Commentary. Reviews. Rants. Television. Pop culture. Whatever. It do what it do.
From the creator of Jammer's Reviews

HD DVD? Blu-ray? None of the above, for now.

Remember in the 1980s when VHS and Betamax duked it out? Apparently the manufacturers of the future of home video have not learned from past mistakes (or, more specifically, they don’t much care that consumers will by and large stand on the sidelines while they duke it out), and we’re doomed to repeat the Format War for the future of DVD.

Actually, the format war has been going on for about a year now, and unlike with VHS vs. Betamax, there does not seem to be a clear winner to this war anywhere on the horizon. Earlier this year, it seemed that Sony’s Blu-ray was gaining some traction in the industry. The fact that the Playstation 3 would play Blu-ray discs appeared to be a momentum point for Sony. And Blockbuster announced that it would back Blu-ray over HD DVD.

But Toshiba’s HD DVD is not going away. It is backed by Microsoft, to name one heavy hitter. And at least two content giants are on board: Universal and Paramount are both releasing titles on HD DVD, and will no longer support Blu-ray. It appears that we’re in for a stalemate for quite some time. As was the case with Betamax, it appears Blu-ray has the superior technology, but HD DVD seems to be winning the battle of cost and pragmatism, having dropped the price of their players to levels that are unreasonable to any company that expects to make money in the short term, but very reasonable for consumers. Will the long-term approach win the war for HD DVD?

Honestly, I don’t know, and I really don’t care. What I do know is that I won’t be buying either format for probably a very long time, because (1) I’m waiting out the war and then some, and (2) my perception is that I don’t get all that much in the upgrade from standard DVD to high-def. Simply put, high-def DVD is not enough of an upgrade over standard DVD (which already sports outstanding sound quality and certainly-good-enough picture quality). You need a big HDTV to care about high-def DVD.

In the meantime, we have half the film studios committed to HD DVD and the other half to Blu-ray, and they’re releasing titles. Even old titles, as if I already wanted to replace my existing DVD library in this uncertain format-war climate. I want to know who’s buying these titles. Are you starting to replace your library with a format that could possibly be dead in two years?

Frankly, the concept of replacing my DVD library makes me queasy. I replaced all my VHS tapes, but I won’t be doing that with my DVDs. It’s just not practical or economical or worth my time. High-def DVD is not that much of a sell — at least, not yet. It makes me wonder if this format war is battling for turf that is going to turn out to be a worthless tundra.

When I see that all of the “Star Trek” original series box sets will be released on HD DVD in November at a street price of $170 per set, all I can think is: Who is buying this, and why? Obviously people with money to burn, because the format is still a big question mark and you may be investing in a dead future. Until there’s a clear winner, why should we waste our money or time?


7 Comments
  1. Stef - Tuesday, September 11, 2007 - 3:13 am

    Have you been following me across internetland and reading my posts from yesterday then writing them in here? ;)

    I raised this only yesterday. I don’t care if BluRay is better then HDDVD, or HDVDD better then BlueRay. I just don’t want “VHS vs Beta 2: The Rematch” I just want one ‘standard’

    I was expecting the HD releases of Trek (and upcoming releases of Next Generation) to put HD ahead of BluRay. Considering the lacklustre sales of PS3, Microsoft SHOULD have made the Xbox Ultimate with an HDDVD player. They could have buried the PS3 and BluRay in one fell swoop. But instead they decided to follow the Rolling Stones and paint it black instead.

    “Until there‚Äôs a clear winner, why should we waste our money or time?” A semi-valid point, which many people believe.

    But “Tomorrow never comes”.

    There is never going to be a clear winner. Even as VHS was being phased out in favour of DVD, people were saying they were going to wait for HD/BluRay rather then update their collections. The HD/BluRay roll-out took a little longer then expected, but it is getting there…

    … just in time to be eclipsed by the 1TB disc:
    http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/scientists-terabytes-DVD,news-26214.html

    By the time the studios take up 1TB discs (Films with no compression and no layer-change-pause, 400 commentary tracks from the catering staff, and the guy that swept up the studio when the actors had gone home,and the baby sitter that worked for the 3 assistant researcher to the 3rd assistant cameraman’s assistant:

    “Oh my God! Like, I was totally looking after the baby on the day they filmed this!! My god doesn’t she like totally look great in the dress? I saw her in real life and she’s like really fat, and I told her that she’s like really fat, and she’s like ‘Whatever, talk to the hand’ she just couldn’t accept that she’s like totally fat.”

    I really can’t wait for all the filler they are going to put on the storage.

    Whatever happened to MiniDisc? Eclipsed by CD and iPod before it really got going.

  2. Stef - Tuesday, September 11, 2007 - 3:15 am

    I really should proof read for typos before I submit.

  3. Matthew - Tuesday, September 11, 2007 - 6:15 am

    I would agree investing in any HD-DVD player would be a bit fool-some whilst there is still no clear standard…however there isn’t quite that risk with BluRay if you buy a PS3 to play them. If BR does fail as the standard film format, at least PS3 games will still use BR for games (just as Nintendo still used carts in generations past), so you won’t be left with a useless piece of hardware.

    For the record, my money is on the two becoming an amalgamated format with dual players…its already heading that way anyway.

  4. chris - Tuesday, September 11, 2007 - 1:11 pm

    i thought blockbuster announced it would support blu-ray over hddvd, not the other way around as per your article.

  5. Jamahl Epsicokhan - Tuesday, September 11, 2007 - 1:37 pm

    ^ Yes. That’s what I meant. I typed it wrong. It’s fixed now.

  6. Bryan K - Tuesday, September 11, 2007 - 7:48 pm

    Well, given the topic, I feel like posting the AACS key here — but since that may end up causing a couple of semi-serious threats against Jammer by the AACS crazies, I don’t think it’d be a good idea. ;-)

    So instead, I’ll just say: “Boo to any standard with DRM included!” That goes for both BluRay and HD-DVD. (But then, so far I’ve only ever bought a couple DVDs, too. Partly that was for the same anti-DRM reason — CSS is annoying, and I’m probably watching them illegally every time I do watch them; thanks, DMCA — but mostly it was because I just don’t care enough to actually go buy any.)

  7. Joseph B - Wednesday, September 12, 2007 - 6:13 pm

    Don’t forget that all of these “next gen” players will also play and upconvert standard DVD to 1080i over HDMI connections – so there’s no real need to replace your current DVD library. And with the new HD-DVD decks approaching the magic $199 price point, I think some consumers with large HDTV and/or front projector systems will consider purchasing one just to make their existing DVD library look better on their display. (Granted, there are HDMI upconverting DVD decks available, but the HD-DVD decks generally do a better job of upconverting for some reason.)

    And if you don’t want to take a chance on purchasing a HD-DVD disc (since they could be coasters in two years) you could just *rent* what you wanted to view from Netflix.

    It sure is a *shame* about the format war, though: If there had been just one HD format that was also backward compatible with standard DVD, then most consumers purchasing new HD equipment would have also purchased the new HD optical deck as well. It would have been a “no brainer”, so to speak …

Submit a comment