Many people who are thinking about buying a Blu-ray player have heard about BD-Live, but they aren't too sure exactly what it is.
What do they need to do to get it, and do all Blu-ray players offer this facility?
Well, before we look at the details of what BD-Live is, it will make more sense to have a look at the history of Blu-ray profiles and find out what they are and where they fit in with Blu-ray technology.
Once we understand this, then it will be easier to see where BD Live fits in.
Blu-ray profiles are a set of standards that players must meet in order to ensure they have certain capabilities and functionality.
For example, in the early days of Blu-ray, any manufacturer building and selling a Blu-ray player had to make sure that the player conformed to the standards of Profile 1.0. This meant that the player had to be capable of doing certain basic things, and playing certain features on Blu-ray discs.
Standards of this type are common in quickly evolving technologies so that we can easily identify what the hardware we buy is capable of.
The problem with this is that it can be easy for us to get lost in a maze of version numbers so that we don't know if we are coming or going!
There have been three main profile revisions for the functionality of Blu-ray players, let us take a look so we understand this before we buy our next player.
Also known as the Grace Period, or Initial Standard Profile.
Blu-ray profile 1.0 was the first standard and it set out the minimum requirements for a Blu-ray player. A Profile 1.0 Blu-ray player had basic capabilities such as the playback of Blu-ray discs with simple interactive menus and audio commentaries.
If you have a profile 1.0 player and a new Blu-ray disc, there is a possibility that the more advanced interactive features of the disc will not be available to you.
Profile 1.0 Blu-ray players are no longer manufactured, but there may a few left around, especially if you are buying one second-hand.
Also known as Bonus View or Final Standard Profile.
This profile was introduced in November 2007 and it added extra features that a Blu-ray player was required to perform.
The main improvement was that a Profile 1.1 Blu-ray player had to have secondary video and audio decoders in order to play picture-in-picture features on a disc. This picture-in-picture feature was called Bonus View.
These extras would usually involve the actors or director in a small window in the corner of the screen adding commentary as the movie was being played.
Other requirements were for at least 256 MB of local hard disk storage to hold updates to the video, audio and titles.
Also known as BD-Live.
This latest profile release for Blu-ray players that play video added new features and functionality. Despite the fact that Profile 1.1 was called the 'Final Standard Profile' - they released another one!
Here we see the introduction of the BD-Live feature for Blu-ray players. A Profile 2.0 player has all the features mentioned above, with the addition of an internet connection and 1GB of local hard disk storage.
This means that a BD-Live Blu-ray player can be connected to the web for the purpose of firmware upgrades and for downloading extra interactive functionality.
The extra interactive features usually involve connecting to the BD-Live site for the movie that you are watching and downloading extra features not available on the disk like new commentaries, games, quizzes and trailers.
So is it any good?
Well, most people who have tried the BD-Live features appear to have been largely unimpressed, but this has been mainly down to the lack of interesting extras provided by the studios rather than the idea in general. If the studios provide better online content then it may prove a useful addition to the features of a Blu-ray movie, and hopefully we will see this improve as Blu-ray becomes more popular.
One of the better examples of BD-Live interactivity was provided by Disney. However, I've just checked their BD-Live website while updating this article, and was met with the message 'BD-Live features have been disabled and are no longer accessible'.
Oh, so much for BD-Live then.
The ability to easily perform firmware upgrades is another benefit from a Profile 2.0 player. With Blu-ray technology evolving every year it can be important to make sure your player has the latest firmware - otherwise you can find your player may struggle to play new Blu-ray discs.
While there are other ways of updating the firmware, a player directly connected to the internet is probably the easiest method.
Please be aware, there are some Blu-ray players which are enabled to stream online movies from places such as Netflix and Amazon Video on Demand. These players are specially configured to work with these services and a standard Profile 2.0 player will not automatically have access to these services - although it is possible to add this functionality via a firmware update.
Profile 3.0 provides a standard for audio-only Blu-ray players and discs - they don't have to support video playback at all.
The idea is that cheap players can be made available that benefit from the higher audio resolutions of Blu-ray technology to provide high quality audio-only players - much like an enhanced CD player.
This is a format that hasn't really taken off with the general public, however if you love your music and have a good amplifier and speaker setup, then you might want to check out some high-resolution music on Blu-ray.
You can get stereo and surround sound album versions from many artists all in high resolutions up to 192kHz/24bit.
As far as the discs are concerned, they are marketed under the name Pure Audio Blu-ray, and the good news is that you don't have to buy a new Blu-ray player as the discs will play on any Blu-ray device.
I actually love high-definition versions of my favourite albums, and there are quite a few available, however I think I'm in the minority here. No change there then.
If you want to experience some high-resolution Blu-ray audio, then you can find quite a few discs at Amazon.
Profile 5.0 was released to cover the introduction of 3D Blu-ray discs.
I've no idea what happened to profile 4.0 - it must have got lost down the back of the sofa.
The maximum supported bitrate was increased to 72 Mbps (from 48 Mbps previously), to allow the transfer of the larger amounts of data that come with 3D movies.
A profile 5.0 player requires HDMI 1.4, and supports the playback of 3D video along the accompanying 3D menus and subtitles.
For many people, the extra features provided by the new Blu-ray Profile enhancements won't make that much difference.
Even the most basic Profile 1.0 player will play the movie with the high resolution audio and video formats, and that is enough for most people.
However, if you are somebody who likes exploring technology to the full and using all the interactive features being made available on new Blu-ray discs, then it is important to take notice of the profile version of your player as certain features may not be available to you otherwise.
Most relatively new Blu-ray players will now be Profile 2.0 or 5.0, but older and second-hand models may be the earlier profiles so be aware of this before you buy.