Blu-Ray Arrives!

Sorry, this is not some sad person named Ray, nor is it some new type of suntan process. Blu-ray is a format for recording lots of data on a small disk, making it ideal for marketing "high definition" TV shows and movies in the commercial market place.

Samsung just released the first backwards compatible player (the BD-P1000) using the new Blu-ray high definition technology developed by Sony and Phillips.

If you’ll recall, last issue we detailed the release of the first Toshiba HD DVD player, the competition.

Blu-ray and HD DVD are totally different and incompatible formats, with Blu-ray holding the edge on storage (upwards to 200 GB, but currently limited to 50 GB vs. HD DVD which may be able to hold up to 60 GB and currently only holds 30 GB), while HD DVD holds the edge on compatibility with DVD disks and processes (it can uses the same disk technology as current DVD disks, while others have to re-tool to make the vastly different Blu-ray disks).

What this means is that it will cost less to make commercial HD DVD disks than it will to make Blu-ray disks, but you won’t be able to store as much content.

Currently, for example, the average HD movie occupies about 15 GB of space, fitting nicely into both HD DVD and Blu-ray. However, if you want to package product you can get all three “Indiana Jones” movies onto a single Blu-ray disk and still have some room for documentaries and interviews. It would take two HD DVD disks to do the same thing. You can get an entire season of “Friends” or “Cheers” onto a Blu-ray disk, but it will take about two HD DVD disks to get the same amount of data.

With the advent of HDTV, shows like CSI are already HD and you can pack 6 episodes on a single Blu-ray disk but only 4 episodes on an HD DVD disk.

The final verdict, of course, is still out! HD DVD may perfect a 60+ GB system.

We are, however, back to the old VHS/Betamax wars of the 1980s, in which Beta lost and by 1990 you couldn’t find a new video in the stores nor a machine to play it on!

With more studios behind Blu-ray you will probably see more and better titles, faster than with HD DVD. The studios, however, are going to go with the system that sells the best! It will take two or three years for that to happen.

Since Blu-ray is vastly different from standard DVDs or CDs the makers of “compatible” players have to spend more money to get the results than with HD DVD which is a lot closer to the same format as traditional DVDs.

Toshiba made their initial HD DVD quite affordable at $500, Ma and Pa Kettle would consider it at this price.

The Samsung BD P1000, however, priced at around $1,000, costs more than some HDTV sets! It is not for the squeamish, but a toy for the more affluent techno-geek.

The P1000 does sport some nice features, including total compatibility with analog TV sets (it has composite or yellow, white and red, connectors), high end TV sets (S-Video connector) and digital or HD TV sets (with the special digital or HD output). It supports DVD, DVD-ROM, DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R, DVD+RW, CD, CD-ROM, CD-R, CD-RW and the Panasonic (a board member of the Blu-ray syndicate) DVD-RAM formats. It will not, however, play HD DVD disks!

Get the picture? Whichever format wins (or loses) will cost the consumer money! Those new HD or Blu disks cost between $25 and $40 each. If the format dies you won’t be able to find a player to save your life on the day your current player dies! That means you E-bay your disks and buy news disks and a player to go with it in the format that won! This won’t happen until at least 2010.

Also, don’t look for "high def" burners, as with Blu-ray they will need to do some fancy electronics to allow a burner to handle DVD and CD as well as Blu-ray. You might eventually see some HD DVD burners than can also burn CDs or play DVDs.

Currently only high end commercial burners are available. HD DVD burners are around $3,500 and Blu-ray burners are priced around $4,000. These are designed mostly for labs and mastering facilities or for large businesses who need to store vast amounts of data.



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