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End of the Blu-Ray / HD-DVD Format War? 266

Posted by kdawson
from the two-in-one dept.
Next week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas should shake up the format war. The NYTimes reports that Warner Brothers will announce the Total HD disc that can store both Blu-ray and HD-DVD content. The article also mentions that LG (along with "possibly other gadget makers") is expected to announce a player that can play both formats. According to Yahoo, LG has not announced pricing, but the Times notes that such dual-format devices are bound to cost more than existing players. And the Times outlines the many considerations that would come into play before studios decide to release their content in both formats on a single disc.
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End of the Blu-Ray / HD-DVD Format War?

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  • Excellent (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Rik Sweeney (471717) on Thursday January 04, 2007 @01:17PM (#17461516) Homepage
    This will end the Blu-Ray / HD-DVD war much in the same way that DVD±R drives ended the DVD+R / DVD-R war.

    And to a lesser extent the Betamax / VHS war.
    • by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Thursday January 04, 2007 @01:23PM (#17461606)
      This will end the Blu-Ray / HD-DVD war much in the same way that DVD±R drives ended the DVD+R / DVD-R war.
      And to a lesser extent the Betamax / VHS war.


      Please elaborate on how DVD±R drives ended the Betamax/VHS war...
    • Re:Excellent (Score:4, Insightful)

      by HappySqurriel (1010623) on Thursday January 04, 2007 @01:25PM (#17461646)
      Or it could make things worse ...

      Imagine someone who doesn't know too much about the technology who walks into best buy to buy a movie player. They can buy a HD-DVD player for $500, a Blu-Ray player for $1000 or a Dual-Format player for $1250; the Best-Buy salesman is trying to make more money so he starts talking about how neither format is ensured success so they should probably buy the dual format player. After looking at the move players they walk over to the movie section and see some titles in HD-DVD that are not available in Blu-Ray, some titles in Blu-Ray that aren't available in HD-DVD and there are less Total-HD titles than either of the other formats; on top of this the Blu-Ray/HD-DVD titles are $30 where the Total-HD titles are $35. After all of that they notice that Best Buy is having a sale on DVDs where 2 of their favourite movies are on the 2 for $15 rack and they have a working DVD player at home.

      Every sale of a Total-HD disc or Dual-Format drive prevents the industry as a whole from choosing one format as their standard.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by PingSpike (947548)
        I don't think that scenario will really play out like that most of the time. I think what will happen is that the cheaper format to produce will run away with the success as content producers see that they don't need to pay for the more expensive format to get their stuff into people's houses anymore. As more and more titles move to the cheaper format, the more expensive will fade to irrelevance.
        • A winner is DVD (Score:2, Insightful)

          by tepples (727027)

          I think what will happen is that the cheaper format to produce will run away with the success as content producers see that they don't need to pay for the more expensive format to get their stuff into people's houses anymore.

          Where "the cheaper format to produce" == standard-definition DVD, right?

          • by PingSpike (947548)
            Oh, I agree that this format war is largely pointless for most consumers and that I don't think there is a large demand for either technology. I think the HD disks are a niche product that they are attempting to market as mass market. But in that niche, the cheaper for content providers to produce for will win out in the long run. People buying these players aren't really that concerned with bang for their buck...but people making the disks probably are.
      • They can buy a HD-DVD player for $500, a Blu-Ray player for $1000 or a Dual-Format player for $1250

        Or they see in the video game aisle that they can build their own own dual-format player. Taking the example of the United States, I can buy an Xbox 360 with HD-DVD accessory for $600, a PS3 premium for $600, and get two free game consoles (PS3 and 360) and a free Linux PC (PS3 Open Platform [playstation.com]). There's your $1200 dual-format player.

        (Before you go complaining about European PS3 launch delays, HappySqurriel wrote $, and $ != €.)

      • In the beginning, yes your situation may play out as you described, but in the long run, the dual format player will change the front of the war. Right now, the war is over which is the superior technology (both technically and fiscally). Blue-Ray has more storage capacity, which means better quality video can fit on the disk. HD-DVD is still a quality improvement over DVD, and costs a lot less than Blue-Ray. So the question is, are you a fiscally responsible early adopter, or are you a videophile early
      • Every sale of a Total-HD disc or Dual-Format drive prevents the industry as a whole from choosing one format as their standard.

        You're conveniently overlooking the fact that the industry failed choose either DVD-R or DVD+R, yet somehow we have managed to survive into 2007 without civilization collapsing and with both formats still available. Forgive the hyperbole, but my point is so what if both formats survive?
        • by drwtsn32 (674346)
          the industry failed choose either DVD-R or DVD+R

          Big, big difference. You're talking blank recordable media. If the Blu-ray/HD-DVD conflict only affected blank media, it wouldn't be a big deal. But we are talking about factory pressed discs with movie content. It is a big problem that you can only get some moves on one format.

    • by Steve B (42864)
      And to a lesser extent the Betamax / VHS war.

      That war was already pretty much over by the time DVD recorders got anywhere near competitive with VCRs.
  • Only hope (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Da3vid (926771)
    In my opinion, I think this is the format's only hope of ever becoming popularized. It'll need to get its bugs worked out, get into production and drive the price down some... then maybe, just maybe... people in general will be interested in buying content of this nature. This is the first step though, and to be honest... I didn't expect it to get this far. I hope they continue to surprise me!
  • by Thansal (999464) on Thursday January 04, 2007 @01:23PM (#17461612)
    Last I saw was that Sony (and possibly Toshiba with HDDVD) was refusing to license any player that could play both formats?

    or has some one (LG?) gotten around this some how?
    • Mods do not RTFS (Score:5, Informative)

      by Thansal (999464) on Thursday January 04, 2007 @01:33PM (#17461770)
      The article also mentions that LG (along with "possibly other gadget makers") is expected to announce a player that can play both formats.


      The ability to make a player that plays both formats has been around for a while now (nearly as long as the formats infact), however Sony (and the rest that hold the patents on Blu-Ray) were refusing to sell a license for any device that would play both formats. Now LG is announcing that they will be sellign one.

      so either they are ignoring the Patents (and will get sued horribly for it) or have gotten a License (or found a work around).
  • As the title says, for not the media providers benefit, as they can provide disks in whichever format has the lower licencing fees (HD-DVD, I would assume). Consumers will need to wait for a price drop to see any benefit, but this is a start.
  • Maybe not! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CyberLord Seven (525173) on Thursday January 04, 2007 @01:31PM (#17461750)
    The Blu-Ray folks seem dead set against this. From the New York Times article:
    In recent interviews, executives at Fox and Disney were unequivocal in their support for Blu-ray. They said they believed that releasing DVDs in both formats would only prolong confusion and the emergence of a winning format. "I think the fastest way to end the format war is through decisiveness and strength," said Bob Chapek, the president of Buena Vista Worldwide Entertainment, the home video arm of Walt Disney.

    As has been noted in an earlier post, Blu-Ray disks hold more data. Those behind Blu-Ray would not be happy to see their disks reduced to computer archives rather than media as Warner Bros. sells content to happy consumers. This could be a considerable loss for Blu-Ray as empty disks sell for much less than disks with media.

    Something that is not mentioned in the article is why consumers would want either format anyway.

    I have a 1080i television and a seXbox-360, but I don't want either format because of the DRM and the lack of features. Maybe in the future when they can offer something substantive, as DVD did when it displaced video tape, I'll consider Blu-Ray, HD-DVD, or Total DVD. Right now, DVD looks just fine to me.

    • by interiot (50685)

      So don't buy it if you're not interested in HDDVD/Bluray. I for one am. You may not be interested in jumping from 0.3MP to 2MP video, but others are.

      Your 360 will let you download a few (very few) HD movies right now, but they're all ~5GB downloads, and currently in 720p only. Downloads might eventually broadly surpass disk media, but for now, the easiest way to get a 25/30/50GB chunk of video data is with physical media.

      Also, in the eyes of the law, DVD's are DRM'd too. If DVD's are okay now, then

      • I will not buy any of the next gen media formats. You are encouraged to buy whatever your heart desires.

        I was trying to convey the feeling I have that these new formats are going to fail in a collosal way.

        For instance, on December 10, 2006 Richard Siklos wrote in a New York Times article titled The Hat Trick That Didn't Happen

        According to a recent survey by Frank N. Magid Associates, the number of people buying these sets who are looking forward to watching television shows in hi-def format has actually

        • by interiot (50685)
          It's possible that HDDVD/Bluray won't overtake DVD's, I guess, and that SD channels on satellite/cable won't ever outnumber HD channels. But I think it's a bit preposterous to suggest that HD content is altogether going to die. 25% of consumers is still motivation enough to release most movies in HD, and enough to sustain a decent market for HD content.
    • by RAMMS+EIN (578166)
      ``In recent interviews, executives at Fox and Disney were unequivocal in their support for Blu-ray. They said they believed that releasing DVDs in both formats would only prolong confusion and the emergence of a winning format.''

      Yes. That's exactly why unification is a Good Thing. Of course, the best thing would have been not screwing this up in the first place.

      ``"I think the fastest way to end the format war is through decisiveness and strength,"''

      No. The best way to end the format war is to not have multi
      • I was watching Wargames a couple of weeks ago. This reminds me of the computers decision:
        The only way to win is not to play.

        I think that applies to consumers more than the companies. If consumers don't play in large enough numbers to make a difference, we win!

  • Unfortunately, it all boils to content, which must be licensed. Just because you "can" make a universal format doesn't mean studios will make licenses available.

    While I think this is great news, I don;t see a happy marriage in HD-DVD/Blu-Ray's future, just as we didn't see comb DVD/DIVX devices. Once went on to be wildly popular, while the other went tits up. The same can basically be said about VHS/Beta.
    • by Yartrebo (690383)
      Which divx are you talking about. If you're talking about the one that's pretty much identical to xvid, it's doing fairly well. Doesn't have a huge market share outside of shared files/discs, but it's a growing one. It's easier to find combination xvid/divx/mpeg1/mpeg2(DVD) players now than it was a few years ago and some of them are dirt cheap.
      • Which divx are you talking about. If you're talking about the one that's pretty much identical to xvid, it's doing fairly well.

        I think the GP was referring to the old technology that really sucked ass [wikipedia.org] where you get a movie on a Divx disc and it expires after a couple days, not the Divx/xvid codec.
      • Sorry- the Circuit City/Disney/etc debacle DIVX (aka "rental" DVD's), not the CODEC DIVX.
    • by RAMMS+EIN (578166)
      ``we didn't see comb DVD/DIVX devices.''

      We didn't? I seem to recall seeing these on display in stores and in advertisements. Perhaps I was hallucinating?
  • by The-Bus (138060) on Thursday January 04, 2007 @01:38PM (#17461900)
    The new Warner Bros. "Total HD" hybrid disc and LG Electronics (re-announced) combo HD DVD/Blu-Ray drive are solutions for a problem we didn't ask for: studios being idiotic and only releasing movies in one format.

    WB and Paramount get free passes for being the only studios to support both formats. Everyone else gets Fs.

    The HD market is a tiny swab of moist air in the filled water bucket of DVD revenue. I think sales are still under 1%. I can guarantee you that they would be at 5% or more if this stupid format war never came around. That's the main issue.

    I don't understand why Universal (and to some extent WB) continue to make these HD DVD/DVD combo discs. For the uninitiated, these are dual-sided discs, with the DVD on one side and the HD DVD on the other. Dual-sided discs are always more complicated and expensive to manufacture and they're really not a value-add to consumers. Most big releases on DVD go with multiple discs rather than multiple sides. So, it makes it a crappier product and on top of that, they charge a premium, anywhere from $10 to $20 (MSRP) for our "benefit"! Note: expect this to play out in this new/twin/hybrid Blu-Ray and HD DVD format. Why pay $25 for one movie when you can pay $40 for both, one of which is unnecessary?

    And here LG joins the fray, offering a dual-format player for $800-$1300. Nevermind that at that price range a savvy shopper would be already able to buy both players. HDTV owners aren't buying the new formats because they don't want to pick the losing side. Why don't they want to pick the losing side? Because they don't want to buy a new player for the winning format years down the road. Mind you, in 2009 or 2010 HD players are going to be $199. So these people are holding off because they don't want to spend $199 in another year. And a new $1000 player is supposed to calm these fears?

    I can't put it any clearer than this: they fucked up. Everyone did. And now to make up for their mistakes, we should pay extra. And we won't.

    The best part? The statements we'll hear in 2008 that the HD market isn't catching on. And who's to blame? Why, not the studios, but pirates! Pirates took our profits.

    This whole ordeal is being played out by giant billion-dollar corporations that are basically repeatedly hitting themselves and each other in the groin with a hammer. When we ask them to stop and re-think what they're doing, they just ask us for money to cover the medical expenses. And then they use that money to buy more fucking hammers.
    • I don't understand why Universal (and to some extent WB) continue to make these HD DVD/DVD combo discs. For the uninitiated, these are dual-sided discs, with the DVD on one side and the HD DVD on the other. Dual-sided discs are always more complicated and expensive to manufacture and they're really not a value-add to consumers. Most big releases on DVD go with multiple discs rather than multiple sides. So, it makes it a crappier product and on top of that, they charge a premium, anywhere from $10 to $20 (M
    • rs. HDTV owners aren't buying the new formats because they don't want to pick the losing side. Why don't they want to pick the losing side? Because they don't want to buy a new player for the winning format years down the road. Mind you, in 2009 or 2010 HD players are going to be $199. So these people are holding off because they don't want to spend $199 in another year. And a new $1000 player is supposed to calm these fears

      They are not worried about the hardware, they are worried that in 2 years they could
    • by Rogerborg (306625)
      ATTENTION SLASHDOT EDITURDS: Give the parent his own column.
    • Dual-sided discs are always more complicated and expensive to manufacture

      Interesting point, but that doesn't explain why many early releases on DVD were dual sided single layer (DSSL). (Right Stuff, Amadeus for two immediate examples I can think of). Single side dual layer is more complex and expensive, but (a) kinks got worked out and techniques improved so the raw cost dropped down close to (if not at) DSSL production and (b) customers just like them more so they sell better.

      Heck, I didn't buy Amadeus b
    • by Hoplite3 (671379)
      Yeah, that's dead-on.

      I agree that they screwed up HD. I think it started when they couldn't pick ONE aspect ratio/resolution/connector. That confused boatloads of people. What was so hard about picking something nice (1080p, 16:9, and a nice digital connector) and waiting until the hardware to drive it came about? It'd be a format that could last a while. It would eliminate all of the confusion too.

      If they really had their act together, they would have picked one new video connector format for both the
      • by alexhmit01 (104757) on Thursday January 04, 2007 @04:20PM (#17464878)
        I WILL NOT defend the DTV initiative that created 480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p and all of them at 24 frames, 30 frames, and 60 frames. However, there are some technical reasons, we watch different content. And, for extra fun, to manage legacy stuff, the 480i/p formats support BOTH a 4:3 and 16:9 version...

        Film content/transfers, which has more information than the HD video (which is why you could release the film, transfer to VHS, transfer to DVD, transfer to HD for D-VHS and broastcast (in both 1080i and 720p), and transfer again for the HD formats with a 1080p version), and all look good. However, film is shot in 24 frames/second. To make DVD players cheaper, the content is converted to 480i/60 (one film frame for 2 DVD frames, one film frame for 3 DVD frames). Then, we started to get HD Ready sets that supported either 720p or 1080i, and if you are analog (and therefore 1080i), you can also do 540p, so once you support that, might as well support a 480p signal, analog is cool that way, just update the electronics and show a different image, digital sets like Plasma/LCD/DLP need to scale to their digital output), so we got progressive scan DVD players. Reading notes on the DVD (normally, or comparing and guessing), we convert those 2:3 frames with a reverse pull down, to get back to 24 frames that we show progressively... this matters because if you just show the lines you get:

        Frame 1: film frame 1
        Frame 2: film frame 1
        Frame 3: film frame 2, but half the lines are still from film frame 1
        Frame 4: film frame 2
        Frame 5: film frame 2
        Frame 6: film frame 3, but half the lines are still from frame 2

        So you can't just add in half the lines and show it progressively, you have to figure out when the frame changes.

        So, for film, IDEALLY you want to sent 24 frames/second, and let the set adapt accordingly (whether showing one frame twice, and the next three times, or even better, be able to process the image at 24 frames/second and show them each once for longer).

        However, given the allocation of bandwidth for HDTV, and the realities of MPEG-2 encoding, we essentially got 4 "useful' formats, and a bunch of stupid ones, 480i/60 4:3 (for simply digitizing existing legacy content is useful), 480p/60 (kind of useful for game systems) in both 4:3 and 16x9, this was pointless, a 480p 16x9 format was sufficient to handle digitally sending DVD quality images, and 720p/60 and 1080i/60. 720p/60 is the most resolution you could get in the stream at 60 frames per second, progressively, and 1080i/60 was the most resolution you could get at 60 frames/second interlaced.

        Now, should we have both progressive and interlaces, I would say maybe...

        If you are shooting something fast moving like sports, you want the 60 frames/second, so 720p/60 was the ideal format for broadcasting sports events. If you are shooting something slow moving, like a nature show (which was a lot of early HD programming, and it looks great, but not sure the purpose), you don't care about as many frames, and interlaced vs. progressive matters less, but getting 1080 lines was useful, making 1080i/60 a useful format for these. However, for film transfers, which will be a large portion of HD footage for a while, 1080p/24 made a lot of sense, you are only sending 24 frames/second, so why not get the extra resolution.

        Remember, the TV stations had a dream, promise HDTV, and deliver it maybe to the cable/satellite operators over a line, but not OTA. Only 10% of people got their programming OTA, so TV stations largely existed because of government decisions to keep them (as opposed to the network simply selling content to cable/satellite directly), so their idea: either broadcast 6 480i signals, requiring no new equipment other than digitizing, and all of a sudden, you have 6 channels to sell ads on. A local market with 7 stations would conceivably have 42 channels available without paying a monthly fee, that's kinda cool, and all the networks have a bunch of digital stations that the created fo
  • Regular DVD are quite good enough on average. Surprisingly good when you separate the signals as S-video or comp. Sure, some things look technically better on HD. But how many people will pay? How many have bought HDTV in the US? And many people are satisfied with only 250 lines on airline & portable DVD players.

    I think none of these will fly at any premium until display technology is sufficiently cheap.

  • Indeed they are [theinquirer.net]!
  • You think that Blu-Ray is expensive, you just wait until a 3rd party not only has to develop and manufacture an optic that will read both HD-DVD AND Blu-Ray while also paying royalties on BOTH technologies.

    I suspect that this mystical wonder player will cost somewhere around $1,300. I base this price on absolutely nothing.
  • ...the Times notes that such dual-format devices are bound to cost more than existing players...
    Right now, yes, but only until they become common -- assuming that there's no clear winner to the format war soon. Quick, what can you get cheaper -- a DVD drive that also reads CDs, or one that reads both?
  • They try and try so hard to win us over with one or the other, that neither wins. And the next generation technology (past Blu-Ray or HD-DVD) that isn't as stigmatizing to consumers is the one we take home.

    I think that most of us can deal with progressive scan DVDs for quite some time, especially since 1080p televisions are more than 10 years away from being the norm. Hell, most people, believe it or not... don't have HDTV sets in their home yet. And that technology has been out a LONG time.
  • 2 x 2 (Score:2, Funny)

    by 3.14159265 (644043)
    This makes my head hurt.
    On the one hand we've got discs that have both HD-DVD and Blu-Ray, and on the other players that play both formats.
    Somebody slap somebody!
  • The naysayers can only try to hide the truth. AACS is bulletproof. This is a milestone in consumer electronics.

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