On January 4, 2008, a day before CES 2008, Warner Bros. (the only major studio still releasing movies in both HD DVD and Blu-Ray Disc format) announced that it would release only in Blu-Ray Disc after May 2008. This included other studios that came under the Warner umbrella, such as New Line Cinema and HBO –though in Europe, HBO distribution partner, the BBC, announced it would continue to release in both formats while keeping an eye on the market.

Blu-Ray DVD: Part 3

James Russo

Blu-Ray DVD: Part 3
The New Kid on the Block

Author: James Russo

On January 4, 2008, a day before CES 2008, Warner Bros. (the only major studio still releasing movies in both HD DVD and Blu-Ray Disc format) announced that it would release only in Blu-Ray Disc after May 2008. This included other studios that came under the Warner umbrella, such as New Line Cinema and HBO –though in Europe, HBO distribution partner, the BBC, announced it would continue to release in both formats while keeping an eye on the market.

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The pre-CES announcement led to an unparalleled chain reaction in the home DVD industry. Many media giants burned by the failure of the past such as VHS, CED disc, and Laservision were unwilling to continue endorsing formats which were sure to become obsolete. Many home media companies tried to convince movie companies that HD DVD was still a viable format and that home players were leaving store shelves and online retailer warehouses at a brisk pace.

Despite assurances from these companies, major U.S. retailers such as Best Buy, Wal-Mart and Circuit City dropped HD DVD from their inventory. A major European retailer of Blu-Ray, Woolworths, dropped HD DVD from its inventory. Netflix and Blockbuster – major DVD rental companies – said they would no longer carry HD DVDs. Soon after this Toshiba Corporation announced that the company would no longer manufacture HD DVD players. Universal Studios one of the largest Hollywood studios to back the HD DVD format followed suit and announced that they would no longer release films in HD DVD. Paramount Studios likewise decided to follow Universal Studios and both studios announced they would begin releasing films both new and from their libraries only on Blu-Ray in May 2008.

In order to understand all of the hoopla around Blu-Ray, one must understand what exactly is a Blu-Ray DVD and how is the DVD picture quality different from a standard definition, or SD, DVD. Blu-Ray discs use a “blue (actually violet) laser, operating at a wavelength of 405nm, to read and write data. The diodes are InGaN (Indium Gallium Nitride) lasers that produce 405 nm photos directly, that, is without frequency doubling or other nonlinear optical mechanisms. Conventional DVD and CDs use red and near-infrared lasers, at 650 nm and 780 nm, respectively.

Since the Blu-Ray Disc data layer is closer to the surface of the disc compared to the DVD standard, it was at first more vulnerable to scratches. The first discs were housed in cartridges for protection, resembling Professional Discs introduced by Sony in 2003.

Using a cartridge would increase the price of an already expensive medium, so hard-coating of the pickup surface was chosen instead. TDK was the first company to develop a working scratch-protection coating for Blu-ray discs. The special coating was named Durabis. All Blu-Ray Disc media are required by specification to be scratch-resistant.

One of the major concerns for the manufacturers of Blu-Ray discs is just what video format or codec would the disc be recorded in. Regular DVD’s ( or Standard Definition DVD’s ) are required to support MPEG-2 H. 264/MPEG-4 AVC, and SMPTE VC-1. MPEG-2 allows for backward compatibility. The MPEG- 4 AVC codec was developed by MPEG, Sony, and VCEG. VC – 1 is a codec that was mainly developed by Microsoft BD-ROM titles with music store video.

The choice of codecs used was important because this affects the producers’ licensing/royalty costs as well as the title’s maximum run time, due to differences in compression efficiency. Discs encoded in MPEG-2 video typically limit content providers to around two hours of high-definition content on a single-layer 25GB BD-ROM.

The MPEG-2 codec was used by Paramount Picture on their initial DVD releases as well as their HD DVD titles. Modern releases are now often encoded in either MPEG-4 AVC or VC-1 allowing film studios to place all content on one disc, reducing costs and improving ease of use.

At the 2005 JavaOne trade show, an announcement was made that would shake the still young Blu-Ray DVD industry to its core. It was announced that Sun Microsystems Java software would included in all Blu-Ray Disc players. The inclusion of Java in all Blu-Ray players would allow more advanced menus and chapter search, network connectivity, updates to Blu-Ray discs via the internet, and many other benefits. However, there would also be drawbacks.

Related links:
www.wikipedia.com
www.sony.com
www.samsung.com
www.blu-raydisc.com
www.hometheatermag.com


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