With the increasing talk (and non-geek confusion) around HD and Blu-Ray, I thought I’d offer a quick guide to understanding what this digital fight is all about.
What do HD and Blu-Ray mean?
It has nothing to do with the HD on your TV. It’s about making DVDs better.
Back in 1997 DVDs hit the market and quickly killed VHS tapes. DVD gives you standard definition, and HD and Blu-Ray are basically an ‘upgrade’ to high definition. HD and Blu-Ray are competing high definition formats, each one backed by some pretty big companies and studios hoping that their format will become the standard.
In the Red Corner: HD – Toshiba, Microsoft, WB, Universal, Paramount, Dreamworks
Hardware:Toshiba is the big muscle behind HD. They’re the dominant manufacturer and have a variety of HD players in the market since 1996. Microsoft’s Xbox has also released an Xbox add-on (for $180) that makes the internal DVD capable of HD.
Movies:The people making the movies are the ones who will ultimately decide which format, HD or Blu-Ray, wins. Problem is they’re split down the middle. On the HD side we’ve got Universal, Warner Bros., Paramount, and Dreamworks. That means if you want to watch Shrek (from Dreamworks) in high definition then you need an HD player, you can’t get it on Blu-Ray.
In the Blue Corner:Blu-Ray – Sony, Disney, Fox, WB, Lions Gate, Sony Pictures
Hardware:Sony is the big champion of Blu-Ray. The cool thing is that the Playstation 3 comes with a great Blu-Ray player, and since Blu-Ray players are about the same price as a PS3, buy the PS3 and get gaming for the same price! Samsung, Pioneer, and Phillips also have Blu-Ray players. Also, Blu-Ray discs hold more than HD disks (but since you can’t burn your own, it doesn’t really matter right now).
Movies: Blu-Ray used to have the majority of the studios on its side and was looking like it was going to win. In August 2007, Paramount and Dreamworks said that they’re switching to HD and now it’s an even race. On the Blu-Ray side we’ve got Sony Pictures (which includes MGM, Columbia), Disney (which includes Miramax and Touchstone), Fox, Lions Gate, and Warner Bros.
And the Winner is?
HD players are cheaper, but Blu-Ray is coming down in price and if you buy a PS3 you get a Blu-Ray player too. On the movie side, Warner Bros. hasn’t picked a side yet and since they release more movies than almost anyone, when they do it just might spell out who wins.
But WB might stay playing both sides, and things might stay the same. If that happens it’ll come down to the price of the player. The more affordable player could win, or we could see cheaper ‘dual players’ capable of playing both HD and Blu-Ray.
The studios are waiting to see what players people are buying, and manufacturers are waiting for studios to pick a side.
It might be Warner Bros. that picks a side and delivers the punch or it might be a Chinese manufacturer that brings an affordable player to market. If history is any lesson, then this prize fight will end in a knockout. I’ll watch from ringside until it’s over.