O High-Def DVD Format, Where Art Thou?
Just two weeks after Toshiba proudly announced that four major studios (Paramount Pictures, Universal Pictures, New Line Cinema, and Warner Bros. Studios) had endorsed the HD DVD format, the Walt Disney Company and its home video division, Buena Vista Home Entertainment, revealed that they would begin releasing content non-exclusively in the Blu-ray format when compatible hardware launches in Japan and North America.
Theoretically, once Blu-ray hardware starts being hawked in consumer electronics stores around the nation, you'll be able to watch high-definition movies from Buena Vista Home Entertainment, including flicks from such heavy hitters as Walt Disney Home Entertainment, Hollywood Pictures Home Video, Touchstone Home Entertainment, Miramax Home Entertainment, Dimension Home Video and Disney DVD. All total, Disney's stable of studios makes up approximately 20 percent of the home video market. Disney also announced that it will become a member of the Board of Directors of the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA).
Of course, "releasing content non-exclusively in the Blu-ray format" means Disney is leaving its options open in case the HD DVD camp starts starts promising its undying love and affection. (Oh, those fickle movie studios...)
In HD DVD-related news, Thomson (parent company of the RCA and Thomson brands) said that it will support both of the proposed next-generation DVD formats by manufacturing HD DVD and Blu-ray discs through its Technicolor business. When it comes to next-generation DVD players, however, Thomson and RCA plan to sell only HD DVD machines. "We believe that the timing is right for the introduction in 2005 of high-definition DVD players that Thomson will market under the RCA brand in the U.S. and the THOMSON brand in Europe in support of the content roll-out," said Mike O'Hara, Executive Vice President of Thomson's consumer Connectivity business segment.
Perhaps the most interesting news of the week came from Toshiba and Memory-Tech Corporation, an optical disc provider, who jointly unveiled a dual-format ROM (read-only) disc that supports playback of both HD DVD and standard DVD. Similar in concept to a hybrid SACD (in which both a standard CD and Super Audio CD layer co-exist on the same disc), the newly developed hybrid DVD/HD DVD disc has a single-sided, dual-layer structure. The upper layer stores data/video in the standard DVD format while the lower layer contains HD DVD data/video. The DVD layer has a capacity of 4.7GB (the same as a single-layer, single-sided DVD) with the HD DVD layer holding up to 15GB.
The newly developed disc is being touted as a bridge for the transition from DVD to HD DVD. According to Memory-Tech, "The new disc makes it possible for consumers to view DVD content on standard DVD players and, after purchasing an HD DVD player, to enjoy high definition content on the HD DVD layer from the same disc. The new disc structure also increases options for content providers; they can provide the same content in two formats, or use the HD DVD layer for a feature movie and the DVD layer to store promotional videos or audio content, including the movie soundtrack."
In other words, the new hybrid disc will have plenty of cool capabilities the studios won't see fit to use.