Is Blu-ray as accessible as DVD?

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Tuesday, 20 August 2013 17:30pm

In a twist to Media Access Australia’s regular statistics on accessible new release rental DVDs, we have taken a look at titles available over recent months and included the alternative Blu-ray format for comparison to see which format is ahead with accessibility. 

Blu-ray has been an alternative home entertainment video format since 2006 and sold itself on offerings of greater picture quality as well as increased disc space which would allow for more features. This space was promoted by some home entertainment industry representatives as the ‘sure thing’ that would lead to increased levels of closed captioning and audio description.

In fact, since 2006 the level of audio description on Blu-ray has increased parallel to DVD, and the level of closed captioning on both formats also match. However there has been no increase to that level since Blu-ray’s introduction. Audio description has increased from 0 per cent to an average of 40 per cent since 2006 due to the significant work done by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) in the UK. RNIB’s work with UK distributors benefits the Australian market as both regions share the same DVD format of PAL. Australian distributors often import titles from the UK. The USA took a few years to follow but now enjoys similar levels of audio described DVD and Blu-ray content.

Of the titles researched in recent weeks, Blu-ray and DVD both scored an audio description rating of 53 per cent. NB: not every DVD title has a Blu-ray equivalent so titles across both formats are not the same.

The level of closed captioning has remained within a range of 55 – 65 per cent across both formats for years. Having said that, Blu-ray captioning scored a fluctuated 81 per cent and DVD 76 per cent in recent weeks. It will be interesting to see if these higher rates continue in future months.

What these similar levels of accessibility indicate is that the home entertainment industry has not used the extra Blu-ray disc space for access features but simply repurposed the DVD access files for inclusion. If the industry had done what was suggested back in 2006, Blu-ray access would be considerably higher than DVD.

Unfortunately though, Blu-ray has not meant increased access. Blu-ray has meant gag reels, outtakes, sound quality options, video and story enhancements and director and cast interviews.

If we take a look at the researched titles, distributors Eagle, Madman, Pinnacle, Accent and Umbrella all had DVDs released internationally with either captions or subtitles that were not released with access in Australia.

20th Century Fox, Universal Sony and Icon also released titles (I Give It a Year, Lincoln, Robot and Frank and Zero Dark Thirty) without audio description, where this feature was offered in other territories.

In our direct comparison of Blu-ray and DVD, two Blu-ray titles from Universal Sony (The Host and Broken City) did not have audio description, where their DVD versions did. So to answer the question of which format is more accessible, you could say DVD is in front at the moment. 

Recently released DVD titles with audio description and captions

  • 21 & Over
  • Anna Karenina
  • Beautiful Creatures
  • Broken City
  • Butter
  • Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away
  • Cloud Atlas
  • Django Unchained
  • End of Watch
  • Evil Dead
  • Fun Size
  • Gangster Squad
  • A Good Day to Die Hard
  • Goddess
  • Great Expectations (2012)
  • The Guilt Trip
  • Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters
  • Here Comes the Boom
  • Hitchcock
  • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
  • The Host
  • The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
  • Jack Reacher
  • Jack the Giant Slayer
  • Kath & Kimderella
  • The Last Stand
  • Lay the Favourite
  • Life of Pi
  • Lockout
  • Mama
  • The Master
  • Movie 43
  • Oz the Great and Powerful
  • The Paperboy
  • ParaNorman
  • Parental Guidance
  • Playing for Keeps
  • Quartet
  • Red Dawn
  • Rise of the Guardians
  • Safe Haven
  • Save Your Legs
  • The Sessions
  • Side Effects
  • Silver Linings Playbook
  • So Undercover
  • Stolen
  • Taken 2
  • This is 40
  • Trouble With the Curve
  • Wreck-It Ralph

These titles and more can be found in our audio described DVD database.

Find out how to identify a DVD that has access features.

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