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Episode 5: Blu-Ray Strikes Back

After taking a little hiatus from my articles this summer I will start where I left off. DVD Wars! If you didn’t catch my earlier articles I’ll fill you in. There is a battle taking place in a galaxy not so far away between two emerging next generation DVD formats being HD DVD and Blu-ray. Each format has its pros and cons and each has gained support from manufacturers and major industries. For a while there was an attempt to unify the two formats until recently but that now appears very unlikely. In an ideal situation consumers would be faced with only one choice but of course in a world of rapidly changing technology that would be way too easy. Instead we have this dilemma HD DVD or Blu-ray, which will apparently come down to the average consumer standing at the local electronics store scratching his head and asking the 16-year-old kid working there to explain the differences for the fourth time (see previous articles if you need more explaining).

Originally Blu-ray excited me when I first saw the technology at the Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas. I was wowed by the possibilities of this new format. My boyish wonder soon waned however and my critical grown up mind took hold when I learned of a competing format called HD DVD. I thought great, now I’ll have to make an informed decision, that’s the last thing I want to do. Well I started looking at HD DVD and I learned that they could be more easily be reproduced since it would not take additional replication lines to manufacture them. Being involved in the DVD duplication industry I thought this was a very good thing. It would be relatively cheaper and quicker to the market. But on the technical side HD DVD seems somewhat inferior with less data capacity. HD DVD holds 15GB on a single layer and 30GB on a dual layer disc. Blu-ray on the other hand can hold 25GB and 50GB respectively. Advantage Blu-ray.

So here’s where we stand, we have HD DVD on one side claiming that they have cheaper technology compatible with current DVD and CD players and Blu-ray on the other side claiming better technology. There’s got to be something that will allow one of the formats to emerge victorious, right? As the battle has been heating up lately I see one thing that could make Blu-ray the champion and that one thing is security. While most Hollywood studios have kept their options open to which format they will back 20th Century Fox recently has come forward and endorsed Blu-ray citing better security capabilities. Hollywood like the music industry is being kicked in the teeth by piracy. In China for example where piracy runs rampant DVDs sell for only $4.99 ea. Why so low? Well they have to be somewhat competitive to the $1 pirated duplicate copies being sold freely on the street corner. With the outrageous piracy taking place throughout the world being a major concern for the studios, 20th Century Fox asked both format camps their multi billion dollar question, “What are you going to do about copy protection?” Well according to Andy Setos, president of engineering at the studio, Blu-ray had all the right answers. Could this be a fatal blow to HD DVD? It may very well be unless HD DVD steps forward with a better plan to improve copy protection thus preventing another onslaught of duplication piracy. In the end it’s the major movie studios that have the biggest stake in this and I think they alone will decide the victor, hopefully so we won’t have to.

To be continued……