Friday, October 31, 2008

Baraka Blu-ray Freezing Problem

The October 28th 2008 release of the Baraka Blu-ray disc has a problem. Many people have reported that video playback freezes between chapter 18 and 19 which is around 72 minutes into the film. The exact location where the freeze up occurs changes slightly when the disc is reloaded but it is always between the chapter 18 and 19 spots. After freezing up, playback can resume on its own after the player jumps several minutes, or by manually fast forwarding or chapter skipping. Some people have reported no video playback freezing problems whatsoever. Everyone agrees that the picture quality of Baraka is spectacular.

The Baraka Blu-ray is a BD50 disc that utilizes the VC-1 codec at a high 30+ Mbps bit rate. When you do the math the 72 minute mark is about 20 - 25 GB into the disc which is about where the layer change would occur. This could be just a coincidence and the 72 minute mark could just be the location of a mastering flaw. What is odd about the freeze up flaw that everything is fine once the player jumps around 10 minutes past it.

The Baraka Blu-ray is packaged in an environmentally "green" 100% recyclable cardboard box that has a fold out sleeve which the Blu-ray disc slides in. It is a fairly snug fit and the disc surface is touching the cardboard sleeve. Optical media and friction are bad and can cause scratches, dirt to stick, and warping. Most inspections of the disc surface return a clean bill of health so scratches and excess dirt are not likely the problem. The tight shrink wrapping and the lack of structural support from the case can be causing minor warping.

Possible Culprits
  • disc mastering or pressing flaw
  • minor disc warping due to flimsy cardboard packing
  • second layer transition laser focus problem

Some Blu-ray players seem more susceptible to this freeze up than others. Players such as the PS3 have been reported to both freeze up for some people and work flawlessly for others. Below is a list of which players suffer from the Baraka freeze up and which ones don't. Note that some players are listed in both good and bad categories.

Good Players
  • Insignia NS-BRDVD
  • Panasonic BD55
  • Pioneer 51FD/05FD with firmware 1.12a
  • Pioneer 95D
  • Sony BDP-S1
  • Sony PS3

Bad Players
  • LG BH200
  • Samsung BDP-1500
  • Sony BDP-BX1 with 010 firmware update
  • Sony BDP-S300
  • Sony BDP-S350 with 010 firmware update
  • Sony BDP-S550
  • Sony BDP-S5000ES
  • Sony PS3 with 2.50 firmware

Below is a list of links that have reported the Baraka freeze up problem:

Tracking Report Links

My Experience
I have a Sony BDP-S350 that has been updated to the most recent 010 firmware. I purchased my copy of the Baraka Blu-ray from Amazon. Picture quality is fantastic and the disc played great until a little bit after chapter 18 (~70 minutes) then playback froze and my S350 was unresponsive. I was able to skip a chapter forward but that took about a minute of waiting. I then ejected the disc, turned off the player, tried it again, and playback froze but at about the same spot (roughly 20 seconds later). I tried this several time an had the roughly the same results.

So I complained to Amazon that the Baraka disc was defective and they sent me a new one which arrived two days later. Now that is good service. Well, I put the Baraka Blu-ray disc jumped to chapter 17 and started watching. It played fine past the spot the original disc froze at, this got my hopes up, and then it locked up my Sony S350 player about two minutes later (at about 72 minutes). I tried this a couple time and the same thing happen. I looked at the surface of the Blu-ray disc and it looked fine. Great, now I have to discs I need to mail back to Amazon.

You could say I was frustrated. What do I do now? Hmmm. I looked at the cardboard packaging and thought what a piece of junk. It's great that they want to save the planet by using "green" packaging but sliding the disc in like that can't be good for it. So I put the Baraka disc into an unused CD jewel case I had laying around. About 12 hours later I decided to give the second Baraka disc another try. I popped the disc in, skipped to chapter 18, and this time it worked flawlessly. This is crazy so I tried it a couple time and every time it worked fine. Problem solved but how? This exact same disc failed several times just 12 hours prior. The disc must of been slightly warped and sitting in the CD jewel case fixed it.

Since I hadn't sent it back to Amazon yet, in an effort of completeness I decided to try my original Baraka disc again. It has been sitting in the cardboard sleeve for the past couple days. Jumped to chapter 18 and it froze at about 72 minutes, which is at a slightly different spot than it did at first. Tried it a couple times and roughly the exact same result. The original Baraka is now safely in a CD jewel case too.

Update Nov 7 2008
Over the past several days I have checked both copies of Baraka several times. My original Baraka disc is still freezing up in the Egyptian ruins section (~72 minutes) but at slightly different spots. My second "replacement" Baraka disc that originally froze has worked fine every time I have retried it. So it appears that the CD jewel case solution has worked great with one disc and it hasn't done a thing for the other disc.

Update Nov 14 2008
It has been another week of sitting in a CD jewel case and my original copy of Baraka is still freezing up at around the 72 minute position. The exact freezing spot is about +15 seconds from a week ago so it does seem to be moving forward slowly. I am returning this defective disc to Amazon today so this is end of my testing.

The environmentally "green" packaging is warping the Blu-ray disc. The solution seems to be to remove the disc from the flimsy cardboard packaging and put it some place safe where it won't be torques and twists. An empty CD jewel case or unused DVD case will work nicely.

If you have the Baraka Blu-ray please post your experiences here. Please list your Blu-ray player make, model, and firmware version (if known) and the timestamp where Baraka freezes. If Baraka works fine on your player please mention that too.


bigshoulders said...

I christened my brand-new BD player (Sony BDP-350, firmware version unknown) with a screening of Baraka. Sure enough, I experienced the same issues-- at around time point: 01:09:00, the scene froze and the player all of a sudden had issues reading the disc. It seemed like it was continuing to read ahead and the time kept progressing till it finally resumed at around 01:22:02, effectively tossing out 13 minutes of footage.

I inspected my copy and there were no noticeable scuffs or marks of any type on the disc. For all intents and purposes, the disc is pristine to my naked eye under a bright LED flashlight. I put it in a jewel case and will let it hang out there for a few days before attempting to watch it again. I'm wondering if I should return the disc to Best Buy, or hold out for a replacement from the studio?

Does you have the email address for the studio? Maybe there needs to be a flood of correspondence to them before they take action? Of course I'll be doing my own test with the jewel case... but just in case this doesn't do the trick for me.

Will Cardwell said...

I am having exactly the same problem with my Samsung BD-P2550. I have the latest firmware upgrade. My original Baraka froze somewhere in Ch 18. So I requested a replacement from Amazon just like you did. I returned the original disk and receive the replacement. The second disk is doing the same thing during the Egyptian Ruins scene as you described. I have moved the disk to a DVD case. I am skeptical that this will help.

bigshoulders said...

I finally contacted the studio for this release and they told me to send them the defective disc, and they would send a replacement. They did just that, and the new disc from them plays flawlessly. Interestingly enough, this one came packaged in a standard blu-ray case. Not a cardboard POS case.

No more freezing issues with the title.