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Blu-ray and DVD - What's In The News?

Blu-ray versus HD-DVD News

A Bloggish Post - Streaming versus Hard Copy?

Two questions for you – are DVD and Blu-ray discs becoming pre-historic? Is streaming now a dominant part of your viewing entertainment? I’ve accumulated hundreds (thousands) of physical DVD / Blu-ray discs, but don't stream as a matter of... back-assed taste?   

Netflix, Lovefilm? On-demand services in general? My instant thought, not ‘another’ direct debit, please. I’m perfectly happy with hard discs. Not only do they give me a feeling of tactile ownership, but I don’t have to pay, once again to watch them and happy with the hard format.

Sure, I understand the convenience of click-and-watch films and experienced on-demand services at many a 'film night'. However, when I asked to watch, for example, Star Wars - A New Hope, convenience turned to an awkward sense of embarrassment.

‘Sure’, they reply, smiling smugly and proceeding to scroll through their chosen on-demand, on-line service, only to see their faces fall when my request can’t be found. The same went for many other films featuring classic 80s titles - “Sixteen Candles?” ‘Nooo’ “Can’t Buy Me Love?” ‘Umm’ “The Sure Thing?” ‘Sorry mate’…

I’m not saying these films can’t be found on ‘every’ paid-for service - but not the ones I wanted, as a connoisseur of films released more than a few years ago! This struck me as a little odd and I couldn’t help but think - another monthly £5.99 down the tubes for streaming privileges?

We generally end up padding back to mine with a few beers to watch what they want. Impressed by my collection, once again, a spanking new Blu-ray disc is selected and we settle down to a high resolution version of their own blockbuster choice. I have to add, on my unlocked Toshiba Blu-ray player. My time to internalise a smug smile.

I've asked my more tech-minded mates what they think of Blu-ray quality versus paid for streaming. The answer - after little beery discussion? A hard copy title running on decent, high-res' TV from a suitable DVD player is a far superior experience.

So what am I driving at here? I think it’s becoming a wonky case of the vinyl collector frowning upon downloaded ‘sounds’ from dubious sources. Although - I can guarantee that Blu-ray will win hands down vis-à-vis the record collector / back-in-the-day Spotify debate. Or to make myself clear, watch a visually clear, audibly clean version of a film, rather than a hoppity-skippity stream. You can fight me on this one if you like.

In conclusion, are you going to continue using a paid for streaming choice, or get off the sofa and actually visit a shop for your film collection? Come to that, you could remain snug on your sofa and use Amazon to buy a new disc. Can you wait a couple of days for your DVD to arrive and get that ‘something’s in the post’ thrill in the process?

You know what my answer to that question might be - happy to grow my DVD and Blu-ray collection as time goes on. And as you may be aware, second hand DVDs these days can be bought for a £1 a throw at pound stores or open air markets. Come join the thrift club?

Disclaimer: I have no 'usage' issue with either Netflix and Lovefilm - and simply enjoy using Amazon.  


During 2006, Blu-ray broke through to deliver a high definition format to televisions.
There is now a new step forward, that of Ultra HD Blu-ray DVD players and associated discs. Sometime very soon you are going to have to make a another decision regarding home video, ditch your Blu-ray collection and re-collect for the likes of Ultra to fit 4k new televisions? It’s a big ask.

And that’s why, here at DVDExploder we believe Ultra HD Blu-ray may be slow to appeal. I have to upgrade again I hear you ask? A minority of individuals have bought into the 4k revolution, but it is slowly happening, giving Ultra HD Blu-ray a slow burn affect in-store. But it’s going to happen anyway, lets be honest as technology get’s cheaper.

For first time adopters, those that want a pixel perfect picture and sound to blow you away, this development is a giant leap, especially from their bank accounts – although, to be honest, they may not be disappointed to leave 1080p to the dark ages of VHS.

This new-tech raises a few questions. Am I going to need another DVD player for starters, or will my old system be able to handle the data? It seems obvious right now that Internet data streaming from Netflix or Amazon is the direction of home entertainment, although this leaves a further question; will your current provider be able to cope with Ultra? After all, pixel perfect viewing will always be associated with a hard copy format.

Take a good look and you’ll notice that Blu-rays played from a 1080p device appear much slicker than Netflix’s current stream rate - all based on your home’s Internet speed. Can you handle the future of Ultra HD online – and do you really want to buy another DVD player? Whichever way, you’re always going to need a DVD code to make your wonder-device region free. Stay tuned.

Optical laser found to increase DVD storage space to one petabyte

In our ever changing technological world, movie fans have been quick to switch to digital downloads from static optical media. This poses the question, are DVDs are becoming history in terms of home cinema? Sales statistics have highlighted that Blu-ray discs have been the only optical source able to challenge this shift, in part due to the upsurge of console use.

In the latest news, digital researchers have developed a laser that could increase the capacity of the common 4.7GB DVD, or a 25GB Blu-ray disc to one petabyte. That amounts to 1000 terabytes. Consider this against cheaper hard drives currently on the market with the capacity for a single terabyte. Might this new discovery bring the humble DVD returning for space in your collection, potentially containing hundreds, if not thousands of films?

Swinburne University’s Centre for Micro Photonics have discovered that it is not the disc in itself that would make this change, but the type of ‘laser’ that reads the disc. In turn, this means that the current disc size and form would remain the same.

So, in layman's terms,  how did the Swinburne team get around what is described as Abbe’s Limit, (Ernest Abbe, born 1840-1905 - optometrist and entrepreneur) positing that a spot from a light beam directed through a lens, cannot be smaller than half of its wavelength? In short, this limits the amount of data-bits contained on the DVD disc format. Well, although Abbe’s Limit still remains a sound theory, the team did find a loophole.

To start, the team used a standard laser to write data, after which they placed a doughnut shaped laser around the first to hinder the capacity of the ray, making the standard ray’s diameter far tinier and in the process, writing smaller bits. This technique has great benefits, as the technology is both easily transportable and inexpensive. Furthermore, the success of this experiment uses simple optical and laser-beam apparatus.

Regrettably, a real-time release date for this data storage invention has yet to be revealed to the public. However, for film and data storage lovers globally, the sooner this new device hits the market, the better.

Blu-ray outsells DVD this Christmas, says Asda

Blu-ray players have finally outsold DVD players over the Christmas period, as the format starts to dominate the market five years after it's launch.

However, Blu-ray has not seen such a definitive rise over DVD players, compared to VHS's domination over Betamax in 1980s.

Asda feels that Blu-ray's modest growth is due to a "more subtle" difference in image quality.

Blu-ray supports a maximum resolution of 1920x1080 (1080p), while DVD is limited to 720x576 (480p).

Blu-ray also uses enhanced compression technology to produce smooth contrast and richer colours, superior to that of even high-definition satellite TV images.

Asda feels that with HD TVs becoming more common in UK homes, Blu-ray's superior picture quality and ability to 'upscale' standard DVDs is "at last poised to fulfil its potential".

Wayne Steenson, the vision expert at Asda, said: "More and more UK homes are now equipped to enjoy the full benefit of high-definition Blu-ray discs and we're pleased to be offering Blu-ray players at the lowest price in the market."

Government to close cheap DVD and Blu-ray loophole

So – the government wants a level playing field regarding taxation, but refuses to look at mysterious DVD player region restrictions… DVDExploder says, ridiculous!

The UK government has introduced a scheme that could well totter cheap DVD importers such as Play.com and Amazon - closing the loophole currently allowing cheap importation of DVD, Blu-ray, and CD discs from the UK Channel Islands.

In short, as of 01/04/2012, some of our favourite retailers will no longer gain the advantage of tax relief from Channel Island imports, meaning more expensive DVDs for EU residents.

The government has already chopped the Low Value Consignment Relief maximum from £18 to £15, as of 11/11/2011 (just in time for Christmas) - but was scrapped altogether in 2012. This is sad news considering that the UK and Germany are the largest Blu-ray purchasers globally. Source, Twentieth Century Fox.

This means that online retailers may have to look further afield for cheap imports, outside of the EU. DVDExploder says this will simply encourage the thriving culture of DVD piracy. After all, who wants to pay the government extra for the simple pleasures in life?

Here’s what David Gauke, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury says about the move:

"These reforms will ensure that UK companies, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, can compete on a level playing field with those larger companies with the resources to set up operations in the Channel Islands."

Or is it simply a ruse, raising further taxes to finance our floundering economy? David, please don’t use honest DVD and Blu-ray film fans to plug your financial hole. It wouldn’t even touch the sides!

Sony Blu-ray Player - IN 3D
Sony BDP-S470 HD 1080p 3D Blu-ray DVD Player

From cinema to your living room - the 3-D viewing experience can be bought from a store near you. Sony have announced the practically priced $200 BDP-S470, capable of reading 3-D discs using a new firmware update.

A number of other Blu-ray players will also be 3-D compatible using the same firmware upgrade - including the $250 BDP-S570, owing its higher cost to built-in 802.11n Wi-Fi. However, both can access online services with an Ethernet cable. The $550 BDV-E570 and $650 BDV-E770W Blu-ray home theatre systems both become 3-D capable using a simple USB wireless adapter.

One Sony system that will miss out on 3-D glory is the BDP-S370, priced at just $180.

All of these products have begun shipping and are available for purchase.

Denon S-5BD 'Cara' Blu-ray player announced

Denon has announced the arrival of its latest all-in-one Blu-ray system, the S-5BD.

The Denon S-5BD, or Cara as it is more affectionately known, is Denon's attempt at making its high-end AV kit more affordable.

Combining an 5.1-channel surround sound amplifier with a Blu-ray player, Denon is incorporating technology used in its £4,500 DVD-A1UD Blu-ray player, combining it with an amplifier which pipes out nearly 400W of sound.

Also on-board is a Compressed Audio Restorer, which promises to get better sound out of your MP3s and support for Dolby Pro Logic and Dolby TrueHD/DTSHD Master Audio.

The system is Profile 2.0 and HDMI 1.4 compatible, so you will be able to spin those 3D-Ready Blu-ray discs when they make an appearance later in the year.

Price-wise, it's going to retail for £1,999. Expensive, but compared to some of the kit released by Denon, it's a bit of a steal.

Blu-ray News: A Technology Too Far?

Blu-ray machines seemed destined to substitute basic DVD technology after out-selling HD-DVD on the high street. Does this mean that simple, reliable DVD have been usurped from our living rooms?

Strangely, although an average DVD player doesn’t match Blu-ray’s high definition quality, Blu-ray sales have been slow – so say Reevoo. In fact, since Christmas ’08, simple ‘DVD’ has outperformed its big brother, selling ten times as many units. Even Sony predicted a fall in sales for 2009.

This becomes more obvious when you look at pricing. While Blu-ray players sell for around £200, you can pick up a decent DVD player for less than £50. It begs the question – do people with a large DVD collection really want to re-buy all their favourite movies on a more expensive format, for a questionable increase in quality?   

Another reason why Blu-ray sales are suffering could be that many people happily record films from Sky+ straight to hard-drive, or download to a PC, leaving no advantage to buying new, relatively expensive hardware. 

After all, DVD solved all the major VHS problems – a cumbersome format that enslaved you to FF-RW buttons and left you wondering how eliminate an irritating flicker at the top of the screen. Remember all that? If you’re under 16, I doubt it.

In fact, Blu-ray owners might complain at the ponderous response time of their players, with a frustrating gap between pressing ‘play’ and the film actually starting. Have we somehow slipped back a few years for the sake of a crisper picture? And what’s the point of ‘high-definition’ anyway when your eyes aren’t 20-20? Okay, so I’m playing Devil’s advocate with that one.

The bottom line here is that although Blu-ray offers greater definition, just how much are we willing to spend to achieve it?

Blu-ray News: Blu-ray Production Costs Slashed

For a manufacturer, the development of Blu-ray technology (including Blu-ray Disc, DVD, and CD) has been strained by a confused licensing procedure. To integrate Blu-ray equipment into any DVD player or DVD-ROM, manufacturers must liaise with every Blu-ray patent holder and arrange a specific product license.

However, Sony, Panasonic & Philips (amongst other patent holders) have joined forces to create a united licensing authority for all Blu-ray manufacturers. An integrated licensing body will be run by an independent company based in the United States, allowing all patent holders to join as both a licensor and shareholder.

This will permit Blu-ray to grow as costs are discounted – around 40% for patent fees alone. For every product produced, licenses will be $9.50 for a Blu-ray Disc player and $14 for a Blu-ray Disc recorder. Disc fees will be $0.11 for ‘read-only’, $0.12 for a ‘recordable’ and $0.15 for a rewritable disc.

It seems that The Big Three have found a way to secure their intellectual property and pool a great deal of money in one company. Also, as royalties are paid in a more identifiable manner and manufacturers are forced to meet contractual obligations, unlicensed products will be highlighted in the market place. Indeed, a single Blu-ray licensing company should ease license-compliance issues and make chasing down non fee-paying offenders much easier.

With the creation of a new licensing body, Sony, Panasonic & Philips must feel additional manufacturers turning their attentions to Blu-ray and are jumping to secure future royalties. In fact, at CES 2009, a number of China-based manufacturers displayed Blu-ray Disc players.

Although a big score for the intellectual property owners, a 40% reduction in royalties with spell a win for consumers. As manufacturing costs fall, shoppers could see lower in-store prices by the end of the year. A decent Blu-ray player for $100 on the horizon? It seems so!

Blu-ray/HD NEWS: Amazon Offering $50 Gift Certificate to HD DVD Customers

In a move reminiscent of last month's Best Buy offer, Amazon has begun contacting customers who qualify for a $50 gift certificate for purchasing HD-DVD players.

In a company email that has begun going out to qualifying customers, the company states that players purchased before February 23, 2008, the same date specified in the Best Buy offer, qualify for the gift certificate, which can be used for new purchases on the site.

The email states, "New technologies don't always work out as planned. We at Amazon.com value our customer relationships more than anything and would like to support customers who purchased these players by offering a credit good for $50." The announcement does list some restrictions for the certificate's use.

Unlike the Best Buy offer, the company does not mention trade-in options for HD DVD media, but does state that the "Amazon.com Marketplace is available to sell items you might not want anymore as you upgrade to new ones." Perhaps suggesting that customer's might want to use their certificates to bring down the price of a shiny new Blu-ray player.

The program will run through April 9, 2009, so customers have plenty of time to take advantage of the offer.


Blu-ray/HD NEWS:

Vanguard Ends HD DVD Support with 'Disco Pigs,' Makes Move to Blu-ray

Indie Vanguard has confirmed that it will close out its HD DVD support with the June release of 'Disco Pigs,' and that it plans to begin releasing titles on Blu-ray later this year.

Although Vanguard says there will be no official statement to come, the company has released an updated high-def release schedule that confirms they will no longer issue any new titles on the format following the June 24 HD DVD debut of the Cillian Murphy-starrer 'Disco Pigs.'

Also nixed from the company's schedule were two previously-announced HD-DVD releases, 'The Low Life' and 'Animal Room.'

When asked for comment on Vanguard's future high-def plans, a company rep told us that a move to Blu-ray is currently in the planning stages for later this year. Initial titles and street date information are yet to be determined.

Blu-ray/HD NEWS: BCI Moves to Blu, Cancels Upcoming HD DVD Slate

UPDATE 03/26/08: We've received word from BCI that the 'Son of Paleface/My Favorite Brunette' HD DVD will be available via select retailers as originally scheduled. The company has no plans to support the format with any further releases. We've updated our database accordingly.

BCI/Eclipse has announced it has become the latest indie to go Blu, and has cancelled all previously-scheduled HD DVD titles.

The indie distributor was the first major indie to announce HD-DVD support in late 2006, with a line-up of diverse cult gems that included 'Galaxina,' 'Golgo 13' and 'The Way of the World.' After a delay of over a year, however, only 'Galaxina' finally showed up in stores earlier this year, joining such recent BCI HD DVD releases as 'Ultimate Force' and the Bob Hope-Bing Crosby double-feature 'Road to Rio/Road to Bali.'

BCI had originally announced its latest HD-DVD title (another Bob Hope double-header, 'My Favorite Brunette'/'Son of Paleface') was due to hit stores this week, but it failed to materialize on retail shelves. When asked for comment, a BCI rep confirmed to us that the company has nixed the release, as well any future support for the format.

Fans can still look forward to future next-gen BCI titles, however, as they will continue to throw their weight behind Blu-ray (the company has so far released 'Ultimate Force' on the format, as well as the "double feature" titles, 'Night of the Werewolf/Vengeance of the Zombies' and 'Sister Street Fighter/Sister Street Fighter 2'). According to the rep, it is planning a more aggressive Blu-ray line-up for later this year, although exact titles and street dates have yet to be determined.

Blu-ray NEWS

With HD-DVD on its last legs, it seems like a pretty good time to do a round up of some of the best and most interesting Blu-ray players on the market. Of course, it's not all a bed of roses for Blu-ray. Despite having a lot of studio support, the players come in a variety of capabilities and not one of them supports the same specification.

For example, Sony's own BDP-S1E doesn't support Profile 1.1, which means that if you buy it, you won't be able to enjoy enhanced interactivity and picture-in-picture support. A sniff around and you might get it for less than £500, but that's still more expensive than Sony's own PlayStation 3.

The good news is that if you want a PS3, it's a good Blu-ray player. Some say it's the best -- and they might be right -- because it's upgradable, has all the features of Profile 2 and Profile 1.1, and can also play PS3 games. You can pick one up for about £300 these days, which means it's one of the better valued high-end players on the market. Of course, this is because the PS3 is being subsidised by Sony. So if 20 million people bought one and never bought any games, Sony would go bust in three minutes flat.

If you don't want a Sony player, then how about going for either the high end or the low end? At the bottom of the range, there is the Sharp BD-HP20H, which at just £300 really is quite cheap for a standalone.

It doesn't support Profile 1.1, but then again neither does the Pioneer BDP-LX70 and it costs quite a lot more.

Blu-ray NEWS

Sony has formally announced its BDP-S300 Blu-ray player, which carries a $600 price tag, can handle audio CDs, and leaves Samsung's current $1,000 offerings twisting in the wind.

Sony has formally announced its forthcoming BPD-S300 Blu-ray disc player, which the company teased on Monday. At an estimated price around $600, the BCP-S300 will significantly undercut current price points for Blu-ray disc players (currently around $1,000 for units like Sony's own BDP-S1) when it ships "this summer," presumably leaving those now-overpriced players to gather dust on dealers' shelves or be sold at significant discounts to make way for the newer, younger, cheaper models.

Sony has said it expects prices for Blu-ray players to drop to under $500 in time for for the 2007 end-of-year holidays.

The BDP-S300 supports BD-ROM,BD-Java, AVC-HD, and standard DVD playback, as well as standard CD audio (a feature not present on the BDP-S1). The system can also read MP3 audio and JPEG images stored on DVD media. The unit offers HDMI and HD component outputs for supporting 1080p and 1080i output, respectively, along with optical and co-ax digital audio output, with 5.1 channel decoding for backward compatibility with many existing receivers. The player will also support discs encoded with xvYCC, an international standard enabling larger color spaces, which Sony implements under the name x.v.Color. The system also supports Sony's Bravia Theater Sync, which—when used in conjunction with Sony's new Bravia displays enables users to turn on matching connected devices and switch inputs with the touch of one button.

Expect the BDP-S300 "this summer"—in the northern hemisphere, anyway—for around $600…before that, maybe look for fire sales on existing Blu-ray players, if you can't wait to take sides in the Blu-ray/HD DVD battle.


Blu-ray News: Blu-ray vs. HD-DVD

As far as Blu-ray vs. HD-DVD goes, it seems less and less likely that negotiation will take place on a next generation format. The ongoing talks between the two camps, seem to have entirely dissolved. This is a disappointment, as the HD DVD and Blu-ray factions have wasted countless opportunities to produce one universal disc. Anybody remember Betamax vs. VHS? In a few short months we’ll have to make the decision ourselves as to what generation we choose to buy into. Other than refusing to accept either format we can at least try to appreciate the nature of the circumstances at hand.

Philips's development of the Laserdisc way back in 1969 yielded many of the technologies Sony carried over and adopted when they partnered with Philips. This helped create the groundbreaking CD in '79. The same companies worked together again in the early 1990s to create a new high-density disc called the MultiMedia Compact Disc (MMCD). However, this format was eventually forsaken in favour of Toshiba's Super Density Disc (SD), having the majority of backers at the time, including Mitsubishi, Hitachi, Matsushita (Panasonic), Pioneer, Time Warner and Thomson.

The two factions cut a deal, brokered by IBM president Lou Gerstner, on a new format – the common DVD disc we all know and love. After the dust settled in 1995/1996 Toshiba found themselves at the top of the pack, leaving Sony and Philips, who weren't fully ‘in’ on the deal’s standard technology, to begin work on a next generation system. Angered by this, Sony looked for new technological developments to outdo its rivals. In fact the Professional Disc for DATA (PDD or ProDATA), was based on an optical disc system Sony had been developing in the background. This eventually became the Blu-ray disc. Not to be outdone by the pair, Toshiba waded in with its next generation system - the Advanced Optical Disc. This soon evolved into the HD-DVD.

Ye gods! 35 years after the development of optical audio/video disc technology we see the same battling techno giants, threatening to stomp all over the consumer electronics industry. Okay, so here’s some technical clarification.

Blu-ray and HD-DVD systems use the same 405nm wavelength blue-violet laser, although their optics differ in two ways. Although the Blu-ray disc has a tighter track pitch (the thread of data that spirals from the inside of the disc all the way out – much like the groove on a 12-inch vinyl - it can hold more pits. Think of pits as microscopic 0s and 1s. This means it can hold more data on the same size disc as HD-DVD, even with a laser of the same wavelength. Amazing huh?

Unfortunately, the differing track pitch of the Blu-ray disc makes its pickup apertures differ, making its optics incompatible with HD-DVD despite using lasers of the same type. If you’re interested, HD-DVD uses a 0.65 aperture versus 0.85 for Blu-ray. HD-DVD discs also have a different surface layer, that’s the clear plastic surface of the disc holding the data. HD-DVD uses a 0.6 mm-thick surface layer, while Blu-ray has a much smaller 0.1mm layer, enabling the laser to focus its larger 0.85 aperture.

This is the main issue associated with the higher cost of Blu-ray discs. The thinner surface layer make the discs more expensive to produce, as Blu-ray discs do not share the same surface thickness of DVDs. This means costly production facilities must be modified or replaced in order to produce these discs. To make production even costlier, a hard coating must also be applied to a Blu-ray disc surface, making it tough enough to protect the data 0.1mm beneath. Why bother? Well, the benefit of keeping a data layer closer to the surface leaves more room for extra layers of data. Fantastic, more room for films and data - other than the fact a Blu-ray disc costs much more than the beloved DVD discs we have at home.

So now you know why Blu-ray discs cost more, and why Sony/Philips and Toshiba are bashing our heads in trying to sell us their products. DVDExploder’s opinion..? Keep it simple with a HD-DVD. At least it will give you the opportunity to unlock a ‘normal’ player and make them region free using handset DVD codes.

For your information - the first Blu-ray DVD player has been launched! - the Samsung BD-P1000.

The good: Plays Blu-ray discs in true high-definition; upscales standard DVDs to high-definition; sleek design; 1080p output via HDMI.

The bad: Twice as expensive as the competing HD-DVD player; very few titles available at launch; video quality on initial titles less impressive than HD-DVD versions; slower load times; some operational bugs.

The bottom line: With video quality that's impressive but still not as good as its HD-DVD competition, the costly Samsung BD-P1000 will appeal only to those willing to risk a grand on a first-generation player in the middle of a format war.

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