We have been locked in a quagmire of a battle for years now and there is practically no end in sight. The public is crying out for an end to the madness, but neither Red nor Blue representatives have come up with a logical timetable to do so. Our leaders seem to be only concerned with the amount of money to be made by prolonging the conflict, rather than finding a viable solution to bring peace and freedom to the public.
That’s right. I’m talking about the Blu-Ray HD DVD format war.
Just this week, the armed forces’ favorite filmmaker, Michael Bay, aired his frustration over Paramount’s dropping of the Blu Ray format. While the rest of us banded together to simply label him a douche, as has now become common suffix for Mr. Bay, tantamount to Esqire. But the overpaid moron’s statements seems to be a reflection of what’s going on in the media industry in general right now. See, the whole concept of digital delivery is incredibly new to us, and the growing pains are drawn out and, quite frankly, awful.
So there are 2 amazing formats out there which have been started by various companies, Sony being the big cat in the Blu-Ray camp up against Toshiba’s rabid dog over at HD DVD. The tech specs on the actual formats are extremely confusing, but it mostly boils down to the same thing. They are both incredibly secure (though hackers have already gotten through to rip them) and both offer different flavors of sweet scripting, so you can write mini programs for some sweet special features. Both have extremely high capacity and thus, here’s the one we care about, can hold full frame HD media in progressive scan.
For those aware of HD’s 20–30 year history (depending on who you ask), you know that the fight to bring HD where it is today has been an ugly uphill battle, much of it involving negotiations with the FCC and other governmental agencies. If you consider how long the format has been around, you’ll see that it’s ridiculous how long things are taking. It’s nearly 2008 and still, few providers offer more than a dozen HD channels. We already have 720p TVs crossing well below $1000 and 1080p on their way, it is in fact conceivable to get HD into every Americans’ home. The Europeans may not have as many networks as us, but they’ve already got their shit together in the HD world, offering tons of cool content and televisions that we are yet to enjoy.
But that’s a different story. We’re here to talk about optical media.
The amount of titles available in these formats is enough to get a collection started, but the issue for us end users is picking a format. You don’t want to get the wrong one and then have all these titles, then have to repurchase them later. Sony should have been the declared victor by now, but a lot of things happened to keep Blu Ray down, much of it Sony’s fault. The biggest fluke was the Nintendo Wii, which has been killing the PS3 in the market. No one saw it coming. Sony has been reciting their mantra of function over form in regards to graphics performance and HD output, and Nintendo slipped right under their radar with a superior gaming experience.
For those not keeping score at home, the PS3 was setup by Sony to be the HD DVD killer. The PS2’s popularity was so great, Sony figured for the money you’d get a top of the line gaming system and a Blu Ray player, stock up on media, and forget about the competition. But anyone who’s ever used the PS2’s DVD player knows that it sucked…a lot. Beyond that, people are much happier shelling out $200 for a Wii than $600 for a PS3. The amazing part of it all is that the Wii is beating them EVEN THOUGH they are incredibly hard to find. After the PS3 mixup kept HD DVD alive, we’ve moved to our current state, with players being overpriced on both sides, making the decision to convert even more frustrating.
In the world of post production, where I spend my days and nights, this frustration is 10-fold, because we work with HD content all the time and have to deliver to our clients either cost-prohibitive tape or a standard def DVD. We’re in the process of testing Blu-Ray software, but it almost never comes out right. The only other option is to drop $25K on one of only 2 legit Blu-Ray authoring programs. The second is $50K. Why not go HD DVD then, you say, since Apple’s DVD Studio Pro supports it? Well, burners aren’t available in the US. So the confusion drags on ever longer, much longer than the Beta/VHS war went on.
Don’t forget, this format has been around over 2 decades and just now it’s gaining legitimacy. We’ve already begun inventing 2K workflows and the first 4K plasmas will make their way to the pro market soon. By the time the dust settles on HD, which I sorely hope will be in 2008, we’ll already be on to the next thing. Let’s hope we can pick up the pieces of standardization the next time around and not screw the public.