If you’ve been to Best Buy, Circuit City, or any other electronics store in the last six months, you’ve no doubt noticed that in addition to the normal DVDs, retailers are now selling Blu Ray DVDs and HD-DVDs. Since I’m resident tech-nerd around here, I thought I’d give you the low-down on these two up-and-coming formats, and explain why you shouldn’t invest in either one.
Physically, HD-DVD and Blu Ray DVD disks aren’t much different than normal DVDs. The true difference resides not on the disks themselves, but in the laser that writes to the disk. Normal CD and DVD writers utilize a red laser, whereas the blue laser that writes HD-DVDs and Blu Ray DVDs is a much shorter wavelength, which enables much more information to be written to the physical surface of the disks. In the beginning, producers had trouble with Blu Ray, because the laser wrote the data much closer to the surface of the disk than previous formats. Any scratch or smudge, no matter how minute, would render the disk unplayable. Currently manufacturers are using a protective covering to minimize this risk.
The main selling point for these two formats is that they hold much more information than traditional DVDs. A normal DVD, called a region-9, will hold 8 gigs of information. The HD-DVD will hold 15 gigs, and commercial Blu Ray disks will hold 25, although there are rumors that second generation disks will hold 33 gigs.
Why does all this matter? Well, since more and more people are buying HD television sets, they need something to play that takes advantage of their fancy-schmany TVs. The newest HD television sets will display 1080 pixels progressively (by comparison, a normal TV displays 480 pixels interlaced), but unfortunately, traditional DVDs do not have enough space to hold movies of that size. HD-DVD and Blu Ray do, which means you get a much better picture and some kick-ass audio.
Here’s why you should hold off buying a Blu Ray or HD-DVD player. Right out of the box, the HD-DVD and Blu Ray players are expensive as hell. If you own an Xbox 360, you can purchase the cheapest HD-DVD on the market at $199, but other than that you should expect to pay $500 at the low end, and upwards to $1000 for a player. Not to mention you need to buy new movies in the new format.
To add insult to monetary-injury, you might spend all that money for the new setup and discover that the one movie you want isn’t available in the format you invested in. See, many of the movie distributors are making exclusive contracts with either HD-DVD or Blu Ray, which means that even if you wanted to watch “The Fast and the Furious” in Blu Ray you couldn’t, because it only comes in HD-DVD.
Also, if you don’t have an HD television capable of displaying 1080 pixels, either progressively or interlaced, then don’t even bother. Your regular old meat and potatoes DVD player will be fine. And if you don’t have a really expensive receiver with a bad-ass speaker setup you won’t be able to utilize the audio of the HD format to its fullest.
But here’s the big thing, normal people aren’t going to want to pay all that money for what amounts to a slightly better picture and sound. The only people who will care about that will be nerds, and this is why I think the format will fail. In the nerd-world, disks are becoming passÃ©. Nerds like to rip their movies to their computer and stream those movies to the TV, which allows you to do-away with disks altogether. Hard drives are becoming larger (hell, I have over a terabyte of storage), and broadband speeds are getting faster and faster. iTunes already sells movies for download, as does Xbox Live and several other sources. Those people who are technologically advanced enough to understand the advantages of HD-DVDs and Blu Rays, will also be savvy enough to understand that they can download HD video and store it on their personal computers.
Granted, right now it’s a little bit difficult to stream HD content from a computer to a television, but fear not, nerds are on the job fixing that, and it won’t be long before streaming HD content will be as easy to stream as any other media.
At the end of the day, HD-DVD and Blu Ray represent manufacturers’ propensity to cling to the proven market strategy, and in this case the market strategy is a physical disk that holds a movie. Unfortunately, technology is moving beyond the disk as the most efficient means to sell and view movies.
So don’t worry about buying an HD-DVD or Blu Ray player right now. Save your money, and if I’m wrong you won’t have lost anything because prices will have dropped on the players and you can get one cheaper. But if I’m right, you can take that money you saved and buy yourself an awesome computer loaded to the gills with audio visual software so you can stream whatever the hell you want to your HD TV.
If you need any help setting that up you know where to find me.
And if all his bored you to tears, don’t worry”¦the dick and fart jokes will return tomorrow.