HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc Come to RopeofSilicon!

If you have been building that DVD collection and you can look over at your wall and admire the stacks and stacks of plastic cases don’t get too happy yet. The world of High Definition is preparing to take over, will you become a follower? If so, which government will you form your allegiance with?

I am sure many of you have already heard that there are going to be two new formats in home video available soon, HD DVD and Blu-ray disc. These new formats boast big benefits over the current DVD format, and they also take advantage of the new high-definition video consumers have been force fed.

The biggest issue here is what format do you, as a consumer, support? Is this another VHS vs. Beta all over again?

First off, don’t worry about that massive DVD collection you have compiled. One big bonus with either the Blu-ray and HD DVD players is that they will be backward compatible and will be equipped with both the DVD/CD reading red laser and the Blu-ray/HD DVD reading blue laser. Only problem is these players don’t play both HD DVDs and Blu-ray discs, which means you will still need to pledge your allegiance to one format or another. Or, heaven forbid – both. Gasp!

Considering the formats, I would say Blu-ray is certainly the front-runner when it comes to advanced technology and being a look into the future, but we’ll talk about that in a minute. One of HD DVDs big selling points right now is price as players will be offered at a mere fraction of the cost of the Blu-ray players. Currently you can pre-order the Toshiba HD DVD player over at Amazon.com for a price of $499.99, which is slated to hit retail shelves in the U.S. in March, along with a more fully featured model expected to run around $799.99.

So, those prices are pretty steep when you compare them to the fact that you can buy a feature filled DVD player for about $100, but just wait, you haven’t heard the Blu-ray prices yet.

At the 2006 Consumer Electronics Show, Pioneer and Panasonic disclosed prices on their Blu-ray players and they weighed in at $1,800 and $1,000 respectively. Yeah, a bit of a larger price hike there eh? But don’t go running over to the HD DVD side yet, price is not your only concern here, and remember that DVD players weren’t exactly cheap when they first came out. You should also take notice that if you plan on purchasing the upcoming PlayStation 3 from Sony, which will also double as a Blu-ray disc player and it is currently rumored to hit the streets around May 2006 with a price tag somewhere in the range of $500, but that can always change.

I should mention that some studios may still support both formats, but this is where it stands as of now. To check out a list of titles already announced by each studio check out our HD DVD and Blu-ray homepage where you will find all 116 titles I have already added to the RopeofSilicon database.

So we have prices, we have supporters, but what the hell does all this mean? What is Blu-ray? What is HD DVD?

Well, I am not a tech guru, but I have managed to piece together some information that should simplify matters here and give you some kind of idea as to why these new formats are being released amidst a DVD boom.

First off, if you didn’t already know most DVDs are double-layered, this means you can put a bunch of information on the first layer of the disc and then the same amount of information on the other layer of the disc and your DVD player is able to distinguish between both layers when playing it. This is what causes that small pause in the middle of a movie when you are watching a DVD. It is when the laser begins reading the second layer of information on the disc’s surface.

Current DVDs are able to hold 4.7 Gigabytes (GB) per layer giving DVDs a total of approximately 8.4 GB. Blu-ray discs and HD DVDs dwarf these numbers with HD DVDs having a storage capacity of 30GB (15GB per layer) and Blu-ray Discs taking the lead with a capacity of 50GB (25GB per layer). Oh yeah, you should also know that Blu-ray is said to have the capability of having up to 8 layers, or 92 hours of SD video, or 46 two hour DVD movies.

What does this mean? Take a look at those TV DVD sets you have. Now, imagine instead of having 10 different season sets of “Friends” you have one Blu-ray disc per season! Yeah, and instead of in standard definition (SD) DVD format it would all be in high-definition. I see you drooling, there is more.

On top of superior video you will be getting up to 7.1 channels of surround sound and options for up to 32 streams of audio with Blu-ray disc.

Buena Vista Home Entertainment has also announced that their Bluray disc releases will feature seamless, high resolution overlay pop-up menus which will allow for a first-time-ever continuous movie play experience; dynamic and unparalleled, high-definition picture; up to 7.1 channels of surround sound; new layering coating technology which provides a scratch resistance surface; and new sleek packaging.

Special features have been highly touted, but details have been limited, the above info is what is known so far.

Should you upgrade and when?

In all honesty, if superior picture and sound quality is not important to you and you upgrading now will not be important to you at all, and I suspect most people will be in this boat in the early going. It is also important to know that in order for this to be truly beneficial you are going to need a TV with HD capabilities and a home theater package with the works such as Dolby Digital and DTS sound support – got to make sure the sound is covered. You won’t want to go cheap here either, but cheap will be better than listening through your TV speakers any day.

The major deterrent is going to be the price, it should also be noted that this is new technology and that always gets better, and it gets better quickly. Take for example what happened at this year’s 2006 CES:

It was supposed to be the grand unveiling of a new generation in home entertainment when Kevin Collins of Microsoft Corp. popped an HD DVD disc into a Toshiba production model and hit “play.”

Nothing happened.

The failed product demo at this week’s International Consumer Electronics Show was hardly an auspicious start for the HD DVD camp in what’s promising to be a nasty, drawn-out technology format war reminiscent of the Betamax-VHS video-tape battle.

That’s got to be embarrassing eh?

As this new technology expands it will get more reliable and at the same time cheaper as production increases.

If you were to get one, which one to get?

I am not even going to try and tell you which one of these is better, but I will give my opinion based on what I have read.

My choice at this time is Blu-ray.

  • Blu-ray is the future.
  • HD DVD is the next best thing above traditional DVDs, but it is not the best thing..
  • The support is overwhelmingly in Blu-ray’s corner from movie studios and gaming companies.
  • “Blu-ray is clearly the best choice for consumers,” Dell said.
  • The PlayStation 3 will be a Blu-ray player, the Xbox 360 will need an external drive to play HD DVDs.
  • Larger storage capacity of HD DVD and growing.
  • Slightly faster bit-rate than HD DVD (40Mbps vs. 36.55Mbps)

Something to consider:

I saw a great quote recently over at The Digital Bits that may have you reconsidering buying either format:

Ultimately, like it or not, our bet is that the home video future will be broadband, video-on-demand-style downloading of high-definition film and TV programming right to your DVR-enabled TVs, TiVos and cable boxes. I don’t think pre-packaged media is going to go away completely, but I’m afraid it will eventually be the exception and not the rule. Just some thoughts, but they’re worth keeping in mind amid all this talk of Blu-ray and HD-DVD.

For right now you should know that both formats are coming and by the end of the year Blu-ray and HD DVDs are going to be released day-and-date with DVDs. DVDs aren’t going anywhere, but if you are one of those technology freaks, like myself, you are going to want to stay up on this one.

Have something to add, corrections or additional info?

I hope some of you more “tech savvy” individuals in our reading audience will head on over to our forums and weigh in with your opinions.

I don’t claim to be any sort of official source on this subject, although I hope I helped, and any and all added bits of info will be appreciated by one and all!


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