Friday, January 06, 2006

DVDs: The Next Generation

     They’re heeeeere.  Well, almost.  With the rise of HDTVs and HDTV programming, there was one last shoe that needed to drop: HD-DVDs.  Looks like we’ll finally see them in 2006, but another VHS-BetaMax war looms.  
     First, the contenders: Blu-Ray, a 25 GB single-layer/50 GB dual-layer from Sony versus Toshiba’s HD-DVDs with 15 GB single/30 GB dual.  Beyond that, there are plans to go as far as 4-layer discs, adding to the fun.  The HD-DVDs read faster and are more in line with current DVD formats, allowing easier production from current equipment, but 30 GB may not be quite enough for HD-movies.  Be aware that along with the capacity for dramatically higher image resolution (supporting 1080p+), clarity, and audio, there will very definitely be stronger copy protection systems (“watermarks”) incorporated (boooo).
     Every major movie studio but Universal has announced their intention to release movies on Blu-Ray this year, with Universal expected to follow suit.  A couple studios, including Paramount, plan to release in both formats.  Keep an eye out on the porn industry; sad as it is, their backing will be a massive influence.  Sony’s PS3 will feature (of course) Blu-Ray, ensuring that millions will have the hardware to watch Blu-Ray movie releases.   However, Microsoft is backing the HD-DVD format full-force (they will add on an HD-DVD component to their X-Boxes this year) and with Apple sitting with Blu-Ray, it figures that MS will happily get dirty.  Word has it, the first shot has been fired: Microsoft and Intel leaning hard on PC producers to bundle HD-DVD drives into computers.  While it stands to reason that Sony and others will churn out Blu-Ray drives, it may get awkward for consumers if movie and computer media split down the middle.  
     All indications are that Blu-Ray is the better choice and should win out.  Still, it would be best for all involved to settle on a single format.  No one wants to pay hundreds of dollars on a technology that will go the way of the Laserdisc.  Head spinning enough?  Then I’ll leave you with this: the HVD isn’t more than 5 or 6 years off……


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