Monday, August 20, 2007

A good reason not to buy high-def players

Well, isn't this stupid.

People who own an HD DVD player can forget about watching "Spider-Man 3" in high definition when it goes on sale during the holiday season. The movie from Sony Pictures will only be available in the Blu-ray DVD format.

Likewise, people with Blu-ray players won't be able to enjoy the action-thriller "The Bourne Ultimatum," which Universal Pictures will release only in HD DVD.

These exclusive arrangements, plus aggressive price cuts for high-def DVD players, are designed to persuade consumers to finally embrace one format or the other.

But analysts wonder if the moves will anger consumers, just as the studios and consumer-electronics companies are hoping to boost high-def DVD sales as growth in standard DVDs stalls.

Well, of course the moves will anger consumers. We made our choices when we bought the machines, and these shenanigans will only ensure that snake-bitten customers will hesitate to buy the next big thing in electronics until any format debate shakes out. And why do they have these debates? Why not release films on all available formats? Imagine if authors made arrangements that their novels would only be available in hardcover, or only in softcover, or only on audiobooks. Why would the creators of these movies deny themselves a market? "I'm proud of this movie, but you can't see it at home unless you own this or that machine." The mind boggles.

In searching for this news article, which I first read in print, I stumbled across this analysis: "Blue-Ray vs. HD-DVD: Scam of the Year?" which raises a whole other question. Do these formats really represent an advance worthy of dumping your DVD machine and all your DVDs?

Instead of filling a DVD to the very last bit (which would suggest we need a new format with more storage capacity), we often see that publishers just don’t seem to care much. Low budget releases often have high compression ratios and no extras, leaving hundreds of MB’s on the DVD unused. So if a DVD isn’t already used to its full potential, why in hell would we need a new format that has even more storage space? The answer: we don’t. Not for movies at least.

New toys are fun, but they have to be an improvement over the old toys dramatic enough to be worth the switch. I'm starting to think HD-DVD and Blue-Ray are this generation's quadrophonic records. And the cassette versus CD versus LP-style "exclusive" deals going on between HD-DVD and Blue-Ray are a good reason to avoid those formats altogether.

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Blogger Wally Conger said...

Even though I'm graduating to a 46-inch flat panel screen next month -- after living with a 20-inch set for 25 years -- I'm avoiding the HD DVD-player decision for now. Let 'em duke it out without me!

10:59 AM  
Anonymous darkbhudda said...

In Australia, we have PAL format as our standard rather than NTSC. Certain companies don't even bother converting their DVDs to PAL format, even though they still encode it as region 4 and still charge full price, as most TVs, though not all, in Australia can handle NTSC.

However my PS2 outputs NTSC as black and white. As much as I love B&W movies, I don't feel the need to watch colour movies in B&W.

And as your observation on the unused disc space attests, as well as the Superbit format, they haven't perfect the existing format. If they can't get a format that's been out for years right I've got no hope for a new format.

2:50 AM  

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