Friday, April 21, 2006

HD DVD vs. Blu-Ray (cont.)

Let the battle commence! IMDB has this unsettling report:
Consumer electronics writers have begun to weigh in on the new HD DVD players distributed by Toshiba this week, and most are unimpressed. Several cite an intolerably long boot-up period, a confusing menu system, and incompatible sound. But nearly all express disappointment in the picture. . . . Writing in the Los Angeles Times David Colker remarked that on larger screens he could detect a subtle difference. He added: "I tested my perceptions by switching between the two formats. I asked a colleague to close his eyes while I chose a version, then had him open them and guess: DVD or HD DVD? He got it right only about 75% of the time.

That's bad news for HD-DVD but I think it might be worse news for Sony. A lackluster $500 hi-def DVD player is better than a lackluster $1,800 player.

Up until now, though, I hadn't considered this possibility: What if both standards fail?

In historical terms, the change from VHS to DVD took much longer than the switch from DVD to HD DVD (or Blu-Ray). The first mass-market DVD players didn't hit until about 9 years ago; the DVD revolution only really completed itself about four years ago. What if it's too soon for a new format that only offers marginal improvements at a very high price point?

Here's the rest of the Colker article.


Mike Russell said...

I wouldn't be at all surprised if both standards fail. Though I think HD-DVD will prevail for the simple reason that its name is recognizable and it was here first, working out the kinks.

The switch from VHS to DVD was a quantum leap in portability, storability, resistance to wear and, most important, sound and picture.

And from DVD's debut circa 1997, it really only took a few years (specifically, the debut of the first "Matrix" DVD, which I believe was the first platter to sell a million copies) for the format to get a serious, inevitable foothold on retail sales.

On the other hand, this whole HD-DVD vs. Blu-Ray "war" is incredibly depressing -- mostly because no one but corporate and studio heads were really asking for an upgrade to the resolution of home entertainment systems.

DVDs, like mp3s, are just one of those breakthrough "killer apps" where they may not be the BEST, but they're good enough for the eyes and ears of Joe and Jane Sixpack, and will be for years because they represent a safe plateau of portability and convenience.

For a side-by-side comparison of the differences in resolution, click here:

It looks nicer, no doubt -- but does it look THAT much nicer? It just looks like someone used the "Unsharp Mask" filter in Photoshop to me. (The biggest benefit to me seems more along the lines of getting an entire TV season on a couple of discs.)

The video-game/computer platform is where this war is probably going to be decided, and that's a ways off. If memory serves, PS3 is going Blu-Ray while Microsoft has adopted HD-DVD. It's going to be ugly and expensive, and even though Blu-Ray has far greater storage capacity, HD-DVD has the name recognition (and, if the tech-heads are right, the stability in the manufacturing end).

And anyway: In a world where people seem happy putting grainy video codecs on their iPods and the Internet keeps getting faster and faster and may soon come blazingly quickly through your wall outlet ( ), I'm personally of the opinion that Apple will at some point open a full-on iTunes Movie Store and the physical platter will become less and less relevant.

Also: Haven't up-converting HD DVD players been allowing an 1080i HD picture to be extracted from the standard DVD release for a while now?

The best thing is that it's knocking down the price of regular DVDs in the short term.

Steven Den Beste said...

What's driving this, from the commercial side, is strong DRM. The content producers are making a fortune on DVD sales but they also feel like they're bleeding to death because DVD DRM was cracked a long time ago.

High resolution is the honey they hope will attract consumers, but strong DRM is why the entertainment industry really likes them.

And I predict that strong DRM will also be why neither will be strong commercially, because consumers don't like it.

Anonymous said...

Excellent, love it!
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