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 Question

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

The answer to the above question is NO. 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 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 include 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.

Additional Considerations

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 pass limited releases, read the article from Blu-ray.com

Enter Ultra HD Blu-ray

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

The Ultra HD Blu-ray format is actually different than standard Blu-ray. 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.