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Is DVD Done? Why Blu-ray or HD-DVD Will Soon Change The World Print E-mail
Thursday, 19 August 2004
The DVD format is the most successful consumer AV media format ever. In six short years, this magical disc has become the world’s standard for video and audio playback in an affordable, feature-laden and convenient package. But DVD and all of its associated formats, like DVD-Audio and Dual Disc, could soon have one foot on a banana peel and the other one in the grave. The reason is that DVD, while a powerful format and currently the king of the AV world, cannot (easily) reproduce a movie in HDTV. With DTVs selling at 850,000 sets per month according to a CEA study from April 2004, the demand for high quality content in HDTV from early adopters and new Gen X and Gen Y consumers will get vastly stronger in the next year or two.

The good news is that converting modern feature films to HDTV is a relatively easy process. This is unlike creating live HDTV content, which can be very costly due to current camera and production costs of HDTV. Most movies are archived on D5 digital video tape which can easily be downconverted to an HDTV format like 1080i, 720p or (my personal favorite with the largest file size) 1080p. Unlike records, most movies made after about 1990 have a 5.1 soundtrack and need nothing more than a little “sweetening” to get the film’s 5.1 soundtrack mixed and mastered for smaller speaker systems in most consumers' home theaters.

But not all is perfect in the world of HDTV capable discs. While Blu-Ray demos have blown away even the staunchest of critics at recent trade and consumer shows, it has still yet to be seen if the 25 gigabyte storage capacity is large enough for a full feature film without providing two discs; thus, it recreates the awkward disc swap from the old days of Laserdisc. All sorts of companies are working on codex that squeezes a full HDTV film onto these new, larger discs and certainly one company will succeed in the next few months.

High performance audio fans should become excited at the idea of a large capacity disc for what it can provide for the performance of audio playback. The idea of having an entire artist’s catalog of records mixed at new standards for resolution (above 24 bit 192 kHz) is possible. So, the idea of having a solid number of albums from one artist on one disc paired with vast amounts of live tour video footage, interviews, cover songs, b-sides and all sorts of other added values that we haven’t even thought of yet could quickly become reality. Critics might suggest that one can’t hear the advantages of 24 bit 192 kHz or higher audio, but they are wrong. The more data you can dedicate to the reproduction of music the more “analogous” your records will be to the master. One of the biggest problems the Compact Disc has is that its reduced storage size means reduced resolution as compared to DVD-Audio, DVD-Video and SACD formats. Now there is another format that has the potential to both consolidate high resolution audio and video into one format (meaning one player) as well as giving music enthusiasts even better audio than they could get from the best formats available today.

The driving force behind the audio-video industry is HDTV video. With the ease at which the Hollywood studios can produce HDTV content for this new format, it could become an overnight success just like or ultimately greater than the DVD. With the motivation of reselling their entire home video catalog on a new format to consumers, expect to see Blu-Ray or HD-DVD discs adopted much more widely than the two struggling high resolution audio formats – SACD and DVD-Audio. There is just too much at stake to miss out on for the studios. Yet, it is likely that we the consumers will be the big winners from a new HD video format.

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