The chronicles of a futile battle: Blu-Ray vs. HD-DVD... Is DVD fading away?

Discussion in 'DVD Video' started by Allan, Mar 16, 2005.

  1. Allan

    Allan Guest

    While the CD, as data storage and delivery media, lasted successfully
    for decades and seems to be alive and kicking as we speak, we can't
    say the same about the DVD. On the market for a mere few years, the
    format is not very much taken into account when it comes to store and
    deliver video and audio content.

    Although at the beginning of the decade, the DVD seemed like a major
    discovery, it shortly proved itself unable to solve some of the most
    important problems that lead to its very creation.

    As far as entertainment is concerned, the maximum video resolution DVD
    could provide, 720x480, was shortly overcame by the progress pace and
    new technical features of new TVs, multimedia projectors or other
    image display devices. But the main problem remains the poor security.
    DeCSS and DivX came as major surprises, and lessened the DVD

    The IT industry wasn't very excited either by the new disc, all things
    considered. The DVD+R/RW vs. DVD-R/RW battle, born, all in all, still
    in the entertainment area, generated a lot of confusion and lead to a
    much lower than expected PC technology implementation ratio. Combining
    both technologies in combo devices was a last resort solution, unable
    to generate much enthusiasm either.

    The future of DVD is still unclear, but what is certain is that a
    replacement is already needed and looked upon. And the favorite
    candidates seem to be Blu-Ray and HD-DVD. But things are far from
    being settled yet, as far as these two formats are concerned.

    A real battle or beforehand publicity?

    Although it will take a while till they become largely accessible -
    probably towards the end of 2005, but most likely in 2006 - the
    formats believed to replace the DVD generated several debates and the
    last CES (Consumer & Electronics Show) only proved that the two discs
    are really at war.

    Besides, if you're looking for information on Blu-Ray and HD-DVD, the
    first data you are most likely to obtain would be who's backing one
    format or the other, or who is undecided yet. Oh, and maybe the
    promised storage capacity for each format.

    If you're to confide in this data, then Blu-Ray promises 25 GB for
    single-layer and 50 GB for dual-layer, compared to HD-DVD's 15 GB for
    single-layer and 30 GB for dual-layer, and it's backed by the most
    important audio-video entertainment and IT companies, so we have a
    winner... Then why is there a battle, and, most importantly, is it
    really necessary?

    The answer is yes! The battle is inevitable, and it's not necessary
    about who is going to sell more units or who is going to get more
    popular, it's about information control.

    The final stake: movies

    One of the data broadly available on the Internet is the maximum
    supported resolution: an amazing 1920x1080 pixel. In brief, the movies
    offered on such a support
    would have incomparable image clarity, judging against DVD's present
    capabilities. And whoever wins the battle dictates the format for the
    new big movie, and, financially speaking, will control a hundred,
    maybe thousand billion dollar industry. And the sale increase of TV
    and other compatible displays adds to this.

    The big award for the winning format has so many zeros as even the
    companies used to astronomic figures would get dizzy with the taste of
    unlimited success.

    On the other hand, the two formats are incompatible with each other,
    so it's certain that a similar solution to that adopted in the case of
    DVDs is not feasible, since a device able to operate both technologies
    would require separate reading lasers and mechanisms, and would be, in
    the end, too expensive and bulky for the average user.

    The battle is hazardous and, if the industry won't settle soon for a
    direction or the other, the adopting of a format will be delayed and
    all the experts analyzing the phenomenon cite the end of another
    battle, the '80s confrontation between VHS and Betamax, which only
    brought disadvantages to all those involved.

    Apart from financial and other sort of estimates, at the end of the
    day, it's about competitors' egos. So whoever controls the way you
    watch movies in the future remains to be seen.

    But which are each format's arguments?

    Blu-Ray - winner before the race is over?

    As I was saying, the discussion about which format is more
    technologically advanced pales to the list of those supporting the
    format, on the "majority has to be right" principle... But let's keep
    in mind past examples in which the majority was wrong.

    Anyway, Blu-Ray is presently supported by its inventor, Sony, and
    Dell, Hitachi, Hewlett-Packard, Panasonic, Pioneer, Philips, Samsung
    and other IT equipment producers. But, as the format will have a big
    word to say in the movie industry, the movie studios supporting it are
    also important. So far, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Walt Disney declared
    their support for Blu-Ray. The format had also two of the major game
    companies announcing their support: Electronic Arts and Vivendi

    Overall, the figure behind this association, with Apple the most
    recent joining member, is around 450 billion USD. But things are not
    very clear. The movie studios support is not exclusive, so if the
    rival format manages to get ahead sooner, we may witness important

    Beyond the financial aspects, Blu-Ray is a more important
    technological development compared to the DVD. The laser ray used for
    reading CDs and DVDs belongs to the red spectrum, with wavelengths of
    708, respectively 650 nm.

    Blu-Ray uses a blue spectrum laser (violet-blue, in fact), which
    operates on a wavelength of 405 nm, meaning a bigger quantity of
    information can be written on the same surface as a CD/DVD.

    But the minimum "spot size" that a laser can be focused is limited by
    diffraction, and depends on the wavelength of the light and the
    numerical aperture of the lens used to focus it. By decreasing the
    wavelength (moving toward the violet end of the spectrum), using a
    higher dual-lens system, and making the disk thinner, the laser beam
    can be focused much more tightly at the disk surface. This is, in a
    few words (in addition to the optical improvements), the technological
    advancement proposed by Blu-Ray.

    The protecting layer for CDs and DVDs (cover layer) is 0.6 mm. in
    thickness, while Blu-Ray's cover layer is only 0.1 mm. thick, which,
    roughly, means a better access to the recording area.

    The advantage? On the same 12 cm. surface (standard dimension of a
    CD/DVD), 25 GB of data can be stored (single layer), which translates
    to 2 hours of HDTV video and audio content. And this, with MPEG-2
    encoded data, the same as for DVDs.

    And while using MPEG-4 H.265/AVC or VC-1, a codec derived from Windows
    Media 9, up to 4 hours of HDTV content can be stored.
    The transfer rate for such a disc is 36 MB/s, compared to the 5MB DVD
    can provide, and Blu-Ray discs 2x (72 MB/s) are already under study.

    And Blu-Ray is not going to stop here. 100 and 200 GB discs are under
    study, evolving from dual-layer to 4 or 8 layer.

    For greater mobility, the 8 cm. disc will be implemented, to use with
    portable devices.

    HD-DVD - a cheaper alternative?

    Blu-Ray's direct competitor, HD-DVD (High-Density Digital Versatile
    Disc) didn't gather in its corner so many IT producers: only Toshiba,
    the inventor and main supporter, and NEC, but, on the other hand, it's
    backed by more movie studios: Universal Studios, Paramount Pictures,
    Warner Bros and New Line Cinema.
    The sum behind it is of only 221 billion USD, but the involvement of
    the four major movie producers could definitely make a difference.

    Like Blu-Ray, HD-DVD uses 405 nm. blue laser, but it has more
    similarities with the DVD format. The numerical aperture of the lens
    is the same as on the case of the DVD, such as the protective layer
    thickness, of 0.6 mm.

    As for the supported codecs, there is no competition between the two
    formats, although the technological differences could impose the
    HD-DVD sooner.
    HD-DVD is supported by the DVD forum, which already crowned the format
    as the DVD successor. The transfer rate is 19 MB/s, the biggest speed
    so far.

    On the other hand, the reduced storage capacity will rise numerous
    problems to HD-DVD. The Hollywood studios know that a 135 minute movie
    with a compression rate of 12 Mbps means around 12-13 GB just for the
    video data. Add to this around 5 GB for a DVD quality soundtrack,
    space for supplementary soundtracks (either for other languages or
    other sound compressions), and the 30 GB a HD-DVD can hold become more
    than crowded.

    Beyond technical data

    This entire story about storage capacities, layers, wavelengths,
    lenses and all the technological talk is, after all, just publicity.

    Why? Because the judges, in this case, the Hollywood studios, don't
    care too much about storage and other technical data, and the race
    will be decided, in the end, by the copy protection.

    Both Blu-Ray and HD-DVD wait for the new copy protection system,
    Advanced Access Content System, to be completed. This system assures
    of extra-security, which is all the producers, who want their
    audio-video content safe and sound, want to hear. And, above all, it
    promises not to be so easy to fool as CSS proved to be.

    While HD-DVD already declared its support for AACS, the Blu-Ray
    supporters still dream for their own protection system, but if AACS
    becomes stronger, they will have to adopt it.

    So the first competitor which will succeed to include AACS or other
    protection system in its technology will win the race, at least for
    the first six months.

    And, as peculiar it may sound, both competitors are holding their
    breath to see what the pornographic industry will decide. With over
    10,000 titles per year, this industry has a big word to say and, by
    January this year, it didn't express its support to neither format.

    If everything goes according to plan, the first HD-DVD players should
    be commercialized worldwide from this autumn, while the Blu-Ray
    products won't be available sooner than the end of this year or the
    beginning of the next.

    Obviously, winning the battle doesn't mean eliminating the competitor,
    each of the formats already having its supporters and partisans.
    But whoever wins the hundreds and thousands of billion of dollars and
    whoever remains on the side, we can't possibly know yet, especially

    The war is futile

    .... because both formats, so debated since the beginning of 2004, may
    find themselves outrun by the Holographic Versatile Disc (HVD).
    While Blu-Ray and HD-DVD use the same laser, other producers thought
    of combining the two lasers (red and blue), in a single ray and thanks
    to Optware , on a disc the size of a CD or DVD, 1 TB of data could be
    stored (20 times more than on a Blu-Ray disc), with a transfer rate of
    1 Gbit/s.

    The format is developed by the Japanese company Optware, in
    collaboration with Fuji Photo and CMC Magnetics. The three companies
    allied with Nippon Paint, Pulstec Industrial and Toagosei, and HVD
    standard promoting "HVD Alliance" was born.

    The problem is that, while Blu-Ray and HD-DVD still allow the reading
    of present DVDs, along with the passing to the holographic storage
    era, the DVD days are over.

    So, all in all, this famous "disc format battle" could be won by a
    surprise competitor. Will Blu-Ray and HD-DVD sell, in these 4 years
    while the HVD is expected to pass its prototype stage? Hard to tell,
    since many believe that the DVD is dying, but never surrenders!

    13 March 2005, 12:08 GMT | Copyright (c) 2005 Softpedia | Contact:

    "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_
    Allan, Mar 16, 2005
    1. Advertisements

Ask a Question

Want to reply to this thread or ask your own question?

You'll need to choose a username for the site, which only take a couple of moments (here). After that, you can post your question and our members will help you out.