Why Does It Take So Long For Blu-ray Discs To Play?

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Back in the days of VHS, you pretty much knew what you were getting. You'd pop in the tape, fast forward past a bunch of advertisements and logos, and get to the main feature. Easy peasy.

But now that we've advanced past even regular DVDs to Blu-ray, it's not as straightforward as the VHS days. In fact, it can often take a good minute or two from the time you put in the disc to the time the film actually starts. So why does it take so long?

There are a few reasons.

First, it depends on the Blu-ray player itself. Early models, or ones that haven't had their built-in software (known as firmware) updated, will inherently be slower. Current models sold at lower price points will also be slower because that usually means the manufacturers use less-expensive components. Players with dual-core processors (like the ones in this 2014 speed test by CNET) perform significantly faster than models with single cores. And as is the case with other electronics, the pairing of processors with brand-specific hardware and third-party software will yield varying results.

During startup, Blu-ray players also often do a relatively quick anti-piracy check, called HDCP. It stands for high-bandwidth digital content protection, and it uses your HDMI cable to check the transmission of material from a player to your television or projector. If it detects, for instance, recording technology, HDCP will block playback. The process takes seconds, but it all adds up.

Then there's the disc itself. According to a member of the Blu-ray.com forums, discs are encoded in at least three different ways: BDAV mode, BDMV mode, and BDMV mode with BD-J features. Processors handle loading features differently, and some features require more steps in the loading process. There may be a check too, depending on the title and its features, to see if an update is required. Furthermore, discs that use Java technology to provide access to bonus BD-Live features stored on the Internet, instead of locally on the disc, take longer to initialize. 

Of course, once the disc itself has loaded, you may then be confronted with unskippable studio logos and promos. That's before you even get to a motion menu. A fancy menu takes time to load and execute—again, it's faster on up-to-date machines—and it all gets in the way of your movie starting.

It's these steps that add time from startup to playback—taking as long as two to three minutes to get started.

2016 will see the release of Ultra HD Blu-ray, but with even more data involved in the playback of material, few people are expecting start-up times to get any quicker.

This post originally appeared on our UK site.