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DVD has been one of the greatest success and also one of the biggest failures in the recordable media format. Let me explain, yes following on from CD recordable everyone wanted the same format of a disc in their hands so along came DVD recordable and even sortly after the DVD-RW rewritable format.
However the industry missed a massive selling opportunity. DVD players were launched - these only played movies, it generated a massive demand for DVDR discs for piracy and blew hollywood apart - something the movie industry is desparate to solve with the new Bluray and HD DVD formats.
But with the launch of the DVD Player consumers were quickly conditioned not to record from their TV, as they had been happily using VHS to do in the past. That was where the trick was missed, had the DVD Player not been launched and instead a DVD Recorder / Player taken its place then today most home users would still be recording and consuming media. Following its 1997 debut, it took the DVD format just a few years to completely take 100% share of the home-video market.
Now DVD is nearing its 10th birthday there are two rival next-generation formats Blu-ray and HD DVD media - both are vying to become the successor to DVD and both have very pretty global branding with very recognisable differences in the Bluray dvd case and HD DVD case. The big question is will the industry make the same mistake again, my guess is the probably will.
Both will display movies in full high definition resolution (HD), addressing one shortfall of the current DVD format, which is lower standard resolution, however it may take some time for the uptake as the formats do demand a premium price and will do for the forseeable future, until the price comes down we are looking at these formats being for the enthusiast and not joe public. The video and audio quality of both formats can be truly spectacular when shown on a true HDTV with a quality home theater audio system, surpassing even high-def television itself in fidelity and impact.
Which one should you choose? With the current format war, most HDTV owners should think very carefully before buying a Blu-ray or an HD DVD player in the short term, my personal advice wait till 2008 and the prices should come tumbling down as the format war hots up!
What is HD DVD?
HD DVD (not to be confused with the general concept of high definition DVD formats, although the confusion is probably intentional) is one of the two major formats competing for the emerging high definition DVD market. The name "HD DVD" is obviously an extension of the existing DVD naming scheme, and while it's the usual marketing ploy, it does make a little sense in that HD DVD is a lot closer to the current DVD format than Blu-ray discs (BD).
What is AOD?
AOD is Advanced Optical Disc, another name for HD-DVD. The only difference between AOD and HD-DVD is that AOD is shorter and easier to say, which may be a potential marketing advantage.
What is HD DVD's official launch date?
An announcement in late September 2005 from Toshiba has indicated that the U.S launch will be delayed until February or March 2006. And in December 2005, Blu-ray's launch date has been set for Spring 2006.
The actual official launch in the U.S came on the 17th of April, 2006.
As for media, the 2006 CES allowed several companies to make annoucements in regards to media availability:
More dates will be posted when more announcements are made.
The major backers are Toshiba and NEC. The main studio backers are Universal, Warner and Paramount, although in October 2005, Warner and Paramount both stated that they will support Blu-ray as well as HD DVD.
Sony (the major backer of Blu-ray) announced in late November that it will merge its optical disc-drive unit with that of NEC's, with operations under the leadership of Sony. This has led to speculation that NEC may pull out of HD DVD production, but the most likely outcome could be that the merged unit will produce both Blu-ray and HD DVD drives, as a Sony spokesman has said that "It is conceivable that there could be a variety of disk-drive requests produced ... perhaps even that other format" (the "other format" being HD DVD, one presumes).
An announcement in late September 2005 from Microsoft and Intel has stated that they would now officially support HD DVD. The reasons for this support, taken from an interview with a Microsoft representative by Tom's Hardware Guide , seems to be that it would be easier to make authorised copies of legally obtained discs with HD DVD (Managed Copy), which is important in the context of home media streaming.
Are there different readable/writable formats like with DVD/DVD-R/W?
HD DVD will come in three different formats, HD DVD-ROM for read-only (similar to DVD-ROM), HD DVD-R for write-once discs (similar to DVD-R) and HD DVD-Rewritable for rewritable discs (similar to DVD-RW)
What will be the capacities of these types of discs?
Like DVDs, HD DVDs will come in single layer and dual-layer versions, and new is a triple-layer version just recently announced (BD may support multi-layer discs, but nothing has yet been announced).
A single layer HD DVD will store around 15GB, which is more than 3 times the capacity of a single layer DVD. For each additional layer, an additional 15GB of storage will be available. The reason for the dramatic capacity increase over DVD is obvious when you consider that a HD transmission will take up a lot more room than a typical DVD stream, although with 15/30/45GB capacities, and better compression algorithms, capacity shouldn't be an issue (so no "flippers", or double sided disc).
What resolution will the video on a movie HD DVD be?
HD DVD resolution will follow the standard HD resolution standards currently used for HDTV transmissions. This means, at least for the present, the maximum output resolution will be 1080i (see below for updated information on this issue), or 1920x1080 in interlaced format only (not many displays can support 1080p, and even less can resolve or display the full 1080 lines. There is also 720p resolution (1280x720, progressive), which is the current native resolution of many home theatre displays, and also SD resolution support, similar to today's DVDs.
The lack of 1080p support was something that even supporters of HD DVD are complaining about. At the time movies were to be stored in 1080i format, even if 1080p output in players were planned to be supported in the future - requiring a bit of de-interlacing to produce a progressive picture, as opposed to BD's progressive source.
But the situation has since changed. In an interview with Microsoft in the Audioholics magazine in January 2006 indicated that HD DVD movies will be stored in 1080p format like BD, even if initial players can only output at 1080i.
So far, all of the HD DVD movie releases have been in 1080p as promised. One of the reason for the lack of 1080p HD DVD players seemed to have been the lack of HDMI 1.3 specifications at the time of launch (the interview above seems to refer to this as well). This does not seem to be true as 1080p is supported by all version of HDMI (Dolby and DTS's lossless audio, on the other hand, is only supported by HDMI 1.3). The reasons for the lack of 1080p HD DVD hardware is that the Broadcom chip used is limited to 1080i output. In fact, Samsung's first Blu-ray player also uses the same chip and then uses another chip to de-interlace the 1080i signal produced by the Broadcom chip to 1080p.
The actual quality difference between 1080i and 1080p is actually an active debate, since it has to take into account various factors such as the source material, the native resolution of the display, and even the de-interlacer.
What kind of video compression will be used?
HD DVD will use the same set of video compression codecs as BD. And just approved by the DVD Forum (14th September 2005), China will have its own HD DVD sub-format, that will use the Advanced Audio Video Coding Standard (AVS), as opposed to the more expensive to license MPEG and VC-1 codecs.
What about the audio?
Unlike BD, HD DVD currently has an approved audio specification scheme. The supported mandatory formats will be Dolby Digital Plus (DD+), DTS-HD, MLP 2-Channel and DTS-HD Lossless (optional).
Existing DVD audio formats will be supported by the above approved formats.
What can you tell me about the recordable HD DVD formats?
The initial recording speed will only be 1x at 36.55 Mbps, which is actually equal to about 30x in CD transfer terms (or 3.4x in DVD transfer terms). Faster recording speeds will be available, possibly at launch time.
The DVD Forum steering committee meeting on the 14th of September also agreed on the specifications for 1x dual layer recording, suggesting that dual layer recording (for standalone or computer based recorders) may be available at launch or shortly after.
Toshiba has already demonstrated player/recorders at electronic shows.
What kind of equipment will I need to play back HD DVD movies?
The first thing you will need is a HD DVD capable player. No existing DVD player will be able to read a HD DVD, and there is no software or hardware upgrade that can be performed to enable HD DVD playback. Buying a new player is, therefore, the only choice if you want HD DVD playback.
Initially, all HD DVD players will only output to 1080i, meaning that your display will only need to support this resolution as opposed to 1080p. HD DVD movies are encoded on the disc in 1080p format and in time, 1080p HD DVD players will become available.
Otherwise the requirements for HD DVD is very similar to that for Blu-ray.
What about my existing DVD collection? In the bin like my old VHS collection?
HD DVD is marketing itself as the natural successor to DVD (both approved by the DVD Forum, although the DVD Forum is not as official as it sounds), and so, DVD playback should not be an issue for HD DVD players.
What about region coding?
It appears (at least from statements made in October 2005, by the DVD Forum) that HD DVD will be region free. This is not a total surprise as DVD region coding can only be considered a failure, as it achieved none of the goals it set out to.
Update: In May 2006, the DVD Forum creates a team to investigate adding region-coding to HD DVD. This suggest HD DVD will have region-coding, although the players and software on sale at this time (May 2006) do not have region coding support.