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How High-Res Movie Discs Can Save The Concept of a Record Album  Print E-mail
Home Theater News Industry-Trade News
Written by Jerry Del Colliano   
Thursday, 16 March 2006

The more I learn about Blu-ray and HD-DVD, the more I can see tremendous potential for the reproduction of movies, but beyond that, I can see one of these formats perhaps saving the ailing music business as well. The record business has established itself decades ago as a ship without a rudder in terms of creating compelling new content to sell to consumers. It lived on free advertising from terrestrial radio and MTV for 20-plus years without really having to ever be in the “superior” content business, such as what is often seen from Hollywood and the videogame content developers.

With the major record labels, if consumers force a format down their throat, they will work with it. CD was adopted by popular demand and out of convenience, resulting in labels profiting vastly by reselling their entire catalogue of albums that were paid for and developed long ago. Today, MP3s are the dominant force in the music business, thanks to consumers forcing Napster on labels and artists in the late 1990s. Instead of embracing downloads early and/or upping the value of the discs they sold, perhaps with DVD-Audio, SACD or even DVD-Video for music, the industry executives did the only thing they know how to do – they rolled over and played dead, while Hollywood and the video game industry eat their lunches. But believe it or not, all is not lost.

While a mindless and needless format war is about to stage its first battles this spring and into the summer, the fact remains that the two battling HD movie disc formats (Blu-ray and HD-DVD) offer incredible levels of storage, resulting in entertainment options on a physical disc not previously available to consumers. HD movies are a start. Video games for systems like Playstation 3 (based on Blu-ray and slated for release later in 2006) will come next, but what will record companies do to sell us music in HD?

With the storage capacity on Blu-ray and HD-DVD discs far exceeding that of DVDs, DVD-Audio or SACD discs, the possibilities are powerful. For example, on a Blu-ray movie disc that has HD video content, you can get 24-bit 192 kHz audio that is literally uncompressed and at the highest-resolution stereo you will find anywhere. A video editor close to AVRev.com is currently using professional video and audio editing tools to pair very high-resolution still photos with ultra-high resolution audio tracks to make an HD slide show to go with 24-192 audio. For difficult-to-remaster albums (think Are You Experienced? and Sgt. Pepper’s), wouldn’t you want to watch never-before-seen images of the band while hearing the music at resolutions never before available for music enthusiasts.

You ask: can average consumers hear the difference between 20-bit 48 kHz stereo (found commonly on DualDisc) and 24-192? Without question, and if they have a Playstation 3, they will have a $499 (this is what they speculate the price will be) player that can deliver the audio high life right into any modern stereo or theater system. When plugged into an HDTV, you get incredible HD content (albeit not a movie or concert footage – which should be released soon thereafter), but you get raw audio that is perfect to run into your matrix surround modes. Today’s best surround modes from Dolby and DTS are capable of making a pretty believable surround sound experience for you to enjoy.

Ultimately, the music industry needs to learn to create music videos in HD that are paired with the entire album, much like Pink Floyd did with the feature film release of “The Wall.” Instead of blowing $6,000,000 on some bling-bling Jenny-From-Around-The-Block music video, hire a real director and have him or her work with the artist to use the new HD audio and video technologies to inspire the art of making music. Something has to inspire today’s artists, as the yearly sales of music shrivels away from a historic high of over 30 billion dollars annually to a reported 11 billion in sales this year. The tools are out there. The question is, are the labels humble enough to realize that selling downloads is killing the art of music on their watch?

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