The computer helper: Making sense of high-definition DVD
By Jay Dougherty Jun 20, 2006, 12:41 GMT
Washington - Consumers are ready, but high-definition DVDs may not be.
Hi-def DVDs promise great things, both on the computer and in your home theatre's DVD player. Movies in high-def, of course, look great. But computer users have plenty to look forward to as well. So why aren't hi-def DVD drives and disks widely available? Read on for answers to this and more.
Q: What's taking so long for movie studios to release more high- definition movies?
A: There's a standards war raging currently between two distinct camps who want the world to adopt their vision of high-definition DVD. The war is ostensibly over the format to be used for encoding data onto high-definition disks.
On one side there are Sony and some associated companies, with their Blu-Ray high-definition disk that Sony says will hold more data than the competition. On the other side are Toshiba and associated companies with a competing format called HD DVD. HD DVD is more widely available at this point, with selected movies already having been released in this format.
HD-ready flat screen televisions are widely available, but HD DVD players are still quite expensive, with individual units going for around 500 dollars. Acceptance has been slow, however, primarily because no one is quite sure how the standards battle is going to play out. If you invest 500 dollars now in a DVD player that works with HD DVD, it may be rendered useless if Sony's Blu-Ray comes to dominate the market.
Q: What will hi-definition DVDs do for my computer?
A: A lot. Dual-layer high-definition DVDs will be able to hold about 50 gigabytes of data. That's over 10 times the amount of data that you can fit on a standard writable DVD disk.
Right now, though, about the only writable DVD drives you'll find on the market are from Sony, and they'll likely be in a Sony notebook or PC. That's because Sony's Blu-Ray standard is the first out of the gate in a writable DVD format. HD DVD will eventually be writable, but there's no indication of when we'll see HD DVD writers.
The writable Blu-Ray drives currently on the market - found in select Sony Vaio computers - are single-layered only. They hold 25 gigabytes of data.
Q: How much do writable Blu-Ray disks cost?
A: A lot, at least for now. Manufacturing Blu-Ray disks has required significant changes to current production equipment.
You can expect to pay anywhere from 17 to 35 dollars per disk. To make matters worse, it's possible to render disks unusable if your software crashes in the middle of a burning session or if you make a mistake and cancel the recording of a disk. Mistakes or system glitches like those can really cost you.
There are currently no writable HD DVD disks on the market.
Q: If I purchase an HD DVD player, will it work with Blu-Ray disks once they become available?
A: No. Blu-Ray and HD DVD use recording methods and disks that are incompatible. It's unlikely that you'll see a high-definition DVD player or writer that will work with both formats, assuming both remain on the market.
Q: Right now HD-DVD seems to be the format that the film studios are using to release movies on DVD. Does that mean HD-DVD will most likely be the preferred format for movies?
A: Not necessarily. Most major studios have announced plans to release films in Sony's Blu-Ray format. As early as last year, in fact, an influential analyst at Forrester, a U.S.-based research firm, predicted that Blu-Ray would ultimately win the standards war. That same analyst, however, predicted that it would be a full two years before any one standard would emerge as the clear victor, and consequently widespread consumer acceptance of one or the other product would take some time. Blu-Ray's advantage purportedly lies in the fact that it was designed not just with movies in mind but also with computers and games.
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