Why HD DVD and Blu-ray Need You To Be an Early Adopter Now
No consumer who loves his or her home theater, or just watching movies or sports in HDTV ever wanted an HD disc format war of any kind. All AV enthusiasts remember the epic battle between VHS and Beta but saw a mainly positive outcome, the birth of the modern home theater movement, with a little help from our more “adult” friends in the San Fernando Valley. When the music industry began to decline in the mid to late 1990s, the next format war, between high-resolution audio formats like SACD and DVD-Audio resulted in no winner. Record labels, seeing no need to take responsibility for selling music in a way that sounded better, simply picked the lowest lying fruit, selling songs by the download. This gave birth to Apple Computer’s iTunes music store, the first real player in PC convergence, as a low-resolution, power broker in the music business. Anyone who spent the money to invest in a DVD-Audio, SACD, or a “universal” player to see only a few titles released in high resolution, is surely wary of yet another format war. However, that is exactly what we have on our hands with HD DVD and Blu-ray. It is fully possible, without significant enthusiast support that media companies along with electronics giants will sell out the interests of high performance for those of lower cost, wider reach and less resolution.
From the start, major media outlets and enthusiast publications have told consumers to take a “wait and see” approach to the new HD disc formats, despite their obvious superiority in terms of picture quality over the amazingly successful, lower resolution DVD format. This is a dangerous approach for home theater enthusiasts who expect big electronics and media companies to continue to push the envelope of high-resolution audio and video formats. These companies need and even expect early adopters to get the momentum rolling with new formats, and increasingly have a short fuse about pulling the plug on formats thus leaving lovers of all things high resolution wanting for more. Warner, hitting the pause button on their dual HD format is one recent example. HP, backing away from the media center PC market is another that leaves PC convergence, a potential hotbed of HD content and management, without a leader – for now.
There are strong reasons why not to buy an HD disc player today. They include the shamefully unreliable HDCP copy protection, long load times and highly priced players as compared to DVD players. Those negative factors need to be weighed against the idea that for the price of an audiophile interconnect (say $500) you can buy a brand-new, much-improved second generation HD DVD or Blu-ray player. For about the price of a night at the movies with the family, you can get a first generation player (likely needing a firmware update or two or three from the Internet) that is no more than about one year old and can make a fine picture for you to dabble in the world of HD discs. Most of these players will output an image that is so superior to standard definition 480i DVD, that you won’t believe your eyes. With over two million HDTV sets being sold each month, there are a lot of hungry, flat-panel HDTV owners out there. With Netflix, Blockbuster and many major retailers including Amazon and Best Buy selling or renting both HD disc formats – there are a lot of great movies waiting to be viewed with far less compressed than what you see from your cable or satellite box.
The most important reason why now is the time to invest in one or both of the HD disc formats is the idea that if you don’t support high definition with a modest investment, it will become increasingly obvious that electronics companies will start catering to the “convenience first” mantra made popular by Apple’s iPod. Don’t get me wrong, I will fight you to the death over my iPod as I wouldn’t get on a plane without it. However, there is nothing high-resolution about it. Nor are Apple’s movie downloads anything other than DVD resolution or lower, despite AppleTV’s claim of being HD. Home theater and HD enthusiasts should be seriously frightened that electronics companies will stop making the multi-billion dollar investments in new formats like HD DVD and Blu-ray in favor of low-resolution movie downloads that have to be super-compressed, representing an easier way for Hollywood and Asian electronics companies to make more money, while selling you lower resolution content.
Even if you take the low cost route at first and buy a game machine like Sony’s Blu-ray based Playstation 3 or Microsoft’s Xbox 360 with the HD DVD drive and ultimately donate it to charity or put it a spare bedroom – the idea that you are feeding your system real HD content drives the home theater and Hollywood home video business. Even if both formats learn to co-exist, you will likely upgrade to higher end, more sophisticated players for your enthusiast and or purpose built home theater. Waiting on the sidelines for too long may leave you handcuffed to your PC, waiting for a movie download that isn’t truly high resolution and doesn’t have the fancy new surround sound formats, all the while making all the players in the game more money while leaving your big time home theater feeling bankrupt.
Source: Jerry Del Colliano