HDTV Magazine
Welcome, Anonymous  •  Sign In  •  Register  •  Help

I typically don't veer from the technical side into opinion, but HDTV Magazine founder Dale Cripps recently posted an article (Is It My Choice, or Is It Yours?) about the HD disc format wars, Blu-ray versus HD DVD, and his choice as to which one would be the winner. What I loved about his article was that it was not technical and most importantly took the pragmatic stance that he did not feel he should make that choice due to his lack of technical expertise on these two formats yet the industry would rather consumers, who know little about the technical side and far less than Dale, be the ones to make that choice. As a consumer Dale made his.

I never thought 10 years ago that I would be one of those early adopters with money to burn on expensive product but it turned out I was. Until HDTV came along I spent much of my time being an audiophile, so when HD audio in the form of SACD and DVD Audio hit the shelves I jumped! Like HDTV it was a WOW experience with one exception; it all died rather quickly. Was it because the world did not care or because there were two competing formats confusing the market? We will never know but this new format war draws significant parallels to the HD audio format war.

With HD audio I did not want to be left out so I bought both players to enjoy both formats. For this new war I have done the same and in this regard I have yet again chosen neither. What I have chosen is my need for the best picture and sound I can get my hands on to feed my system, as well as the ability to watch any movie released on an HD disc format.

At this time, for an enthusiast like me, it is difficult if not impossible to make a choice. Both camps have blundered as well as well as blown us away. If anything has boggled my mind it has been the lack of quality control on both sides of the aisle as they went to war. While much of that has been cleaned up on the video side, the audio side requires a PhD in audio encoding/decoding to understand all the nuances. If you want to see what I mean, check out the recently published Hi-Def DVD - Audio Streaming Over HDMI ... I'm still trying to get my brain wrapped around it!

Both camps together represent nothing more than a very small bump in the road for the sale of movie content on disc at this time. SD DVD is the 800 pound gorilla in the room and the mass market is pleased with the results thank you very much! Here is where I am most concerned; it would seem HD disc is fighting the same perception of quality differences that HD audio played out just a few years ago. No matter how much of a difference we performance enthusiasts see and hear they, the mass market, will be the deciding factor and I would not bank on them caring enough to make any choice.

My Pragmatic Conclusion
From experience I lack faith in the mass market when it comes to quality. HD disc does not even remotely provide the same level of perceived performance improvement that broadcast HDTV does compared to broadcast NTSC; that one was a no-brainer. Toshiba has been left out in the cold to battle this out on their own noted by the lack of support from other manufacturers for HD DVD players. Sony has made a HUGE investment by equipping all PS3 product with a Blu-ray player removing any choice for the consumer as well as providing a 1080p gaming future chock full of potential by the huge capacity of Blu-ray. 1080p60 anyone? Other manufacturers are invested as well with the Blu-ray players they have made and continue to make. If the mass market gets involved to prevent the death of HD disc I would put my bets on Blu-ray to be the winner due to higher capacity along with other uses such as gaming and PC applications and a wider choice of product and brands. The only element left that could have a huge impact on this is the adult video industry, pornography, as Sony has stated they will not provide a Blu-ray license to produce that content just like they did during the Beta versus VHS war. This time I think it is moot. It is nearly 2 decades later and technology has made pornography very easy to get via the internet or SD DVD leaving us with the performance pornography viewer, surely a small market, with the internet perfectly capable of providing that content as well for those inspired!

PS: One week ago I bought a 3rd gen Toshiba HD-A30 along with the second Blu-ray release and properly mastered The Fifth Element disturbing the cashier as he made clear that the Blu-ray disc would not work in my new Toshiba player. I told him I have a PS3. Nope, I still have not made a choice!

Posted by Richard Fisher, November 21, 2007 12:16 AM

More from Richard Fisher

» - Currently Reading

More in Category: Blu-ray

About Richard Fisher

Richard Fisher is the President of Mastertech Repair Corporation, serving north east Atlanta, Georgia, and has been servicing, calibrating and reviewing audio video products since 1981. Tech Services USA, a division of Mastertech, creates sites, communities and libraries for consumers and professionals to share their technology knowledge and learn from each other. These include The ISF Forum and HD Library. HDTV Magazine exclusively publishes HD Library and Forum for Tech Services USA.

Richard is ISF and HAA certified providing calibration and A/V reproduction engineering services. Richard is a technical consultant and also provides performance ISF and HAA home theater systems and calibration via Custom HT. Mastertech Repair Corporation is a factory authorized service center for Hitachi, Mitsubishi and Toshiba and a member of the National Electronics Servicing Dealers Association, NESDA, and the Georgia Electronics Servicing Dealers Association, GESDA.