More on HD-DVD and Blu-Ray

I was going to post a link to a story tonight, but somebody beat me to it in the comments. You can get the link there, or here…
There is an op-ed piece at Ars Technica which talks about the financial aspects of the next generation of DVD formats. They admit fully it is an op-ed piece from a member of the HD-DVD camp, and offer it in “the spirit of discussion and debate.”
Here is my problem with it. The piece is talking about Initial costs, not long term costs, which is actually cheaper with Blu-ray thanks to some cool stuff they have demonstrated in prototype. He says they haven’t addressed the cost issues, but I think Blu-ray has indeed been very upfront about it saying the initial costs are higher to the replicators, but the highest estimate I have seen anywhere on the cost to the end consumer is $5 more per disc over the same movie and features on HD-DVD, and odds are, that $5 would be absorbed by the studio to allow for better sales and to let the format catch on. Yes, it does mean a major overhaul of the line to change from DVD to BD (Blu-ray’s acronym). Yes, it isn’t a simple retooling of the existing line as it is for HD-DVD, but I think that gives it a technical edge. As the guy says, “Basically, HD DVD is a DVD-9—a version of DVD we have enormous manufacturing experience with already—with a denser pit structure.” As I, and many other pointed out, this is the problem, it is just an interim step, not a true revolution in the format, just an evolution, which will need to be done again. Anyhow, how many people will re-tool their existing lines? Why not leave the existing lines for making regular DVDs, then make new lines for the HD-DVD or BD, at which point the costs start becoming the same. You could do it the way the guy advocates, make minor adjustments after you run the HD-DVD line, run your regular DVD line, adjust, run the HD-DVD line, adjust… odds are this will be automated, but the question becomes does his costs include the ability to automatically adjust the line from regular DVDs to HD-DVDs?
The BD format is not finalized, which is why there is debate on the final manufacturing methods. The BD people were not saying they were going to launch this year, but later in 2006, though BD drives would become available widely available as early as the spring of 2006. Even Toshiba had to roll back the introduction of HD-DVD from this year to next spring. New formats get delayed, it isn’t a big deal for either, though it does make it harder for HD-DVD since it will no longer have the bigger launch window.
He says at one point, “it advances the agendas of a few select companies instead of the market’s and that of the consumer.” The thing is, it looks like BD has the hardware advantage, and the tech savvy consumer advantage, so I am not sure what he’s talking about there.
He never addresses the technical problems with HD-DVDs space limitations. The highest theroticial capacity I have seen in print is 60GB, far less then the prototyped 100GB that BD has shown, let alone the therotical limit of 200GB. HD-DVD has room for a movie in HDTV and the special features… using the same number of disks that regular DVD uses. So if they make Lord of the Rings: Two Towers Special Edition for example on HD-DVD, put the special features in HDTV and all that good stuff, you still end up with 3 to 4 disks, where with BD it could fit on one, though at least initially they would probably put it on two. A full season of Lost in HDTV on HD-DVD would still take about 7 disks on HD-DVD, while you go down to about 4 on BD… Yet even more cost savings to all involved.
The bigger issue of the moment is very few of us have HDTV sets yet. You probably won’t notice enough of a difference on a regular TV to see the difference between regular DVD and HD-DVD/BD. I doubt many people will have full HDTV sets with the needed HDCP support (not on early HDTVs… heck some sold today may still not have it, be sure yours does if you plan on getting one, though most if not all, made now do support it) when regular TV signals go bye bye a few years from now. One could argue this is reason enough just to use an interim step, but I don’t want to have to buy my Lord of the Rings collection twice more, if I can buy it just once more.
Others may argue that even HDTV will be replaced by Super-HDTV or something down the line, but I don’t see that as happening for a very long time. HDTV is about the best you can do over the air. When everyone in the world has high speed Internet2 access, then I can see HDTVs replacement coming to the consumer level. HDTV has 1920 pixels across the screen at the maximum resolution, and they have demonstrated digital movie projectors that do over 4,000 pixels across the screen. This super high resolution is meant to help movie theaters compete against HDTV, by continuing to offer higher definition then even the high end consumer can typically get at home.
Anyhow, the point is, BD is our best long term option… at least until holographic technology catches up to the consumer level… or nano-storage, or some other format that is on the longer term horizon (though rumor has it we may see holographic technology sooner then expected).

3 thoughts on “More on HD-DVD and Blu-Ray”

  1. Seeing as the main issue we’re looking at here is changing the wavelength of the laser, what’s to stop company C from using an even THINNER laser? I don’t know the manufacturing limitations, but why not? Then we’ll get stuck in a “7-minute abs are clearly better than 8-minute abs” discussion.

    Also, I don’t really see a retroactive upgrade of DVD collections. I don’t think it’s possible to bring “Ghostbusters” into HDTV just by snapping our fingers. We could fake it using interpolation (kind of like using HDMI cables to a standard TV today), but it wouldn’t be the real thing. Thankfully, many network shows are now filming in HD but I’m not sure about the movie industry.

    I’m a fairly blind Apple supporter so if they’re supporting BD, I am too.

  2. Attack of the Show commented on it yesterday I think, during their “the feed” (news) segment.
    They didn’t sound happy with all the different items they will have to purchase to cover all their bases.

  3. Just a quick rebuttal to Brent’s comment. Movies were (and, mostly, still are) shot on film, which generally has much higher resolution that HD (depends on the film stock, of course). If the masters are in good shape you can produce a HD-digital copy relatively easily. Even if the masters are in bad shape they can be digitally restored (StarWars is a good example of this). Restoration is easy to doo badly, and expensive to do well, so, while I’m sure we’ll eventually see a high-def DVD version of Ghostbusters, it may not be any better than the twin-pak I bought at WalMart a few weeks ago:-(

    Now, video is different. I’m not sure if the studio equipment for SD records in 480i resolution (i.e. 60 “half” frames with 240 lines of vertical resolution each per second) but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it did just that. After all, that’s the format used for broadcast, so why not record the same? TV shows that were shot on film are, of course, different, but since they were never intended to be shown on a large screen I would not be surprised if the film stock quality was not on par with movies (certainly it wouln’t be 70mm).

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