In 1997, the world witnessed a home entertainment revolution as the DVD first appeared on the market. Now, nine years later, two new media are vying to take over where the DVD left off. These two new formats are HD-DVD and Blu-Ray. HD-DVD and Blu-Ray both plan to lead the high definition world as both support high definition picture and sound, best viewed on very expensive HD-TVs. Both formats have also made their way into the gaming world; Microsoft’s Xbox 360 will support HD-DVD with an external add-on drive to be released in late 2006 and Sony’s Playstation 3 will support Blu-Ray. HD-DVD was the first format on the market. Spearheaded by Toshiba, HD-DVD was first discussed in November 2003, was later backed by Microsoft, and saw its first players reach consumer markets on April 16, 2006. Initially, only five HD-DVD compatible films were released, supported by Warner Bros. and Universal, who remain the two major studios backing the formats. Support has also been given by New Line Cinema and Paramount who will be releasing major titles later in the year. HD-DVD has proven to be a viable new format as the discs have a single layer capacity of 15 GB and a dual layer capacity of 30 GB, as opposed to the current DVD capacity of 8.5 GB. This should be welcome news to any movie aficionado, especially those interested in how a film was made, because more space can bring more special features.
As far as sound specifications are concerned, HD-DVD supports up to 7.1 channels of surround plus Dolby Digital Plus.
Another interesting feature is the disc structure; since the discs are designed similarly, the players are backwards compatible and play all your old DVDs.
HD-DVD players retail for $499.99 and the movies retail for anywhere from $24.99 to $39.99. As one can see, the difference in price between HD-DVD and DVD movies is not drastically different. Microsoft will release an external add-on HD-DVD player later this year, seeing as Xbox 360 games are still produced on DVDs.
Spearheaded by Sony, Blu-Ray reached the marketplace on July 20, 2006. The discs, at this moment, can hold 25 GB of information, but soon to be released are discs that can hold as much as 100 GB of information. With an exuberant amount of space, this format is ideal for gaming and will be the format in which Playstation 3 games are produced. Like HD-DVD players, Blu-Ray players, first released by Samsung, will be backwards compatible with DVDs.
As far as pricing is concerned, Blu-Ray players cost a great deal more than HD-DVD players, retailing for $999.99 (Playstation 3, which will play Blu-Ray movies, will retail for $499.99 and $599.99). Movies also are not cheap, ranging in price from $29.99 to $44.99; however, Blu-Ray is supported by many more companies than HD-DVD, allowing more titles to be available.
To date, 34 titles have been released with 65 more to be released by year’s end. However, none of the titles released thus far are really worth owning so it makes consumers reluctant to spend $999.99 on something with limited use. The exuberant price is a result of the fact that Blu-Ray discs are more expensive than HD-DVDs to produce. HD-DVDs are produced in the same basic format as the current DVDs, whereas Blu-Ray is a completely new technology.
As the technology war enters the next generation, we can see where the new innovations are headed. While both support the new high definition standard that has placated the market over the past few years, one has proven to be more cost efficient than the other. However, a greater deal of studio support may help Blu-Ray win the war. Now it is up to you.