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Blu-ray and HD DVD: The Big Dog Gets Off The Porch

COW Library : Business & Marketing : Tim Wilson : Blu-ray and HD DVD: The Big Dog Gets Off The Porch
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Blu-ray and HD DVD: The Big Dog Gets Off The Porch, And He's Ready to Eat
A Creative COW Feature Article


Non Fiction TV Production

Tim Wilson

Tim Wilson
Boston, Massachusetts, US
©CreativeCow.net. All rights reserved.


Article Focus:
Creative Cow Associate Publisher Tim Wilson wrote nearly a year ago that Wal-Mart would make the deciding vote in the DVD format wars. It turned out to be true, but it doesn't answer the big question: where will Blu-ray fit into the fast-changing landscape of home entertainment? Nothing's over yet. We're just getting started.

 

When I say “the big dog,” I'm actually not talking about Blu-ray. I'm talking about Wal-Mart.

Back on April 26, 2007, I wrote a Creative Cow blog post with the same title as this article, and said that Wal-Mart would be the one to decide which hi-def DVD format would win.

Player sales wouldn't decide it. Not disk sales of one format or the other. Not porn.

Wal-Mart, courtesy ABC News

Wal-Mart.

You already know about The Big Announcement that came on the heels of The Other Big Announcement, so Toshiba apparently thinks I was right on the money.

Ironically, when I wrote my blog post about the power of Wal-Mart last April, the word was that Wal-Mart had invested heavily in HD DVD: $100 million, for 2 million players from the Chinese manufacturer Fuh Yuan at $50 a pop. Sell 'em for $99 each, the rumor went, and game over.

Needless to say, Wal-Mart and Fuh Yuan vigorously denied the rumor. But you can be sure the folks from Toshiba and the Blu-ray camp have been all over Wal-Mart for a long time. Everyone involved has to have seen this coming for a while.

In fact, it appears that Toshiba had been planning their announcement for a while. The only question was when.

Wal-Mart's announcement was the nuclear anvil that blew the camel and its back into oblivion, but it came on the heels of others: Target (the #2 US retailer), Blockbuster, Circuit City, Best Buy, Netflix...

Maybe the one that really took the wind out of their sails (and sales) was Woolworths. A company that most of thought was DEAD tells you you're finished? Ouch!

RIP HD DVD

Oh wait. The US Woolworth chain really IS defunct. The announcement a couple of weeks ago was actually from the UK chain with the S at the end of their name. Okay, a little less humiliating than having a DEAD retailer throw down on you.

Unless you're Olivier Van Wynendaele, the European assistant general manager of Toshiba’s Consumer Products Division, and you say on January 28th, “While we’re disappointed by Woolworths’ decision, it is extremely early to spot which format will eventually win.”

Oops.


Blu-ray. Rhymes with DOA.
That's not true anymore of course, but the victory of Blu-ray wasn't always seen as inevitable. Quite the contrary, some saw it as inevitably doomed.

Joe Kane's are among the industry's most respected peepers. Formerly the chair of the SMPTE working group A Video Standarddevoted to calibrating studio monitors, he created “A Video Standard,” the first comprehensive video description of NTSC -- on Laserdisc!

It included calibration tools that installers like me relied on back in the day, to ensure the highest quality, most realistic and consistent images possible....but it was primarily aimed at consumers, to educate them about how good an NTSC image could look at its very best.

And he HATED Blu-ray when it first appeared. The MPEG compression was so nasty that he concluded that studios either didn't care what consumers got, or couldn't tell the difference between good compression and nasty compression. Either way, he concluded, “It is my personal belief that Blu-ray is all about greed.”

He was far from alone in this. ProjectorCentral.com has long been an advocate for the highest quality displays, and not just the ones they sell. As a result, their website has been a great resource for everything HD. In July of 2006, they posed the question, “Blu-ray: Can it survive?” It's still worth reading, because so many of the reasons stated for HD DVD's superiority came to be even more true for Blu-ray.

It's one reason Kane said in January 2008, following the Warner Brothers announcement that they were switching to all Blu-ray, that he's disappointed that the war is over so soon. For that matter, he's disappointed that more people didn't see that the war was the best possible situation, because it forced each format to respond to the other, adding new features in a drive to come out on top.

One of the examples that he gave was interactivity provided through internet connections, originally an HD DVD-only feature that was later added to Blu-ray. When the top selling hi-def DVD was 300, the Blu-ray version outsold the HD DVD version 3:2. But among the HD DVD users, two-thirds of them connected to the internet for content and experiences unavailable to Blu-ray users.

Blu-ray has since added that feature as a result of competition.

One more irony. Michael Bay (Bad Boys, The Rock, Armageddon, Pearl Harbor) has been Blu-ray's most visible and vocal supporters of Blu-ray...but the highest selling hi-def DVD of any format so far is currently his film “Transformers,” available exclusively on HD DVD.

Michael Bay

He was inititally so upset by this that he declared on “Shoot for the Edit,” his official website, that he wouldn't helm TF2. He softened his position the next day.“ [A]t 1:30 in the morning I posted - nothing good ever comes out of early am posts mind you - I over reacted.”

Among the reasons why he was mellowing? “[T]oday I saw 300 on HD. It rocks!”

(I absolutely love his passion and his candor – including his public admission of his change of heart – which are much to be admired and emulated. Also gotta love that he does some of his best work on a peer-to-peer forum.)

Nevertheless, he says, “My films finished in Blu-ray are better - more true.” Joe Kane says that the new advantage in Blu-ray's picture is a direct result of the format war.

I'll give Michael Bay the last word on the subject. As he noted on January 4, six weeks before The Big Announcement, “..whatever Wal-Mart pushes – wins.”

(Did I mention that I love this guy? Be sure to read his posts linked above. And this one called 'Blu-ray Bay." While you're at it, read this one. This one too.)

 

What if they gave a victory and nobody came?
SD DVD sales are still blowing away both hi-def formats combined. For all the hub-bub notwithstanding, the gap is amazing. I'd LOVE to be corrected on this, but the best number I can find for total hi-def DVD sales as of Octoberr 27 '07 is 5 million for the two formats combined.

Five million? In just under 2 years?

Here in one of the slow weeks of the year, the top-selling DVD is "Snow Buddies."Snow Buddies

Heard of it before? Me neither. It's a direct-to-video sequel to "Snow Dogs," and it moved 1.23 million units.

The top seller before that was "Game Plan," with 1.1 million units. "3:10 to Yuma" another 1.2 million."Resident Evil: Extinction," a few units short of a million.

See where I'm going with this? Throw in "Good Luck Chuck" with another 600,000 units or so, and you've topped all the Blu-ray and HD DVD titles combined since their introduction in mid-2006.

Let's compare the SD and Blu-ray sales of a single, huge title, “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End.” Even though it was released on December 9, it became the best-selling title of the year, selling 8.5 million units in its first week. Nice!

Blu-ray? 160,000 units. SD sold 53 times as many units. Not 53%. Fifty three TIMES as many. But the Blu-ray sales were being touted as a triumph. This is indeed the best SD to HD ratio of any title I've seen so far.

Let's put this is in the context of the Netflix "all Blu-ray" announcement.

Netflix goes Blu-ray

Check it out yourself - 90,000 DVD titles, and "nearly 500" of 'em on Blu-ray.

You might say, wait, there'll be more. I have no doubt there will be...but let's say that 500 new Blu-ray titles show up at Netflix next month. That'll make 1000. Only 94,000 to go.

So let's say 1000 come in April. That's 2000 Blu-ray titles in stock.

That feels good, so let's say Netflix adds 3000 new Blu-ray titles in May. That's 5000 Blu-ray titles in all.

Now let's add 5000 new Blu-ray titles EVERY MONTH after that. It would take 45 more months for Blu-ray titles to catch up to SD DVDs...just about exactly 4 years from now...

...if not one single new SD DVD title is released between now and 2012.

There are 2 problems with my math. The first is huge: as of February 19, '08, the total number of Blu-ray titles is just over 450. Which means that with “nearly 500” Blu-ray titles, Netflix appears to have every single one of them!

The pace of Blu-ray releases will accelerate, no doubt. But while at least one particularly optimistic booster claims it will be a Blu-ray-only world in 3 years, the fact is that it took a decade for DVD to surpass VHS.

And how's THIS for a footnote –it happened just over 18 months ago! Q3 of 2006. Amazing, eh?

SD DVD is NOT going to roll over the way HD DVD did. Why should it? The end of the format war is far, far away.


When HD isn't HD
Somewhere north of 30% of US households have an HDTV, 10% have more than one....and less than HALF of those HDTV-owning households watch ANY HD content. Not cable, not satellite, and not bunny ears (actually the closestUncompressed HD thing to uncompressed HD you can get).

This drives people like the Consumer Electronics Association absolutely INSANE.

Even though Best Buy has no stake in any HD content providers I'm aware of, the emphasis of their current TV ad campaign is that you need HD content for what they call "The Total HD Experience." (I'm guessing that they'll be happy to sell you the rest of the equipment you need for The Total HD Experience, but it's kind of hard to argue with the point.

The variation on the theme at the official Blu-ray website: “Without Blu-ray, your HDTV is just a TV.” Not exactly true, but, as above, point taken anyway.

The fact is that most HDTV owners are perfectly happy without HD content. The step up to plasma, LCD, DLP, et al. from your basic tuber vision is so much better that many viewers think that they DO have HD content, even when they don't. Their SD DVDs in particular really pop: great image quality, and the same default aspect ratio for both their TVs and their favorite movies. What's not to love?

Indeed, at least one CEA survey says that most people buy HDTVs to enhance their gaming and SD DVD viewing, NOT to watch television or DVD programming in HD.

The other issue is the quality of uprezzing DVD players with HDMI connections. With some of them costing under $100, and the best of them barely more than $200, the trade-off in image quality is more than enough to compensate for the prospect of buying new copies of their favorite movies...almost all of which are not yet available in Blu-ray.

Sure, they all WILL be. I'm not Joe Kane, but I've been using his tools for 15 years. Between that and working for companies whose major development is focused on HD, I feel comfortable saying that my eyes are in the “golden” category.

And in my A/B testing, I don't see enough difference between my uprezzed SD disks and straight-up Blu-ray to get me excited. A difference? Yes. Enough of one? No.

I'm far from the only one to feel this way: 213 5-star reviews and 53 4-star reviews out of 292 for one such player at Amazon. Ron “Boomie Ho-Tep” Lindeboom, who introduced me to the concept. Then there's this ZDNet columnist, a hardcore technology guy (he introduced both DLT and the first Fibre Channel array, among other achievements) who bought a Blu-ray disk and wishes he'd gone the upscaling route instead.Joe Kane's HD Basics Blu-ray DVD

There are many more examples for many brands if you poke around, but you get the idea.

One more bit of irony that distresses our boy Joe Kane. Gorgeous 4K images are increasingly being viewed on “handheld playback devices.” Even on television, the HD images are massively compressed...leading to the possibility that the HD experience for many consumers is degraded beyond their SD experience, which requires so much less compression.

Just as for the original “A Video Standard” and the audience for the new "HD Basics" he's about to release is consumers, to show them how good their HD can look, and to educate them about the image quality they should be demanding from broadcasters.

He's not feeling very optimistic this time around.

“The last physical format”
Here's something that both Gates and Jobs agree heartily upon.

Bill Gates said it before Steve Jobs did

In 2005, Bill said, "For us it's not the physical format [that matters]. Understand that this is the last physical format there will ever be. Everything's going to be streamed directly or on a hard disk. So, in this way, it's even unclear how much this [all] counts.”

Just this week, MSFT has also been clear that the Blu-ray victory won't affect them. The game content is driving Xbox sales they say, and their HD DVD player is an external add-on. While they haven't announced such a thing, an external Blu-ray add-on is surely within their grasp.

More important, they say, is that the Xbox is well-equipped for – wait for it – digital downloads of HD content.

Following MacWorld, Jobs said something similar. With the Warner Brothers announcement in January, “Clearly, Blu-ray won, but in the new world order of instant online movie rentals, in HD, no one will care about what format is where.”Netflix via Xbox

Add Netflix to the party. They've announced their intention to enter into hardware partners to build set-top boxes for streaming delivery. The first of those partners is LG, leading Netflix Ceo Reed Hastings to say:

“We want to be integrated on every Internet-connected device, game system, high-definition DVD player and dedicated Internet set-top box. Eventually, as TVs have wireless connectivity built into them, we’ll integrate right into the television.”

Oh, and this news was breaking just as I was proofreading this article, the second Netflix hardware partner is likely going to be....Xbox.

(The story's from MSNBC.com. So's the tasty picture at right.)

The Netflix-Xbox connection has been rumored since Netflix's Hastings joined Microsoft's board of directors just about a year ago.

And if you're a Netflix member, you may even remember this recent survey question they sent out: “If, as part of your Netflix membership you could instantly watch movies and TV episodes on your TV with your Xbox 360, how likely would you/anyone in your household be to do that?”

I'm not very good at math, but this may well be adding up.


Fun with money
Money's always fun, right?

Rumors have been swirling for the better part of a year that various format choices by studios might sometimes have been motivated by the subsidies that they received from one side or the other.

Michael Bay says that Microsoft, uhm, subsidized studios to stay with HD DVD. “That is the dirty secret no one is talking about. That is why Microsoft is handing out $100 million dollar checks to studios just [to] embrace the HD DVD [format] and not the leading, and superior Blu-ray. They want confusion in the market until they perfect the digital downloads.”

Not that the Blu-ray folks weren't in on the fun. Sources have cited a figure as high as $500 million for “the real reason why Warner went Blu.”

Business Week says it's more like $400 million for Warners, and more than $100 million for Fox.

Final fun with numbers: as I write this, Toshiba's shares are up 6.3% on the news that they're dropping HD DVD as quickly as they are.

It ain't over 'til...Scratch that. It ain't ever over.

I come not to bury Blu-ray, but to praise it.

Blu-ray has won. Period. It looks fantastic. Period. It sometimes even takes my breath away.

We have no idea what's going to happen to the Blu-ray scene when authors can create Blu-ray disks without slapping yourself on the head with your shoe. Walter Biscardi has a fantastic blog entry here at the Cow, describing the series of flaming hoops that FCP editors in particular have to jump through. Gruesome. He rightly believes that it just shouldn't be this hard.

To put it another way, how much more quickly will Blu-ray titles be delivered when they can be authored as easily as SD DVDs are today?

That doesn't change the fact that there are still hundreds of thousands of HD DVD units out there. That means that we're about to enter a wild buyer's marketplace as retailers sell down their stock. Even though new HD DVD titles are scheduled through at least June, the time is soon coming when you'll be able to pick them up for a song.

I saw the same thing with laserdiscs, where, at the end of the run, I picked up dozens of new releases for a buck apiece. Some of those, especially those with special features, weren't available on DVD for most of a decade.

On the pro side, it's not like all those U-matic machines disappeared when Sony stopped making new ones.

Sony U-matic

Gear doesn't tend to leave as quickly as it possibly can. It tends to stay around as LONG as it possibly can.

More important for the reconstruction phase of the format war victory is that quite a few HD DVD-only releases are in the pipeline, and could be be exclusive to that format for a long time to come as original transfers to Blu-ray have to start from scratch.

(No ports, please. This is HD. We'd rather wait for fresh mastering than settle for hasty marketing.)

In any case, these are just a few reasons why those HD DVD players, and those upscaling SD DVD players, will be around plenty long enough to earn their keep. Maybe even long enough for "the next thing" to come along.


Last word on “never over.” The news I've reported here has changed several times in the time I've written this, ending on Tuesday afternoon, February 19. It will surely change again before you read it. I've documented my sources as best I can, but they were all very much moving targets.

Fortunately, almost all of the facts were posted in several places, and you'll be able to track down any missing pieces if you're so inclined. Any additions or corrections to the citations I captured will be gratefully incorporated.

So stay tuned for further updates. In the meantime, comment away.




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Comments

Blu-ray and HD DVD: The Big Dog Gets Off The Porch
by Eric Klassen
I think the comparisons of HD vs BR to Beta vs VHS do not hold up. There are so many digital developments in motion that the playing field for delivery is not so simple. I agree that optical playing/recording units are quickly on their way out. YouTube is teaching everyone to click and play. How long until everybody is demanding that on all fronts? From my balcony, all hard unit deliveries are a candle in the wind.

I'm always puzzled at the intensity of the argument for higher quality imagery. For the very small niche market of people who demand HD, please indulge yourself with your cherry almond crusted rhubarb pie, but for the mass market who aren't as refined as you, recognize that a single scoop of chocolate does the trick.

The Cow community needs to constantly explore what technology is doing. However, I think it's far more important to focus on making compelling content and not worry about what format it's shot on or ends up on. If the content is compelling, people will come to it; it doesn't matter if it's 35mm, HD, SD, or directly imprinted on the brain via the pill.

Eric
Blu-ray and HD DVD: The Big Dog Gets Off The Porch
by Christopher Wright
"My comment was not meant to be snide, merely a reality check. Just because you are in production and post, does not mean you know what's going on."

These are the kind of comments that get you in trouble. I actually do know what is "going on," and have clients that range from Los Alamos National Labs scientists to Hollywood studios, as well as the aforementioned "clueless, ignorant" technological troglodytes. I have used all the methods of media delivery you have mentioned, and even more advanced technology with the National Labs. I first started getting software updates a LONG time ago over the internet (via dial-up!) when Newtek first started offering FTP access to their clients who didn't want to wait for the CD (not DVD) software upgrades for their animation software. Assuming that you have more "tech savvy" than another poster on the COW is very misguided and arrogant indeed, ESPECIALLY here on the COW.

"And if these "clients" of yours refuse to upgrade their equipment for you, as you seem to be saying, what makes you think they are going to run out and buy a BD-DVR at prolly more than the cost of a new computer?"

Your attitude reminds me of a local advertising agency upstart of "hip, cutting-edge, new, young media experts" that only used MACS and only formatted their content for the Safari browser, telling their clients to "get with it" and upgrade their equipment to Apples if they wanted to see their websites. They didn't even last six months before going out of business.

You are also missing several key points by not reading even my original post correctly:

I mentioned HD CONTENT which includes transferring HD content from consumer HD cameras, as well as satellite/cable HD movies and HD specials to Blu-Ray, NOT timeshifting, and not as "the" solution for timeshifting programming. These are separate processes and issues. Again as another poster mentioned, hard drives crash, DVRs fill up, and their is no substitute for a "hard copy" backup, especially if it is a movie or program you want to see more than once before erasing it to free up space on your computer or DVR.

As far as your final "point," most all WILL invest in a Blu-Ray DVD player at HOME. The players drop in price now just about every two months. They WILL want to see HD movies on their new HD sets. Blockbuster, Netflix etc. all will soon only be carrying HD DVD content for new releases. As another poster has already mentioned, seeing Blu-Ray content versus the highly compressed satellite/cable HD content is quite a noticeable difference. Just because they don't have the capability of DVD or HD playback AT WORK, doesn't reflect the adoption of consumer technology at home.
Blu-ray and HD DVD: The Big Dog Gets Off The Porch
by Joe Foerster
Hello? Anybody home? Did I mention that your orignal post did not say anything about *clients* anywhere? But, being a professional, surely you know how to work around this problem for a client. Downconvert? MPEG1 on a CD-ROM? That will even work on WinME. And if these "clients" of yours refuse to upgrade their equipment for you, as you seem to be saying, what makes you think they are going to run out and buy a BD-DVR at prolly more than the cost of a new computer?
Blu-ray and HD DVD: The Big Dog Gets Off The Porch
by Christopher Wright
Exactly Eric!
Wouldn't it be wonderful to be able to "hand select" your clients according to how "technologically savvy" they were?? I'm used to responding in the Cow forums with fellow professionals who understand this, and the obvious fact that the clients are the ones who are paying for my services and need to see their content on their own systems on their own terms. That is all they need to hear from me, a lecture on how "out of date" and "stupid" they are!!
Blu-ray and HD DVD: The Big Dog Gets Off The Porch
by Joe Foerster
Once again, let me stress that nowhere in the original post were clients ever mentioned. But, as I implied earlier, some things are not possible. If your client is not ready for HD, that means you need to continue working in SD, or be able to downconvert your HD work for them to view. If they don't like that, you can explain what they need to do and what the benefits will be. Leave it up to them. But it's your business. Do whatever you want. Just don't try to tell me that consumer timeshifting of network TV shows is the big draw for Blu-Ray. Timeshifting of HD content has been around for quite awhile through HD-DVRs and computers. :D
Blu-ray and HD DVD: The Big Dog Gets Off The Porch
by Eric Hvisc
You would be amazed how backward some clients are. The other day I meet someone who wanted to do an 8mm film transfer. I tell my clients if they want a particular song for the background they have to provide it me. This woman meets me with bag of 8 track tapes. Good thing I not only have a good player but I also know how to tighten them. I
Blu-ray and HD DVD: The Big Dog Gets Off The Porch
by Joe Foerster
My comment was not meant to be snide, merely a reality check. Just because you are in production and post, does not mean you know what's going on. I am an "average Joe" (no pun intended). Your original post did not mention distributing one-offs to clients, only saying that "Until all consumer households can record their own HD content and tv shows on their own home systems, (like they can with current DVD and VHS recorders), Blu-ray will languish in the shadows." You did not mention showing clients your work at all. And, BTW: if you save your work in a transport stream, YOu can burn it to a regular DVD, a data BD or FTP it to a web site, where they can download and view it on a machine that is powerful enough. Computer users still foolish enough to be running *Windows ME*, of all things, and with only a CD-ROM, need to be brought into the 21st century. Do they know that next year they'll need to upgrade their TV set too? Or do they think they can get digital TV reception on their 1984 analog Trinitron? Do they still have a 2400 baud modem too?
Blu-ray and HD DVD: The Big Dog Gets Off The Porch
by Christopher Wright
Joe,
I live in the very present world of HD production and post. I have been showing my clients HD work which is downcoverted via AJA hardware through component video inputs to a letterboxed DVD-R, because that is the best equipment the "average Joe" now has to view HD content on. It is a very efficient and easy way to show clients work without having to go into a DVD authoring program. Still not as ubiquitous as the old horrible VHS, but still at least presentable. Now that Blu-Ray has won the format war, most people would prefer to have a RECORDING HDDVD desktop unit that they can even hook straight up to their own consumer HD camcorders, so they can EASILY share HD content with their family and friends. Being able to record their own HD content off the air and cable/satellite is another plus that will definitely advance the use of Blu-Ray units in the consumer marketplace. That is a huge difference over DVR and Hard Drive content storage. It still amazes me the number of corporate and non-profit clients I have that still only have a CD drive on their old work computers and can't even watch a DVD at their office! There are several museum clients here that are still working on Windows ME systems!
I want the ability to burn an HDDVD Master directly from my FCP timeline to a standalone recorder just like I do now with my SD DVD recorder. It is a solution most post houses have been waiting for and wanting for over 4 years now. So to reply to your snide post, yes, a standalone HDDVD Blu-Ray recorder is necessary and will increase market penetration of the Blu-Ray format to the "masses."
Blu-ray and HD DVD: The Big Dog Gets Off The Porch
by Joe Foerster
"Blu-Ray DVD will never really take off until they make a vcr-like Blu-ray recorder that has a component video input." "Until all consumer households can record their own HD content and tv shows on their own home systems, (like they can with current DVD and VHS recorders), Blu-ray will languish in the shadows."

Excuse me, but what decade is this guy living in? Anyone who wants to record HD over-the-air broadcasts and wants to use an expensive and fragile optical recording medium to do so, either is stupid or lazy. Make that both. First of all, ever hear of BeyondTV? How about MS Media Center Edition? SageTV maybe? Pop a big hard drive in a relatively inexpensive computer and hook it up to the big screen display, which is more than likely computer friendly at this point, and time shift HD content without thinking about it... and without shuffling BD-REs or BD-Rs. Want to keep an epiosode? Sure, move it to your video server or burn it to a disc at that time. Get OVER the stupid removable media for everyday use. An archival format, sure. And start bugging Netflix on when they will stream HD content. Because once you have a computer hooked up to your big screen, you can do all kinds of things.
Blu-ray and HD DVD: The Big Dog Gets Off The Porch
by elhombreorquesta
Congratulations! excellent article. Perhaps Blu-ray is the last optical support in our history. What's next? movies on USB pens?
Blu-ray vs Up-converting SD DVD players in 1080
by Ron Lindeboom
Kathlyn and I own a HD television with two HDMI inputs. In one is a Blu-ray DVD player, and in the other we have an up-converting SD player that line doubles to give a great 1080 picture -- especially when viewing movies like Finding Nemo, Cars, Toy Story and A Bug's Life. The picture is nearly equal to what we see with Blu-ray. No, I am not saying that I can't see the difference, I can. But for many movies, the image quality is so much better than straight SD DVDs that I think that Blu-ray is going to have a harder time of catching on than many people may be predicting.

Case in point? The DVD-A audio spec is FAR better than CDs. But truth be told, the real growth is music is found in the highly compressed MP3 format, not in either CDs or in the DVD-A spec. Not many recordings get issued as DVD-As and with services like iTunes and eMusic selling MP3s, they are proliferating like rabbits in a time when record companies are finding it increasingly hard to market traditional CDs.

The bottomline is that people are increasingly settling for the "good enough" format and in that, I wonder how well Blu-ray is going to do as neighbors share with their friends and neighbors just how nice the picture looks with an up-converting SD DVD player hooked through an HDMI port into an HD TV. This set-up milks every last drop of resolution out of the disc, line doubles it and up-converts it to 1080 and it looks great.

Add the complication of the movie companies jacking up the price to be substantially higher than SD DVDs and that will help slow its adoption.

The number of people that will sign up for Netflix using their Xbox will help Blu-ray (when the new optional box ships), but in the end, the market's predisposition towards "good enough" is going to be a real factor and may prove the wild card in all this.

Great article, Tim.

Ron Lindeboom
Blu-ray and HD DVD: The Big Dog Gets Off The Porch
by Wineskins Entertainment
Now that SD DVD is Blue-ray's biggest competition, the thing that will have to go is those hefty movie prices. I don't mind paying $300 to $500 for a Blue-ray player as much as I mind paying $30 for every movie title, especially if I can get the same movie for half the price or less on SD DVD. If HD wants to be the prominent force over SD in my home, the Disc prices have to come down. That's just my humble opinion.
Blu-ray and HD DVD: The Big Dog Gets Off The Porch
by lance hines
Another comment on downloading HD content. The internet is pushing maximum bandwidth with all the new content coming online and that is the bottleneck for that channel. with all things economic when a supply channel has limits one of 3 things will happen prices will go up(from isp providers) to limit purchases and use of bandwidth, compression of the content(sat is already doing this), or increased bandwidth of the internet(not likely quickly). i am sure there are other options but don't think downlaoding is going to be the panacea. also, harddrives crash and the last time i looked if you take care of a disk it won't crash unless you scratch it.
Blu-ray and HD DVD: The Big Dog Gets Off The Porch
by remoran
Why do people keep harping on a tech that will go out as fast as it came in. Rotational storage is dead. Like bad breath in a dog, it will remain for years while nanowire ss memory begins to take off. The University of Arizona has developed nanotube configured storage that has been licensed by Micron and others that promises terabyte storage on a thumb drive. (first units due within a 12/18 months - IEEE) With this in mind, IBM is building similar tech using nanoscale components similar to nanotubes that will have the same thumb drive form factor. When put into context, terabyte storage that's fast and virtually indestructable put into such a small package will change everything regarding how computers, PDAs, cameras and anything else that processes digital data will be designed. To me, buying a Blue Ray disc just makes no sense as BR is a last gasp in rotational storage that's slow, fragile and, in the long run, something that doesn't add up when compared to what is coming out in the very near future.
Blu-ray and HD DVD: The Big Dog Gets Off The Porch
by lance hines
I agree with almost all of your article except 2 items. I have 4 HD tv's in my house and one is a theater room with a SONY VPL-VW50 1080P projector. I have DIRECTV because they offer the most HD channels. I only want to watch HD programming on myHD set because the picture quality of SD is so poor on large screens. Also i have an off air antenna for local hd and the human eye can't tell the difference between the compressed signal over the SAT and the local feeds. The reason most HD owners that do not have it is they don't know what they are missing. Once they get HD they will want it all in HD. I also beg to differ with you about uprezing DVD. I would agree that if you do not have a set capable of 1080P that uprezzing is a fair trade off but if you have a set or projector capable of full 1080P rez then bluray is the only way to go compared to uprezzing at SD dvd. I can speak to this because i use a genuum processor to up rez my sd dvd on my projector and it cannot hold a candle to bluray on a top end bluray player. Especially a title like Spiderman3. All HAIL BLURAY!!!!!
Blu-ray and HD DVD: The Big Dog Gets Off The Porch
by Eric Hvisc
As engineers, technicians, and artist, we all find it hard to believe why consumers don
Blu-ray and HD DVD: The Big Dog Gets Off The Porch
by JP Owens
Interesting and informative. Wish Jobs would get himself a new pair of sneakers. Didn't know that Wal-Mart would sell porn...! Well, I guess what counts is "units sold". Great reference to Umatic, which is what I refer to as the "Marilyn Monroe" of video formats -- a little too well-upholstered, but the kind of welcome and tolerance that a guy can appreciate, and a format that will always be with us. And I mean forever. BTW, a recordable form of Blu_ray is with us, a little like the old Beta/Betacam family in that we do have XDCam.
Parting shot: What a surprise and shock if both HD-DVD and BlueRay both turn up DOA. There was a lot of truth in the revised argument for AppleTV that Jobs brought forward: music and movies are different markets. One you enjoy over and over and makes sense to own -- but the other is viewed a couple of times and shelved. I have pretty much stopped buying pre-recorded disks of any kind, except as gifts, and I don't know what the recipients do with them. USB Sticks. Multiply the average one by ten and you're there. --jPo
Blu-ray and HD DVD: The Big Dog Gets Off The Porch
by shamer
Wow - it was really hard to see the point to this article! You seemed to contradict yourself over & over again:

You wrote,"And in my A/B testing, I don't see enough difference between my uprezzed SD disks and straight-up Blu-ray to get me excited." and then a little further down you say, "Blu-ray has won. Period. It looks fantastic. Period. It sometimes even takes my breath away." Well, which is it? Personally, I think there are several examples where comparing the uprezzed SD & Blu-Ray versions of movies is like night and day ("Surf's Up" comes to mind).

You also made nonsensical arguments & repeatedly stated the obvious: Blu-ray has a small market-share compared to SD DVD? No schnitzel, sherlock!

The article is riddled with annoyances like that & really seems more like a rough draft (at best). Sorry, but I'm a little bitter after wasting my time reading it...
Blu-ray and HD DVD: The Big Dog Gets Off The Porch
by Eric Mousel
Great article! I love getting something interesting in my inbox when I come to work in the morning. One thing that wasn't touched on was how DRM will fit in to this victory for Blu-Ray and the geyser of other new content. I shudder to even mention it as it's somewhat like the 800lbs gorilla in the room. I think it will definitely hinder Blu-Ray's authoring/recording prospects. Or at the very least slow them down. Not to mention non-physical media. What role it will play is tough to forecast. Maybe tougher than predicting Blu-Ray's future. We'll see...
Blu-ray and HD DVD: The Big Dog Gets Off The Porch
by Tim Wilson
Thanks for the comments, all, including the one with only one cow. :-)

There are some really big things you've raised here: DRM, "solid" media, the concept of ownership, internet capacity, the value (and not) of innovation, and a bunch more.

Keep 'em coming. I sense a "mailbag" article coming on...

FWIW, I've been on the record for a while that Blu-ray will be an interesting failure, maybe even an important one. Definitely worth revisiting in light of the great issues you've all raised, and the new-ish news-ish.

Thanks again!
Tim
Blu-ray and HD DVD: The Big Dog Gets Off The Porch
by Mike Cohen
Anyone care to buy a barely used Betamax machine?
Format wars take so much money and energy out of producing content. We should all be format agnostic.
When people want a DVD, we sell them a DVD. When someone wants a H.264 on a thumbdrive, we sell them that.
In 10 years one can only imagine what the format will be. Maybe you will swallow a pill and the content will implant itself in your brain.
I, for one, do not spend too much time discussing the latest technology - if I need a black box in order to serve my customer, I know I can buy it.
Blu-ray and HD DVD: The Big Dog Gets Off The Porch
by Matthew Ingram
I find the self-congratulatory tone of this piece very off-putting. From across the pond we're viewing both Warner Brothers switch and the influence of Playstation 3 as equally important to Toshiba's decision.
Blu-ray and HD DVD: The Big Dog Gets Off The Porch
by Christopher Wright
Blu-Ray DVD will never really take off until they make a vcr-like Blu-ray recorder that has a component video input. HD-SDI and HDMI inputs would also be welcome, but the greedy Hollywood film studio system is still blocking these units, using the same consumer "Betacam" argument they used way before VHS home recording units became ubiquitous. Until all consumer households can record their own HD content and tv shows on their own home systems, (like they can with current DVD and VHS recorders), Blu-ray will languish in the shadows.


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