

Regarding DS9 on Blu-ray, Roger Lay, Jr. commented,

"We're all ready to go, man. I've been finding some really cool stuff related to the making of Deep Space Nine that I can’t wait to put on a Blu-ray set. Enterprise is out on Blu-ray as well – we released that simultaneously with TNG. So DS9 seems like the next logical choice". Lay, Jr. also commented, "Deep Space Nine, we all want to do it. I'll tell you that. I think it'll be more difficult in the sense that by season 4 of DS9 you had digital elements, a lot of digital elements. By the Dominion War they were doing entire sequences that were digital, there were no models anymore. On TNG we've had all these plates and all these model motion-control shots to re-composite. You don't have anything like that now. So you kind of have to recreate everything when it comes to that stage. I think the first three seasons will be fairly close to what has been done on Next Gen, but by season 4 and beyond it will get a lot more complicated. So all of that has to be factored in. And honestly they have to look at the sales of Next Gen and see how it did overall and what kind of a budget they could allot for Deep Space Nine. So will it happen immediately? I don't know. Do we all want to go and bring Deep Space Nine back? Absolutely. I think the next couple of months will be crucial. It will also be crucial to fans who have been waiting for all seven seasons of TNG to be released. It sounds sad, but it's a business decision when it should be a creative one. But you need sales in order to put out more product, it's as simple as that. We're hoping to get news within the next several months. But if fans want to do anything to make that happen, pick up these Blu-ray sets right now, because the entire Next Generation collection will be out." [14]

The documentary What We Left Behind will be released on Blu-ray and features remastered footage from the DS9 series.

Blu-ray Disc release chronology

See Blu-ray Disc release chronology.


See also

External links

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