Now before people start seeing through angry red eyes, this is just ‘my’ personal opinion and should be taken as such! I have been following the format war between HD DVD and Blu-ray for months now and although I am not an expert who delves into every last statistic, I have certainly come to appreciate the two new technologies released. Having a format war of any kind doesn’t help anyone (although it may lower stand alone players prices, which way do you swing?) unless you have the cash to purchase a dual format player or two separate stand alone player units of each format, which the mainstream consumer isn’t going to really consider as a viable alternative to standard DVD.
The war has also created its own set of fanboys on each side, stating every rumour, quote and statistic they can grab their sweaty hands on, but what are my thoughts on this sorry mess? Well lets not get into the usual picture and audio quality issue as I am sure most people realise that they are virtually indistinguishable from each other. Yes there are differences, but not enough to make any typical movie purchaser flinch before investing in a copy in either format…
HD DVD should (in my opinion) win for one very important reason… It has had a standard set of features since day one! By this I mean persistent storage, Internet connectivity, Interactive abilities, picture in picture (without cheating!) among others. Blu-ray seems to be the format that evolves slowly over time, which is fine if the stand alone player could be upgraded, but this is not just on the software level, but hardware as well, leaving consumers with the requirement to upgrade if they want additional features that become available on newer disks. If we all want to really see high definition movies enter the market as a true mainstream product, we need a standard and the sooner the better for all of us. Although the argument that downloadable movies is a valid one, I still can’t see a true solution that will convince the same people who buy movies on disk to move over any time soon, so either HD DVD or Blu-ray certainly has a place… for now.
There is also an element with the Blu fanboyism that interactive features are not as important as the movie itself. Well of course they are absolutely right here, but don’t you also want all the disks to support all of the features your player can provide? This is the problem with Blu-ray as it has different levels of capabilities that the stand alone player might be capable of. Eventually Blu-ray will have a standard player that supports pretty much everything HD DVD boasts and maybe a little more, but until then there are going to be varying degrees of movies and players that vary quite wildly with abilities. Evolution is great, but not when it confuses everybody in the process and takes so long for everyone to own. This can stifle the adoption of all the fascinating next generation features.
Standards also encourage the actual creators of the movies to add functionality if they know it exists. Why spend money on developing movie extras and features that maybe only a quite small percentage (if you are lucky) of the viewing audience own? It will be a long time before we see Blu-ray taking the strides HD DVD has in creating feature rich content that can connect to the Internet as well and remember the HD DVD connection to the Internet is compatible on every HD DVD player no matter when it was purchased!
Quite simply, I really hope HD DVD can secure its place and be the true successor to the DVD, but the war is going to rage on until movie studios manage to come to some kind of compromise. Blu-ray is a little bit of a turkey, masquerading its much greater disk capacity over standards and features at the consumers peril. I really love high definition movies and look forward to the day when I can purchase a HD disk and know that it will be around for many years to come.
One last issue before I end this post though and that is the 51GB HD DVD disk that has caused quite a few discussions on the Internet. It is still unclear whether this disk will be compatible on existing HD DVD players and Blu-ray supporters rightly so will be the first to scream that there is a possibility that the supposed standard HD DVD has set, will now be changed and therefore no better than the Blu-ray evolution. This will rage on until we finally get some clear answers on this subject, but separate movie and extras disks (with documentaries, trailers etc) are hardly frowned upon in the DVD community so shouldn’t be in the next generation movie format either, so is the disk really required? I don’t really think so. If (and this is a big if) the new 51GB disk doesn’t play in existing HD DVD players, well I will be one of the people condemning this area also!
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