Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Hi-Def Uncertainty

Blu-ray has been in the news this past month with the announcement that Warner Brothers would begin full fledged support of Blu-ray and slow phase out HD-DVD production throughout the year. Many analysts have seen this as a definitive blow, giving Blu-ray the clear lead over HD-DVD in the High Definition format war. Both Universal Studios and Paramount, however, have also announced that they have no future plans to release movies on the Blu-ray format, sticking exclusively with HD-DVD. Unfortunately for the consumer who can either pick a format and hope it wins the format war, there still isn’t a clear choice of either side as to which player to buy.

The Blu-ray Disc Association has announced two significant changes to the Blu-ray format since its release mid-2006. The first Blu-ray players and discs are known as Profile 1.0 which did not require any of the additional hardware necessary for a player to take advantage of the many special features found on most movie discs. The second generation of Blu-ray discs and players, called Profile 1.1 or “Bonus View” profile, were introduced November 2007. The new players are required to have more powerful hardware to take full advantage of the advanced menus and features found in Profile 1.1 Blu-ray discs; there is no guarantee that any of the Profile 1.1 discs will work on original Profile 1.0 players. The Blu-ray Disc Association also announced Profile 2.0 or “BD-Live” format which will bring more features to the players and discs. None of the Profile 1.0 and few of the Profile 1.1 players will be capable of playing Profile 2.0 discs when they are released this coming October. When commenting on the thousands of people who eagerly bought the first Blu-ray players only to learn that they would not play the latest or future movie releases the BDA representatives merely said, “[These people] knew what they were getting into.”

On the HD-DVD side there is the issue of the new 51GB disc. This disc was designed to nullify the capacity advantage of Blu-ray’s 50GB disc. Unlike the newer Blu-ray formats, the 51GB disc has been delayed on multiple occasions as it is constantly being refined in order to work with all existing HD-DVD players sold since its January 2006 debut. No mainstream studios have announced use of the new, larger disc until it is certified as fully compatible by the DVD Forum (the international consortium of studios and technology manufacturers who negotiated and agreed upon the original DVD format and it’s official successor, HD-DVD).

With these facts I don’t see myself purchasing any stand-alone high-definition player in the coming year. With the chance that HD-DVD may lose the format war I don’t want to risk spending $120 on a player that may not have any new content being published in a few years. On the other hand there’s no way I’ll spend $400 on a Blu-ray player today as I already know that I won’t be able to play new movies on it once “BD-Live” discs become the standard later this year.


HD-DVD wiki
Blu-ray wiki