HD1080i De-mystify HDTV 1080i ::: know why before you buy

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

DVD formats: High Definition BD-R

Well it looks like the expected format war will wage onward since two of the major players have chosen not to unify thier efforts to push forward one format, but instead there wil be two... BD (blu-ray) and HD-DVD.

An announcement speaking to that issue was leaked out today.

Take the Red Pill or Take the Blue Pill

Nah... this is not the matrix and we can take them both.
Basically the technology of the future DVD high definition players can be crafted to support both formats, so there is little impediment to the high-end buyer and user...

But the Joe-Sixpack buyer will likely end up using only one format, and my guess is that is still a year or more away from playing out fully into the market. I think that a healthy percentage of first-time High Definition DVD players out there ( BD or HD-DVD ) will be in the form of the Media Centers and Video Game Machines that are being tooled for factory production right now.
In this scenario I fully expect the BD format to win market share due to momentum and the immense marketing prowess of the mega-corporations involved. Since Sony and its partners are manufacturers and content producers... the available shelf space will fill up when they want it to.

I do wonder how the Best Buy ( Magnolia ) and such chain sellers will work with this, since the price-point sensitivity of this situation may produce a perception of BD format as high end and HD-DVD as a low-end solution, which in practical reality is not true. It should be fun to see if BD gets too snobby for its own good, or becomes the format of choice due to availability on the shelf
at a competitive price point.

This outcome is actually good, since the forces of the wallet will prevail and 2 formats will in fact assure competitive pricing at the retail level... the benefits will happen for us all.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

DVD Copy Protection: Media-Player-Network

There are now an abundance of schemes in the works that are designed to protect the movie industry from illegal content duplication. Although the idea behind this stuff is to make most of it "transparent" to the average user, the reality is that the devices you may buy in the future will have embedded copy protection code in there.

Some of you may remember DIVX , a system that Circuit City expended mega millions on, that played DVD content on Special DIVX DVD players using Special DIVX DVDs. The pitch was that the DIVX DVD would retail for 4 bucks making it seem very affordable at the outset.., and then when you put it into your DIVX player, it would charge your credit card another 2 or 3 bucks to play it... by using a built in Phone modem to dial out for authorization. This was a long time ago, back when dialup internet was all there was in most places. The reason i mention the DIVX fiasco, is that the same scenario is playing out right now. This Phone-home for an ok to play - pay per view proprietary DVD system was a stunning failure, most people were smart enough to see though the rhetoric and realize it was a rights management system where when they bought something, they would have to pay to keep seeing it. Early adopters had trouble with it, and your basic Joe-sixpack stayed away from it in droves. But that was then and this is now, it could be that more sensible user-transparent systems will prevail...

Now we have newer more integrated systems designed to protect hollywood, and this time its part of the show that FCC and the media giants are using to push digital content with mandatory this and that for entertainment delivery. With High Definition and new specs to write, they have a small window of opportunity to get it right.

The Schemes:
Basically HDCP and AACS seem to be rising to the top as the encryption and access management of choice. For now about all you need to really know is that your HD monitor/TV probably should have HDCP listed in its features, since some players and content will not display without that. Basically HCDP source Key Processing has to happen in order to see the HDCP encrypted content and that happens right in the final device, the TV or monitor itself.
My opinion: Its ok - should be no problem for everyone, proper systems will function properly.

However the system for copy protection of the media itself.. that is another story.

AACS: The DVD Media and the Device
The BD-DVD ( blu-ray) may have AACS, they just did a press release on it, and since BD and BD+ are backed formats anyhow, my guess is that very few if any BD players will be available without AAC code in them.. e.g. both the player and the BD-DVD you buy will have corresponding data-management that determines if it is legal to play it. The scary thing about AACS is that it also has a network connection protocol to phone-home and check the encryption key function, such that mess that DIVX tried to do. It can even change the legality of a key that has been hacked or compromized. For me, this raises all kinds of worry. Privacy, hassle and possible problems with authentication failures. Blu-ray has its own inherent encrypt track anyhow, so AACS may not be mandatory for all Blu-ray BD+ home burners. There is no way to know for sure at this time.

HD-DVD already has AACS
And they are finding out what works right now. Basicaly this one is copy protection copy control. Since Microsoft DRM ( digitalk: Rights Management) allows for the network WMV-HD and HD-DVD, it would seem that we may well see this DVD play out sooner in the HD market, and then we will know more. My thinking is that the home "media center" world may end up with the ability to handle any formats including the newer Mpeg4 stuff, so my eye is on what machines come available that will Burn a high Def DVD and let you play it as you would any raw data, like photos.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

High Definition DVD

The New world of High Definition:
There is a lot to look forward to in terms of what HD is going to do in terms of available content and experiences, spring of 2006 ( not that far off ). It has been a long time coming for sure and plenty of industry rhetoric and showmanship over prototypes and vaporware... but now we know what to expect since production lines are making the stuff right now.

Home Entertainment Systems become Media Centers.
Trust this... billions are being spent to cater your business in every possible way, with HD being the enabler. For the moment lets just look into the world of Sony, Specifically the PS3.

What? A game machine? .. yes. but the title will be "Media Center"

For one thing, it will likely be the easiest to afford Blu-ray High Definition DVD player you will be able to buy, and it will come with all it takes to perform that task with surround sound integrity. And of couse if you have kids ( or grownups that are really kids at heart ) then the family gets the most stunning game realism in whatever is on the screen.

Blu-Ray is yet another format for DVD's and it will be media for True HD content, the situation as always is price-point and consumer adoption. Demand for a High Definition DVD will be based on whether or not the consumer owns a player and has an HD TV. At this time Blu-ray has the approval of many media giants that require copy-protection of digital content.

My Guess?
The practical yankee early adopters with a usual paycheck are not likely to spend $500-$800 bucks on a High definition DVD player, but they will spend the $299 for a PS3 just to get the most out of thier HDTV investment have and a Blu-Ray DVD player ( one of the few practical ways to get and see 1080p content) . I would expect the PS3 price point at market entry to be maybe $399+ and then drop down in price over the following months as the economy of scale meets the market saturation of the "Must Have" consumer, and available content expands. For this reason i expect the "Media Center" name to become yet another abused title for such stuff where the feature set can vary dramatically within a product line. Optional components will abound, like wireless networking, wireless controllers, external hard drives and DVR. For an added membership-like fee there will be likely be downloadable content and of course, multiplayer subscription gaming. It is the Holy Water in the grail and even an alternative to Pay-tv's Movies On Demand. I already know of a couple on-line magazines that have thoughts of subscription video magazine offerings, and they desire to be doing it with the added value of HD quality.

Blu-Ray? What does that have to do with a DVD?
In its specs the blue ray can deliver 50+ GB of storage. A Blu-ray DVD holds just under 6 times the data of a regular DVD. Massive. They call it "blu" and "ray" to identify that it is employing a Blue Laser of very short wavelength as the means of reading the DVD... honestly i think the consumer could care less and in fact it may put people off that do not realize that blue has anything to do with High Definition. They need a new logo http://www.blu-raydisc.info/

Lots to look forward to.
Next: the DVD encryption... Media-Player-Network - is this just copy protection?