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Analysis: HDTV, future of DVD, and HDMI.

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Analysis: HDTV, future of DVD, and HDMI
Friday, July 8 2005, 12:10 BST -- by Alan Jay

Digital Spy's Alan Jay analyses the medium-term development of HDTV in
the UK.

At a recent Toshiba road show in the US they demonstrated their
upcoming HD-DVD specification and a few more details became available
as to what we can expect from the format when it launches in the US
late (November) this year it will launch with 89 titles available in
HD. The audience reaction was very positive to the comparable images
shown in both standard DVD and HD-DVD.

The most interesting thing for people buying TVs at the moment is that
Toshiba have stated that their HD-DVD Player will ONLY output high Def
on the player's HDMI output (plus other digital connections) the
analogue output will be downrezed to 480 lines (in the US - expect the
equivalent, no doubt, in Europe). The Toshiba player will also have a
USB interface to allow connection to computers for enhanced content
and interactive options direct off the disk. In addition mastering of
the underlying DVD content will be based on 1080p - but there was no
discussion on the resolution of the MPEG4 images.

The HD-DVD disk will come in 3 sizes when first launched. There will
be 15Gb / 30Gb / 45Gb disks (single / dual / triple layer) and there
will also be a fourth variety which will have a SD-DVD version on the
reverse side of the disk, allowing retailers to have a single version
of new films on the shelves and allow consumers to build a library
before they have the equipment.

These disk sizes translate into 4, 8, 12 hrs using MPEG-4/AVC
compression. The switch to MPEG4 of course means that the fight that
is about to break out between HD-DVD and Blu-Ray is one about how much
content can you offer on a disk. The reality is that for a basic movie
in MPEG4/AVC the amount of disk space you need is very little more
than you can get on a current generation DVD 9. How consumers will
view this with a format war about to break out is going to be very
interesting to see. The reality is that Blu-Ray will win the computer
war because it offers greater volumes form day one and for computer
manufacturers it is a great advantage. But for the consumer it will be
dependent on other things and only once the machines are delivered
will we find the answer as to what seems to be taking the lead.

As you can see Toshiba will be trying to ensure that studios are
confident in the security that they are offering with HD output only
being available on the secure digital outputs (HDMI and IEEE1394). So
once again if you are thinking about buying a HD capable screen make
sure it has HDMI.

"Arguing with anonymous strangers on the Internet is a sucker's game
because they almost always turn out to be -- or to be indistinguishable from
-- self-righteous sixteen-year-olds possessing infinite amounts of free time."
- Neil Stephenson, _Cryptonomicon_
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