by Adam Smith
Whether you like it or not, in a few years time your collection of DVDs will soon be as outdated as laser discs and Betamax cassettes.
Sony and electronics giant Toshiba are currently battling it out as to who will supply the next generation of video media, much like Betamax and VHS did with the video cassette a generation earlier. The new style optical disc, visually similar to the current CD/DVD are due to hit our shelves next year and promise superior picture and audio quality while still leaving space for more interactive functionality, which will be a moot selling point for film makers in years to come.
The new discs will be able to store up to 13 hours of DVD quality video compared with 133 minutes of the current DVD. The commitment to release movies in ToshibaÂ’s HD DVD format by Paramount, NBC Universal, Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema is a blow for SonyÂ’s competing Blu-ray DVD format.
Blu-ray has the commitment of many computer and consumer electronics manufacturers, including Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Samsung, but no studio beyond SonyÂ’s own Columbia TriStar Group. Sony is in the process of acquiring MGM, while Walt Disney and 20th Century Fox havenÂ’t committed to either format yet.
With the backing of the major studios ToshibaÂ’s HD DVD currently has a foot in the door, but as with any new disc they are worthless without a player to play them on. At the moment the average DVD player will cost you a lot less than Â€100 but SonyÂ’s Blu-Ray model is currently retailing at over $2000 in the Far East market while ToshibaÂ’s HD DVD will soon be on the shelves at a lower peg of $995.
The HD DVD movies will be priced Â“at a premiumÂ”, too, says Jim Cardwell, president of Warner Home Video. Â“The video is better. The interactivity is better. The audio is better. That should be worth a little more.Â” Cardwell, along with counterparts at Universal and Paramount, say the deals with HD DVD are nonexclusive.
The studios say they remain open to working with Sony. However Universal Home Video President Craig Kornblau has said Â“WeÂ’d like to see only one format.Â” Maureen Weber, spokeswoman for the Blu-ray Disc Association, isnÂ’t giving in. Â“It takes more than just a disc to create a format.Â” She says her team has the advantage because the Blu-ray format is supported by computer and consumer electronics manufacturers.
Because of its higher resolution, the new VD format is aimed at early adopters and perfect for people with newer LCD and Plasma screens. DonÂ’t throw away your DVD collection just yet though, with the cost of the hardware combined with the greedy attitude of the American studios the new format will be slow to catch on.
Meanwhile Sony and Toshiba have promised that the current DVD discs will play on the new high definition models if you want to afford one. It could take years and lots of well-heeled consumers for the new format to take off and be as popular as the current DVD.