Quick Look At Blu Ray & HD DVD - Online Article

As you all may know, the industry is facing real challenge on choosing between two major next generation data storage formats for optical discs, HD-DVD and Blu-Ray Disc. As a matter of fact, HD-DVD is now officially discontinued. However, information on HD-DVD, and its comparison to Blu-ray, is still contained in this article, as well as the fact that there are still many HD-DVD player owners, and HD-DVD players and discs will continue to be sold and traded on the secondary market for some time.

Both of these standards emerged between 2000 and 2002 and attracted both the mutual and exclusive support of major consumer electronics manufacturers, personal computer manufacturers, television and movie producers and distributors, and software developers. However, in early 2008, a tipping point of studios and distributors have shifted to Blu-ray disc. On February 19, 2008, Toshiba officially announced that it would stop the development of the HD DVD players, conceding the format war to the Blu-ray Disc format.

200px-HD-DVD.svg.png

HD DVD or High-Definition DVD is a high-density optical disc format designed for the storage of data and high-definition video. HD DVD was designed by a consortium of companies (principally Toshiba and NEC) to be the successor to the standard DVD format. HD DVD is derived from the same underlying technologies as DVD. Since all variants except the 3x DVD employed a blue laser with a shorter wavelength, it can store about 3╝ times as much data per layer as its predecessor (maximum capacity: 15 GB per layer instead of 4.7 GB per layer).

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Blu-ray Disc (also known as Blu-ray or BD) is another optical disc storage media format. The disc has the same dimensions as a standard DVD or CD. The name Blu-ray Disc is derived from the blue-violet laser used to read and write this type of disc. Because of its shorter wavelength (405 nm), substantially more data can be stored on a Blu-ray Disc than on the DVD format, which uses a red (650 nm) laser. A dual layer Blu-ray Disc can store 50 GB, almost six times the capacity of a dual layer DVD. Blu-ray Disc was developed by the Blu-ray Disc Association, a group of companies representing consumer electronics, computer hardware, and motion picture production. The standard is covered by several patents belonging to different companies.

Comparison of the Formats

So, ready with the basics, now we can understand the comparison between these two formats over different perspectives.

On the basis of Support

These two competing formats are inherently incompatible with each other.

Blu-ray Support

Hardware: Blu-ray is supported on the hardware side by Apple, Denon, Hitachi, LG, Matsushita (Panasonic), Pioneer, Philips, Samsung (also supports HD-DVD), Sharp, Sony, and Thomson (Note: Thomson also supports HD-DVD).

Software: Blu-ray is supported by Lions Gate, MGM, Miramax, Twentieth Century Fox, Walt Disney Studios, New Line, and Warner.

HD-DVD Support

Hardware: NEC, Onkyo, Samsung (also supports Blu-ray) Sanyo, Thomson (Note: Thomson also supported Blu-ray), and Toshiba.

Software: HD-DVD has been supported by BCI, Dreamworks, Paramount Pictures, Studio Canal, and Universal Pictures, and Warner (only until May 2008 - at which time it will be Blu-ray exclusive). Microsoft has also lent its support to HD-DVD. However, all HD-DVD hardware and software support will be discontinued or shift to Blu-ray by mid-2008.

On the basis of Technical Specifications

Let us compare Blu-ray disc and HD-DVD on the basis of their technical specifications.

Parameters Blu - ray HD - DVD
Storage capacity 25GB (single-layer)
50GB (dual-layer)
15GB (single-layer)
30GB (dual-layer)
Laser wavelength 405nm (blue laser) 405nm (blue laser)
Numerical aperture (NA) 0.85 0.65
Disk diameter
Disk thickness
120mm
1.2mm
120mm
1.2mm
Protection layer
Hard coating
0.1mm
Yes
0.6mm
No
Track pitch 0.32Ám 0.40Ám
Data transfer rate (data)
Data tranfer rate (video/audio)
36.0Mbps (1x)
54.0Mbps (1.5x)
36.55Mbps (1x)
36.55Mbps (1x)
Video resolution (max)
Video bit rate (max)
1920×1080 (1080p)
40.0Mbps
1920×1080 (1080p)
28.0Mbps
Video codecs MPEG-2
MPEG-4 AVC
SMPTE VC-1
MPEG-2
MPEG-4 AVC
SMPTE VC-1
Audio codecs Linear PCM
Dolby Digital
Dolby Digital Plus
Dolby TrueHD
DTS Digital Surround
DTS-HD
Linear PCM
Dolby Digital
Dolby Digital Plus
Dolby TrueHD
DTS Digital Surround
DTS-HD
Interactivity BD-J HDi

On the basis of Disc construction

HD DVD uses traditional material and has the same scratch and surface characteristics of a regular DVD. The data is at the same depth (0.6 mm) as DVD as to minimize damage from scratching. As with DVD the construction of the HD DVD disc allows for a second side of either HD DVD or DVD.

Whereas, Blu-ray Discs contain their data relatively close to the surface (less than 0.1 mm) which combined with the smaller spot size presents a problem when the surface is scratched as data would be destroyed. To overcome this, TDK, Sony, and Panasonic each have developed a proprietary scratch resistant surface coating. TDK trademarked theirs as Durabis, which has withstood direct abrasion by steel wool and marring with markers in tests.

On the basis of security features

The primary means of copy prevention on both formats is the Advanced Access Content System (AACS). However, use of AACS is optional for HD DVD, but mandatory for Blu-ray, which can add thousands of dollars to production costs.

On the basis of Usage share

The accompanying figure shows the usage share between Blu-ray and HD-DVDs as of early 2008 by various studios.

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Blu-ray & DVD

So, we got that the Blu-ray disc is far ahead of the HD-DVD. So, we just take a look at the comparison of Blu-ray with the current DVDs.

Parameters Blu - ray HD - DVD
Storage capacity 25GB (single-layer)
50GB (dual-layer)
4.7GB (single-layer)
8.5GB (dual-layer)
Laser wavelength 405nm (blue laser) 650nm (red laser)
Numerical aperture (NA) 0.85 0.60
Disk diameter
Disk thickness
120mm
1.2mm
120mm
1.2mm
Protection layer
Hard coating
0.1mm
Yes
0.6mm
No
Track pitch 0.32Ám 0.74Ám
Data transfer rate (data)
Data tranfer rate (video/audio)
36.0Mbps (1x)
54.0Mbps (1.5x)
11.08Mbps (1x)
10.08Mbps (1x)
Video resolution (max)
Video bit rate (max)
1920×1080 (1080p)
40.0Mbps
720×480/720×576 (480i/576i)
9.8Mbps
Video codecs MPEG-2
MPEG-4 AVC
SMPTE VC-1
MPEG-2
-
-
Audio codecs Linear PCM
Dolby Digital
Dolby Digital Plus
Dolby TrueHD
DTS Digital Surround
DTS-HD
Linear PCM
Dolby Digital
DTS Digital Surround
-
-
-
Interactivity BD-J DVD Video

Will DVD Die?

While Blu-ray and HD-DVD mark a significant event in consumer electronics history, it will not render DVD obsolete. DVD is currently the most successful entertainment format in history.

With DVD players and DVD recorders selling for bargain prices, the higher-priced Blu-ray and HD-DVD players, and even higher-priced recorders will probably not persuade the average consumer to make the jump to the new formats in the short term.

Also, those that do make the jump will still be able to play DVDs in their existing collection on the new players as both Blu-ray and HD-DVD players and recorders will be fully playback compatible with standard DVDs. This was not the case with the VHS to DVD turnover, as DVD/VHS combo players did not come into market until some years after the introduction of the DVD.

Conclusion

While HD-DVD may have the advantage with regards to simpler production start-up, with potentially lower initial costs, the key advantage of Blu-ray over HD-DVD is storage capacity. Because of larger disc capacity, a Blu-ray disc can more easily accommodate full-length feature films and extra features.

To counter this, HD-DVD has implemented multi-layerd discs, as well as employing VC1 compression technology, which allows for more content, without loss of quality, on its smaller storage capacity disc. This enables the HD-DVD format to accommodate additional features and longer films on a single disc.

Although Blu-ray and HD-DVD players are backwards compatible with standard DVD, they are not compatible with each other. If one format is discontinued, recordings and movies in one format will not play in any other format's units. Also, the marketplace will bring the crazy prices we see today down the exact same way it did with the VCR and with DVD. In a few years, we'll see a $30 next-gen disc player, regardless of which format it is.

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