There’s a war going on in the technology industry. A war that doesn’t need to be fought. In the middle of the HD revolution our momentum has been stunted by 2 new disc formats; HD-DVD and Blu-Ray. I’m not here to talk about the technology itself, I’m here to talk about the foolishness of the industry to hopefully inform the masses of the idiocy of having 2 HD disc formats.
Sony has been trying really hard to champion new formats into the entertainment industry. Betamax, DVCAM, Mini-Disc, Memory Stick and UMD have all failed to have the mass market penetration and worldwide acceptance that Sony wanted. Betamax was destroyed by VHS mainly because of the adult movie industry. DVCAM format only works on Sony equipment. Mini-Disc was too expensive for its time. No one cared about watching movies on their PSP so UMD is currently failing. Memory Stick is the standard for all Sony electronics but SD is more widely accepted by electronics manufacturers. Sony’s new trojan horse, Blu-Ray is picking up steam in the format war. Sony snuck that sucker into the PS3 and it’s the sole reason why Blu-Ray is dominating the HD format war. Every PS3 sold is another Blu-Ray sold. Several companies are supporting Blu-Ray but recently, Paramount, Dreamworks and Universal have pledged exclusive support to HD-DVD. Blu-Ray is higher density but costs more for the studio and consumer.
Next you have HD-DVD. HD-DVD is the successor to DVD. It uses the same platter but with a higher density laser. Because it uses the same format as standard DVD, it’s fairly inexpensive to produce. The players are also cheaper. HD-DVD hasn’t sold as many units as Blu-Ray, but with the advent of Microsoft’s HD-DVD add on for the Xbox 360, HD-DVD has gained some significant ground.
Blu-Ray is beating HD-DVD in disc sales. I’d say it’s 2 to 1 but it could be more. I really don’t care though. My whole problem here is that with these two disc formats, the industry is now split. If you want Transformers in HD and you have a PS3, you’re out of luck. If you want Casino Royale in HD and you have an HD-DVD player, you’re out of luck. Tell me this, why should a consumer have to decide between what movies they want to see and what movies that they’ll have to do without?
I see this as the industry screwing us consumers over. We shouldn’t have to toil over whether to buy BD or HD-DVD. The studios were already screwing us with DVD moviess anyways. A perfect example is the numerous movies that are released several times with more features in ever new release. Terminator 2 had 3 versions. I thought the Ultimate version was the most complete DVD at the time it was released. In the wake of T3 they released an Extreme version with more special features. This is called ‘fucking the consumer’. If you aren’t a collector it’s no big deal, but some of us like to collect the best versions of the movies. When a DVD is released, I always opt for the special editions for all the features. I have sold and repurchased films several times to get the better versions. I’m tired of it. Now they want me to choose between two formats and buy the movies again?
Because of this format war, we have a BD camp, an HD-DVD camp and a bunch of people sitting on the fence waiting for a winner so they can invest money in HD disc technology. Well if you own a PS3 you pretty much were coerced into the BD camp. You bought a PS3 for games, but hey it has a Blu-Ray player too. If you were an early adopter of HD-DVD or Blu-Ray, you are banking on one of the formats to win this war. What does winning mean? Well some people believe if Blu-Ray is the winner of the format war, that all studios will abandon HD-DVD and move all of their exclusive titles to Blu-Ray. The same goes for people with HD-DVD players. If HD-DVD wins, all studios will move their Blu-Ray exclusive titles to HD-DVD.
The fence sitters are thinking differently. The fence sitters are holding on to their dollars with a firm grip. They have a huge investment in standard DVD and don’t feel like purchasing all the titles they already own on HD again. They also don’t feel like investing hundreds of dollars just to get a sharper image with more pixels. These fence sitters also know of the 3rd player in the format war, internet delivered HD content.
Now if you have any meat in your head and have been paying attention, there are several ways of getting HD content without owning Blu-Ray or HD-DVD. First there’s satellite and cable. They now offer solutions that not only give you HD television programming, but new full length feature films in HD. It’s a small investment to enjoy the full resolution of your HDTV.
Next is Xbox Live Marketplace. Xbox Live Marketplace has a ton of downloadable content. If you feel like watching a newly release HD film without buying the disc, Xbox Live is the solution. You may not get special features and there’s some time you have to wait for the download to finish. All in all it’s a pretty economic solution. The HD rentals are around five bucks and you don’t even have to leave your home or check the mail to get the films. You can watch the downloads for a 24hr period and then purge them from your hard drive when you are done. Xbox Live Marketplace gets HD titles before they are available on disc too. Right now you can download The Chronicles Of Narnia in HD with 5.1 audio from Xbox Live.
Apple TV is the southpaw of internet delivered HD content. Before the year is over, Apple will announce it’s plans to start releasing HD movies on iTunes. Now consider this, everyone that owns an iPod has a copy of iTunes running on their home computer or laptop. With an investment of $299, you can get yourself and Apple TV and start streaming your HD movies from your computer to your HDTV.
Finally we have Amazon’s Unbox download service for Tivo Series 2 and 3 boxes. While the content isn’t HD, it’s still DVD quality. For most of us that is good enough. It’s cheap, works with existing Tivo technology and has a vast and increasing library of films. When all is said and done, does it really matter if the picture is in HD or not? To most consumers I would guess no. The geeks and videophiles want their HD. If Joe Schmoe consumer wants to invest in HD, he has a road of confusion ahead of him.
Another issue is quality. We all know that HD movies are beautiful to look at. The problem though is that not all HD content has the same quality assurance. Some movies are literally upscaled from their digital versions and put on a Blu-Ray or HD-DVD disc. They fill your screen and look a little sharper, but don’t hold a candle to movies that are rescanned at a higher resolution and remastered in HD. The 3D animated movies are always output from the source and look fantastic.
Is a higher resolution and sharper image worth the investment? Not to most of us. Yeah, seeing the bumps and skin discolorations up close is pretty cool, but if you think about it, the jump from DVD to HD video is not as mind blowing as the jump from VHS to DVD. In fact, if you have a player that upconverts standard DVD to an HD image, you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference with your human eyes. If you’ve watched any DVD content on an HDTV with your Xbox 360 you know exactly what I’m talking about. It looks incredible!!
So who really wins right now? DVD that’s who. No matter what happens, until the dust settles, the majority will still continue buying DVD movies. Plus if you are on the fence and MUST OWN THE DISC, DVD is the way to go. No one wants to upgrade 300+ DVD movies to HD format. No one wants to be stuck with a format that can’t play every film available in HD. Even if Blu-Ray wins this war, Paramount, Dreamworks & Universal will have no reason to switch to Blu-Ray. All the money that’s being made is being made on DVD and VOD services. The same can be said for Sony/MGM who are exclusive to BD. These studios will continue to stick to their guns until HD on disc matters and it may never matter at all.
All the studios seem to be doing is causing confusion. The market is now divided and the consumers are pissed. Sony and Toshiba couldn’t get along and their greed got the best of them. So now they are fighting for market share for what THEY believe is the future. They are force feeding us new disc technologies that we don’t need. If they think that we should purchase DVD movies in place of films that aren’t available in HD, why are they even bothering with HD discs? There’s money in technology. There are always geeks and early adopters that will buy into new technology on the first day it’s available. So there is extra money to be made at the cost of consumer confusion.
Let me shed some light on you readers out there. The studios don’t control the industry, the consumers do. A product isn’t successful until we buy it. I’m telling you right now there is absolutely no reason to invest money in any HD disc format. Don’t fool yourself. Just wait, take your time and continue buying DVD movies. As stated before, an upconverted DVD is very pleasant on the eyes. Don’t let the studios fool you into think that HD disc formats are the wave of the future, because they aren’t. Take some time to research VOD services like Xbox Live Marketplace, Amazon’s Unbox and Apple TV with iTunes. Oh and don’t forget about the future of the Playstation Network. Sometime down the line, hopefully next year, Sony will be offering movies and music downloads off of PSN. We have plenty of options. We no longer have to drive to Blockbuster or wait for Netflix DVD’s to arrive in the mail. The digital revolution is upon us and is ready and waiting.