8. Usporedbe formata

7.1 Uvod

This section will offer a brief comparison between the various high definition DVD formats mentioned in this FAQ. The comparison will be between BD/HD DVD, and EVD/FVD, as it does not make sense to compare BD/HD DVD and EVD/FVD, since they are aimed at different market segments.

7.2 Blu-ray protiv HD DVD-a

As the format war has now officially ended, following Toshiba’s drop of HD DVD support in February 2008, much of the information presented here is of no value, other than historical value. Please treat the following information as such.

For a more technical analysis of Blu-ray and HD DVD differences, please refer to our Blu-ray and HD DVD Buyer’s Guide.

Blu-ray and HD DVD are much more similar than both lobby groups would like to admit (this is why a movement to release a unified format was created, although it looks like it now has failed), but there exists a few main differences, most of them already outlined in detail above.

The first main difference is the capacity. With BD, at least at the time of launch, there will be two choices (single/dual layer) in capacities for movie studios to choose from, both of them quite large (25 and 50 GB). With HD DVD, there will most likely be 3 choices (single, dual and triple layer), each with smaller capacities than their BD equivalents (at the same layer count). Some people might prefer having more choice over larger capacities per choice, as it provides more flexibility (in producing movie discs or buying blank media for home use), especially if the reduced capacity means lower cost. Another problem is that 50GB BDs are expensive to produce, and so most discs rely on BD25. For example, Warner Bros’s releases on both formats often use identical transfers and content, the Blu-ray release using the full BD25 and the HD DVD release using most of the space on a HD30. With modern compression codecs such as H.264 or VC-1, even 25 GB is enough to store the movie plus extra features in excellent quality.

The second main difference could perhaps be the most important difference, although not directly for you and me, but for disc manufacturers. HD DVD has been designed to be as close to current DVDs as possible, and so, production lines do not have to be changed to produce HD DVD media. BD, on the other hand, will require changes to be made, and this could mean high media costs (which won’t really affect sell-through movie sales/pricing, but will affect blank media pricing), as manufacturers try to recoup the money invested in new production lines. But Blu-ray has already responded by producing equipment which aims to bring production costs more in line with HD DVD production.

The third main difference at the moment is copy protection, in that BD has BD+ or SPDC, which HD DVD doesn’t have (yet). As mentioned in section 3.13, SPDC will allow individual BDs to carry code to prevent playback if it detects something is not right. Also, Managed Copy (see section 3.13) is mandatory on HD DVD (users are allowed to make at least one copy), and was only made mandatory for Blu-ray in November 2005 (following pressure from members of the BDA).

Interactive content for HD DVD will be provided by iHD, which is a creation of Microsoft and Toshiba, and will be implemented in Microsoft’s Windows Vista operating system as well. Blu-ray has opted for Sun Microsystem’s Java for interactive features. HP, part of the Blu-ray alliance, has requested iHD support to be added to the Blu-ray specifications, and the request is being considered. iHD is considered to be superior to Java due to its support for greater interactivity.

A major problem for early Blu-ray adopters has been the confusing nature of the specifications of early Blu-ray players (see section 3.10.1). The first Blu-ray players use what is called the “Grace Period Profile”, which lacks several features such as Ethernet connectivity for Internet based content and secondary video/audio decoders for features such as picture-in-picture. Profile 1.0 players also have limited storage space for persistent content, such as downloads and bookmarks. Profile 1.1 adds the secondary decoders and increases persistent storage size, but still does not require an Ethernet port. Only profile 2.0 players require Ethernet ports, and also increases persistent storage to 1 GB. As for October 31st 2007, all Blu-ray players manufactured must support Profile 1.1. In comparison, the very first HD DVD players includes all the features of Blu-ray profile 2.0 (with less required minimum persistent storage), and many HD DVD movies have already been produced to use advanced features such as picture-in-picture and Internet content.

Standalone prices for HD DVD is currently (November 2007) much lower than that of Blu-ray, with recent sales that saw the Toshiba HD-A2 being sold for as little as $98. In comparison, the cheapest Blu-ray player currently (November 2007) is retailing for around $400. The HD DVD groups hopes that standalone pricing for HD DVD player can remain lower than Blu-ray due to productions of CH DVD players (see section 4.10.2).

And finally, the support of movie studios will be very important if sell-through movie sales, which is the driving force behind the success of DVDs, is to be the most important factor in determining the success and failure of either format. As of November 2007, Blu-ray still have the greater studio support, although the situation has improved for HD DVD now that Paramount/Dreamworks have gone HD DVD exclusive. Warner Bros. is currently committed to supporting both formats and is the only major studio to have this stance – but this stance will end in May 2008, as Warner announced in January of the same year.

In late September 2005, Microsoft (and Intel) decided to back HD DVD over Blu-ray, and many of the above factors were key reasons for this backing (Microsoft had stayed neutral up until this point, and there were even signs that it might back Blu-ray in the end). Interestingly, both Microsoft and Intel believe that less rigid copy protection that allows copies of a movie to be made is essential for their home networking/media streaming vision. More information in this Tom’s Hardware interview with a Microsoft representative.

7.2.1 Autorovo mišljenje:

When I first wrote the guide in September of 2005, it wasn’t the case of one format having significantly more support than the other. But it later changed and as of October 2005, with Warner and Paramount both shifting towards the Blu-ray camp (while still maintaining their support for HD DVD). Judging by my existing DVD collection statistics, the break-down was 139 (57%) to 35 (15%) in favour of the BD camp, with a further 67 (28%) DVDs belonging to studios that have backed both formats. The situation continued to change in August 2007 when Paramount/Dreamworks broke away from Blu-ray to be HD DVD exclusive. My collection statistics now stand at 184 (52%) for Blu-ray, 99 (28%) for HD DVD and 72 (20%) supporting both. I suspect the situation will continue to change in this area. Of course, this is just my collection and your collection might have a different ratio. If you want to find out “which camp” you are in based on your currently DVD collection, feel free to head on to dvdloc8.com, create a collection list and view the collection’s statistics to find out (the same thing can be done with your wish list as well).

The PS3 could be a major factor in all this, although the PS3 is aimed at an entirely different market to high definition movies, and the support for the PS3 may not translate well to the home video market. So far (November 2007), the PS3 has proved to be the most popular Blu-ray player. But as expected, the attachment rate (the number of movies sold per player) for the PS3 is much lower than standalones, and reports suggest many PS3 owners are unaware or just simply don’t care about the Blu-ray playback feature.

Copy protection is something I take seriously, and I have to say I’m leaning towards HD DVD due to its lack of BD+ and generally more consumer friendly approach (although it is still far from being perfect). HD DVD being region-free is also very attractive for me, since I can import movies from the US to get them quicker (and cheaper).

One factor that people often overlook (and I did too, so thanks to D. Chambers for pointing this out to me) is the porn industry. Adult DVDs were one of the reasons the uptake of the DVD format was so quick (I seem to remember a time when adult DVDs outnumbered Hollywood movie DVDs 5 to 1, at a time when DVD uptake was still comparatively low). So far, pretty much all the porn studios have backed HD DVD, due to Sony DADC’s (the disc replication arm of Sony) hesitancy towards offering support for pornographic films. Only one studio, Vivid, supports both formats.

Another factor in the success of DVD was the available of cheap players made by Asian manufacturers, particularly China. HD DVD has embraced the Chinese market by offering the CH DVD format, which is semi-compatible with HD DVD (see section 4.10.2). It is hoped that CH DVD player sales in China can drive down prices for HD DVD players, and if recent (November 2007) sales are of any indication (where Chinese made $98 Toshiba HD DVD players were being sold), then it seems this strategy is working.

So in conclusion, both formats have their advantages and disadvantages. It’s almost impossible to say which format will be the ultimate winner, and most likely, there won’t be an outright winner at all. If we really do have to live with both formats, as it looks more and more likely, then the best thing is to either not buy into HD just yet (wait for dual-format players), or not to get involved in the HD war silliness by making yourself format neutral (having players of both formats). Whether it’s having a PS3 plus a $98 HD DVD player, or having a $399 Blu-ray player plus the Xbox 360 HD DVD drive, format neutral is the safest route to take at the moment.

Update (January 2008): This is an update in response to Warner’s decision to go Blu-ray exclusive from May 2008. This decision is a major blow on HD DVD, and if there is going to be one winner, it looks more and more likely to be Blu-ray at this stage. HD DVD still has many advantages over Blu-ray especially for the consumer, but without sufficient studio support, it’s all pretty meaningless. For a more detailed analysis of what might happen in the short and long term, and how it affects consumers, please refer to my blog post.

Update (February 2008): As expected, Blu-ray is now victorious after the biggest HD DVD backer, Toshiba, decided to drop support for the format. The final analysis shows that stronger studio support, stronger support from electronics manufacturers, and the PS3 were all likely contributing factors to Blu-ray’s success.

7.2.2 Mišljenje s www.dvdrs.net:

Technology is sometimes beyond the comprehension of the consumer and although all these standards are far better than the current DVD MPEG2 we have now I cannot see the uptake of yet another hardware change so quickly.

Consumers are still making the change from VHS to DVD and its unlikely they’ll understand the true benefits of HD for some time.

Forcing all these standards and further hardware updates on a market that has only truly accepted the DVD standard recently is crazy. Most users are only interested in getting their favourite films on seemingly lossless media and they believe that DVD is currently that. Granted its not lossless in the true sense of the actual content but consumers see it that way as no matter how many times you play the media it doesn’t degrade like older technology of VHS or BETAMAX.

Personally I think all this is currently in the high realms of the real enthusiast and I cannot see a standard being reached properly for sometime. And by the time its accepted we will be forced yet another standard to adopt and upgrade to.

7.2.2 Mišljenje s DVDHelp.us:

The difference in technologies used for HD-DVD/AOD and Blu-Ray are significant enough that they will likely play a major factor in the battle. While both camps have corporations behind them with extremely deep pockets, I believe that the eventual victory will go to HD-DVD/AOD. Blu-Ray may be able to hold slightly more data, but ultimately, that isn’t enough. New and improved future codecs will eventually be able to fit more and more on a disc, so raw storage space will always be a moot point. HD-DVD drives and discs can be more easily created on current assembly lines, saving the manufacturers a lot of money. Likewise, the discs will be backwards compatible, so consumers won’t have to immediately rush out and buy all new discs and players. Historically, consumers have always been more likely to accept a new product when it became a natural progression from their current product, as compared to having to throw away a perfectly good (but outdated) product in favour of the new one.

In the end, it will be the cost, not to features, that win this battle. Simply put, HD-DVD is cheaper to make, cheaper to buy, and cheaper to upgrade from your current setup. With the exception of the lucky few to whom money isn’t a concern, the rest of us will have to support the one that represents the lower cost to us.

7.3 EVD protiv FVD-a

Straight off, EVD is essentially DVD with a different set of audio/video codecs, so nothing new is being offered in the area of capacity. This can be good because existing hardware will be able to read the discs (not necessarily play it, if it doesn’t support the audio/video decoding), but it is limited in the amount of content it can distribute before doing double sided discs and multi-disc sets. FVD will try to increase the capacity, although I’m not sure if FVD disc, particular FVD-2 discs with larger capacities, can be read on existing computer DVD-ROM drives (even if reading is possible, there will be compatibility problems).

I suspect players supporting both EVD and FVD (and also DVD) will become available in Asia eventually, although from the look of things, FVD does have a brighter future than EVD, but EVD being adopted by a huge Chinese consumer base could tip the scale in its favor as well.


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