Understanding Blu-ray Profiles (Including BD-Live)

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Blu-ray players offer more than just movies in high-def. They also provide interactive features to enhance viewing, like BD-Live.

To understand BD-Live, it helps to learn about Blu-ray profiles. These profiles represent sets of features supported by players.

The first profile focused only on video and audio playback. Later profiles added picture-in-picture, audio mixing, and internet connectivity. Read on for all the details.

Key Points

  • Blu-ray profiles represent sets of features supported by players. The profiles have evolved to add new capabilities.
  • Profile 1.0 focused only on high-def video/audio playback, while Profile 2.0 introduced BD-Live to provide online extras.
  • Most Blu-ray players now support Profile 2.0 or 5.0, but older models may use earlier profiles. Consider this before purchasing.

What Are Blu-ray Profiles?

Blu-ray profiles are a set of standards that players must meet to ensure they have specific capabilities and functionality.

For example, in the early days of Blu-ray, any manufacturer building and selling a Blu-ray player had to ensure that the player conformed to the standards of Profile 1.0.

The player had to do certain basic things and play specific features on Blu-ray discs.

Standards of this type are common in quickly evolving technologies to easily identify what the hardware we buy is capable of.

The problem is it’s easy to get lost in a maze of version numbers, so you don’t know if you are coming or going!

There have been four main profile revisions for Blu-ray players. Here are the main details of each.

Flying Blu-ray disc

Blu-ray Profile 1.0

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 be a few left around, especially if you buy one second-hand.

Blu-ray Profile 1.1

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 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 played.

Other requirements were for at least 256 MB of local hard disk storage to store video, audio, and titles updates.

Blu-ray Profile 2.0

Also known as BD-Live.

This latest profile release for Blu-ray players that play video added new features and functionality.

Even though 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, including 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 firmware upgrades and for downloading extra interactive functionality.

The extra interactive features usually involve connecting to the BD-Live site for the movie you are watching and downloading additional features not available on the disk – like new commentaries, games, quizzes and trailers.

So is it any good?

BD-Live Logo

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 exciting extras provided by the studios rather than the idea in general.

If the studios provide better online content, it may prove a valuable addition to the features of a Blu-ray movie. 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, while updating this article, I’ve just checked their BD-Live website 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 efficiently perform firmware upgrades is another benefit from a Profile 2.0 player.

With Blu-ray technology evolving every year, it can be essential 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 that some Blu-ray players are enabled to stream online movies from places such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

These players are specially configured to work with these services.

A standard Profile 2.0 player will not automatically access these services – although it is possible to add this functionality via a firmware update.

Blu-ray Profile 3.0

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 favorite 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.

If you want to understand the different types of audio on a Blu-ray disc, check out the guide to Blu-ray audio formats.

Blu-ray Profile 5.0

3D Blu-ray Logo

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 with the accompanying 3D menus and subtitles.

Wrapping Up

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 high-resolution audio and video formats, which is enough for most people.

However, suppose you like exploring technology fully and using all the interactive features available on new Blu-ray discs.

In that case, it is essential 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 buying.

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About The Author

Paul started the Home Cinema Guide to help less-experienced users get the most out of today's audio-visual technology. He has been a sound, lighting and audio-visual engineer for around 20 years. At home, he has spent more time than is probably healthy installing, configuring, testing, de-rigging, fixing, tweaking, re-installing again (and sometimes using) various pieces of hi-fi and home cinema equipment. You can find out more here.

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