Thursday, September 06, 2007

Not ANOTHER Hi-Def Format! Does It Have A Chance?

CEDIA is the "Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association", and this week (Sept. 5-9) they're holding their annual Expo in Denver. There's a lot of hi-def media talk going on there since it started yesterday, with each side claiming better hardware sales than the other, depending on what point of view they use. We've been deep in the middle of a hi-def home video format war for over a year now, with rivals HD DVD (which launched its first discs on 4/18/2006) and Blu-ray Disc (whose discs debuted on 6/20/2006) going at it tooth-and-nail. Each holds a very small piece of the overall home video pie, with most of the industry pundits agreeing that any recent single best-selling DVD would probably sell more copies in a week or two than all the hi-def discs of both formats which have sold since launch.

It's kind of like comparing hybrid cars vs. all-electric cars, and trying to decide which one's better on it's merits, and also measure which one is selling better. Yeah, they're both newer technology, with obvious benefits over the old technology. And obviously one of them is selling better than the other, and is better-supported than the other among manufacturers and consumers. But neither hybrid car sales nor all-electric car sales hold a candle - or even a spark - compared to good old gas car's the de facto standard and doesn't look like it's gonna disappear too soon. Right now, Blu-ray and HD DVD is kinda like that: DVD is still embedded as the de facto standard, and the new formats aren't making a significant dent in DVD's market share. At least not yet.

So it's still early enough in the hi-def disc game, thinks New Medium Enterprises ("NME"), to introduce a 3rd contender in the contest. And so they have. Yesterday at the CEDIA show, amidst presentations by Toshiba for HD DVD and by Sony for Blu-ray, NME put on an exhibition of their own. And also issued a press release . The UK-based company announced the USA launch of the HD VMD format.

HD VMD stands for High Definition Versatile Multilayer
Disc. NME's specs say that this is a fully-capable hi-def player, with ability to produce up to 1920x1080p video resolution, 7.1 sound channels in both Dolby and DTS formats, a data transfer rate of 45 Mbps (right in between HD DVD's ~36 Mbps rate and Blu-ray's ~54 Mbps rate, and significantly higher than DVD's ~11 Mbps), a video transfer rate to match, HDMI port, USB port, internet connectivity, and capable of playing (and upconverting) DVD discs. Current disc capacities are up to 30GB on a single-sided disc, according to the press release. Players are thinner and lighter than most of the competition, and would be available in a variety of colors that include White, Jet Black, Solid Grey, and Flaming Red.

Cost for the player? At launch in the USA, the price is just $199.99.

Wow. That's the price point that Toshiba has been struggling to get their HD DVD players down to (and reportedly will achieve later this year, although from a manufacturer that big name retailers like Wal-Mart say they have no current plans to carry). But NME plans to start at that price point, and work their way down from there. One reason they do that, though, is because they use the "older technology" red laser, like a DVD does. Blu-ray and HD DVD use a "newer technology" blue laser. NME feels that it won't matter, though, if the video quality is the same hi-def 1080p levels as the other two.

At the announcement yesterday, no studio support in the USA was given by name yet. However, the press release addresses that by saying "
HD VMD is currently being embraced by content providers around the globe, offering consumers a broad option of content. From U.S. to India to France to China, content from the world's leading film markets will be available to all. VMD is currently being adopted by content providers and distributors in dozens of regions worldwide, including Australia, Brazil, Central Europe, China, France, Germany, Iceland, India, Japan, the Middle East Russia, Scandinavia, and the United States." Elsewhere on NME's site, it is prominently mentioned several times that films "from Hollywood" will be available on VMD.

And why not? One of the advantages that VMD is supposed to have to the studios is that their discs will be cheaper to produce. They indicate that the manufacturing cost of the physical disc will be around $1 per disc, just a bit more than it is for a DVD. That's about one-half to one-third the cost-per-disc of the blue-laser competitors, meaning that consumers may not only see cheaper hardware; they might also see cheaper films as well.

What does all this mean to a site called "TVShowsOnDVD"? Well, it's another format. So far there are 20 TV-on-BD titles either released or announced, and 14 TV-on-HD DVD titles either released or announced. Could there be TV-on-VMD in our future? Gord and I don't know...but if there is, you can count on us to cover it!

Stay tuned.

For now, let's have a look at the current episodic TV titles available or announced for each of the existing hi-def home video formats. An asterisk on the left indicates a title only available on that disc format:

Blu-ray Disc
  1. 12/19/2006: The Sopranos - Season 6, Part 1
  2. 01/30/2007: Discovery Atlas - Australia Revealed
  3. 01/30/2007: Discovery Atlas - Brazil Revealed
  4. 01/30/2007: Discovery Atlas - China Revealed
  5. 01/30/2007: Discovery Atlas - Italy Revealed
  6. 04/24/2007: Planet Earth - The Complete Collection
  7. *05/29/2007: Weeds - Season 1
  8. *06/05/2007: Rescue Me - Season 3
  9. *07/24/2007: Weeds - Season 2
  10. 09/04/2007: Nip/Tuck - The Complete 4th Season
  11. 09/18/2007: Smallville - The Complete 6th Season
  12. 10/02/2007: Galapagos - The Islands that Changed the World
  13. *10/16/2007: Masters of Horror - Season 1, Volume I
  14. *10/16/2007: Masters of Horror - Season 1, Volume II
  15. 10/23/2007: The Sopranos - Season 6, Part 2
  16. *10/23/2007: The Company - The complete Mini-Series
  17. *11/13/2007: Masters of Horror - Season 1, Volume III
  18. *11/13/2007: Prison Break - Season 1
  19. *12/11/2007: Lost - The Complete 3rd Season: The Unexplored Experience
  20. *12/11/2007: Masters of Horror - Season 1, Volume IV

  1. *11/28/2006: Smallville - The Complete 5th Season
  2. 12/19/2006: The Sopranos - Season 6, Part 1
  3. 01/30/2007: Discovery Atlas - Australia Revealed
  4. 01/30/2007: Discovery Atlas - Brazil Revealed
  5. 01/30/2007: Discovery Atlas - China Revealed
  6. 01/30/2007: Discovery Atlas - Italy Revealed
  7. 04/24/2007: Planet Earth - The Complete Collection
  8. *08/28/2007: Heroes - Season 1
  9. 09/04/2007: Nip/Tuck - The Complete 4th Season
  10. 09/18/2007: Smallville - The Complete 6th Season
  11. 10/02/2007: Galapagos - The Islands that Changed the World
  12. 10/23/2007: The Sopranos - Season 6, Part 2
  13. *11/20/2007: Star Trek (Original Series) - Season 1
  14. *12/04/2007: Battlestar Galactica - Season 1


At September 07, 2007 12:03 AM, Blogger Aaron said...

If they make the players multi region then they'd definitely have a chance.

Great report!

At September 07, 2007 5:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm still not interested in any of them.

At September 07, 2007 8:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yet another reason not to go the HD route yet.

At September 07, 2007 10:55 AM, Anonymous Miriam said...

Since we don't even have an HD TV yet, my interest in any of the formats is minimal right now. But the idea of a relatively inexpensive player for which individual titles will probably be cheaper than HD DVD or Blu-ray and which will play ordinary DVDs certainly sounds appealing. And if it's capable of playing DVDs from other regions on an American TV . . . that might even get me to buy it before investing in an HD TV. I'll certainly be looking to find out more about this, though I probably won't be buying any of the players in the immediate future.

At September 07, 2007 12:48 PM, Blogger John in Ottawa said...

They have the right price point, certainly - but they likely need a niche market to take off, as Blu-Ray and HD-DVD have with gamers. And what kind of interactive content will it offer? A lot of unknowns here, and the confusion between 3 competing systems will likely only serve to delay people's move to HD.

At September 07, 2007 8:33 PM, Blogger tir_na_faer said...

This is ridiculous. If you're a Disney fan, as I am, you're pretty much screwed as Disney is exclusively blu-ray. If you have an HD player, you can't get certain movies you may want because they're only on Blu-Ray. If you have a Blu-ray player, you can't get certain movies for the same reason. Now, there's another format ? What are these studios thinking ? You could get a combo machine that plays both Blu-ray and HD, but I've read that the combo player can't make use of all the cool Blu-ray disc features. I would like a combo player....if they fix that issue. Three formats is too much to choose from. I remember the VHS/Betamax wars. And that was with just two formats. Now there's three disc formats ? I don't think so. This is only a good idea (or at least it's a compromise) if you have a player that can play all three formats and all movies are availiable on all three formats. This whole mess just doesn't make any sense. I'll stick with just plain 'ol dvd until they get the messed up blu-ray features on the combo machine fixed. But as it stands right now, I'm firmly Blu-ray....though I don't have a player yet. I can't live without my Disney cartoons, though I do like the HD format slightly better. But if having my Disney cartoons means that I'll miss out on certain HD discs, I'll have to live with it for now.

At September 08, 2007 10:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sure there are others like me but I have stopped purchasing ANY DVD's for the time being. I don't want to buy a movie now and have to buy it again in a HD format. So, they are missing out on my business for DVD's completely while this format war is still going on.

At September 10, 2007 2:39 PM, Anonymous Leah said...

Here are some of the titles listed on the website:

# We Were Soldiers
# Apocalypto
# Lucky Number Slevin
# Valiant
# Saw II
# Saw III
# Lord of War
# Fireplace & Aquarium
# The Ark
# Help I'm A Fish
# El Cid
# Mid Summer Dream
# Passion of The Christ
# Angeles Ashes
# Babel
# 16 Blocks
# Set up
# Hoodwinked
# Oliver Twist
# Princesse
# La Planete Blanche
# Pulp Fiction
# Sahara
# Demande A La Poussiere
# Gosford Park
# The Descent
# Miss Potter
# The Queen
# Butterfly Effect 1
# Butterfly Effect 2
# Hitcher
# Black Sheep
# Lord of the Rings
# Diario De Um Novo Mundo
# Inside Out
# Avion
# Welcome to LazyTown
# Dr. Rottenstein
# Hero for a Day
# Defeated
# Rottenbeard
# Cry Dinosaur
# Secret Agent Zero
# Sleepless in LazyTown
# Happy Brush Day
# Pixelspix
# LazyTown’s New Super Hero
# Sports Day
# Crystal Caper
# Lazy Scouts
# My Treehouse
# Swiped Sweets
# Sportafake
# The Laziest Town
# Soccer Sucker
# Dear Diary
# Miss Roberta
# Sports Candy Festival
# Remote Control
# Sportacus Who?
# Zap it
# Records Day
# Ziggy’s Alien
# Play Day
# Prince Stingy
# Robbie’s Greatest Misses
# Dancing Duel
# LazyTown’s Greatest Hits
# Sportacus on the Move!
# LazyTown’s Surprise Santa
# Sailor et lula
# Scorpion
# Le caïman
# Spy kids
# Scarie movie 2
# Les chansons d'amour
# Khakar Khakar
# Alaipayuthey
# Pammal K Sambantham
# Panchathanthiram
# Ghilli
# Boys
# Kandukondain Kandukondain
# Water
# Bheja Fry
# Bridge to Tarabitha
# Hanuman
# Malamal Weekly
# Constant Gardner
# Jo Jeeta Wohli Sikander
# Page 3
# Parzania
# Iqbal
# China Town
# Sholay
# Andaz Apana Apna
# Hum Aapke Hai Kaun
# Padosan
# Maine Pyaar Kiya
# Kashmir Ki Kali
# Pyaasa
# Sapoot
# International only
# Khanna & Iyer
# Inquilab
# Namak Haram
# Dil Ek Mand

This sounds pretty interesting. And if it would play dvds from anywhere, then it would be a million times better than the other 2 formats. I think that alone could be a selling point for a lot of people. Especially tv on dvd buyers who want shows from other countries (like british or australian shows)

At April 27, 2014 5:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

high quality cd duplication and replication


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