Blu-ray Disc vs HD DVD
When I'm not symbiotically attached to my computer, or haven't got my nose in a book, I like to listen to music and watch movies. It's the latter I want to touch on today (my audiophile habit will have to wait for another post).
DVD is great for watching movies at home: you get to see the whole thing (both in terms of not being censored by overly-sensitive TV networks, and being able to see the whole picture the director intended you to see, i.e., not the half-screen 4:3 aspect ratio most networks still broadcast movies in) without adverts, and the quality is much better than VHS. But the picture quality is still low res, especially here in North America where we a saddled with NTSC (Never The Same Colour) at a pathetic 640 pixels x 480 interlaced lines (the PAL system used in the UK and elsewhere has much better picture quality, and at 768 pixels x 575 interlaced lines, is higher resolution too).
So enter the age of high definition TV. It started out as 720 (or thereabouts) interlaced lines--which I refer to as "medium definition"--written as 720i, but proper high definition is 1920 pixels x 1080 interlaced or progressively scanned lines, written as 1080i and 1080p respectively. The storage requirements for a high def movie far exceed the capacity of today's DVD (about 8 GB for a dual-layer DVD), so a successor with greater storage capacity was required.
Unfortunately, there are two competing standards for high def playback: Blu-ray and HD DVD. While both formats will play CDs and regular DVDs, Blu-ray and HD DVD are incompatible with each other. So, we have a media war on our hands; how to chose?
Both formats support 1080p (although current HD DVD players only go as far as 1080i; Blu-ray players go all the way to 1080p), and both support 7.1 sound in addition to uncompressed Dolby Digital and DTS. But from a technical point of view, HD DVD is inferior to Blu-ray: HD DVDs have a capacity of 15 GB per layer compared to Blu-ray's 25 GB, and HD DVD's bandwidth peaks at 36 Mbps compared to Blu-ray's 48 Mbps.
Perhaps for the end consumer, the most important feature is studio support, and Blu-ray winds the day here too: 7 of the 8 major movie studios (Warner, Paramount, Fox, Disney, Sony, MGM, and Lionsgate) have announced titles for Blu-ray, compared to only 3 (Warner, Paramount, and Universal) for HD DVD--and I reckon it won't be long before Universal announces support for Blu-ray. (Blu-ray is also the disribution medium for games on Sony's PlayStation 3.)
From a geek's perspective, there's one other issue: Sun is a Blu-ray supporter (all Blu-ray players feature Java technology), and Micro$oft supports HD DVD, so there's a good reason not to pick HD DVD! (Can you imagine the uproar if HD DVD players started spreading viruses?!) Given that Sun supports Blu-ray, I guess it's only a matter of time before Solaris and OpenSolaris support burning them.
Unfortunately, I don't have any cash to spend on these sorts of toys, which from a certain point of view is a good thing: by the time I can afford a high def player, the media war will be over and either Blu-ray or HD DVD will emerge as the clear winner (and if I could afford a player today, I'd buy a Blu-ray player without hesitation). I'm not a gambling man, but if I was, my money would be on Blu-ray winning the high def media war. What about you?