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Affordable Universal HD disc player...would it make the "format war" moot???


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#1 of 72 OFFLINE   DaViD Boulet

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Posted March 16 2006 - 02:16 AM

It's been noted by many that if consumers could simply buy affordable universal "combo" HD players that could play both Blu-ray and HD DVD discs with equal aplomb, that the consequences of a "format war" would essentially be moot. The distinction between Blu-ray and HD DVD media would be no different than the choices that DVD developers have today between single or double layer DVD, DVD-18 etc. If a studio wanted to use a high-bit-rate 50 gig platter for a full-out A-title special edition they'd use Blu-ray Disc. If they wanted to save money to replicate a music-video that didn't place demands on bit-rate or storage capacity they'd use HD DVD. What would it really matter if the disc would play in everyone's "high def" player? Both disc media types could become viable formats side-by-side, and content providers could choose which disc structure to utilize based on program-authoring needs.

The real problem has been that the cost increase of a "dual format" universal player would offset the advantage for many consumers. But what if providing *both* BD *and* HD DVD full functionality only added a few dollars to the final price of an HD disc player? It would seem that most hardware manufacturers might stand to gain an advantage offering this expanded functionality to the consumer (though I wouldn't expect to see Sony or Toshiba combo-players for some time Posted Image )

I came across this at DVD file and think it's an interesting development:


Quote:
And the winner of the format war is . . . the combo player.

An announcement by San Jose-based Atmel Corporation introduces its new AT78C4050 All-Format DVD System-on-Chip (SoC). The new integrated circuit is claimed to be able to control the functionality of any optical disk drive, including DVD, DVD-ROM, DVD-R/RW, DVD+R/RW, CD, CD-ROM, CD-R/RW, HD DVD, and Blu-ray Disc. This may be the first shot in a format war battle at a more fundamental level: dominance of the electronic component market that supports HD disc players. Such chips are a significant opportunity for player manufacturers to offer combo-players at an affordable price point. (The chip is available now at a unit cost of $8.00 in quantities of 100.) And considering the potential long-term market of many millions of players, you can expect semiconductor manufacturers to offer chip set after chip set to reduce player production costs. How do you think we got from $1,000 interlaced DVD players in 1997 to $100 progressive players in 2005?

http://www.dvdfile.c....=5356&Itemid=5
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#2 of 72 OFFLINE   Juan C

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Posted March 16 2006 - 02:25 AM

Correct me if I'm wrong but, don't Broadcom and Sigma Designs make SoCs that support both formats? From what I've heard, the main hurdle for a universal player is not the electronic part, but rather the optical one.

#3 of 72 OFFLINE   Aaron_Brez

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Posted March 16 2006 - 03:04 AM

Juan has it right, though he doesn't go far enough. Any chipset which can be used to play HD-DVD can be used to play Blu-ray, and vice versa-- including the Intel one inside the Toshiba players. The differences are all in the software/firmware stack and in the optical units.

I'm in favor of universal players, though I wouldn't buy one made by LG. I fear that the expense would be great, though.

#4 of 72 OFFLINE   Jack Briggs

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Posted March 16 2006 - 04:24 AM

Nice try, DaViD, but a format war is in progress. Thing is, if we go by picture quality alone, I doubt seriously that any of us could possibly see a difference between the two formats.

Meanwhile, this morning's Los Angeles Times has a lengthy page-one story on Sony's delaying of the PS3 launch, with an emphasis on working out the kinks in Blu-ray Disc. At the same time, HD DVD appears ready to launch in a month or two.

So the "war" is inevitable and a winner will be determined over the course of time. We, the consumers, will pay a price.

I want optical-disc high-def technology as much as anyone, but I am thinking of holding off on these formats. (Well, at least until Warner releases its third edition of Stanley Kubrick discs.)

#5 of 72 OFFLINE   DaViD Boulet

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Posted March 16 2006 - 04:46 AM

Yes Jack,

but the fact remains that nearly that makes it a "format war" would cease to exist if every HD-disc-player could play both disc types. What "war" would there be in such a case?

Obviously cost of player production is the restricting factor here...if optical drives and chipsets could be designed to negate those cost-offsets for universal players...it would seem to make the "war" a moot issues that could be described, at best, as two options available on a title-per-title basis to studios wishing to author HD media.
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#6 of 72 OFFLINE   Charlie O.

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Posted March 16 2006 - 05:20 AM

Quote:
but the fact remains that nearly that makes it a "format war" would cease to exist if every HD-disc-player could play both disc types. What "war" would there be in such a case?


Isn't this pretty much what happend with DVD+/-R ? Both are sill around.

#7 of 72 OFFLINE   Aaron_Brez

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Posted March 16 2006 - 05:32 AM

Yes, but it's hardly a "war" anymore. It's not like consumers have to be careful to avoid incompatibility when buying hardware.

#8 of 72 OFFLINE   DaViD Boulet

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Posted March 16 2006 - 07:21 AM

And that's my point!

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#9 of 72 OFFLINE   Ed St. Clair

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Posted March 16 2006 - 07:33 AM

Hooray for Hollywood!!!
Movies are: "The Greatest Artform".
HD should be for EVERYONE!

#10 of 72 OFFLINE   Glenn Overholt

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Posted March 16 2006 - 09:29 AM

Ok, lets say that they do that. If a new release comes out, would it come out on both formats, or would that be up to the studios? Would the studios take sides, or would/could they switch whenever they wanted to?

If one movie came out on both formats, BD would win. Not because of the picture quality, which would probably be exactly the same, but because when the movie was over, a 50 gig BD disk would have more room for extras. Would the HD release be a 2 disk set, just so that the rest of the extras would be available?

Glenn

#11 of 72 OFFLINE   DaViD Boulet

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Posted March 16 2006 - 09:57 AM

Glenn,

if there was an install-base of universal players such that concners about consumers not being able to watch the movie were a non-issue, then the studio could just choose whatever format made the most sense per title. Remember my example? A full-blown SE on BD to make use of 50gig and a music-video on HD DVD since it's cheaper to manufacture and doesn't need the extra space.

Win-win.

And no need to put the *same* content out on both formats at the same time...that would only have to happen if there *wasn't* an install-base of universal players.

That's what I'm trying to say!


Quote:
If one movie came out on both formats, BD would win. Not because of the picture quality, which would probably be exactly the same, but because when the movie was over, a 50 gig BD disk would have more room for extras. Would the HD release be a 2 disk set, just so that the rest of the extras would be available?

In the absence of universal players, I would agree. Because as soon as VC1 becomes a reality on 50gig BD it won't take the consumer long to realize just how great that extra space/bandwidth really is, which will make HD DVD fall by the way-side as it still stays lodged in the DVD compromise of "feature AV quality or bonus material" trade-off game.

Many of the studios have already figured that out. Disney has repeated that belief in almost every statement they've made on the subject...even in their last statement where they mentioned possibly making some HD DVD titles they still talked about the "superiority" of Blu-ray for those very reasons. In fact, it was almost *sad* considering that Ari (a microsoft empoyee) over at AVS posted a big grin when he made that first post quoting Disney's CEO...when if you actually read what Disney's comments were talking up how much better Blu-ray is than HD DVD!

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#12 of 72 OFFLINE   Ray Chuang

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Posted March 16 2006 - 03:43 PM

Folks,

A so-called universal player that can read both HD-DVD and Blu-Ray discs could arrive as early as Fall 2006. When that happens expect several companies to start selling them in time for the Christmas rush. Posted Image
Raymond in Sacramento, CA USA

#13 of 72 OFFLINE   Steve Berger

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Posted March 17 2006 - 12:27 AM

Don't forget the recording aspect of the formats. These are also going to be used in business for archiving large records (Sarbanes-Oxley requirements?). They are going to be used for converting digital home movies to HD disks (hopefully without time consuming transcoding to a compressed format like the current Mpeg2 DVDs) and backing up (as allowed) HDTV programs.

Initially, all people seem to care about is playback, but a "Killer App" in recording could come along or one format could turn out to have a better recording method that could swing the market in a year or two. If one allows me to save my TV shows (easily) and one doesn't (without hacking), guess which one I would buy?

#14 of 72 OFFLINE   DaViD Boulet

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Posted March 17 2006 - 01:44 AM

Steve,

did you see the link in another thread about Sony's announced Blu-ray products yesterday? One was a $1000 Blu-ray movie player but the other was a Blu-ray PC and Blu-ray-drive that would allow people to record their HD camera feed and home-movies to hard disc, edit, then burn to either Blu-ray or DVD for storage and playback.
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#15 of 72 OFFLINE   RobertR

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Posted March 17 2006 - 03:36 AM

A universal player sounds good. It would relieve the anxiety of buying a player that might be "orphaned". I think combo players would dominate the market, especially if the cost difference is minimal.

I disagree with David's assumption that only "music videos" would appear on HD-DVD. I think it depends on price and what people really want in the way of extras. Not everyone is ga-ga about the kind of extra features David is salivating over. If a comparitively "barebones" version on HD-DVD with equivalent audio and video quality for the movie itself sells for significantly less, I could see that market being very strong (I like market choices). After all, not everyone has the laserdisc mentality of "yeah, I want to be one of the 'elite' who pays through the nose for a 'special edition' so I can feel like I'm part of a select group".

#16 of 72 OFFLINE   DaViD Boulet

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Posted March 17 2006 - 03:44 AM

RobertR,

if we're going to spar let's spar with things we actually say.

Posted Image

I never suggested that *ONLY* music-videos should be used for HD DVD, just as I never suggested that *ONLY* top-A stops-pulled out SE editions should use Blu-ray. I merely described two polar extremes as obvious examples to illustrate how the cost/benefits of each disc option could apply to different applications...and I assumed it was understood that other program types that fell in the middle would be more subjectively selected for the "best" disc option.

Yes, a completely bare-bones version of a 2 hour movie with only one or two language options could fit quite nicely on an HD DVD disc. I have never stated otherwise (what I *have* stated otherwise is that if only ONE format had be a "winner", then Blu-ray was the better choice for the consumer since it allows for more options).

Try not to make it so hard for someone to present a balanced viewpoint around here!

Posted Image


p.s. wanting bonus material isn't just linked to laserdisc collectors. I doubt that the average wall-mart-shopping-soccer-mom thinks "yeah, I want to be one of the 'elite' who pays through the nose for a 'special edition' so I can feel like I'm part of a select group" everytime she buys one of those Disney SE sets just loaded with extras to keep the kids busy on the 8-hour car-trips to grandma and grandpa.
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#17 of 72 OFFLINE   RobertR

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Posted March 17 2006 - 03:52 AM

Quote:
I never suggested that *ONLY* music-videos would be used for HD DVD, just as I never suggested that *ONLY* top-A stops-pulled out SE editions would use Blu-ray.
Glad you clarified that, David. I was only going by your examples (which only focused on the music video aspect). Let's let the market decide.

Quote:
I doubt that the average wall-mart-shopping-soccer-mom thinks "yeah, I want to be one of the 'elite' who pays through the nose for a 'special edition' so I can feel like I'm part of a select group"
I think the soccer mom doesn't salivate over special features the way you or many others do, David. If she can save 10 bucks on a barebones edition (I very much doubt that a seven year old would do a detailed comparison of what whiz bang special features are missing) that will keep the kiddies content on the car trip, I can see that having a strong appeal.

#18 of 72 OFFLINE   DaViD Boulet

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Posted March 17 2006 - 04:22 AM

Quote:
I think the soccer mom doesn't salivate over special features the way you or many others do, David. If she can save 10 bucks on a barebones edition (I very much doubt that a seven year old would do a detailed comparison of what whiz bang special features are missing) that will keep the kiddies content on the car trip, I can see that having a strong appeal.

Just why do you think that Disney puts all those special features on those discs in the first place? Do you think it's because the minority of cinephile collectors want them? Did I want the RAVEN-music video and the pre-school game?

Disney is responding to consumer feedback. And the average consumer that purchases a Disney DVD wants those features. Every survey, every report from consumer feedback via Disney's hotline indicates to them that loaded "special editions" are what sell.


I'm not saying that there isn't a time and place for a bare-bones feature presentation or that there may not be consumers who would prefer to save a few bucks and purchase them. But as long as Disney has already sunk the costs in gathering bonus material together, it doesn't cost them any more to put them on a disc that stamps those bits in the platter or leave that area of the platter blank...especially if they've already gone through the work to author a master for the SE edition.

Curiously, many SE Disney DVDs that are released cost the same or sometimes even *less* than the bare-bones edidion that may have been released previously.
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#19 of 72 OFFLINE   RobertR

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Posted March 17 2006 - 04:31 AM

Quote:
why do you think that Disney puts all those special features on those discs in the first place?
All I'm saying is that this "crammed to the gills" SE concept you keep talking about doesn't apply to all consumers in every market segment for every movie. I think there would be a strong market for less expensive not so loaded editions.

#20 of 72 OFFLINE   DaViD Boulet

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Posted March 17 2006 - 06:35 AM

We can both agree on that. I've never stated otherwise. As before, my only reason to trumpet the "SE" thing is when we start to talk about a single-format HD solution. Obviously, it ought to be one that can encompass *both* options...a bare-bones movie and a full-blown SE...without the resrictions/compromises we see on DVD with bit-rate and bit-space forcing special features to compete with AV quality when an SE is deemed the right way to go. Given both of those scenarios with a single disc format, Blu-ray is really the best solution.
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