Blu-Ray Has Won: HD for Every Home
The war of the formats was won in early 2008 by Blu-ray technology promoted by Sony and Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) after Toshiba had decided to give up its HD DVD because of the refusal of Warner Bros. to promote it. Warner Bros. is rumored to have received a few hundred million dollars of “incentives” from the interested parties for Blu-ray propaganda.
It had been suggested that the arrival of a single high-definition media format would facilitate its acceptance by the customer who wouldn’t have to choose between two formats. This has been true to some extent and the availability of Blu-ray movies in retail chains has become higher in the United States (fewer shelves are now dedicated to HD DVD) as well as in Europe (because the retailers hope to increase their turnover by selling expensive HD movies).
Unfortunately, the prices of Blu-ray players and drives have been declining very slowly. Sony, the developer of the standard, complained in November that its 2008 forecast about the annual sales of discrete Blu-ray players worldwide would not come true: 5.5 million devices would be shipped instead of the predicted 6 million. Anyway, Sony has something to be proud of: the sales of the Blu-ray-supporting game console PlayStation 3 have increased dramatically this year. It means that people now have far more devices with support of the new standard. However, many customers will hesitate before purchasing a movie in the new format because the price of Blu-ray titles is much higher than that of DVDs.
Besides the high pricing, there are more perils in Blu-ray’s way. There have appeared Web services offering video at resolution of 1280x720 (720p), which is far better than ordinary DVD (720x576 for PAL regions and 720x480 for NTSC regions) but worse than full-HD (1920x1080, 1080p). Besides, the worldwide economic recession has made people cut their costs, including entertainment costs.
But notwithstanding the temporary difficulties it faces as a standard, the Blu-ray format may have a bright future yet. Many optical disc makers have already demonstrated 400-500GB media which may enable a lot of breakthroughs and improvements in home cinema. As a result, Blu-ray may replace DVD and hold back the expansion of Internet video services, at least among movie lovers. Here are a few things we can expect from the evolving Blu-ray:
- Increase in the resolution of movies up to 2560x1600 or even higher
- Release of pseudo-3D 1080p (or higher) movies for watching in the blue-red eyeglasses
- Release of true-3D 1080p (or higher) movies for watching on new types of display devices
- Option of watching 1080p (or higher) scenes from different angles of view if movie makers agree to shoot them with multiple cameras
- Higher-quality audio tracks on discs with home video
Thus, Blu-ray has got a lot of exciting things to offer to the customer. And although the future of the new standard is not without clouds, it will obviously be the etalon for all lovers of cinema and music for years to come.
The victory of Blu-ray in the war against HD DVD does not mean that the MPEG4 AVC/H.264 codec triumphs over VC-1, though. Many Blu-ray movies use the latter codec. Moreover, movies encoded with the MPEG2 HD codec are still available, too. Thus, all the three codecs must be supported by software and hardware manufacturers.