HD DVD vs Blu-ray

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A news story caught my eye today, and links in nicely to two previous posts written on TheShelf. Michael Bay, the director of the recently released Transformers movie was caught up in the latest debate between rival DVD formats Blu-ray and HD-DVD.

In his blog he stated after a late night dinner party that as Transformers was not being released in Blu-ray (the format the director backed but Paramount recently dropped), there was to be no Transformers 2. This was followed by a swift turn in position, and hours later Mr Bay was supporting HD-DVD. After discussions with Paramount he apparently changed his mind on the Toshiba format and the sequel is back on. ^)

So which is the better format? This argument has been going on for a while now, and as such should all be aware of the pros and cons of each. For those of you who are not here is a quick re-cap. Blue-ray is backed by Sony, provides increased storage, and better picture quality thanks to a higher video bit rate, but has thinner more fragile discs that need an expensive coating, the cost of which will no doubt be passed on to the end user. HD-DVD from Toshiba is cheap and easy to produce, with affordable Hardware and early results have surpassed those of Blue-ray.

Each format has a handful of supporters, including NEC, Sanyo, and Microsoft for Toshiba and big electronics companies like Samsung, Sony (duh), Philips, Pioneer, Panasonic and others for Blu-ray. It is no coincidence that Microsoft is supporting HD-DVD and is launching a external HD-DVD drive for its Xbox360, while the PS3 comes with a built in Blu-ray player.

Bottom line HD-DVD is cheaper, but Blu-ray will already be established in homes if the PS3 is as successful as its predecessors. Although not solely committed to the format, most big companies have plans to release Blue-ray devices.

Ultimately it will be the movie studios that decide the outcome if they manage to lock themselves into a single format, as subsequent film releases will be released in that format alone. I thought the winners would be studios who didn’t commit and ultimately released films on both formats providing users with the choice they want. But with the news that Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks Animation have moved away from this position to grant exclusivity to HD-DVD, it leaves only Twentieth Century Fox to decide on a single format.

That fact that this format war is still ongoing shows what’s at stake. I think the savy consumer would buy a hybrid player, but unfortunately most people don’t think about what media will be released through their chosen format, and will ultimately end up with one or the other. Most probably the cheapest.

There is also the argument about how long the winning format will last in the commercial marketplace, with the fact that HD on-demand is rapidly approaching and the days of disk media appear to be numbered. It is my opinion that as domestic broadband capability increases; movies will very much follow down the same path as music. In which case Blue-ray may come out on top because of the increased disc capacity, and amount of downloaded movies users can themselves fit on a disk.


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