HD-DVD: The Super-VHS of the New Millennium

Discussion in 'Playback Devices' started by Sev Bragg, Aug 1, 2006.

  1. Sev Bragg

    Sev Bragg Stunt Coordinator

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    What do you guys think of this?

    Took from here, http://blogs.starwars.com/pablog/87


    HD-DVD: The Super-VHS of the New Millennium
    I'll preface this by saying I haven't crunched any numbers. I haven't pored over charts or done any statistical analysis. It's just a blog, and not any real prediction of the future. It's just one outsider's perspective.

    This really is, like the positions shared by Stephen Colbert or the President, from the gut. And, unlike those chaps, I'm willing to suggest that I may be totally off, and history will prove me quite wrong. But I think HD-DVD and Blu-Ray technologies are too little, too
    late, and too expensive. In essence, they're the SuperVHS of this technical generation. What? You don't remember SuperVHS?

    Okay, we live in a technologically accelerated lifestyle. VHS had a 15-20 year run (or thereabouts) before its vast installed user-base decided to trade up to DVD. I just don't see the DVD audience willing to do the same right now -- I don't see the DVD life-cycle at that stage yet, and I can't imagine a business model that makes sense for studios to switch over to the new formats.

    Consider these factors.

    1) The "maturing" DVD marketplace. Now, it's been reported that DVD sales have plateau-ed. That instead of ever-increasing numbers, some studios ended up reporting losses on big titles. Does this mean the DVD market has antiquated to the point that it must be replaced? Does it mean that it's no longer a money-maker?

    No. It means that typical Hollywood accounting has misrepresented the numbers yet again. I'll let you in a dirty little not-so-secret. When a public company reports its DVD sales, those numbers are almost always hiding something. Recall that Pixar proudly proclaimed record sales for the Incredibles, as Dreamworks did for Shrek
    2. About a year later, when posting their numbers for stockholders, it turned out that both those titles under-performed compared to expectations. Is something not adding up?

    When a public studio issues a press release pounding its chest about DVD sales, it's doing so to bolster its stock. These records make the rounds thanks to an entertainment press that doesn't ask too many hard questions, and confidence in the stock is bolstered, the stock prices go up, and shareholders are happy. But what do the numbers really mean?

    More often than not, a studio is bragging about the numbers of units sold to retailers -- not to consumers. What they're not telling you is that if consumers don't buy the DVD from the retailer, the retailer then ships the DVD back to the studio -- at the studio's expense! So, in Quarter 1, you can make big money by selling 12 gazillion units to
    stores. Issue the press release. The stock goes up. But as the year continues, and the retailer doesn't want your inventory clogging up its aisles, it ships back 7 gazillion units -- and you're footing the bill. Now, can you understand how a studio can post losses on what was supposedly a smash hit?

    Is the DVD market declining? Or are the studios finally getting pinched by their squinty numbers?

    2) Does the consumer want the bells and whistles? And how much will it cost?

    The picture difference between HD-DVD and regular DVD is not as pronounced as the difference between DVD and VHS. It's not a quantum leap. I have HD TV, and regularly watch programming that's in higher resolution than many of the DVDs I own, yet I'm not aching for HD-DVDs. At a recent trip to the Metreon in San Francisco, I saw a demo of a Blu Ray player, and wasn't sufficiently impressed.

    I have a hard time imagining that the consumer base as a whole is dissatisfied with their DVD experience. If engine speed was very important to you, you'd pay a hefty sum to trade in a car that topped out at 60 mph for one that could 100 mph. But you wouldn't
    necessarily pay the same price to get up to 110.

    Aside from picture quality, much has been said about the sheer storage space of these new formats. Why, you can now cram them with extras!

    But guess what? Tricked out DVDs costs more money to produce. Which do you think was produced in greater numbers: a 2-disc LOTR movie, or a 4-disc LOTR movie? The 2-disc, of course. It's cheaper to produce, manufacturer, ship, and purchase. And now single discs are becoming the norm as wider initial releases, followed by more robust and more expensive double-disc sets later down the line. Audiences are saying the price matters more than the bells and whistles.

    But who is going to pay for the production of all that extra HD-DVD content? If an HD-DVD can hold eight documentaries, then it may end up eight times more expensive to produce that bonus material than a disc with only a single doc. So, is the price going to have to be jacked up accordingly?

    Is the audience out there ready to pay for it? Again, the studios ended up shooting themselves in the foot due to their overproduction of DVDs. Because they overproduced and ended up with extra inventory that retailers didn't want, studios hacked the prices down the bone in some cases. We're talking blue chip titles for as little as $10 --
    not stuff like The Secret of My Success, but Harry Potter movies.

    Now, that's great short term news for the consumer. And it lets the studio make its quarterly numbers, making stockholders happy. But what does it mean for the industry? You've now lowered the bar and price expectation so low that to remain profitable, you're going to have to cut corners on what's on future DVDs.

    And it turns out, the audience won't care. Not if they're paying only $10 for a movie.

    All of these factors seem to go in directly the OPPOSITE direction as what HD-DVD is promising -- more content for a bigger sticker price, where audiences as a whole seem to happy with just-a-movie for a decent price.

    3) Consider iTunes. I don't think it's a slam dunk success just yet, but it is in indication of where the future is heading. People replaced their record collections with CD collections at great expense. Now, they're not willing to pay the same price, but do seem to be happy buying songs here and there in digital format. The shelves crammed with CDs will soon be history, and music libraries will be invisible, stored in hard-drives.

    I think the same will be true of movie libraries. Rather than having to buy a physical product every time the format changes, you'll just end up downloading the movie in the next higher resolution. Or with a new commentary. Or with a happier ending. Or whatever. And it won't be at $20 a pop. It'll be priced to encourage shopping a la carte. You can buy the documentaries and add-on materials. And documentaries can be continued to be produced with no real deadline, on an on-going basis. Didn't think the Wizard of Oz 3-disc set had enough behind-the-scenes material? well, go online and download the next 12-part documentary directly onto your media player. And burn it to
    disc to keep forever, if you want the security of a physical product.

    I really think the view-on-demand format is what's next, effectively side-stepping the whole HD-DVD and Blu-Ray transition. We don't need discs anymore. Studios stand to make more money charging a la carte for value added material and don't have to risk inventory costs from retailers shipping back product that doesn't sell. There's no authoring costs. No product that has to be shipped to warehouses.

    Surely, there's a catch, right?

    4) But, WalMart won't like it. That's the tough part. Hollywood probably won't want to rock the retailer boat so roughly, not when WalMart commands such power over it. Don't believe it? Why do you think certain directors who insist on fullscreen presentation capitulate and still produce Pan and Scan movies? Because Walmart consumers want them. And what Walmart wants, Walmart gets. Fun fact: the big W makes as much money in seven days as Hollywood does all year. That kind of coin means you can make some very lucrative partnerships, and Hollywood isn't likely to get out of that bed just yet.

    Oh, there's other factors. For one thing, the digital download future requires a Hollywood willing to make a major change, and the industry has long been reluctant to make changes. Witness the snail's pace adoption of digital exhibition.

    But if the business model can be cracked, and there's money to be made, it'll happen.

    Of course, I may be wrong. But this is just what my gut is feeling today.

    ph
     
  2. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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    To begin, I think that it is poorly written, as his thesis is comparing HD-DVD to Super-VHS. His last mention of Super-VHS is in the last sentence of the second paragraph (and the first paragraph is a disclaimer), though he does mention VHS in two subsequent places.

    Secondly it has factual errors: “The picture difference between HD-DVD and regular DVD is not as pronounced as the difference between DVD and VHS. It's not a quantum leap.” There have been many analyses that go to demonstrate the difference between VHS compared to DVD and DVD compared to HD).

    To be sure he continues the above with, “I have HD TV, and regularly watch programming that's in higher resolution than many of the DVDs I own, yet I'm not aching for HD-DVDs. At a recent trip to the Metreon in San Francisco, I saw a demo of a Blu Ray player, and wasn't sufficiently impressed.” Now here we see that the assumed factual statement in the first part of this assertion (“picture quality difference is not as pronounced…”) is not based on fact, but only on his own, anecdotal experience watching a compressed version of HD on TV—not HD-DVD. He follows this up with a second observation of watching Blu-Ray, saying he was not sufficiently impressed, but neglects to say what was lacking, nor does he detail the conditions under which he saw the demo.

    Next he confuses his formats, as his title specifies HD-DVD and in the body of his text, he is often referring to Blu-Ray, as when he mentions additional storage (and if one believes his title to be generic, rather than HD-DVD specific, I can only observe that he has actually not done much research on the various formats).

    Next we get reasons as to why the disks will be expensive to produce and reasons as to why consumers won’t pay for additional costs. Of course, he could simply have actually pointed out what the real HD-DVD prices are to the consumer (and not the MSRP, but the prices that can be found by any reasonable consumer).

    There are of course problems with his attempt to demonstrate that DVD sales have not plummeted, by using The Incredibles and Shrek sales as examples. Aside from the logic error (actually one can both have record sales and still not meet expectations), he could have just pulled off DVD sales numbers for the past several years to make his point. Perhaps he did not because they don’t jibe with the point he is trying to make.

    There is more, but overall this is just a rambling of loosely associated thoughts, with no real data, no detailed observations, poor analysis, and faulty conclusions. And the conclusions, if indeed there are any, don’t go back to his thesis.
     
  3. Chris S

    Chris S Cinematographer

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    Seems like more of an argument for on-demand style HD content then either for or against HD-DVD or BD. There is likely a niche for this type of product and Warner is currently testing it by offering movies via Bittorrent.com. However I don't expect on-demand downloads to be a huge percentage of any studios sales. Using the iTunes example, studios only saw a 4 percent market penetration in the first quarter of '05 compared to traditional CD sales (couldn't find the numbers for '06 but they're comparable).
     
  4. Austan

    Austan Second Unit

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    A blind or deaf person can tell the difference between 8mm & VHS...
    A blind or deaf person can tell the difference between VHS & DVD...

    IMHO: I dont think the average Joe will notice the difference between SDVD & HD...
     
  5. DavidJ

    DavidJ Producer

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    I think this is true to a degree. If you show Joe HD DVD by itself, he will think "that's really pretty." If you show him unconverted DVD the same way, "that's pretty. I don't know which was better." If you show him DVD, "that's still pretty."
    I think that this changes when you actually look at the images side by side (at the same time). This is what allows them to register the differences and "educate" themselves. After the indoctrination, I mean education; they should be able to see the differences more readily even with out the side-by-side comparison.
     
  6. Jerome Grate

    Jerome Grate Cinematographer

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    I certainly think the author of the article is wrong in some aspects. You can't compare S-VHS to High Def DVD (HD-DVD or BD). Some of us remember how S-VHS came to play which was to compete against Super Betamax. This is not the same market like in the late 80s early 90s, when you read the various forums out there, consumers are getting somewhat savvy, even the Joey six packs. It's almost at a point where you can't buy large screen t.v. with out HD capability. On that note, HD-DVD (so far) is setting the standard on how this whole thing will play out. Great picture from HD-DVD, great picture from SD-DVD upscaled to 1080i, great sound via uncompressed audio through the 5.1 connectors (well that's for us only) and to top it off a price tag that is actually affordable. We can see here it starting to take hold, and general consumers don't believe in going backwards regardless of what Hollywood studios try to send out.
     
  7. Sami Kallio

    Sami Kallio Screenwriter

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    Downloading HD material? Sure, once majority of the homes are connected with fibre...
     
  8. Austan

    Austan Second Unit

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    J6P are getting schooled at BestBuy and in November the Blu-Ray Marketing campaign will hit. Along with that comes several Blu-Ray players and PS3.

    Also, isn't it a law that certain size TV monitors must be HD... I dont think it was an option for the consumer.
     
  9. Dave H

    Dave H Producer

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    I do think the average person can tell the difference between DVD and HD DVD. I see plenty of average people blown away at Best Buy and Circuit City with all of the HD demos being shown on big screen displays.

    HD Programming is slowly growing (compare it to five years ago and it has grown a lot) and I do think HD DVD and/or Blu-ray will survive for the longer term, however, it will be a slow growing process (niche for a while). With that said, I do think a certain percentage of the population will think SD DVD is good enough. But, I think there is and will be a market for HD discs.
     
  10. Eric F

    Eric F Screenwriter

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    No doubt Sony is counting on this. The 60Gb drive is large enough for HD On Demand content.
     
  11. Paul Arnette

    Paul Arnette Cinematographer

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    Let me tell you something, if my wife was blown away by HD DVD when she couldn't tell a difference between my uncalibrated display and my calibrate one, then, yes, the average person can tell the difference. [​IMG]
     
  12. Jace_A

    Jace_A Second Unit

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    Yes, but the question is, will they care enough to buy into it? The answer, in the majority of cases, is going to be no, at least for a few years.
     
  13. PeterTHX

    PeterTHX Cinematographer

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    Actually, that was ED Beta (extended definition Beta). Hi8 was also part of this...and the most successful (camcorder wise).

    VHS-HQ was the answer to SuperBeta.
     
  14. Greg*go

    Greg*go Supporting Actor

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    Is this true? That seems like an EXTREME exaggeration, and he seems to go out of his way to state that it's a fact.

    I like how everyone hear is against his ideas, whereas everyone commenting on the blog seems to support him. Very interesting.
     
  15. Dave H

    Dave H Producer

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    Ummm...the rest of my post stated the same thing in so many words.

    ...I do think HD DVD and/or Blu-ray will survive for the longer term, however, it will be a slow growing process (niche for a while). With that said, I do think a certain percentage of the population will think SD DVD is good enough. But, I think there is and will be a market for HD discs.
     
  16. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder
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    I don't think that's true, and I hope that remark isn't coming from
    someone that doesn't own a player.

    If you put BOTH SD-DVD and HD-DVD side-by-side on properly
    calibrated displays, then absolutely the average person will see
    a difference. HD-DVD is more film like, with sharper picture,
    richer colors and deeper blacks. It does stand out!

    I'm also surprised by how many "average Joe" people I work
    with (and I work in a fcility of 200+ people) come up to me
    asking about HD-DVD. I think the widespread sale of HD
    16x9 displays and the availability of HD network feeds has
    made "average Joe" more aware of the benefits of a higher
    resolution format. It may be hard to believe this, but I think
    "average Joe" has become more cultivated since we have
    progressed into a more "high definition" society.

    Times have changed. The "average Joe" is more into high
    definition today than they were a few years ago. Now with
    HD-DVD players costing only $500, the temptation to migrate
    to a format that looks as good or better than HD network feeds
    is certainly strong.

    Anybody at this point taking shots at HD-DVD are certainly not
    those who are actual owners of the format. I would find it very
    difficult to believe any owner of a Toshiba/RCA HD-DVD player
    making any negative comments about HD-DVD. In fact, I can
    make a promise to anyone considering buying HD-DVD that the
    difference in quality will be so substantial that you'll be hooked.
    There are so many of us right now buying a lot of HD-DVD titles
    and anxiously waiting for newer and better releases. This new
    format is absolute eye-candy.

    I think HD-DVD is off to a great start. The format is affordable
    and the quality of product being put out there is consistently
    top-notch.

    I wish I could say the same about Blu-Ray's launch. With all
    the problems being reported, I do hope the format has a
    successful relaunch in October.
     
  17. Chris Gerhard

    Chris Gerhard Screenwriter

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    True and I have owned SuperBeta, Super VHS, Hi-8, EDBeta, W-VHS and D-VHS for home recording. Super VHS offered the best quality/value for home use until D-VHS which thankfully uses the same videotape and I continue to use that. EDBeta and W-VHS were very good analog formats but tape was too expensive.

    HD DVD should do much better than SVHS as far as consumer market share since the software is the driving factor. SVHS had a pretty good run as a professional format as did Hi-8.

    Chris
     
  18. Alf S

    Alf S Banned
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    I work with an office of 150+ "average middle-class Joe's" and I'd venture to bet 3 out of the 150 even know there is two new DVD formats.

    Sure if ya own one now I'm sure it's exciting to you...but knowing you will only be able to buy a fraction of the movies that will be availble, since many will obviously only be BR, isn't too exciting...neither is spending $1200-1500 total to actually get to SEE all the movies (BR + HD machines)....Average Joe's will completely bypass the format war when they see the full marketing blitz this Fall.

    Imagine how many pissed off "average Joe's" there will be when they walk into a box store, see their fav movie being played on say BR machine...decide that "DAMN! that looks great, I gotta buy it!"...sales drone NEVER mentions that the customer will never be able to watch many other movies they like because they are in HD only.....then they get home, find out the truth and at that point they either return the machine, or worst case, they are past the 14 or 30 day return policy and are left with a machine that plays only a few of the movies they WANTED to see in Hi Def DVD.

    You don't have to OWN a machine to realize the fluster cluck that this will cause when the marketing/sales blitz hits full steam...it will be a mess.
     
  19. AaronSCH

    AaronSCH Second Unit

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    I do not work for Toshiba and I haven't been hired as a shill for the HD-DVD camp. I bought the HD A1 on a whim cause I thought I would see what all the fuss was about. I fully expected to box the thing up after viewing a couple of discs. Well, it never made it back in the box. There is a huge difference between my standard DVDs and the ones I re-purchased in HD DVD. HUGE DIFFERENCE. I had nearly a thousand standard DVDs and believed that there simply was no need for another format and that DVD was good enough. I don't even have a newer HDTV. My Hitachi has a DVI input...no HDMI but I tell you the picture can nearly bring tears to your eyes. I am so convinced that I have put all my standard DVDs on Ebay. I even parted with Limited Editions and Criterion titles. The HD DVD versions are just so much better that it didn't even phase me to sell them. Hey, I realize that not everyone is gonna do what I did but my personal experience motivated me. The difference is clear.
     
  20. Jerome Grate

    Jerome Grate Cinematographer

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    Aaron, I tell you... there are reviews, praises and then there are testimonies. It's testimonies like yours that motivates me and therefore, I've got 60.00 in towards a Toshiba. I'm getting this one.
     

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