I wrote the piece (below) originally for HighDef.org Magazine. It concerns the high-definition DVD format war. HighDef.org is a printed monthly read by 20,000 professionals working in television and motion pictures. The article contains a highly personal view (certainly different from my partner Shane's) and one which I ask no one to follow...nor is it some official stand taken by HDTV Magazine. It would be misleading to say, however, that it was written without the hope of it being an influence for ending this dual format dilemma. Which way it goes-- Bue-ray or HD DVD is not so important to me. What is important is that this destructive contest of wills comes to an end. I know some of you will think I am blindly biased and far too simplistic in my reasoning while others will say that I finally see the light. The technology for either format is equally respectable. But I have made a decision, perhaps not your choice, but done in the hope of moving us all past the impass that two battle weary formats have created. __Dale Cripps
The motion picture industry and consumer electronic manufacturers have asked me to decide which high definition DVD format will be used in the future. What? Why me? Well, I am a consumer. I read in the newspapers that the consumer, of all people, is to decide on which high-definition format will be used in the future. The professionals who developed it could not make up their minds before they went to market. I keep asking why they would leave such an important decision up to moi? They didn't offer me (the consumer) any such decisions for HDTV. After everything was decided they offered some compatible transmission/reception formats, such as the 720p and 1080i, but the selection of either did not isolate me nor leave me a potential technical orphan as does a decision for either of the high definition DVD formats. It seems to me that this kind of decision should be left to the experts. I didn't decide to have 60 cycle power frequencies for my home either and I am not the worse for wear. So, why is my decision so eagerly sought for this high-definition DVD format controversy?
Well, since they insist that it is my job as the consumer I best get on with it decisively. The good news is that to me it makes very little difference which format is selected. Either has its own cost of entry to me and each has an advantage here or there. And, they are both getting cheaper. When I (the consumer) make a decision the big commodity makers will produce it at a fraction of what either sells for now. So, I cannot find "cost" as a reason to choose one over the other. Nor can I find picture quality the differentiating reason to choose one over the other (and I have a 104 inch wide screen and great front projector that shows everything). Fancy features never have impressed me and I see by various surveys that I am not alone. Yes, of course, I do like some features, but I don't see why one format should outdo the other in features unless it has something to do with capacity.
So, if it's not picture quality nor features, then my format decision has to be based on something else. I had heard that the higher cost of professional entry for the Blu-ray pressing plants was a clear-enough reason to choose HD DVD. You can modify existing DVD plants to press HD DVDs. So, I went to Spokane, Washington this weekend to see the newly formed Blue Ray Technologies LLC Company. They are a private firm with IPO ambitions whose principals have been big in standard DVDs for years and they have just invested in three Blu-ray disk making and pressing machines. They also have several HD DVD pressing machines. They laugh heartily and long at the notion of cost being a barrier or any cause at the pressing plant level for dismissing the Blu-ray. They have invested millions with this confidence in the format. The one Blu-ray machine I saw working as forming and stamping out 18,000 finished BD copies per day with a 16,000 copy good yield. It took minimal human attention to create this massive stack of $1.50 to $2.00 each disks. The defects were caused, said the plant manager, James Schumacher, from impurities in the raw materials and are not an inherent flaw in the machinery or its design. He explained that these raw materials are not yet purchased in large enough quantities to be refined and commoditized. The Spokane Company is prepared to convert their HD DVD making equipment to standard DVDs once Blu-ray is a clear consumer choice, or as orders dictate.
Posted by Dale Cripps, November 2, 2007 11:31 AM
About Dale CrippsDale Cripps is a professional journalist who has focused two thirds of his career on the subject of high-definition television. Upon completing his education in business and service in the military he formed Cripps and Associates, South Pasadena, California, in 1964, which operated as a market-development company for aerospace services. In 1983 he turned to television and began what has become a 20 year campaign to pioneer HDTV. For fifteen of those years he published the well-regarded HDTV Newsletter (an international monthly written for television professionals). During much of this same time he also served as the HDTV-Technical Editor for "Widescreen Review Magazine." On November 16, 1998 he launched the Internet distributed HDTV Magazine, which remains the only consumer publication devoted exclusively to high-definition television. In April of 2002 he co-founded with Tedson Meyers of Coudert Bros, the High-definition Television Association of America, which is presently based in Washington DC. Cripps is the president of this organization. Mr. Cripps is a charter member of the Academy of Digital Television Pioneers and honored by that organization with the DTV Press Leadership Award of 2002. He makes his home in Oregon.