Can I Play a Blu-ray Disc on a DVD Player?

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DVD vs Blu-ray. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

The Blu-ray Disc format and players have solidified their role in the home theater/home entertainment landscape with their ability provide high-definition TV and home theater viewing.

Blu-ray Disc players can play Blu-ray discs, DVDs, CDs, and, in some cases, even SACDs and DVD-Audio Discs.

Blu-ray Discs and DVD Players

However, although there are Blu-ray Disc players in many homes, those same homes may also have one or DVD players in use around the house as well.

As a result, a commonly asked question is if there is only one Blu-ray Disc player in the house and several DVD players, can you play a Blu-ray Disc on a DVD player so that Blu-ray Disc movies can be shared with the rest of the family at their convenience?

The answer to the above question is NO - You cannot play a Blu-ray Disc in a DVD player. Anyone that tries to claim otherwise is misleading the consumer.

Although you can play a DVD in a Blu-ray Disc player, you cannot play a Blu-ray Disc in a DVD player.

Why DVD Players Cannot Play Blu-ray Discs

The reason that you cannot play a Blu-ray Disc on a DVD player is that Blu-ray Discs are embedded with more video and audio information than a DVD player is designed to read. In addition, the "pits" used to store the information on a Blu-ray disc are much smaller than a DVD, which requires a blue laser to read the information, whereas DVD players use red lasers.

Blue lasers produce a light beam with a shorter wavelength, which is needed to focus on the smaller pits of a Blu-ray Disc. The pits on the disc is where the video and audio information of Blu-ray Discs (as well as DVDs and CDs) is stored.

Why Blu-ray Disc Players Can Play DVDs

On the other hand, the reason that a Blu-ray Disc player can play DVDs is that manufacturers decided, when they introduced the new players to the maker, made sure that all Blu-ray Disc player includes both blue and red laser assemblies so that they can play both Blu-ray Discs and DVDs.

A red laser produces a light beam that is of a longer wavelength than a blue laser, enabling it to read the larger pits imprinted on DVDs and CDs.

To accomplish this task, when you actually place a DVD into a Blu-ray Disc player, the Blu-ray Disc player activates the red laser assembly so that it can read the DVD. In addition, when you place a CD into a Blu-ray Disc player, the same red laser assembly that is used to read DVDs is refocused to read the CD.

You Don't Need To Buy Blu-ray Discs If You Don't Have A Blu-ray Player

The good part to all this is that if you don't have a Blu-ray Disc player, you don't have to spend the extra money for the Blu-ray Disc version of a movie. Of course, the bad news is that if you have a Blu-ray Disc player in your main room and one or two DVD players in other parts of the house, you will have to buy both the Blu-ray and DVD versions of the movie if you want the full benefits of both formats.

However, to assist in solving this problem, and as means to make purchasing Blu-ray discs more acceptable to consumers that have both a Blu-ray Disc player and DVD player in the house, studios often market combo packs that include both a Blu-ray Disc and DVD version of a movie in the same package.

The Blu-ray/DVD Flipper Disc

In an interesting twist, Universal Studios also experimented with another option back in 2009/2010, with a test-run of so-called "flipper discs", The titles included three entries in the Bourne series: The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy, and The Bourne Ultimatum - interestingly, they were only offered individually - not as a boxed set. Other "flipper disc" titles included Traffic, Letters to Juliet, and possibly a few others.

For some additional perspective on this approach to Blu-ray Discs that didn't make it past limited releases, read the article from Blu-ray.com

Ultra HD And Blu-ray Blu-ray Disc Players

Since 2016 there is also another disc format, referred to as Ultra HD Blu-ray.

The Ultra HD Blu-ray format is actually different from both Blu-ray and DVD. This means that you cannot play Ultra HD Blu-ray Discs on Standard Blu-ray Disc players or DVD players. However, Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc players can play 2D/3D Blu-ray Discs, DVDs, and Music CDs.

The Bottom Line

If you still purchase and collect DVDs, a good DVD player is fine, and if you also own a Blu-ray Disc player, you can still play those DVDs. Also, since most Blu-ray Disc movies also come with a DVD copy, you still have both playback options if you want to play the same movie in both your Blu-ray Disc and DVD players. However, Blu-ray Disc players are very inexpensive these days, so, if you desire to play a Blu-ray Discs in other rooms in the house, getting another Blu-ray player is an affordable option, when you take the added convenience into consideration.

In addition, if you take the plunge and get a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc player, although you can't play a 4K Ultra HD disc in either a Blu-ray or DVD player, most Ultra HD disc movies also come with a Blu-ray Disc copy - which softens the blow of jumping to another format.