Only a month after we’ve all dropped a ton of cash on the Ultimate Matrix Collection, Warner Brothers announced their line-up of titles for the next home video format. Currently, there are two formats that are in the works and from what I’ve read, there may not be much difference between the two formats.
Format #1: HD-DVD. HD-DVD is capable of holding 30GB or a full-length high-definition movie, plus extras, on a prerecorded double-layer disc (compare that to today’s limit of 9GB for standard double-layer DVDs).
Backed by: Toshiba, NEC, Sanyo, and Memory-Tech. Microsoft is also supporting HD-DVD in its next version of Windows (support for Blu-ray is on the table).
Supporting Studios: Warner Bros., New Line, Paramount, Universal, HBO
Likely Supporters” DreamWorks (because of its ties to Universal)
Format #2: Blu-Ray. Blu-ray will go up to 50GB at launch, and Sony is reportedly working on a quad-layer 100GB disc.
Backed by: Sony, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Hitachi, LG Electronics, Matsush!ta Electric Industrial (Panasonic), Mitsubishi Electric, Philips Electronics, Pioneer Electronics, Samsung Electronics, Sharp, TDK, Electronic Arts, Vivendi Universal Games, Sun Microsystems and Texas Instruments and Thomson Multimedia.
Supporting Studios: Columbia TriStar/Sony Pictures, Buena Vista (Walt Disney, Hollywood, Touchstone, Miramax and Dimension)
Likely Supporters: MGM (soon to be owned by Sony)
Officially Undecided: 20th Century Fox, Lions Gate, Image, Anchor Bay, Criterion and many smaller distributors
Release Dates: HD-DVD: September 2005. Blu-Ray: Early 2006.
HD-DVD Announced Titles: Well, these are the big ones, in my own opinion, but there is a list of 89 titles at http://thedigitalbits.com/#mytwocents
School of Rock, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Braveheart, Batman Begins, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Dark City, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, The Matrix, The Matrix Reloaded, The Matrix Revolutions, Ocean’s Eleven, Ocean’s Twelve, The Phantom of the Opera, The Polar Express.
Blu-Ray Announced Titles: Will be announced later this year.
Where does this leave us? In a very tight spot. Not only is this a format war for the ages, but consumer confusion levels will run extremely high. HD-DVD won’t run on DVD players, and the name just sounds like it’s one step up. Blu-Ray won’t either, but the name is kinda futuristic; At least different enough to separate it from the pack. Both formats’ players will, however, be backwards compatible with DVD Video. What may happen is this: The Laser-Disc. Anyone remember that? Very few. Well, they tried that format for a while. It was backed by few, but not enough to get full studio backing. People have just about finished upgrading from VHS to DVD and are not likely to want to upgrade again, so soon. VHS lasted, as a format, for about 15 years. DVD’s been on the market for about eight or nine years, but didn’t really catch on until about three years into it’s release, when there was finally a DVD player for under $300. When these formats are released, it’s going to be a battle based on video libraries and consumer choices based on those libraries. Not only that, but are people going to be able to tell the difference between DVD and HD-DVD? Or DVD and Blu-Ray Disc? Will people care that there is a newer, better format to watch movies? The format war could very well destroy BOTH HD-DVD and Blu-Ray. The only solution to the problem would have been the best one: to combine HD-DVD and Blu-Ray into ONE format, and launch together. Because right now, it’s looking like a format civil war and the loser is us.