Blu-Ray has won the Hi-Def war!

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The HIGH DEFINITION DEBATE and HD THREAD

Post by GeorgeC » December 9th, 2004, 11:44 am

Just when it seemed like things were settling into a bunch of home video companies settling for the HD-DVD format (41% of the market, to be exact), Disney comes in and backs Sony's Blu-Ray format!

Ay-Caramba!

This is going to be a bloody mess if the trend continues. It's VHS versus Betamax all over again.

It's already going to be very expensive for most consumers to upgrade to high-definition at any rate. You still have to pay AT LEAST $600 for a decent flatscreen widescreen high-def tube TV. ( <= That's for a 26-inch set. Believe me, you have to get AT LEAST a 37"-42" widescreen to get something that looks as big or bigger than a conventional 4:3 format 27" TV set. 26" widescreen high-def TV sets look SMALL.) If you want one of the good-sized (over 30") flat screen DLP, plasma or LCD high-def TV models, expect to pay well over $2000 for something that doesn't fit in the palm of your hand.

Video insiders are already saying the new high-definition DVD players (Blu-Ray, HD-DVD, or supporting BOTH) are going to cost $1000 MSRP next fall so don't expect rebates less than $800 for any good models of high-def DVD players. These expenses combined witht the uncertainties of format choice make for a potentially big disaster next year.

I seriously thought that if a next-generation disc format had been settled by this past spring that high-def DVD (Blu-Ray our HD-DVD) might become mainstream AT THE EARLIEST by 2007 assuming that high-def TV and high-def DVD player prices drop down to reasonable prices for most people. (IE, $200 or less for the new DVD players, $1000 or less for good high-def sets that aren't tube sets.)

Looks like the earliest this new DVD format might become mainstream now is 2010, maybe even 2012 at the rate things are going...



P.S. -- Don't label me a pessimist. I consider myself more of a realist and as having a clue as to what people will REALLY spend for entertainment. Right now, hardware costs alone are going to keep most people (and MANY film enthusiasts) from upgrading to high-def.

I just don't see many people paying for $2000 for decent high-def setups next year. It doesn't make sense when you consider the new DVD format has NOT been settled and that so little is being broadcast in high-def over cable or satellite anyway. Nothing that you don't have to pay a nice premium for at any rate...

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Post by Ben » December 10th, 2004, 10:24 am

As with DVD, hardware rates will come down soon enough.

What the studios are aware of, and want to capture, is the "early adopter" market. People that take to the new formats early and want the latest, and best, quality.

People like me!

I'm torn at the moment on which to get, but there are already manufacturers offering potential dual-format players.

After all, if my DVL-919 can play LaserDiscs and DVD, the next-gen will be able to play a Blu-Ray and an HD-DVD in one machine. At least the sizes are the compatible for a start!

This will be a see how the market goes approach for many, though as and when titles become available on either fomat, I will be tempted to start collecting, like I did with my jump from VHS to LD and from LD to DVD.

Let's see...in my home viewing history I've gone through a lot of formats now: 8mm, Suoer 8, 16mm, V2000, Betemax, VHS, LD, CD-I, DVD and now Blu-Ray/HD!

Can't wait for H3DC - Holographic Three-Dimensional Cube, coming 2020-ish! :)

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Post by GeorgeC » December 10th, 2004, 10:36 pm

I'm really skeptical about high-definition right now.

What I've seen on display at stores hasn't won me over. Besides sticker shock price, the video quality really hasn't looked that good to me.

The video images I saw on most of the high-def TVs on display looked "squiggly" and had compression artifacts all over the place. If this is supposed to replace 16mm film, please let's not ditch 16mm film yet!

As I was watching an American football game play on the test sets, I noticed how the images horribly broke up during the action and that image didn't clear up again until the action stopped! This is a horrible way to display new technology, yes, but I have to wonder if the bugs really haven't been worked out yet. I still occasionally catch bugs on current DVDs and the problem could get worse with the higher-resolution formats coming out next year.

Seriously, the high-def tubeset TVs (older technology) looked MUCH better than any of the plasma, LCD, or DLP models I saw on display. I have to say though that the LCDs generally looked the worst of all the high-def types, though.

One thing I noticed about practically all the high-def sets (with the exception of the high-def flatscreen tubes) was that the images get progressively worse as you get closer to the sets. I can sit about 2 feet away from a regular TV set and the picture looks fine. If you sit the same distance from a high-def sit, the image looks really bad and broken up. You can literally count the pixels on the screen and it "looks like virtual vomit." It's only when you get 5 feet or further away that the image starts to look "decent."

After hearing stories of what happened with DVD the first time around, I'm glad I DIDN'T jump in and start collecting DVD until the third year it was out and got a Pioneer model (5-years-old and counting) that's still fairly reliable to this day. So many of the early DVD players and discs were buggy and just didn't live up to the hype of the format. There were incompatibility issues and a lot of the first- and second-wave DVDs were just dumps from the old laserdisc masters and looked AWFUL.

With the format war looking more likely, I think I'm staying out of the first round of high-definition DVD next year. There are advantages to sticking out of a bloody mess that will leave a bunch of people with buggy incompatible hardware and discs that will most likely be unusable 3 years from now...

I've learned my lesson about early adopting from my Sega fanboy days. As much as I like my Saturn and Dreamcast videogame players, fact is that they bombed hard and are dead formats.

There's no question that there will be a casualty or two after the dust sets on the Blu-Ray/HD-DVD war.

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Post by Ben » December 11th, 2004, 8:27 am

Totally agree George.

Tube sets will win out in the end, no matter what, in the technical stakes. Unfortunately, people want "bigger, flatter!" and that's not there yet - especially on plasma screens (apart from looking cool, I've not ever seen one plasma screen that I'd actually want to own).

I would say, though, that if you're watching off-air HDTV, be aware. There ARE very many coding issues that have not been resolved. Pic quality in this instance isn't the great leap and bounds ahead of what we get on DVD now.

BUT...check out an HD source from a true HD master, and it will knock your socks off. Not to the extent that average Joe will want to dump his current set up and hop on the HD bandwagon, but the difference IS there.

BUT (again!), be aware that this is essentially 2K resolution HD we're talking about. As this becomes cheaper and more practical to market (even at the currently high prices), the Studios are already experimenting with 4K res, and Japan even has a 5K prototype.

We'll all have to upgrade after HD/Blu-Ray anyway!! :)

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Post by James » December 11th, 2004, 11:36 pm

What HD are you guys watching!
What I've seen on display at stores hasn't won me over...
The video images I saw on most of the high-def TVs on display looked "squiggly" and had compression artifacts all over the place. If this is supposed to replace 16mm film, please let's not ditch 16mm film yet!

As I was watching an American football game play on the test sets, I noticed how the images horribly broke up during the action and that image didn't clear up again until the action stopped!
Stores are notoriously bad at displaying HD properly.

First off, most stores actually are not displaying HD on their HD set! Most stores are using a regular DVD with HD commercials on them. Bust since current DVDs can't play HD these commercials and promos have been down-rezzed to standard def. The only way to see true HD on these store models is if they run cable, satellite, an HD OTA feed, or an HD DVR to all the TVs which rarely happens.

Which brings us to the second problem with store displays. Let's assume you're lucky enough to find a store that acually runs HD signals to its sets. How many TVs do they have to split that signal to? 10? 20? More!? Serious degradation can occur when the signal has to be split so many times.

The third problem is the stores themselves. They usually just pull these sets out the box, stick a wire in them, and turn them on. Or worse, they set them up wrong out of the box. I was at a store once that had LOTR playing on a 42" plasma. It looked awful! I peeked behind the set and they actually had hooked to the DVD player with a plain coaxial wire - the worst way to send a picture to your set! And then I noticed the picture was filling the screen. LOTR was in 2.35:1 aspect ratio, so on a widescreen monitor there sould have been bars at the top and bottom. But they had set the TV to zoom in so it filled the screen! Why do they not take the time to properly prepare these very expensive sets! I wouldn't buy one either if I only knew what I know based on store displays!
One thing I noticed about practically all the high-def sets (with the exception of the high-def flatscreen tubes) was that the images get progressively worse as you get closer to the sets. I can sit about 2 feet away from a regular TV set and the picture looks fine. If you sit the same distance from a high-def sit, the image looks really bad and broken up. You can literally count the pixels on the screen and it "looks like virtual vomit." It's only when you get 5 feet or further away that the image starts to look "decent."
If you think HD only looks decent, then you haven't seen HD!

You're right about sitting within 2-3 feet of widescreen sets. But the same is true of any set that big. And why would you want to sit 2-3 feet away from a 42" or bigger screen!
Tube sets will win out in the end, no matter what, in the technical stakes. Unfortunately, people want "bigger, flatter!" and that's not there yet - especially on plasma screens (apart from looking cool, I've not ever seen one plasma screen that I'd actually want to own).
Other than maybe shadow detail I think plasmas are the best choice for HD . Tubes still win out overall, but plasma is not the anywhere near the bottom of the barrel on picture quality!

Plus room design is a major consideration for home theatres these days. Before there was no choice. You want a 42" screen or bigger, you have to get a big ol tube TV! Without todays flatter screens I just would not be able to have a bigscreen HD TV!
I would say, though, that if you're watching off-air HDTV, be aware. There ARE very many coding issues that have not been resolved. Pic quality in this instance isn't the great leap and bounds ahead of what we get on DVD now.
What are they feeding your sets over there! The only DVDs I have seen that even come close to my HD pictures are the recent Pixar films! And even then the difference is noticable - ABC recently aired Monsters Inc in HD - I wish I could have saved it! The big problem here with HD from the networks is that a lot of them are using subchannels, which means less bandwidth for the HD signal, which means a more standard def looking picture with compression artifacting problems.
BUT...check out an HD source from a true HD master, and it will knock your socks off. Not to the extent that average Joe will want to dump his current set up and hop on the HD bandwagon, but the difference IS there.
I get several HD channels at full ATSC standard 19.3mbs power and the picture is beyond stunning. And that bitrate is far below HD masters, or even the rate the networks send over their satellites!

If you think HD is just "decent" or won't "knock your socks off" then you really need to find a qualified dealer to show you a propely set dislay playing some true HD material! The difference is almost as big as between B&W and color!

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Post by Ben » December 12th, 2004, 5:04 pm

James...check my post out again - I'm agreeing with you!

"Check out an HD source from a true HD master, and it WILL knock your socks off".

As someone working on a TV project right now, we're seeing a lot more material being originated in HD, and the difference is stunning.

The subchannel "problem" is something that will put off many people who don't see a true signal.

You're lucky in that you can get such a signal - here in the UK, broadcasters have pretty much decided to stick to 16x9, which is nuts!

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Updates on Mike Kunkel and the high-definition DVD war...

Post by GeorgeC » December 17th, 2004, 1:38 am

After the collapse of the Herobear animated feature film at Universal, Mike Kunkel is working as the animation supervisor on a Mexican animated feature called "Maya: La Primera Gran Historia" (English translation: Maya - The First Great Story).

"Maya" is being produced by Mexico City-based Animex, one of the few Mexican animation studios in existence. The film is due out in 2006.

On the DVD front, a Slate article weighs in on the upcoming HD-DVD/Blu-Ray war at http://slate.msn.com/id/2110495/

Frankly, I think the author of the Slate article makes too many presumptions about which format is superior to the other. The consumer will ultimately decide which standard becomes adopted (Hollywood will NOT back two rival formats in spite of optimism that SOME next-generation DVD players will support both formats). I hear a bunch of hype but until I see side-by-side tests of the machines running the same movie encoded for each format, I'm not buying into a bunch of technical specs that mean nothing to anyone other than a stereotypical computer geek.

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Post by GeorgeC » December 17th, 2004, 1:41 am

Shoot!

I should have mentioned the news about Kunkel's involvement in "Maya" was in the December 7-13, 2004 issue of Hollywood Reporter.

I'm a long-distance subscriber of the daily rag so I'm usually a few days behind in getting my copy of the magazine.

(I get the magazine for free so I've got no complaints about late issues. It was a gift from somebody who wanted to cash in Flight Miles before the magazine offers expired.)

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First announced high-def anime titles for Region 1

Post by GeorgeC » December 30th, 2004, 10:08 pm

ADV Film's press release as seen at Anime News Network.com and Anime on DVD.com:

"ADV Films Announces HD Titles (2004-12-30 12:45:01)
ADV Films has sent out a press release announcing the upcoming released of High Definition versions of Noir, RahXephon, and Full Metal Panic! These titles will be released in 2005 in Windows Media High Definition Video format with 5.1 DTS audio."

Same deal as the Terminator 2 Extreme Edition. You have to have a snazzy PC setup with a nice monitor, or an HDTV and Windows Media 9/10-compatible DVD player.

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The high-definition war and costs of upgrades...

Post by GeorgeC » January 15th, 2005, 8:39 pm

The upcoming conversion of home video to high-definition will not be cheap for anybody.

Besides the confusion over competing disc formats, HD-DVD versus Blu-Ray, and unsubstantiated claims, there's the fact that consumers and broadcasters are being dragged kicking and screaming into a high-definition age that's been talked about for at least twenty years now.

In the end, the consumers will decide if this is a success or a debacle.

I think that for at least 2 years, we're looking at a debacle. With competing formats for the next generation video disc format and a heavy premium to buy sets actually capable of displaying the differences between current DVD media and the next-generation, home video producers are basically shooting themselves in the foot...

(There's also the not-so-insubstantial fact that consumers already pay a high-premium for standard cable services that DO NOT include high-definition broadcasts. To get HD-broadcast, you have to buy a digital setbox service for an additional fee on top of buying an HD TV set.)

Again, I think it's going to be AT LEAST 2 years (2007 at the earliest) before high-definition settles into one standard format that people can live with. Right now, the uncertainty of what to buy is too big a risk for most of us who are smart enough to realize the dangers of being an early adopter. What makes the decision NOT to upgrade this next year even easier is the costs involved and the fact that early HD hardware and HD software product will inevitably be short on the promised extras features and full of bugs.

It's not a pretty picture.

At the very least, a standard format COULD have been agreed on, but all the concerned parties pushing the drive towards a medium the general public ISN'T asking for got too greedy and split into two camps. The costs of the projection hardware (HD TVs) and HD players would definitely have kept most people out of the game even if a standard HD disc format had been agreed upon...

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High-definition DVD fight learning towards Blu-Ray... Sorta

Post by GeorgeC » March 11th, 2005, 1:03 am

The Digital Bits reports today (Thursday) of Apple's official backing of the high-definition Blu-Ray format.

A lot of multimedia types use Macs to produce websites, artbooks, magazines, and yes, VIDEOS. That 5% market share Apple is a very powerful elite group in the creation of multimedia product.

Final Cut Pro/Mac platform is the preferred film editing instruction/training tool for a lot of film schools and 1-year technical certification academies.

There's already an upgraded version of Final Cut Pro supporting hi-def as well as a consumer software (iMovie HD) supporting high-definition resolution. The only thing Mac consumers lack is a supported high-def format that they can burn discs to.

There's no question that the computer industry is backing Blu-Ray since it favors higher capacity discs and the Blu-Ray specs in other instances look better than HD-DVD. Of course, this is all theoretical until we all see the FINAL product. There really may not be much, if any, visual difference between the competing formats...

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Post by Ben » March 11th, 2005, 9:04 pm

And of course, if the rumors are true, Apple chief Steve Jobs' Pixar would love to see their movies put out on Blu-Ray, which Disney just happens to have announced support for.

Wonder if they really will hold out and see the lay of the land post Eisner - maybe we'll see The Lamp try and get back in bed with The Mouse after all?

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Post by GeorgeC » March 11th, 2005, 10:29 pm

Far be it for me to speak for somebody else, but I think Christian was leaning towards that way of thinking, too.

It's been my contention that a lot of the theatrics put on by Jobs is a ploy to get back with Disney AFTER Eisner leaves, too...

Assuming they (the Disney Board) don't replace Eisner with one of his lackies or Robert Iger.

Of course, Pixar's other option is to set up their own distribution for their movies but I just don't see that happening any time soon.

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Post by GeorgeC » March 11th, 2005, 10:43 pm

I've also seen Blu-Ray media on sale on a website today.

When I was looking at DVD casings at TapeandMedia.com, I noticed the listing for the Blu-Ray discs.

The product listing for Blu-Ray is here http://www.tapeandmedia.com/professiona ... ue_ray.asp

The cost right now per Blu-Ray disc is $44.95! Yep, that one disc costs $45!

You can get regular DVD-R discs for $0.36 a piece if you order them in bulk...¡


Yeah, Hi-Def will hit later this year, and most likely Blu-Ray will prevail unless HD-DVD is significantly cheaper, but it won't become mainstream for AT LEAST 2-3 more years and that will depend on high-def DVD burners and HDTVs going way down in price.

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Post by GeorgeC » April 16th, 2005, 12:10 pm

More news from the Digital Bits on the HD-DVD/Blu-Ray war (14 April 2005):

"Well, it looks like CNN Money's followed up on that comment from yesterday (to Reuters) by Sony's Yukinori Kawauchi. Let's hope the industry takes notice... and that Hollywood amps up the pressure to unite the Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD camps somehow. I love high-definition, but I'm more than content to wait another year or two for the details on a single format to be worked out. Let's not have another repeat of VHS vs. Beta or SACD vs. DVD-Audio. Thanks to Bits reader Chris K. for the link."

**************************************************

You know, I'm hoping this happens and that they settle on a common format -- even if it's a somewhat bastardized hybrid format.

I'm hoping they also delay the launch another 2 years because frankly it's not smart to launch right now and HD just isn't ready or practical right now.

The monitors/TVs HAVE to go down in price first and cable service has to catch up to HD as well, too. There's just not enough HD service being offered now and it's tremendously expensive as it is for regular cable service. It won't get cheaper even if HD became standard service tomorrow.

Between the format war and the price of existing HD hardware, the home video industry is setting itself up for a VERY bad first year with HD unless the situation changes.

I frankly think they're just not ready to launch now and ought to hold off for at least 2 more years.

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