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The HD Media Future - Articles Surfing
The HD Media future
Everyone knows that media format wars have historical significance in the world of technology. Remember the most notorious battle between the Beta max and the VHS? The winner of such battles will make millions even billions. Later we had the upgrade of tape to CD, a revolution in music. In 1980 the Philips/Sony compact disc standard was finalized and nobody has looked back for the last 26 years (until mp3's came along).
Well as ever there is a new media battle but who will win again is yet unknown. This modern forest of technological mass has produced a new insurgency: THE HIGH DEFINITION WAR. Blu-ray vs HD-DVD are two competing formats which are eventually going to replace DVD's. As you look around at your local electric retailers you can see changes happening in the broadcast world, not only are we changing from our conventional CRT screens to Flat screen but also to HD ready TV. The impact this has on our lives is not as large as black and white to colour, but nevertheless a change that will definitely be a benchmark for future media.
Why New formats?
The reason we have introduced these new formats is that your traditional DVD can hold a maximum of 9.4 GB (Dual Layer) of information. This is not enough for HD broadcast as the information required is higher, being a resolution of 1920x1080. Blu-ray discs can hold 50 GB (Dual Layer) and HD-DVD 30 GB (Dual Layer).
These new discs cannot be played on normal DVD players but on new HD media players of which examples are Samsung BDP 1000 (Blu-Ray), Sony Playstation 3 (Blu-Ray), Toshiba HDXA1 (HD-DVD). This means spending more money for better resolution.
This is always important especially when new models of media come out; at first it is always expensive as supply out strips demand. The players are expensive, the cheapest being the Playstation 3 supposedly retailing at '549. Blu-Ray media also being expensive; similar to DVD's when they first came out (taking inflation into consideration), blank media costing from '11.99 to '24.99.
To play a Blu-ray Disc on a PC has brought about a price concern. The fact that you have to purchase a HDCP (High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection) Graphic card, along with a HD monitor, not to mention a Blu-ray Drive and media, controversially may bring about decrease in sales. This is presently being contested with new Laptops and PCs that are Blu-ray compatible, look at the New Vaio VGN-AR21S.
The HD players need to be up to scratch on price. The Toshiba HD-DVD player retailing at almost half the price of the Blu-ray Samsung player creates even more competition between the two media. This could encourage sales of HD-DVD over Blu-ray, even though it's rumoured that Toshiba will be making a loss initially.
Prices of movies doesn't seem to be as high as anticipated; a Blu-ray movie 'House of flying daggers' from amazon.com will set you back $19.95 ('10.68). This may encourage sales. Movies in HD-DVD identical in price, yet Blu-ray is a larger size disc.
Another problem HD may face is that the new DVD players have the upscaling technology ie. DVD is played at 480p but upscalers upgrade the image to 720p or 1080i. This produces a picture which is of high quality to the untrained eye, in fact even the trained eye has difficulty distinguishing between the two. The difference is seen on a 50 inch HD projector and looking right up close. So the question is will 1080p be much different to 1080i? Will people fork out the added expense when they know that a cheaper DVD upscaler will create more or less the same effect?
Software and Hardware companies have invested a lot of money in subsidising HD media. Samsung, Panasonic, Mitsubishi, LG, Sony, TDK, JVC and Sharp support Blu-ray and Toshiba and Microsoft back HD-DVD. Hollywood movie studios Disney, Paramount, Warner, Sony, Eagle rock, Fox and MGM and Lions gate support Blu-ray also. None of these large companies would take such a gamble if they didn't know that this is what the consumer wants.
Sony love to bring out their own media whether its Sony Duo Sticks or Sony Mini Discs. Their hunger to dominate the consumer market has always been there and this is nothing different. The Playstation 3 will play Blu-Ray discs, still having the ability to play older media like DVDs and CDs. The success of the predecessor's PS1 and PS2 will give much anticipation to the release of this new console and is what Sony are hoping will convert people to use Blu-Ray. A Sony spokesman has predicted that Blu-Ray will dominate the HD market within 12 months.
The encouraging feature with HD-DVD is the name, everyone's ears will ring with the name and automatically assume that this is a high definition movie. Asking someone in the street what 'Blu-ray' is will bring looks of confusion, along with the fact that both will produce similar quality pictures.
Region coding with Blu-Ray may put people off; the fact that you may not be able to watch a new release from the states or Japan on your European locked regional player will raise eyebrows.
REGION 1 South America, North America, East Asia (except China)
REGION 2 Europe and Africa
REGION 3 China, Russia other Countries
Multiregional configurations on DVD players has encouraged sales worldwide especially with worldwide films from Bollywood, Japan (manga) and South America.
So far the HD-DVD camp has not announced region coding just yet, and if they don't then this will be very advantageous for consumers.
Realistically you only need about 15-20 GB for a feature length film in High definition but who would have known that DVD's could not be able to hold enough for high definition. Theoretically they can with MPEG-4 Compression. In any case media like Blu-ray will hopefully be future proof in years to come.
The timescale and price are the two main issues here, how quick we will universally change to HD and whether this is affordable. From a consumer point of view the necessity for HD doesn't seem imperative, after all VHS was around for 20 odd years twice that of DVD (so far). You could argue that technology is changing exponentially and that changes occur quicker.
As for the battle between the two media there may be compromise ahead. A UK firm has announced a solution to the media war. London-based New Medium Enterprises (NME) has developed a low-cost, multilayer DVD disc that can store Blu-ray content on one layer and HD DVD content on another. This would leave the consumer with the choice of buying either type of player to play the one disc.
The key setback I feel with the looming HD change is the cheaper alternative to a Blu-Ray player or HD-DVD player, the DVD upscaler. Do people want to get rid of those hundreds of DVDs they bought to replace them with an expensive alternative, especially when they might not even notice the difference in picture quality?
However I do feel that HD is encouraged with consoles such as the Playstation 3. Blu-ray is its main format and may revolutionise the games industry.
Copyright © 1995 - Photius Coutsoukis (All Rights Reserved).
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