http:/Next Generation of Optical Disks...two sides

Clint DeBoer

Clint DeBoer

<font color='#000000'>That cartridge container has GOT to go... I would like to see &nbsp;hybrid, backwards compatibility - and that cartridge isn't going to cut it... It certainly would protect the discs better, but a new format right now that differs from existing technology will only fraction the market (who is now finally turning to DVD in droves)

Hopefully, like CD-R, this technology will migrate to an open disc format... and enable dual laser, backwards compatibility. Either that, or it doesn't have a prayer of being widely adopted for about 3-5 years. Think Betamax...</font>


Junior Audioholic
<font color='#000000'>I'm curious hawke, why don't you like the cartridge...and what difference does it make ?

SONY will be doing stuff like this FOREVER...because that's what they do.</font>


Junior Audioholic
<font color='#000000'>Another article on the new DVD technology...but this is more informative. Courtesy of

Factions Debate HD-DVD

by Terence P. Keegan

(Sept. 19, 2002) -- In April 1997, as Warner Home Video took its first slate of DVD titles to nationwide markets, the FCC adopted deadlines for television broadcasters’ transition to digital television, including high-definition signals. Even as over 1,000 of the nearly 1,300 commercial broadcasters missed the FCC’s May 1, 2002 deadline for getting their first digital signal on the air, DVD’s founding fathers, sensing their format has generated its own momentum towards an HD marketplace, have begun to more loudly lobby for their respective HD-DVD visions.

As in other HDTV battles fought over the past 15 or so years, the key point of contention for the DVD industry is how much of the existing infrastructure (from authoring systems, to replication lines, to consumer players) needs to change to accommodate high-definition video.

Currently three proposals—two for new blue-laser formats and one for an enhanced version of the current red-laser DVD—claim to offer minimal disruption to the production infrastructure, backwards compatibility for consumers that have just begun to build their standard-definition DVD libraries, faithful recording and reproduction of HD video, and the ability to accommodate highly sophisticated copy protection. But under the talk of smoothly managed transitions, rumors fly of potential further splintering amongst the several format factions, as each company weighs the strength of its current DVD revenue streams against that of its next-generation technology patent portfolio.

Warner Bros. continues to pitch fellow studios and the DVD Forum on amending the current DVD-Video specification to include a more efficient video compression method that would enable DVD-9 discs to carry HD video signals. Alan Bell, Warner’s senior vice president of technology, detailed the progress of the proposal in a panel on emerging formats at the DVD Entertainment conference in Universal City Aug. 22. Advantages to the DVD-9 approach, he said, include a minimum retooling of today’s DVD specification (and disruption of the market), and the ability to retain today’s DVD manufacturing infrastructure, where DVD-9 replication sells for well under $1 a disc. (Time Warner, whose manufacturing plant was instrumental in creating a viable DVD replication process, licenses its DVD patents through the DVD6C joint pool.)

Following Warner’s presentation to the DVD Forum of the HD-DVD-9 idea last November, the Forum’s Steering Committee directed a subgroup, named AH-08, to test new compression methods. At the same time, the Forum’s WG-1 was assigned to study how to extend the DVD-Video specification “just from the point of view of a new codec,” Bell said. In other words, the group is not looking to change DVD’s navigation structure or menus.

Bell expects the AH-08 group to make a technical recommendation for an HD codec to the Steering Committee at its Sept. 29 meeting. Among the types of compression under evaluation is H.26L, which is slated to be part of the MPEG-4 standard. Bell, who during his time at IBM played a key role in unifying the CE, IT Hollywood worlds to establish DVD, emphasized that HD-DVD9 could be complementary to and compatible with any future blue-laser formats. “Warner Bros. believes red and blue both have a role,” he told DVD Entertainment conference attendees.

As DVD player prices drop to well below the $100 mark, CE firms are eager to create a new high-end with blue laser products. In late August, Toshiba and NEC formalized their proposal to the DVD Forum of a blue-laser format that retains DVD’s current construction of two bonded 0.6mm discs to provide “a cost-effective upgrade path for media vendors.” Using a 405nm laser, and featuring a 36Mbps data transfer rate, the format increases the capacity of prerecorded discs to 15GB for a single-sided, single-layer disc, and to 30GB for a single-sided dual-layer disc; single-sided/single-layer recordable discs would have a capacity of 20GB. Toshiba and NEC plan to amend their proposal to include a 40GB single-sided, dual-layer recordable disc as well.

The format is effectively Toshiba’s answer to Blu-ray, the disc format announced in February by Sony, Philips, Matsu####a, Pioneer, LG, Hitachi, Samsung, Sharp and Thomson. Since its first press release, Blu-ray has purported to be designed for consumer HDTV recording first and foremost. Nevertheless, the format’s proponents are lobbying IT and content firms to make Blu-ray the future standard for computer data storage and prerecorded HD video distribution as well.

Philips has already begun a licensing program for the Blu-ray specification (at, which like current DVD-Video and HDTV broadcasts employs MPEG-2 as its codec. The 1.2mm-thick, cartridge-encased Blu-ray disc uses a 405nm blue-violet laser, with a new 0.1mm “optical transmittance protection disc layer” structure, to record up to 27GB on a single-sided 12cm phase change disc. Its 36Mbps data transfer rate helps to enable simultaneous recording of broadcast HD video and playback of disc content.

Commercialization of Blu-ray is expected to follow the emergence of HDTV markets worldwide: first in Japan and Korea, possibly late next year.

Regarding infrastructural changes that would need to be made for Blu-ray to ultimately replace today’s DVDs, a spokesperson for Philips said, “Content owners have indicated that they expect new and innovative functionality in any new publishing format. This means that certain upgrades of authoring tools may be necessary.” Despite the 0.1mm “cover layer” approach and the use of a cartridge, Philips expects that “mostly the same equipment can be used” for Blu-ray disc replication.

The DVD Forum, which Toshiba chairs and on whose Steering Committee the nine Blu-ray companies sit, established in February two subgroups to respectively study both blue laser approaches for a next-generation DVD standard. Another subcommittee has been asked to hatch out the non-technical aspects of combining the formats into a single next-generation HD-DVD format.

Talks of unity have been going slow. Asked whether the Blu-ray group believed the DVD Forum was necessary to introduce DVD’s next generation, the Philips spokesperson stated, “Blu-ray is a new technology and therefore there is no specific reason to handle it in the DVD Forum. The companies working together as Blu-ray Disc founders will work together closely with CE, IT industry and content owners to establish and promote the Blu-ray Disc format.”

The blue laser DVD fight follows the same lines as the pre-DVD scuffles of 1995, in which Toshiba and Warner mounted a coalition behind their Super Density (SD) format to check the Multi-Media CD (MMCD) ambitions of Sony and Philips. Back then, it took the formation of a Technical Working Group of computer makers and a Hollywood Advisory Committee of studios to withhold support for either format and keep pressure on the factions to reconcile their differences.

But not long after the establishment (on paper) of the DVD format family, Sony and Philips proved they wouldn’t hesitate to split the Forum in the marketplace if they didn’t get their way. In 1997, the CD co-founders announced plans to independently market Super Audio CD and DVD+RW, while the Forum went ahead with the DVD-Audio, DVD-RAM and DVD-RW specifications. In the five years since, neither the -Audio nor the -RW “format war” has attracted many spectators, with surround music and rewritable data storage registering little consumer interest.

Following the round of federal “mandates” and “deadlines” on DTV implementation, many in the recording media industry assumed that regardless of whether consumers cared about it, a mass market for HD products would exist around 2006, the year by when the FCC has ordered consumer electronics makers to include over-the-air digital tuners in all TV sets. But as reported in Medialine sister magazine DigitalTV Television Broadcast last month, broadcasters, cable companies and manufacturers are all blaming each other for lagging behind in the government’s DTV transition schedule.

Still, consumers’ love for DVD is generating sales of HD monitors, which average over $2,200 in price: analyst Tom Edwards of NPDTechworld told DigitalTV that a majority of the 2.7 million digital “TVs” currently installed in homes are high-definition monitors purchased for DVDs and gaming. Out of the nearly 1.8 million digital products sold through May 31 this year, Edwards reported that just over 100,000 were integrated DTV sets. NPD estimates some 20 million TV sets are sold per year. (The firm’s figures do not include sales data from Wal-Mart.)

HDTV or not, there is reason to take the Blu-ray group’s threat of forging ahead without industry-wide consensus seriously. So far, the saber-rattling has caused a concerned band of videophiles and online DVD reviewers to set up a website,, from where they’re waging a “One Format Only!” campaign.

Studios, none in any hurry to fundamentally alter their booming DVD business, are also trying to steer discussions onto a calmer one-format course. At Warner’s urging, the Hollywood Advisory Committee has reformed to draft a “wish list” of requirements it would like any HD-DVD format to meet. Rather than specifying technical properties like laser wavelength, the new wish list will detail requirements for features like image quality, interactivity, program duration and of course, copy protection, for which Bell remarked simply, “A new method has to be identified.”

Bell said in August that the studios will move forward in the list’s publication “in the next weeks or months.” Asked whether it was fair to compare the current HD-DVD situation to the MMCD vs. SD flap of 1995, Bell agreed, “It is a comparable situation, in as much as there are two major proposals for a blue-laser format. As before, two formats is one too many.”</font>

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