High Definition DVD FAQ

Author: Xiao Fang
Version: 0.8.1
Creation Date: 14th September 2005
Last Updated: 20th February 2008
Text Version:
http://www.digital-digest.com/highdefdvd/faq.txt
Official Websites:
http://www.digital-digest.com/highdefdvd/
http://www.bitburners.com/
Contact Details:
http://www.digital-digest.com/highdefdvd/faq_contact.php

Copyright Notice

This FAQ is presented as is. This FAQ can only be distributed without any
monetary cost involved, and by specific permission from the author.
Please also see the “Distributing this FAQ” section (section A.1).

No parts of this FAQ can be reproduced without the permission of the
author.

Mirrors

Below is a list of official mirrors for this FAQ. Please contact me if you wish to mirror and/or translate this FAQ.
The list below is in alphabetical order:

Translations:

For the most up to date list of mirrors, please refer to this forum post.

* Indicates outdated version
** Indicates work in progress

Table of Contents

1. About this FAQ
1.1 Who am I?
1.2 Which format do you support?
1.3 Why make a FAQ?
1.4 Providing Feedback

 

2. General Topics
2.1 What is high definition DVD?
2.2 Why should I want high definition DVD?
2.3 What will happen to my existing DVDs?
2.4 Can my computer play back high definition DVDs?
2.4.1 PowerDVD Ultra
2.5 What are the different formats for high definition DVD?
2.6 Why do we need different formats?

 

3. Blu-ray
3.1 What is Blu-ray?
3.2 What is Blu-ray’s official launch date?
3.3 Who is behind Blu-ray?
3.4 Are there different readable/writable formats like with
DVD/DVD-R/W?

3.5 What will be the capacities of these types of discs?
3.6 What resolution will the video on a movie BD be?
3.7 What kind of video compression will be used?
3.8 What about the audio?
3.9 What can you tell me about the recordable BD formats?
3.10 What kind of equipment will I need to play back BD
movies?

3.10.1 Blu-ray Hardware Profiles
3.11 What about my existing DVD collection? Out the trash
like my old VHS collection?

3.12 Will BD/HD DVD players be able to play back the other
high definition DVD formats?

3.13 What about copy protection? Will it be as weak as
DVD’s CSS?

3.14 So why have AACS if it might not work?
3.15 What about region coding?
3.16 PlayStation 3
3.16.1 Why is the PS3 being mentioned in this FAQ?
Did you copy and paste the wrong section into
the wrong FAQ?

3.16.2 Will the PS3 be able to play back BD movies?
3.16.3 Why is PS3’s support for BD significant enough
to warrant an entire chapter in this FAQ?

3.16.4 What about the Xbox 360?
3.16.5 PS3 Blu-ray Playback Details
3.17 Technical details overview
3.18 Hardware availability
3.19 Software (Movies) availability

 

4. HD DVD
4.1 What is HD DVD?
4.1.1 What is AOD?
4.2 What is HD DVD’s official launch date?
4.3 Who is behind HD DVD?
4.4 Are there different readable/writable formats like
with DVD/DVD-R/W?

4.5 What will be the capacities of these types of discs?
4.6 What resolution will the video on a movie HD DVD be?
4.7 What kind of video compression will be used?
4.8 What about the audio?
4.9 What can you tell me about the recordable HD DVD
formats?

4.10 What kind of equipment will I need to play back
HD DVD movies?

4.10.1 HD DVD Performance Levels
4.10.2 CH DVD
4.11 What about my existing DVD collection? Out the trash
like my old VHS collection?

4.12 Will BD/HD DVD players be able to play back the other
high definition DVD formats?

4.13 What about copy protection? Will it be as weak as
DVD’s CSS?

4.14 So why have AACS if it might not work?
4.15 What about region coding?
4.16 Xbox 360
4.16.1 Since the Sony PS3 will support BDs, will the
Xbox 360 support HD DVD?

4.16.2 Xbox 360 HD DVD Playback Details
4.16.3 Using the Xbox 360’s HD DVD add-on drive on your PC
4.17 Technical details
4.18 Hardware availability
4.19 Software (Movies) availability

 

5. EVD
5.1 What is EVD?
5.2 When was EVD officially launched?
5.3 Who is behind EVD?
5.4 What about EVD recordable formats?
5.5 Why develop EVD?
5.6 What resolution will the video on an EVD be?
5.7 What kind of video compression will be used?
5.8 What about the audio?
5.9 What kind of equipment will I need to play back
EVD movies?

5.10 What about my existing DVD collection?
5.11 Will EVD players be able to play back the other
high definition DVD formats?

5.12 What about copy protection?
5.13 Technical details

 

6. FVD
6.1 What is FVD?
6.2 When was FVD officially launched?
6.3 Who is behind FVD?
6.4 What about FVD recordable formats?
6.5 Why develop FVD?
6.6 What will be the capacities of these types of discs?
6.7 What resolution will the video on a FVD be?
6.8 What kind of video compression will be used?
6.9 What about the audio?
6.10 What kind of equipment will I need to play back
FVD movies?

6.11 What about my existing DVD collection?
6.12 Will FVD players be able to play back the other
high definition DVD formats?

6.13 What about copy protection?
6.14 Technical details

 

7. Format Comparisons
7.1 Introduction
7.2 Blu-ray vs HD DVD
7.2.1 The Author’s Opinion
7.2.2 Opinion from www.dvdrs.net
7.2.3 Opinion from DVDHelp.us
7.3 EVD vs FVD

 

8. The Future
8.1 Which format will win the day?
8.2 Which format should I go for now (or soon)?
8.3 How can I ensure there is only one format?

 

A. Appendix
A.1 Distributing this FAQ
A.2 Terms and Concepts
A.3 Acknowledgements
A.4 ChangeLog

1. About this FAQ

1.1 Who am I?

My name is Xiao Fang and I’m the webmaster of Digital Digest and
dvdloc8.com. But more
important than that, I’m a big DVD fan, and naturally, I’m very
interested in the next generation high definition DVD formats. My real
concerns is that with all the confusion over the different high
definition formats, people will give up on all of the formats due to
frustration.

1.2 Which format do you support?

As the format war has now ended, following Toshiba’s announcement to
withdraw from HD DVD development and manufacturing, there is really no
choice but to support Blu-ray.

But during the early stages of the format war, when this FAQ was
written, one of the main problems was that a lot of literature were
written to support one format or another, usually quite biased.
This FAQ was thus written in a hope to provide information in an
unbiased manner, and where opinions are clearly marked as such.

As the format was has now ended, much of the information pertaining to
HD DVD is now only useful for historical purposes, and so are the
statements in regards to the format war and prediction of the outcomes.

1.3 Why make a FAQ?

Apart from the reasons listed above, I thought it would be nice to have
a single document where all the most common questions can be answered,
before the official launch dates of the various high definition formats.
These questions are questions that I have been seeking
answers for, and questions that I’ve been asked by others (and
unfortunately, I have not always been able to find or provide the
answers to these questions).

1.4 Providing Feedback

If you have any questions, suggestions and corrections for this FAQ,
you can post them in the official forum for this FAQ:

http://forum.digital-digest.com/forumdisplay.php?f=104

When posting, please add at the start of the subject “HDDVD FAQ:”, so I
will know that the post is in regards to the FAQ.

2. General Topics

2.1 What is high definition DVD?

High definition DVD will be more like an evolution of the DVD format,
than an outright revolution. In terms of video and audio quality, high
definition DVD will be what DVD was to VHS videotapes. Many
television sets today are capable of displaying high definition
pictures, and the move to a high definition home video format is the
logical step in the evolution of home video.

To be more precise, high definition DVD will aim to offer 1080 lines of
video resolution video (more on these technical details later), compared
to the 576/480 lines offered by DVDs today.

Technically, the term “DVD” is reserved for use by the DVD Forum to
be exclusively used by the DVD and HD DVD formats. There is no such
thing as a “Blu-ray DVD”, for example. So perhaps the term “High
Definition Disc Format” is more appropriate, although this FAQ retains
the use of “High Definition DVD” when describing any high definition
disc format, including Blu-ray, HD DVD, EVD, FVD …

2.2 Why should I want high definition DVD?

For the same reasons why you would want DVDs over video tapes. Apart
from the high resolution video and audio, the increased capacity of high
definition discs will hopefully mean an end to single movie multi-disc
sets, and allow for more extra features to fit onto one disc. It may,
for example, be possible to fit an entire season of a television show
onto one disc.

2.3 What will happen to my existing DVDs?

Regardless of which high definition format you choose, they will most likely be
compatible with existing DVDs meaning your DVD collection (mine is
listed here) does
not have to be replaced. Many DVD players today can upscale (increase
the video resolution through digital manipulation) existing DVD movies
to high definition, and I expect this feature will be present sooner or
later on all the high definition DVD players once they are released.
While upscaling won’t offer the same kind of experience as “real” high
definition movies, it will allow your DVDs to be show in the best
possible manner without resolution loss being an issue.

More information on compatibility later in the FAQ for each specific
format.

2.4 Can my computer play back high definition DVDs?

June 2007 Update: If you want to find out more about whether your system
meets the requirements for Blu-ray or HD DVD playback on your Windows
PC, you can read my new (added June 2007) guide which goes into detail
about both hardware and software requirements –
Is your PC High Definition DVD Ready?

At this moment, there are no commercially available computer systems
available to play some of the sample high definition disc available.
Once the hardware and software arrives, most 2.8 GHz or higher rated
computers should be able to play back high definition content smoothly,
although the highest video/audio resolution movies (e.g. 1080p with high
definition multi-channel audio) may require a faster computer
and/or dedicated audio decoding hardware. As a test, you can try and
playback some trailers marked (HD) on
this page
or some WMV-HD clips
here.
I have also written a new guide that will show you how to test your
system for high definition DVD playback:
Is your computer fast enough for high definition DVD playback?.

Cyberlink, makers of the PowerDVD software, has already demonstrated
playback of a HD DVD using PowerDVD and an Intel Pentium D processor at
the Digital Hollywood conference in September 2005. More information
about this demonstration can be found in Cyberlink’s
press release.

Cyberlink has also announced that they will demonstrate Blu-ray disc
playback at CEATEC (Combined Exhibition of Advanced Technologies) in
Japan in early October 2005. The demonstration will be supported by
Panasonic and the BDA (Blu-ray Disc Association). More information about
this demonstration in this
press release.

In August 2006, Cyberlink released a tool called “CyberLink BD / HD
Advisor”. This free tool allows you to test your computer and see if you
have the required hardware and software (Windows, PowerDVD versions) to
playback Blu-ray or HD DVD movies. You can download this tool
here.

CyberLink BD / HD Advisor

Cyberlink has also listed the system requirements for BD/HD DVD playback
on their website.

One interesting note is the requirement for HDCP compliant monitor and
graphics card if you use DVI/HDMI to connect your monitor to your
computer. Many monitors are HDCP certified, but there are surprisingly
few video cards that have HDCP support. NVIDIA/ATI both provided HDCP
support in their GPUs starting several years ago, but it left the
decision to actually implement HDCP support up to manufacturers. Suffice
to say, only the most recent cards that specifically state HDCP support
actually has HDCP support, and most cards manufactured prior to July
2006 will not support HDCP. It also seems that version 7.3 of PowerDVD
Ultra specifically prevents older ATI cards from working – only those
listed as officially supported will work, even though most older cards
are capable of doing so (if you have a fast CPU). For more information
on the full hardware and software requirements for PowerDVD Ultra,
please have a look at my Is Your PC High Definition DVD Ready? guide.

So what will happen when HDCP support is not present or if your monitor
only has D-Sub/VGA input?

With D-Sub/VGA/Analog or HDCP-less digital output, the output will be
limited to 960×540 (a quarter of the full 1920×1080 resolution) at best.
Studios have the option to prevent playback (black screen) at all, or to
present a distorted picture/warning text. The black screen/distorted
output option may be more common with DVI/HDMI outputs without HDCP, as
the data from digital outputs are easier to copy. With PowerDVD Ultra,
the restrictions are a bit different – if you are using a non-HDCP
compliant DVI connection, playback will simply not happen! Only when you
unplug is and use VGA, will you get (resolution limited) playback.

2.4.1 PowerDVD Ultra

PowerDVD Ultra was released in late December 2006. It marks the
first commercially available software based high definition DVD
player on the market (previous versions of WinDVD and PowerDVD with
high definition support were bundled with hardware only, and not
available to individual purchase). PowerDVD Ultra supports both
Blu-ray and HD DVD playback, including support for almost all the
advanced features that both formats offer (like interactive content
using BD-J or iHD).

Dolby Digital Plus, TrueHD, DTS-HD are all supported, as well as
DTS-ES Discrete and Matrix. DTS NEO:6 is also supported.

Hardware acceleration is supported for Intel, ATI and NVIDIA graphic
sub-systems.

In addition to these features, all the other features found in the
deluxe version of PowerDVD is also present.

If you want to find out more about whether your system meets the
requirements for Blu-ray or HD DVD playback on your Windows PC, you
can read my new (added June 2007) guide which goes into detail
about both hardware and software requirements – Is your PC High Definition DVD Ready?.

For more information on PowerDVD Ultra, please refer to Digital
Digest’s software information page for PowerDVD Ultra
or the official website.

2.5 What are the different formats for high definition DVD?

The two main competing formats are HD DVD (not to be confused with the
more general term of High Definition DVD, which refers to any and all high
definition DVD formats) and Blu-ray disc (or BD).

There are also formats mainly based in Asia, called EVD and FVD, and
this FAQ covers them as well.

2.6 Why do we need different formats?

Well, the short answer is we don’t. In an ideal world, there would only
be one single format, a format all the electronics firms and movie
studios would support. In fact, this “ideal world” existed during the
creation of the DVD format, and is perhaps one of the main reasons why
DVD became the record breaking success that it was.

With multiple formats, this means that movie studios will have to choose
a side when it comes to releasing movies in high definition format. What
this means for consumers is that unless your high definition DVD player
supports all the high definition formats, you will either be limited in
the movies you can buy or you might need to purchase more than one
player.

While “we” don’t need multiple formats, the people behind the various
formats do because there is a huge amount of money involved in licensing
fees (more on that later).

But since February 2008, Blu-ray has emerged as the winner of the HD
format war between itself and HD DVD, and so, we finally have the single
HD format that we should have had from the beginning.

3. Blu-ray

Blu-ray

3.1 What is Blu-ray?

Blu-ray is one of the two major formats competing for the emerging high
definition DVD market. The name “Blu-ray” comes from the use of a
blue-violet laser to read and write data. The term Blu-ray discs is
shortened to BD for simplicity.

Due to HD DVD’s capitulation in February 2008, Blu-ray is now the
dominant HD format (in the West, at least).

For additional information on Blu-ray, please refer to these
documents/guides:

3.2 What is Blu-ray’s official launch date?

The official date has been set to Spring 2006, announced in December
2005. HD DVD’s release date was earlier pushed back to early 2006 as
well. The difference between HD DVD and Blu-ray’s launch dates is
probably not a major issue, because even DVDs, the most successful
format ever, took a year to become a “must-have” item after its official
launch date, so the difference of a few months between the official
launch dates is probably insignificant.

A launch date of May 23, 2006 was first set in February of the same
year, but has recently been delayed until June 25th.

As for media, the 2006 CES allowed several companies to make
announcements in regards to media availability:

  • Fujifilm: Blu-ray and HD DVD media available in mid 2006
  • Verbatim: Single layer BD-R and HD DVD-R media available early 2006,
    dual layer HD DVD-R by the end of 2006

More dates will be posted when more announcements are made.

3.3 Who is behind Blu-ray?

Blu-ray is now the only remaining HD format, after Toshiba announced in
February 2008 that HD DVD will no longer be supported. And so
technically, all companies are now backers of Blu-ray, but the list
below is a list of the original backers of the format, before and during
the format war.

Blu-ray is backed by the following list of companies:

  • Apple Computer, Inc.
  • Dell Inc.
  • Hewlett Packard Company
  • Hitachi, Ltd.
  • LG Electronics Inc.
  • Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd.
  • Mitsubishi Electric Corporation
  • Pioneer Corporation
  • Royal Philips Electronics
  • Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.
  • Sharp Corporation
  • Sony Corporation
  • TDK Corporation
  • Thomson Multimedia
  • Twentieth Century Fox
  • Walt Disney Pictures

The main backers are Sony, Matsushita (Panasonics) and Philips, with
Sharp also playing an important role. Sony (formerly Columbia/Tri-Star,
and also the new owner of MGM), Fox and Disney are the main studio backers.

Warner is now the only major studio to back both formats after
Paramount/Dreamwork’s decision in August 2007 to stop releasing movies
for Blu-ray and to produce HD DVD releases only. Rumours suggest that
this deal will only last 18 months, although official statements
indicate it is indefinite. For an updated list of studio and industry
support, please refer to this DigiWiki entry.

Warner has also announced in January 2008 that they will end support for
HD DVD in May 2008, becoming a Blu-ray exclusive studio.

In November 2005, HP has stated that it might shift its support to HD
DVD if “managed copy” (see section 3.13) and “iHD” (see section 7.2) are
not supported by Blu-ray. Subsequently, mandatory managed copy will now
be part of Blu-ray specifications, but the decision to include iHD is
being considered. More information
here.

If you want to find out “which camp” you are in based on your currently
DVD collection, feel free to head on to dvdloc8.com, create a collection
list and view the collection’s statistics to find out (the same thing
can be done with your wish list as well).

3.4 Are there different readable/writable formats like with DVD/DVD-R/W?

Blu-ray will come in three different formats, BD-ROM for read-only discs
(similar to DVD-ROM), BD-R for write-once discs (similar to DVD-R) and
BD-RE for rewritable discs (similar to DVD-RW). Why BD-RE instead of
BD-RW is anyone’s guess though.

At the 2006 International CES, Panasonic made several announcements in
regards to pricing of BD-R/BD-RE media. A single layer BD-R will have
the retail price of $17.99 (USD). A dual layer BD-R will have the retail
price of $42.99. A single layer BD-RE will have the retail price of
$24.99, while the dual layer variety will retail for $59.99.

3.5 What will be the capacities of these types of discs?

Like DVDs, BDs will come in single layer and dual-layer versions, and
eventually, multi-layer (3 or more layer) discs will be supported.

A single layer BD will store around 25GB,
which is more than 5 times the capacity of a
single layer DVD. For each additional layer, an additional 25GB of
storage will be available. The reason for the dramatic capacity increase
over DVD is obvious when you consider that a HD transmission will take
up a lot more room than a typical DVD stream, although with 25GB
and 50GB capacities, and better compression algorithms, capacity
shouldn’t be an issue (so no “flippers”, or double sided disc). These
two types of discs are often referred to as BD25 and BD50.

However, in an interview
with a Microsoft representative, it was suggested that BD’s 50GB discs may not
be ready yet for mass production. In December, the Blu-ray group has
official stated that dual layer discs will not be available at the
official launch of the format, in Spring 2006. Buena Vista has expressed
concern at the delay of dual layered BDs.

This could also lead to potential problems with early movie releases, as
Sony has indicated that MPEG-2 compression is their preferred video
compression format. A typical HD quality MPEG-2 compressed video would
require more space than what a single layer 25 GB BD can offer. The good
news is that Panasonic has started testing a production line for
producing dual layer BDs, although most expect full production of dual
layer BDs to be available in the second half of 2006. In comparison, HD
DVD movies showcased at CES 2006 did not use MPEG-2 compression.

Most Blu-ray movies have moved on to using H.264 of VC-1, and with BD50
production now available, capacity is no longer an issue.

3.6 What resolution will the video on a movie BD be?

BD resolution will follow the standard HD resolution standards currently
used for HDTV transmissions. This means, at least for the present, the
maximum resolution will be 1080i/p, or 1920×1080 in either interlaced or
progressive format (more information about the difference between
interlaced/progressive video in section A.2). There is also 720p
resolution (1280×720, progressive), which is the current native
resolution of many home theatre displays, and also SD resolution
support, similar to today’s DVDs.

The first Blu-ray player from Samsung actually uses the same chip as the
early HD DVD player (Broadcom), which only supports 1080i. The 1080p
output from this player is achieved by Samsung adding another chip to
convert the 1080i signal to 1080p.

The actual quality difference between 1080i and 1080p is actually an
active debate, since it has to take into account various factors such as
the source material, the native resolution of the display, and even the
de-interlacer. For more information, please refer to section A.2.

3.7 What kind of video compression will be used?

BD will support MPEG-2 compression as found in DVDs, MPEG-4 AVC and also
Microsoft’s VC-1, the exact same set as HD DVD’s support (gee, I wonder
why we need two different formats then). Microsoft’s VC-1 is based on
their WMV-9 standard.

Out of the supported compression formats, MPEG-2 is the oldest and least
efficient (larger file size/bitrate in order to achieve the same quality
as MPEG-4 AVC or VC-1). But due to licensing issues, Sony has indicated
that, at least at release, BD may use MPEG-2 compression instead. Using
MPEG-2 compression for HD content could lead to disc capacity problems
(see section 3.5). But since the early releases, most titles are now
using the more efficient H.264 or VC-1 codecs, which Warner mostly
using the same VC-1 transfer for both their Blu-ray and HD DVD releases.

MPEG-4 AVC is also known as H.264 or MPEG-4 Part 10. H.264 High Profile
will be used for the encoding. More information on MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 and
specifications for the various profiles can be found
here.

3.8 What about the audio?

The supported mandatory formats will be the existing DVD audio formats
of Dolby Digital AC3 and DTS. Linear PCM audio will be supported up to
7.1 channels. Dolby Digital Plus (DD+), Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD and DTS-HD
Master Audio (lossless – see section A.2) are all part of the optional
specifications.

3.9 What can you tell me about the recordable BD formats?

The BD specification calls for the recordable function to be available
in most hardware. The initial recording speed will only be 1x (for the BD
1.0 specification), at 36 Mbps, which is actually equal to about 30x
in CD transfer terms (or 3.4x in DVD transfer terms). BD movies by their
nature may require more than the 36 Mbps offered by 1x drives, so 2x or
higher speed drives should be available by the time of launch.

3.10 What kind of equipment will I need to play back BD movies?

The first thing you will need is a BD capable player. No existing DVD
player will be able to read a BD, and there is no software or hardware
upgrade that can be performed to enable BD playback. Buying a new player
is, therefore, the only choice if you want BD playback.

To get the best out of BD and HD in general, you will need a TV that is
not only “HD Ready” (accepts HD inputs, but may not display HD
in full resolution), but a TV that can fully resolve and display 1080
lines of resolution, preferably in progressive fashion. Your HD display
should also have HDMI (see section A.2) or DVI input that supports HDCP
(High Definition Copy Protection – see section A.2), as otherwise you
may be limited to standard definition (SD) pictures only.

The reason for this is a form of copy protection called ICT (Image
Constraint Token). ICT is optional for Blu-ray movies (all movies with
ICT activated must display a logo to warn consumers), which limits
analog output (for example, through component output) to a maximum
resolution of 960×540. Most movie studios have expressed that they will
not use ICT in the near future (for fear of a public backlash, since
many people have high quality analog only equipment).

The bias towards HDMI only HD output is a bit of a debating point
amongst people that have been following the development of high
definition DVD formats. A lot of people do have HD equipment that only
have component/analog inputs, and even today, most of the cheaper displays
do not have HDMI or DVI inputs. By the end of this year though, it is
expected that most equipment will have HDMI/DVI inputs, and so this will
become less of an issue to people over time. There are also (some quite
valid) points being made about HDMI/DVI being inferior in quality to
analog inputs (mainly in the area of colour reproduction).

For those that don’t yet have HD displays, BD movies will still work on
your existing television set, but only at SD definition. This isn’t too
bad, as the having a HD source to down-convert to SD will mean you will get
the best possible looking SD picture there is.

3.10.1 Blu-ray Hardware Profiles

There are three Blu-ray playback profiles. Blu-ray playback hardware
must comply with one of these profiles. October 31st 2007 say the
Blu-ray Profile 1.1 become mandatory, meaning all players released
after this date must comply with Profile 1.1 specifications.

Profile 1.0 is used by the first generation of Blu-ray players, but
notably lacks a secondary video processor (needed for
Picture-in-Picture content) and only requires 64 KB of Persistent
Storage. Internet connectivity is also not required.

Profile 1.1 adds the requirement for a secondary video and audio
processors, requires 256 MB of persistent storage. All players
manufactured after October 31 2007 must comply with this profile.

Profile 2.0 adds network connectivity to the list of requirements,
and persistent storage requirement is increased to 1 GB.

A table of the various profile differences can be found here.

3.11 What about my existing DVD collection? Out the trash like my old VHS collection?

There is no official standard that says DVDs will have to be supported
by BD devices, but the general consensus is that all BD devices will
supports DVDs, without requiring any major modifications on the
manufacturer’s part. It will be stupid for manufacturers not to put
support for such a popular and established format into their BD players.

3.12 Will BD/HD DVD players be able to play back the other high definition DVD formats?

Yes and no. No in that the official specifications obviously won’t
mention rival formats, unless it’s to slag them off, but as with support
for DVDs, it would be stupid for many manufacturers (especially those
that haven’t strongly backed any single format) to not support all the
major formats, just like how DVD recordable multi-drives (DVD+ and DVD-
support in one drive) is the de-facto standard at the moment.

3.13 What about copy protection? Will it be as weak as DVD’s CSS?

One major lesson that the movie studios have learnt with DVD is that
copy protection is something they should take much more seriously, and
they have done just that with the next generation formats, although some
would argue that there are still inherent weaknesses in the copy
protection scheme chosen.

BD and HD DVD will both use AACS (Advanced Access Content System)
to protect its digital data. It is very similar
to the flawed CSS, but the “key” difference is in how
the various decryption keys are distributed. AES encryption is to be
used.

There is actually a lot of computer science behind this, including
binary trees, public/private keys and what have you, so I won’t bore
you with it. Basically, a key is like the normal use of the word:
a device used to unlock something. All BD/HD DVD players will have sets
of keys that can unlock the data on BDs/HD DVDs. Studios have the power
to revoke keys, or prevent certain keys from being used to unlock the
data (e.g. keys that have been posted publicly after being hacked). So
far so good (or bad), as this is how CSS functions as well, although
it’s much harder for CSS to revoke keys because the keys are not
structured properly like with AACS. Once a key is revoked, future discs
will not carry this key, and players using this key will can no longer
play back these new discs. The real intention here is not to disable
players, but rather, stop ripping software that uses a set of “leaked”
or “hacked” keys to rip disc. There might be a situation where a
particular hardware player’s keys have all been leaked, and it will no
longer be able to play back new discs.

Now, there have been a lot of discussion about AACS requiring an
Internet connection to update keys and so forth, as well as checking for
content authorisation (pay per play, etc…), but this is not really
true of standalone hardware players, at least not right now (although by
launch time, this may change, but it’s hard to imagine Internet
connections being required by default, as this would wipe out a huge
segment of the consumer base). Only software based players will
require this key update, as it isn’t really practical to implement an
“Internet connection” requirement for hardware. An Internet connection
might be useful if say a hardware player’s keys have all been leaked and
revoked, so a new set can be issued to the player through an Internet
update. Although allowing updates through the Internet opens up a whole
other set of issues, like security. Besides, this kind of copy
protection can be implemented without an Internet connection, as in the
case of SPDC (see below).

And as long as hackers don’t post keys publicly, or produce tools which
randomly generates working keys, this scheme won’t even work to provide
any protection. Even if there was a large scale leak, say if all the keys
of a certain hardware manufacturer are leaked, a mass revocation may
not work either because this would cause big problems for existing
players of said manufacturer (assuming it is an “established” name), and
a lot of headaches to a lot of normal consumers (but we’ll probably have
to get used to this sooner or later). If a “minor” manufacturer has its
keys revoked (e.g. a small manufacturer that did not pay licensing
fees), then people who have purchased this player might be in a bit of
bother, but this is probably one of the intended effects of this new
copy protection scheme.

Worst yet, work on AACS has been delayed meaning that a delay on the
launch dates of both Blu-ray and HD DVD hardware is a strong
possibility.

AACS will also feature analogue copy protection (Macrovision), a way to
force lower resolution video on analogue outputs, audio watermarks to
prevent non watermarked audio from being played back, and the
possibility of forcing digital output only (digital output is easier to
“protect” than analogue output).

Unfortunately, the Blu-Ray Disc Association has deemed AACS
insufficient, and has also added support for Self-Protecting Digital
Content (SPDC), or what it calls BD+, and “ROM Mark”. Starting with ROM
Mark, it is a unique and undetectable identifier produced in the
manufacturing phase that prevents mass piracy. Fair enough. BD+ or SPDC,
on the other hand, has come under some criticism. BD+ allows discs to
carry title specific security logic, basically means that each disc can
contain code that can be run on a BD player to allow or disallow
playback (although the player’s behaviour is not modified, and will
return to normal once the disc is ejected). Whether this code can be
used maliciously by hackers (e.g. a pirated disc distributed on the
Internet, which can shut down a player, forcing the user to reboot
and quickly eject the malicious disc before the code is run again), we
can only wait to find out.

More information on SPDC can be found here:
http://www.cryptography.com/technology/spdc/

As expected, the various AACS versions that have been present on discs
since release have all been cracked, sometimes before the discs
themselves were available for general sale. BD+ implementations have
been rumoured to be hacked too with the first commercial cracking
solution to be available before the end of 2007.

In November 2005, HP has requested “Managed Copy” to be added to the
Blu-ray specifications as a mandatory features. That request was
subsequently approved, so now both Blu-ray and HD DVD will have
mandatory managed copy support. Managed copy refers to
the part of the copy protection system that allows backups to be made,
as well as the content to be played back remotely (eg. over a home
network). Microsoft has recently cited this to be one of the main
reasons for its shift of support towards HD DVD, before Blu-ray made it
mandatory as well.

3.14 So why have AACS if it might not work?

The very same reasons why the (non-working) CSS and (non-working) region
protection schemes are still in place today.

Licensing is the cash cow of the 21st century. By only providing working
keys to manufacturers that pay you licensing fees (at your own
schedule/price), every time a device capable of playing BD/HD DVD is
produced, a licensing fee is paid to the founders of the formats. This
is also why there are two major and two minor high definition DVD
formats, as opposed to just the one (see section 2.6).

So in actual fact, AACS is more of a licensing protection scheme, than a
copy protection scheme, and any inconvenience consumers have to suffer
as a result is much less important, in the eye of the format founders,
than the billions in income that licensing will generate in the lifetime
of these high definition formats.

3.15 What about region coding?

By all accounts, region coding for DVDs should be considered a failure,
with region-free hacked firmware available for DVD-ROM drives, and
remote control hacks for standalones (not to mention the great number of
players manufactured to be region-free). However, this is not stopping
region coding to be included in Blu-ray, even if the boundaries of the
regions are different to that for DVDs.

An announcement in December 2005 specified the regions for Blu-ray
discs:

  • Region 1: North America, South America, East Asia except for China
  • Region 2: Europe and Africa
  • Region 3: China, Russia and other countries

3.16 PlayStation 3

PlayStation 3

3.16.1 Why is the PS3 being mentioned in this FAQ? Did you copy and paste the wrong section into the wrong FAQ?

The Sony PS3 is indeed important to the success or failure of the BD
format. As mentioned above, Sony is one of the major backers of the BD
format, and so it is no surprise that the next generation game
console, the PS3, will use BD as its primary format. As for November
2007, the PS3 represents the best Blu-ray player available on the
market due to its versatile and powerful hardware, which allows it
to be eventually upgraded to conform with the most advanced Blu-ray
playback profile (see section 3.10.1).

But thanks for assuming that it was a mistake on my part.

3.16.2 Will the PS3 be able to play back BD movies?

Yes.

The PS3 is capable of 1080p output, so full resolution BD playback
is supported.

Because the PS3 has an Ethernet port, large quantities of storage
and a powerful processor, firmware updates will eventually be able
to bring the PS3 up to the most advanced Blu-ray playback profile
(see section 3.10.1).

3.16.3 Why is PS3’s support for BD significant enough to warrant an entire chapter in this FAQ?

Because people like playing games, and the PS3 will most likely be
the most popular game console once it is released, and if not, it
will still be in the top 3. If anything, this could tip the format
race in favour of BD over HD DVD, and certainly doesn’t hurt Sony,
which had the choice of having a proprietary format for its game
console, or something just as good.

As of November 2007, the PS3 is the most popular Blu-ray player on
the market and it has helped Blu-ray to have a lead in terms of
movie sales in the US.

3.16.4 What about the Xbox 360?

See section 4.16

3.16.5 PS3 Blu-ray Playback Details

This section briefly goes over the details of PS3’s Blu-ray playback
capabilities. For a more detailed report and comparison with Xbox
360’s HD DVD playback capabilities, please refer to this article.

For the time being, navigation of Blu-ray titles is done through the
PS3’s controller. A remote control add-on will be available in time
though.

Disc loading and menu access is quite quick, and comparable if not
better than the Samsung BD-P1000 standalone player. The operation is
also near silent, unlike the noise from the Xbox 360’s internal
cooling fan.

HDMI 1.3 output is included in both version of the console, making
it the first Blu-ray player to feature HDMI 1.3. 1080p output is
supported, as is internal decoding of audio up to 7.1 channels.
Dolby Digital, DTS, SACD and Dolby TrueHD can all be decoded by the
PS3. Pass-through of these formats is also supported through HDMI or
through Sony’s optical “MultiOut” audio output system. HDMI cable
and Sony’s proprietary PS3 to component cables are sold separately.

Playback quality appears to favour the PS3 over the Samsung BD-P1000,
especially in the area of detail. Video output is at 1080p/60, with
no support for 1080p/24 as of yet. The latest PS3 1.80 firmware adds
1080p upscaling for both games and movies (including DVD movies)!

3.17 Technical details overview

Laser Type:Blue-violet laser
Laser Wavelength:405nm
Track Pitch:0.32µm
Read Power:0.35mW
Disc size:120mm
Capacity:
    Single Layer:25GB
    Dual Layer:50GB
Transfer Rate:1x => 36 Mbps
Video Resolution:1080i (1920×1080 HD, 50i, 60i)
1080p (1920×1080 HD, 24p)
720p (1280×720, 50p, 60p, 24p)
SD (720×576/480, 50i, 60i)
Video Compression:MPEG-2
MPEG-4 AVC
Microsoft VC-1
Audio Resolution/Compression:Dolby Digital AC3
DTS
Linear PCM
Optional: Dolby Digital Plus (DD+)
Optional: Dolby TrueHD
Optional: DTS-HD High Resolution Audio
Optional: DTS-HD Master Audio (lossless)
Copy ProtectionAACS
ROM Mark
BD+
File System:DF 2.6

3.18 Hardware availability

This section will provide some details of early Blu-ray hardware (for
computers or standalone devices) that will be available around launch.
This section is not meant to be an all inclusive list of all available
hardware, but rather, a list that is designed to give you a
general idea of the specifications (and if available, costs) of the
early generation hardware.

Pioneer BDR-101A

Pioneer BDR-101A

Type: Computer Drive (ATAPI interface)
Supported Read Media

  • Single Layer BD-R (2x)
  • Single Layer BD-RE (without cartridge, 2x)
  • Single and Double Layer BD-ROM (without cartridge, 2x)
  • DVD-ROM
  • DVD-R/DVD+R/DVD-RW/DVD+RW/DVD-R(DL)/DVD+R(DL)
  • No CD support (will be available in upcoming BDR-102A)

Supported Write Media:

  • Single Layer BD-R at 2x speed
  • Single Layer BD-RE at 2x speed
  • DVD-R/DVD+R/DVD-RW/DVD+RW/DVD-R(DL)/DVD+R(DL)
  • No CD support (will be available in upcoming BDR-102A)

Shipping Date: End of January 2006
Estimate RRP: $USD 995
More information: http://www.pioneer.co.jp/press/release159.html

Samsung BD-1000

Samsung BD-1000

Type: Standalone Player
Supported Read Media:

  • BD-ROM/BD-R/BD-RE
  • DVD
  • DVD-R/DVD+R/DVD-RW/DVD+RW/DVD-RAM

Supported Write Media:

  • None

Interface: HDMI
DVD Playback: Yes

Shipping Date: Spring 2006
Estimate RRP: $USD 1000

Pioneer BDP-HD1

Pioneer BDP-HD1

Type: Standalone Player
Supported Read Media:

  • BD-ROM/BD-R/BD-RE
  • DVD
  • DVD-R/DVD+R/DVD-RW/DVD+RW/DVD-RAM

Supported Write Media:

  • None

Interface: HDMI
Video Support:

  • 720p or 1080i or 1080p
  • JPEG, WMV Playback

Audio Support:

  • DTS-HD, Dolby Digital

DVD Playback: Yes, with up-conversion to 720p/1080i/1080p through HDMI

Shipping Date: June 2006
Estimate RRP: $USD 1800

3.19 Software (Movies) availability

This section list some software (currently only movies) that have been
scheduled for release. This is not a complete list of
all available BD movies – for a list of BD movies, please refer to dvdloc8.com’s Blu-ray movie list.

List of initial releases for 2006:

  • Aeon Flux (2005)
  • Armageddon
  • Batman Begins
  • Behind Enemy Lines
  • Bram Stoker’s Dracula
  • Brothers Grimm, The
  • Charlie & The Chocolate Factory
  • Constantine
  • Dark Water
  • Desperado
  • Devil’s Rejects, The
  • Dinosaur
  • Dukes of Hazzard, The
  • Dune
  • Everest
  • Fantastic Four
  • Fifth Element, The
  • For a Few Dollars More
  • Four Brothers
  • Great Raid, The
  • Guns of Navarone, The
  • Hero
  • Hitch
  • House of Flying Daggers
  • Ice Age
  • Italian Job, The (2003)
  • Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back
  • Kill Bill: Vol. 1
  • Kiss of the Dragon
  • Knight’s Tale, A
  • Kung Fu Hustle
  • Ladder 49
  • Lara Croft: Tomb Raider
  • Last Samurai, The
  • Last Waltz, The
  • League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, The
  • Legends of the Fall
  • Lethal Weapon
  • Lord of War
  • Manchurian Candidate, The (2004)
  • Matrix, The
  • Million Dollar Baby
  • Oceans 12
  • Punisher, The
  • Rambo: First Blood
  • Reservoir Dogs
  • Resident Evil Apocalypse
  • Robocop
  • Saw
  • Sahara
  • Sense and Sensibility
  • Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
  • Sleepy Hollows
  • Stealth
  • Species
  • SWAT
  • Swordfish
  • Terminator 2: Judgement Day
  • Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
  • Total Recall
  • Training Day
  • Troy
  • Twister
  • U2 – Rattle & Hum
  • Unforgiven
  • We Were Soldiers
  • xXx

4. HD DVD

HD DVD

4.1 What is HD DVD?

HD DVD (not to be confused with the general concept of high definition DVD
formats, although the confusion is probably intentional) is one of the
two major formats competing for the emerging high definition DVD market.
The name “HD DVD” is obviously an extension of the existing DVD naming
scheme, and while it’s the usual marketing ploy, it does make a little
sense in that HD DVD is a lot closer to the current DVD format than
Blu-ray discs (BD).

Due to HD DVD’s capitulation in February 2008, Blu-ray is now the
dominant HD format (in the West, at least). As such, the information
contained in this section is mainly for historical purposes.

For additional information on Blu-ray, please refer to these
documents/guides:

4.1.1 What is AOD?

AOD is Advanced Optical Disc, another name for HD-DVD.

4.2 What is HD DVD’s official launch date?

An announcement in late September 2005 from Toshiba has indicated that
the U.S launch will be delayed until February or March 2006. And in
December 2005, Blu-ray’s launch date has been set for Spring 2006.

The actual official launch in the U.S came on the 17th of April, 2006.

As for media, the 2006 CES allowed several companies to make
announcements in regards to media availability:

  • Fujifilm: Blu-ray and HD DVD media available in mid 2006
  • Verbatim: Single layer BD-R and HD DVD-R media available early 2006,
    dual layer HD DVD-R by the end of 2006

More dates will be posted when more announcements are made.

4.3 Who is behind HD DVD?

Blu-ray is now the only remaining HD format, after Toshiba announced in
February 2008 that HD DVD will no longer be supported. And so
technically, all companies are now backers of Blu-ray, but the list
below is a list of the original backers of HD DVD, before and during
the format war.

The major companies backing HD DVD are:

  • Canon Inc.
  • Digital Theater Systems
  • Hitachi Maxell, Ltd.
  • Kenwood Corporation
  • Mitsubishi Kagaku Media Co., Ltd.
  • NEC Corporation
  • Onkyo Corporation
  • Paramount Home Entertainment
  • Sanyo Electric Co., Ltd.
  • Teac Corporation
  • Toshiba Corporation
  • Universal Pictures
  • Warner Home Video Inc.

There are also some minor “Associate Members”, the full list can be
found here

The major backers are Toshiba and NEC. The main studio backers are
Universal and Paramount.

Warner is now the only major studio to back both formats after
Paramount/Dreamwork’s decision in August 2007 to stop releasing movies
for Blu-ray and to produce HD DVD releases only. Rumours suggest that
this deal will only last 18 months, although official statements
indicate it is indefinite. For an updated list of studio and industry
support, please refer to this DigiWiki entry.

Warner has also announced in January 2008 that they will end support for
HD DVD in May 2008, becoming a Blu-ray exclusive studio.

Sony (the major backer of Blu-ray) announced in late November that it
will merge its optical disc-drive unit with that of NEC’s, with
operations under the leadership of Sony. This has led to speculation
that NEC may pull out of HD DVD production, but the most likely outcome
could be that the merged unit will produce both Blu-ray and HD DVD
drives, as a Sony spokesman has said that “It is conceivable that there
could be a variety of disk-drive requests produced … perhaps even that
other format” (the “other format” being HD DVD, one presumes). More
information about the merger can be found
here.

An announcement in late September 2005 from Microsoft and Intel has
stated that they would now officially support HD DVD. The reasons for
this support, taken from an interview
with a Microsoft representative by
Tom’s Hardware Guide , seems to be
that it would be easier to make authorised copies of legally obtained
discs with HD DVD (Managed Copy), which is important in the context of home media
streaming.

If you want to find out “which camp” you are in based on your currently
DVD collection, feel free to head on to dvdloc8.com, create a collection
list and view the collection’s statistics to find out (the same thing
can be done with your wish list as well).

4.4 Are there different readable/writable formats like with DVD/DVD-R/W?

HD DVD will come in three different formats, HD DVD-ROM for read-only
(similar to DVD-ROM), HD DVD-R for write-once discs (similar to DVD-R)
and HD DVD-Rewritable for rewritable discs (similar to DVD-RW).

4.5 What will be the capacities of these types of discs?

Like DVDs, HD DVDs will come in single layer and dual-layer versions, and
new is a triple-layer version just recently announced (BD may support
multi-layer discs, but nothing has yet been announced).

A single layer HD DVD will store around 15GB, which is more than 3 times
the capacity of a single layer DVD. For each additional layer, an
additional 15GB of storage will be available. The reason for the
dramatic capacity increase over DVD is obvious when you consider that a
HD transmission will take up a lot more room than a typical DVD stream,
although with 15/30 capacities, and better compression algorithms,
capacity shouldn’t be an issue (so no “flippers”, or double sided disc).

HD15 and HD30 are often used to describe these two capacity versions.

HD DVDs are also available as “combos”, which are double sided discs
where one side is a single or dual layer HD DVD, and the other is a
standard DVD that can be read by any DVD player.

As announced in September 2007, triple layer HD DVD will bring the total
capacity to 51 GB, just above Blu-ray’s dual layer capacity. Each layer
in this triple layer format will be increased to 17 GB as a result.
Rumours suggests that a further version of the triple layer HD DVD will
be available where the first two layers offer 30 GB of HD DVD storage,
and the third layer will be a standard DVD layer that can be read by any
DVD player.

4.6 What resolution will the video on a movie HD DVD be?

HD DVD resolution will follow the standard HD resolution standards currently
used for HDTV transmissions. This means, at least for the present, the
maximum output resolution will be 1080i (see below for updated information on
this issue), or 1920×1080 in interlaced format only
(not many displays can support 1080p,
and even less can resolve or display the full 1080 lines – more
information in section A.2). There is also 720p resolution (1280×720,
progressive), which is the current native resolution of many home
theatre displays, and also SD resolution support, similar to today’s
DVDs.

The lack of 1080p support was something that even supporters of HD DVD
were complaining about. At the time movies were to be stored in 1080i
format, even if 1080p output in players were planned to be supported in
the future – requiring a bit of de-interlacing to produce a progressive
picture, as opposed to BD’s progressive source.

But the situation either changed or was initially mis-represented. In an
interview with Microsoft in the Audioholics magazine in January 2006
indicated that HD DVD movies will be stored in 1080p format like BD,
even if initial players can only output at 1080i. You can read the full
interview
here.

So far, all of the HD DVD movie releases have been in 1080p as promised.
One of the stated reason for the lack of 1080p HD DVD players when
initially released was said to have been the lack of HDMI 1.3
specifications at the time of launch (the interview above seems to refer
to this as well). This does not seem to be true as 1080p is supported by
all version of HDMI (Dolby and DTS’s lossless audio, on the other hand,
is only supported by HDMI 1.3). The real reasons for the lack of 1080p
in early HD DVD hardware was the use of the Broadcom chip, which is
limited to 1080i output. In fact, Samsung’s first Blu-ray player
also uses the same chip and then had to use another chip to de-interlace the
1080i signal produced by the Broadcom chip to produce the 1080p output.

Toshiba still currently (November 2007) offers a 1080i HD DVD player as
the budget choice, while all other players have 1080p output as
standard. 1080p/24 output has been added to certain players in the line
up as well.

The actual quality difference between 1080i and 1080p is actually an
active debate, since it has to take into account various factors such as
the source material, the native resolution of the display, and even the
de-interlacer. For more information, please refer to section A.2.

4.7 What kind of video compression will be used?

HD DVD will use the same set of video compression codecs as BD (see
section 3.7). And just approved by the DVD Forum (14th September 2005),
China will have its own HD DVD sub-format, that will use the Advanced
Audio Video Coding Standard (AVS), as opposed to the more expensive to
license MPEG and VC-1 codecs.

The majority of HD DVD releases to date (November 2007) has been encoded
using VC-1.

4.8 What about the audio?

The supported mandatory formats will be the existing DVD audio formats,
Dolby Digital AC3 and DTS. Other mandatory formats supported include
Dolby Digital Plus (DD+), Dolby TrueHD and Linear PCM audio. A secondary
optional audio track may use DTS-HD, DTS-HD Master Audio (lossless – see
section A.2).

4.9 What can you tell me about the recordable HD DVD formats?

The initial recording speed will only be 1x at 36.55 Mbps, which is
actually equal to about 30x in CD transfer terms (or 3.4x in DVD
transfer terms). Faster recording speeds will be available, possibly at
launch time.

The DVD Forum steering committee meeting on the 14th September 2005 also
agreed on the specifications for 1x dual layer recording, suggesting
that dual layer recording (for standalone or computer based recorders)
may be available at launch or shortly after.

Toshiba has already demonstrated player/recorders at electronic shows.

4.10 What kind of equipment will I need to play back HD DVD movies?

The first thing you will need is a HD DVD capable player. No existing
DVD player will be able to read a HD DVD, and there is no software or
hardware upgrade that can be performed to enable HD DVD playback. Buying
a new player is, therefore, the only choice if you want HD DVD playback.

The requirements for HD DVD is very similar to that for
Blu-ray, so please refer to section 3.10 for more information.

4.10.1 HD DVD Performance Levels

Unlike Blu-ray, HD DVD’s specifications were finalized at launch.
However, within the single specification, there are two performance
levels differing in certain optional features.

Performance Level 1, the level that is used by all early HD DVD
players, makes connection to additional/external Persistent Storage
optional, as well as 5.1 audio decoding for all mandatory audio
codecs. 24p video output is also optional.

Performance Level 2 simply makes all the optional specifications of
PL1 mandatory.

A table of the level differences can be found here.

4.10.2 CH DVD

CH DVD is the approved format for the Chinese HD market. CH DVD
players will be compatible with HD DVD discs, but CH DVD discs will
not be playable on HD DVD players because CH DVD movies will be
aimed at the Chinese market and priced lower in order to combat
piracy. Therefore, CH DVD standalones hardware will feature similar
components as HD DVD players.

By having a one-way compatible standard in China, the HD DVD group
hopes to decrease hardware manufacturing cost as more and more CH
DVD players are produced for the Chinese market, the same
manufacturing process can be re-used for HD DVD player productions.

4.11 What about my existing DVD collection? Out the trash like my old VHS collection?

HD DVD is marketing itself as the natural successor to DVD (both
approved by the DVD Forum, although the DVD Forum is not as official as
it sounds), and so, DVD playback should not be an issue for HD DVD
players.

4.12 Will BD/HD DVD players be able to play back the other high definition DVD formats?

See section 3.12

4.13 What about copy protection? Will it be as weak as DVD’s CSS?

See section 3.13

4.14 So why have AACS if it might not work?

See section 3.14

4.15 What about region coding?

It appears (at least from statements made in October 2005, by the DVD
Forum) that HD DVD will be region free. This is not a total surprise as
DVD region coding can only be considered a failure, as it achieved none
of the goals it set out to.

Update: In May 2006, the DVD Forum creates a team to investigate adding
region-coding to HD DVD. This suggest HD DVD may yet consider region-coding,
although the players and software on sale at this time (May 2006) do not
have region coding support. It is still highly unlikely that HD DVD will
introduce region control, as this would mean all existing players will need
to be modified. HD DVD being region-free is now one of the major
advantages that the format has over rivals Blu-ray, allowing importing
of films from overseas to build up your collection.

4.16 Xbox 360

Xbox 360

4.16.1 Since the Sony PS3 will support BDs, will the Xbox 360 support HD DVD?

The Xbox 360 did not include a HD DVD drive nor were there plans to
have support for HD DVD at launch, although Bill Gates has hinted
that an updated Xbox 360 with HD DVD support may be available in the
future (see update below). At the time of release, however, Xbox 360
will rely on the DVD format for distribution, with no support for
any of the future high definition formats. The game console itself
will be able to output high definition pictures (at 1080i), so the
exclusion of HD movie playback support is a bit confusing. But this
is probably the price Microsoft has to pay in order to release their
console earlier than the competition, and without having to choose
one format over another (Microsoft’s VC-1 codec is supported by both
major high definition formats, and this gives you an indication of
the fence-sitting attitude that Microsoft will take towards this
issue).

Update (October 2nd, 2005): Microsoft has officially backed the HD
DVD format, along with Intel. While there is still no official news
that the Xbox 360 will have HD DVD capabilities, this news does
suggest that the Xbox 360 will have this capability in the future if
the HD DVD format is not a total failure.

Update (January 8th, 2006): At the CES 2006, Microsoft announced
that it will provide HD DVD support for the Xbox 360 in the form of
an external drive/add-on, to be release later in 2006.

Update (August, 2006). Microsoft has announced that the HD DVD add
on drive will be available for Christmas at around $200. The drive
would only be used for HD DVD movie playback, with no support for
HD DVD games.

The Xbox 360 HD DVD drive is now available for sale and it has
become the most popular Xbox 360 accessory on sale to date (November
2007).

Xbox 360 HD DVD add-on drive

4.16.2 Xbox 360 HD DVD Playback Details

This section briefly goes over the details of the Xbox 360’s HD DVD
playback capabilities. For a more detailed report and comparison
with PS3’s Blu-ray playback capabilities, please refer to this article.

A remote control is available with the add-on drive, which is
similar to that of the Toshiba HD-A1 and HD-XA1 standalone’s, with
better ergonomics and being backlit, despite losing some advanced
features.

Loading time is considerably better than that found on the Toshiba
HD-XA1 standalone player. Noise is a concern during playback, since
the internal cooling fans of the Xbox 360 can be quite intrusive
during quiet moments in the movie.

Connectivity is limited to the set of outputs on the Xbox 360, since
the add-on drive only has one USB connection that connects to the
main console. This means there is no support for HDMI output, and
1080p output is only available through a separately sold VGA cable
(assuming your TV/monitor supports VGA input at 1080p). Component
output would then seem like the default connection. Audio output is
at best through the optical output, but only at Dolby Digital 5.1
(1.5Mbps). This means while decoding of certain formats is
supported, like Dolby TrueHD, the console will only downconvert the
audio to Dolby Digital 5.1 for output. There is no pass-through
mode. DTS 5.1 decoding is supported, but no support for DTS-HD is
present.

Video quality is comparable to that of the Toshiba standalone, even
just through component output. The internal architecture of the of
the add-on drive is based on Toshiba’s second generation standalone
player’s, and so the good quality was expected. As mentioned above,
1080p output is only available through the optional VGA cable, and
only if your TV/monitor supports 1080p input (many do support VGA
inputs, but sometimes only at standard computer resolutions such as
1280×768).

4.16.3 Using the Xbox 360’s HD DVD add-on drive on your PC

One of the most interesting aspects of the add-on drive is the
ability to use the drive on your PC (both Windows XP, Vista and Mac
OS X). Connection is made through USB.

Drivers have been made available for Windows XP (although some
report not needing them in any case) that will allow it to recognise
the add-on drive just like any other external drive. Playback is
then possible using PowerDVD Ultra (see section 2.4.1).

On the Mac OS X, the drive is recognised, but there is no HD DVD
player yet for this operating system.

Windows Vista compatibility should be straight out of the box, with
no drivers required.

What this really means that for a very low price ($US 180), you can
buy yourself an external HD DVD drive that works on multiple OS’s
and also with your Xbox 360. This might even tempt non Xbox 360
owners from purchasing the add-on individually for use as a HD DVD
drive for their PC.

For instructions on how to use your Xbox 360 HD DVD add-on drive in
Windows, and how to then get HD DVD playback happening, please read
my new Using the Xbox 360 HD DVD Add-on Drive in Windows guide

4.17 Technical details

Laser Type:Blue-violet laser
Laser Wavelength:405nm
Track Pitch:0.40µm (HD DVD-ROM, DVD-R)
0.34µm (HD DVD-Rewritable)
Read Power:0.50mW
Disc size:120mm
Capacity:
    Single Layer:15GB
    Dual Layer:30GB
    Triple Layer:45GB
Transfer Rate:1x => 36.55 Mbps
Video Resolution:1080i (1920×1080 HD, 50i, 60i)
1080p (1920×1080 HD, 24p)
720p (1280×720, 50p, 60p, 24p)
SD (720×576/480, 50i, 60i)
Video Compression:MPEG-2
MPEG-4 AVC
Microsoft VC-1
Audio Resolution/Compression:Dolby Digital AC3
DTS
Linear PCM
Dolby Digital Plus (DD+)
Dolby TrueHD
Optional: DTS-HD High Resolution Audio
Optional: DTS-HD Master Audio (lossless)
Copy ProtectionAACS
File System:DF 2.6

4.18 Hardware availability

This section will provide some details of early HD DVD hardware (for
computers or standalone devices) that will be available around launch.
This section is not meant to be an all inclusive list of all available
hardware, but rather, a list that is designed to give you a
general idea of the specifications (and if available, costs) of the
early generation hardware.

NEC HR-1100A

NEC HR-1100A

Type: Computer Drive (ATAPI interface)
Supported Read Media

  • HD DVD (2x)
  • DVD-ROM (8x)
  • DVD-RAM (5x)
  • DVD-R/DVD+R/DVD-RW/DVD+RW/DVD-R(DL)/DVD+R(DL) (8x)
  • CD (32x)

Supported Write Media:

  • N/A

Shipping Date: March 2006
Estimate RRP: $USD 500

Toshiba HD-A1

Toshiba HD-A1

 

Type: Standalone Player
Supported Read Media:

  • HD-DVD
  • DVD
  • DVD-R/DVD-RW/DVD-RAM
  • CD-R/CD-RW

Supported Write Media:

  • None

Interface: HDMI
Video Support:

  • 720p or 1080i

Audio Support:

  • Multichannel 24-bit/192-kHz audio DACs
  • MP3 and WMA playback
  • Onboard Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, and Dolby TrueHD (2 channel)
  • Onboard DTS and DTS-HD decoding with 5.1 analog audio outputs
  • Four 32-bit floating-point DSPs to decode multichannel streams

DVD Playback: Yes, with up-conversion to 720p/1080i through HDMI

Shipping Date: March 2006 (available to pre-order now)
Online Pre-order: http://tinyurl.com/duscx
Estimate RRP: $USD 499.99

Toshiba HD-XA1

Toshiba HD-XA1

Type: Standalone Player
Supported Read Media:

  • HD-DVD
  • DVD
  • DVD-R/DVD-RW/DVD-RAM
  • CD-R/CD-RW

Supported Write Media:

  • None

Interface: HDMI
Video Support:

  • 720p or 1080i
  • High performance video processor
  • Selectable user interface

Audio Support:

  • Multichannel 24-bit/192-kHz audio DACs
  • MP3 and WMA playback
  • Onboard Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, and Dolby TrueHD (2 channel)
  • Onboard DTS and DTS-HD decoding with 5.1 analog audio outputs
  • Four 32-bit floating-point DSPs to decode multichannel streams

DVD Playback: Yes, with up-conversion to 720p/1080i through HDMI

Shipping Date: March 2006
Estimate RRP: $USD 799.99

4.19 Software (Movies) availability

This section list some software (currently only movies) that have been
scheduled for release. This is not a complete list of
all available BD movies – for a list of BD movies, please refer to dvdloc8.com’s HD DVD movie list.

List of initial releases for 2006:

  • Aeon Flux (2005)
  • Aviator, The
  • Band of Brothers
  • Batman Begins
  • Bourne Supremacy, The
  • Braveheart
  • Four Brothers
  • Friends
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
  • Italian Job, The (2003)
  • Lara Croft: Tomb Raider
  • Lord of the Rings Trilogy, The
  • Manchurian Candidate, The (2004)
  • Matrix Trilogy, The
  • Sahara
  • Seven
  • Sleepy Hollows
  • Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
  • Terminator 3
  • U2 – Rattle & Hum
  • Ultimate Star Trek Movie Collection, The
  • We Were Soldiers

5. EVD

EVD

5.1 What is EVD?

EVD stands for Enhanced Versatile Disc, and it was developed by a
consortium of Chinese companies. EVD is actually just a DVD disc with a
different set of video/audio specifications, one using a better
compression algorithm than MPEG-2, and hence, allows high definition
movies to be stored onto a DVD.

5.2 When was EVD officially launched?

EVD was officially announced way back in November 2003, and while
players and discs are available, it has not been a total success story.
When the other major high definition DVD formats are launched, it will
be interesting to see if EVD can market itself as the cheap DVD based
alternative to high definition movie distribution.

5.3 Who is behind EVD?

EVD was developed by Beijing E-World Technology, a consortium of major
electronic firms in China, backed by the Chinese government. These firms
include:

  • SVA
  • Shinco
  • Xiaxin
  • Yuxing
  • Skyworth
  • Nintaus
  • Malata
  • Changhong
  • BBK

The video compression technology used is On2’s VP5/VP6 video codec, but
there was a dispute between On2 and E-World over licensing fees.

5.4 What about EVD recordable formats?

EVD is really just a DVD disc with a different set of video/audio
codecs, so it can’t really be classified as a recordable media format.
EVD is mainly a playback format.

5.5 Why develop EVD?

EVD was developed as a response to the relatively high licensing cost of
DVDs (around $US 15 per hardware player, as opposed to EVD’s $2). DVD
licensing and royalty cost includes CSS, Macrovision, MPEG-2 and the
various surround sound systems. EVD will essentially be royalty free.

Also see section 2.6 and 3.14.

5.6 What resolution will the video on an EVD be?

EVD supports 1080i (1920×1080 at 50i or 60i) and 720p (1280×720)
resolutions, comparable to HD DVD, although not to Blu-ray’s 1080p
support. Standard DVD definitions are also supported, as EVD was
originally designed to be a DVD replacement, as well as a next
generation DVD format.

5.7 What kind of video compression will be used?

EVD uses On2 Technologies’ VP5 and VP6 video
compression codecs.

5.8 What about the audio?

EVD uses an audio codec from called EAC 2.0
(Enhanced Audio Codec). EAC supports 6 channel audio and is more
efficient that Dolby Digital or DTS used in DVDs.

5.9 What kind of equipment will I need to play back EVD movies?

While EVD shares the same media as DVDs, existing DVD players will not
be able to play back EVDs, since they do not support the decoding of
EVD’s video and audio codecs.

The specifications are similar to HD DVD (see section 4.10),
although being developed as a DVD replacement, the expected user base
will be primarily people who can watch DVDs, as opposed to a new user
base featuring people with high definition displays.

FVD discs can also be read by standard computer DVD-ROM drives, so
playback on the PC is a software issue only.

5.10 What about my existing DVD collection?

EVD is a DVD replacement, so there is no mandatory support for DVD
playback. But as in the case for Blu-ray (see section 3.11),
support for DVD playback is almost always present due to competition and
the need to support the popular format.

5.11 Will EVD players be able to play back the other high definition DVD formats?

While players compatible with both Blu-ray and HD DVD will be
available, these players are unlikely to include EVD (or FVD) playback
support, due to the limited geographical nature (mainly aimed at the
Asian market) of the format. However, Chinese or Taiwanese made BD or HD
DVD player may include EVD playback functionality, since it isn’t
difficult or costly to include support for this type of “enhanced” DVD
format.

5.12 What about copy protection?

EVD features copy protection, but details of it are hard to find. Copy
protection will be less of an issue if the format is primarily aimed at
the Chinese market (where legal retail discs aren’t all that more
expensive than pirated ones, and damn cheap compared to western
standards).

5.13 Technical details

Laser/Track/Capacity/Transfer Rate/File System:DVD
Disc size:120mm
Video Resolution:1080i (1920×1080 HD, 50i, 60i)
720p (1280×720, 50p, 60p, 24p)
SD (720×576/480, 50i, 60i)
Video Compression:On2 VP5/VP6
Audio Resolution/Compression:EAC 2.0
Copy ProtectionCopy Protection Scheme

6. FVD

FVD

6.1 What is FVD?

FVD stands for Forward Versatile Disc (also known as Finalized
Versatile Disc), and is developed by a consortium of 29 Taiwanese
optical storage companies.

6.2 When was FVD officially launched?

FVD was formally launched in March 2005, although the format was
announced much earlier. As is the case with EVD, it will not be until
the official launches of BD and HD DVD before one can judge whether this
new format can compete in the highly lucrative high definition DVD
market. As of December 2005, FVD player manufacturing has gone into the
mass production stage.

6.3 Who is behind FVD?

FVD was developed by a consortium of 29 Taiwanese optical storage
companies, also known as Advance Optical Storage Research Alliance
(AOSRA). The Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) and the
Opto-Electronics & Systems Laboratories (OES) are also behind the
format, as is the Taiwanese government.

The companies involve include, but is not limited to:

  • BenQ
  • CMC Magnetics
  • LiteOn Technology
  • Mustek
  • Prodisc Technology
  • Quanta Storage
  • Ritek
  • U-Tech Media

6.4 What about FVD recordable formats?

Recordable and re-writable versions of FVD will be available.

6.5 Why develop FVD?

FVD was developed in response to DVD licensing/royalty costs, and also
to compete with the EVD format.

Also see section 2.6, 3.14 and 5.5.

6.6 What will be the capacities of these types of discs?

FVD (unlike EVD, which is based on the DVD specifications), is different
from the DVD specifications. FVD will also have single and dual layer
version, but the capacity for each layer will be slightly larger than
the equivalent for DVDs. A single layer first generation FVD (FVD-1) can
contain 5.4GB of data, as opposed to DVD’s 4.7GB, and a dual layer
version of contain 9.8GB to DVD’s 8.5GB.

The second generation FVD (FVD-2) will support single, dual, and triple
layers with sizes of 6.0GB, 11.0GB and 15.0GB.

6.7 What resolution will the video on a FVD be?

FVD supports 1080i (1920×1080 at 50i or 60i) and 720p (1280×720)
resolutions, comparable to HD DVD, although not to Blu-ray’s 1080p
support. Standard DVD definitions are also supported.

The first generation FVD will mainly support 720p, while the second
generation will support 1080i – mainly due to capacity restrictions.

In addition, standard definition titles can be up-scaled (increased in
resolution through digital image enhancement) to HD quality.

6.8 What kind of video compression will be used?

FVD will utilise Microsoft’s WMV-9 video compression codec. WMV-9 can
deliver both standard and HD video, as demonstrated on the
Microsoft
website
, as well as on certain
DVD titles (e.g. Terminator 2 Extreme Edition, which featured the entire
movie in WMV-HD format).

6.9 What about the audio?

FVD will utilise Microsoft’s WMA audio format. DVD’s LPCM and Dolby
Digital AC3 support will also be available.

6.10 What kind of equipment will I need to play back FVD movies?

Even if FVDs are somehow readable by normal DVD lasers, the hardware
decoders on most DVD players will not be able to decode WMV content, and
certainly not able to output in HD. There are some WMV-9 compatible
standalone players, some even with HD upscaling, but it’s unlikely that
they will be able to playback FVDs, at least not with full
functionality.

The specifications are similar to HD DVD (see section 4.10),
although being developed as a DVD replacement, the expected user base
will be primarily people who can watch DVDs, as opposed to a new user
base featuring people with high definition displays.

6.11 What about my existing DVD collection?

FVD has backward compatibility with existing DVDs, so your existing DVD
collection should be safe.

6.12 Will FVD players be able to play back the other high definition DVD formats?

See section 5.11

6.13 What about copy protection?

While Microsoft traditionally uses its own DRM (Digital Rights
Management) scheme in their WMV-HD movies, FVD will use Advanced
Encryption System (AES) for its copy protection needs.

6.14 Technical details

Laser Type/Wavelength:DVD
Track Pitch:0.64µm
Disc size:120mm
Video Resolution:1080i (1920×1080 HD, 50i, 60i)
720p (1280×720, 50p, 60p, 24p)
SD (720×576/480, 50i, 60i)
Video Compression:Microsoft WMV-9
>Audio Resolution/Compression:Microsoft WMA
LPCM
Dolby Digital AC3
Copy ProtectionAES
File System:UDF 1.02

7. Format Comparisons

7.1 Introduction

This section will offer a brief comparison between the various high
definition DVD formats mentioned in this FAQ. The comparison will be
between BD/HD DVD, and EVD/FVD, as it does not make sense to
compare BD/HD DVD and EVD/FVD, since they are aimed at different market
segments.

7.2 Blu-ray vs HD DVD

As the format war has now officially ended, following Toshiba’s drop of
HD DVD support in February 2008, much of the information presented here
is of no value, other than historical value. Please treat the following
information as such.

For a more technical analysis of Blu-ray and HD DVD differences, please
refer to our Blu-ray and HD DVD Buyer’s Guide.

Blu-ray and HD DVD are much more similar than both lobby groups would
like to admit (this is why a movement to release a unified format was
created, although it looks like it now has failed), but there exists a
few main differences, most of them already outlined in detail above.

The first main difference is the capacity. With BD, at least at the time
of launch, there will be two choices (single/dual layer) in
capacities for movie studios to choose from, both of them quite large
(25 and 50 GB). With HD DVD, there will most likely be 3 choices
(single, dual and triple layer), each with smaller capacities than their
BD equivalents (at the same layer count). Some people might prefer
having more choice over larger capacities per choice, as it provides
more flexibility (in producing movie discs or buying blank media for
home use), especially if the reduced capacity means lower cost. Another
problem is that 50GB BDs are expensive to produce, and so most discs
rely on BD25. For example, Warner Bros’s releases on both formats often
use identical transfers and content, the Blu-ray release using the full
BD25 and the HD DVD release using most of the space on a HD30. With
modern compression codecs such as H.264 or VC-1, even 25 GB is enough to
store the movie plus extra features in excellent quality.

The second main difference could perhaps be the most important
difference, although not directly for you and me, but for disc
manufacturers. HD DVD has been designed to be as close to current DVDs
as possible, and so, production lines do not have to be changed to
produce HD DVD media. BD, on the other hand, will require changes to be
made, and this could mean high media costs (which won’t really affect
sell-through movie sales/pricing, but will affect blank media pricing),
as manufacturers try to recoup the money invested in new production
lines. But Blu-ray has already responded by producing equipment which
aims to bring production costs more in line with HD DVD production.

The third main difference at the moment is copy protection, in that BD
has BD+ or SPDC, which HD DVD doesn’t have (yet). As mentioned in
section 3.13, SPDC will allow individual BDs to carry code to prevent
playback if it detects something is not right. Also, Managed Copy (see
section 3.13) is mandatory on HD DVD (users are allowed to make at least
one copy), and was only made mandatory for Blu-ray in November 2005
(following pressure from members of the BDA).

Interactive content for HD DVD will be provided by iHD, which is a
creation of Microsoft and Toshiba, and will be implemented in
Microsoft’s Windows Vista operating system as well. Blu-ray has opted
for Sun Microsystem’s Java for interactive features. HP, part of the
Blu-ray alliance, has requested iHD support to be added to the Blu-ray
specifications, and the request is being considered. iHD is considered
to be superior to Java due to its support for greater interactivity.

A major problem for early Blu-ray adopters has been the confusing nature
of the specifications of early Blu-ray players (see section 3.10.1). The
first Blu-ray players use what is called the “Grace Period Profile”,
which lacks several features such as Ethernet connectivity for Internet
based content and secondary video/audio decoders for features such as
picture-in-picture. Profile 1.0 players also have limited storage space
for persistent content, such as downloads and bookmarks. Profile 1.1
adds the secondary decoders and increases persistent storage size, but
still does not require an Ethernet port. Only profile 2.0 players
require Ethernet ports, and also increases persistent storage to 1 GB.
As for October 31st 2007, all Blu-ray players manufactured must support
Profile 1.1. In comparison, the very first HD DVD players includes all
the features of Blu-ray profile 2.0 (with less required minimum
persistent storage), and many HD DVD movies have already been produced
to use advanced features such as picture-in-picture and Internet
content.

Standalone prices for HD DVD is currently (November 2007) much lower
than that of Blu-ray, with recent sales that saw the Toshiba HD-A2 being
sold for as little as $98. In comparison, the cheapest Blu-ray player
currently (November 2007) is retailing for around $400. The HD DVD
groups hopes that standalone pricing for HD DVD player can remain lower
than Blu-ray due to productions of CH DVD players (see section 4.10.2).

And finally, the support of movie studios will be very important if
sell-through movie sales, which is the driving force behind the success
of DVDs, is to be the most important factor in determining the success
and failure of either format. As of November 2007, Blu-ray still have
the greater studio support, although the situation has improved for
HD DVD now that Paramount/Dreamworks have gone HD DVD exclusive. Warner
Bros. is currently committed to supporting both formats and is the only
major studio to have this stance – but this stance will end in May 2008,
as Warner announced in January of the same year.

In late September 2005, Microsoft (and Intel) decided to back HD DVD
over Blu-ray, and many of the above factors were key reasons for this
backing (Microsoft had stayed neutral up until this point, and there
were even signs that it might back Blu-ray in the end). Interestingly,
both Microsoft and Intel believe that less rigid copy protection that
allows copies of a movie to be made is essential for their home
networking/media streaming vision. More information in this Tom’s Hardware
interview
with a Microsoft representative.

7.2.1 The Author’s Opinion:

When I first wrote the guide in September of 2005,
it wasn’t the case of one format having significantly
more support than the other. But it later changed and as of October
2005, with Warner and Paramount both shifting towards the Blu-ray
camp (while still maintaining their support for HD DVD).
Judging by my existing DVD
collection
statistics
,
the break-down was 139 (57%) to 35 (15%) in favour of the BD camp,
with a further 67 (28%) DVDs belonging to studios that have backed
both formats. The situation continued to change in August 2007 when
Paramount/Dreamworks broke away from Blu-ray to be HD DVD exclusive.
My collection statistics now stand at 184 (52%) for Blu-ray, 99
(28%) for HD DVD and 72 (20%) supporting both. I suspect the
situation will continue to change in this area. Of course, this is
just my collection and your collection might have a different
ratio. If you want to find out “which camp” you are in based on your
currently DVD collection, feel free to head on to dvdloc8.com,
create a collection list and view the collection’s statistics to
find out (the same thing can be done with your wish list as well).

The PS3 could be a major factor in all this, although the PS3 is
aimed at an entirely different market to high definition movies, and
the support for the PS3 may not translate well to the home video
market. So far (November 2007), the PS3 has proved to be the most
popular Blu-ray player. But as expected, the attachment rate (the
number of movies sold per player) for the PS3 is much lower than
standalones, and reports suggest many PS3 owners are unaware or just
simply don’t care about the Blu-ray playback feature.

Copy protection is something I take seriously, and I have to
say I’m leaning towards HD DVD due to its lack of BD+ and
generally more consumer friendly approach (although it is still far
from being perfect). HD DVD being region-free is also very
attractive for me, since I can import movies from the US to get them
quicker (and cheaper).

One factor that people often overlook (and I did too, so thanks to
D. Chambers for pointing this out to me) is the porn industry. Adult
DVDs were one of the reasons the uptake of the DVD format was so
quick (I seem to remember a time when adult DVDs outnumbered
Hollywood movie DVDs 5 to 1, at a time when DVD uptake was still
comparatively low). So far, pretty much all the porn studios have
backed HD DVD, due to Sony DADC’s (the disc replication arm of Sony)
hesitancy towards offering support for pornographic films. Only
one studio, Vivid, supports both formats.

Another factor in the success of DVD was the available of cheap
players made by Asian manufacturers, particularly China. HD DVD has
embraced the Chinese market by offering the CH DVD format, which is
semi-compatible with HD DVD (see section 4.10.2). It is hoped that
CH DVD player sales in China can drive down prices for HD DVD
players, and if recent (November 2007) sales are of any indication
(where Chinese made $98 Toshiba HD DVD players were being sold),
then it seems this strategy is working.

So in conclusion, both formats have their advantages and
disadvantages. It’s almost impossible to say which format will be
the ultimate winner, and most likely, there won’t be an outright
winner at all. If we really do have to live with both formats, as it
looks more and more likely, then the best thing is to either not buy
into HD just yet (wait for dual-format players), or not to get
involved in the HD war silliness by making yourself format neutral
(having players of both formats). Whether it’s having a PS3 plus a $98 HD
DVD player, or having a $399 Blu-ray player plus the Xbox 360 HD DVD
drive, format neutral is the safest route to take at the moment.

Update (January 2008): This is an update in response to Warner’s
decision to go Blu-ray exclusive from May 2008. This decision is a
major blow on HD DVD, and if there is going to be one winner, it
looks more and more likely to be Blu-ray at this stage. HD DVD still
has many advantages over Blu-ray especially for the consumer, but
without sufficient studio support, it’s all pretty meaningless. For
a more detailed analysis of what might happen in the short and long
term, and how it affects consumers, please refer to my blog post.

Update (February 2008): As expected, Blu-ray is now victorious after
the biggest HD DVD backer, Toshiba, decided to drop support for the
format. The final analysis shows that stronger studio support,
stronger support from electronics manufacturers, and the PS3 were
all likely contributing factors to Blu-ray’s success.

7.2.2 Opinion from www.dvdrs.net:

Technology is sometimes beyond the comprehension of the consumer and
although all these standards are far better than the current DVD
MPEG2 we have now I cannot see the uptake of yet another hardware
change so quickly.

Consumers are still making the change from VHS to DVD and its
unlikely they’ll understand the true benefits of HD for some time.

Forcing all these standards and further hardware updates on a market
that has only truly accepted the DVD standard recently is crazy.
Most users are only interested in getting their favourite films on
seemingly lossless media and they believe that DVD is currently
that. Granted its not lossless in the true sense of the actual
content but consumers see it that way as no matter how many times
you play the media it doesn’t degrade like older technology of VHS
or BETAMAX.

Personally I think all this is currently in the high realms of the
real enthusiast and I cannot see a standard being reached properly
for sometime. And by the time its accepted we will be forced yet
another standard to adopt and upgrade to.

7.2.2 Opinion from DVDHelp.us:

The difference in technologies used for HD-DVD/AOD and Blu-Ray
are significant enough that they will likely play a major factor in
the battle. While both camps have corporations behind them with
extremely deep pockets, I believe that the eventual victory will go
to HD-DVD/AOD. Blu-Ray may be able to hold slightly more data, but
ultimately, that isn’t enough. New and improved future codecs will
eventually be able to fit more and more on a disc, so raw storage
space will always be a moot point. HD-DVD drives and discs can be
more easily created on current assembly lines, saving the
manufacturers a lot of money. Likewise, the discs will be backwards
compatible, so consumers won’t have to immediately rush out and buy
all new discs and players. Historically, consumers have always been
more likely to accept a new product when it became a natural
progression from their current product, as compared to having to
throw away a perfectly good (but outdated) product in favour of the
new one.

In the end, it will be the cost, not to features, that win this
battle. Simply put, HD-DVD is cheaper to make, cheaper to buy, and
cheaper to upgrade from your current setup. With the exception of
the lucky few to whom money isn’t a concern, the rest of us will
have to support the one that represents the lower cost to us.

7.3 EVD vs FVD

Straight off, EVD is essentially DVD with a different set of audio/video
codecs, so nothing new is being offered in the area of capacity. This
can be good because existing hardware will be able to read the discs
(not necessarily play it, if it doesn’t support the audio/video
decoding), but it is limited in the amount of content it can distribute
before doing double sided discs and multi-disc sets. FVD will try to
increase the capacity, although I’m not sure if FVD disc, particular
FVD-2 discs with larger capacities, can be read on existing computer
DVD-ROM drives (even if reading is possible, there will be compatibility
problems).

I suspect players supporting both EVD and FVD (and also DVD) will become
available in Asia eventually, although from the look of things, FVD does
have a brighter future than EVD, but EVD being adopted by a huge Chinese
consumer base could tip the scale in its favor as well.

8. The Future

8.1 Which format will win the day?

That’s impossible to tell at the moment. What is quite likely is that
all the formats mentioned in this FAQ will fail, and this will be
because of greed (licensing/royalty) and utter lack of understanding of
the consumer base (copy protection, user needs). Or both formats will
have some qualified success, in that both will survive and we’ll just
have to live with both formats.

I hope that one format does win the day or that the two camps settle
down and come up with a single specification, and hopefully with the
support of everyone involved, much like the current DVD format. But I
fear I might be hoping for too much.

Update (February 2008): It looks like my wish has come true, and that
one format has won the day. Blu-ray is now the winner of the HD format
war.

8.2 Which format should I go for now (or soon)?

Obviously after Blu-ray’s victory, your choices are now pretty limited.
It’s either Blu-ray or Blu-ray or Blu-ray. Those with HD DVD discs
already might still want to continue buying dual format players, but for
new users, there is no longer the need to make any choice.

For more information related to buying, please refer to our
Blu-ray (and HD DVD) Buyer’s Guide.

8.3 How can I ensure there is only one format?

If you are reading this, and you are the President of Sony or Toshiba,
then there is a lot you can do to ensure there is only one format. But
in the end, the Blu-ray and HD DVD camps will do whatever they think
they have to do to ensure maximum profits. If I have to put money on it,
I would say the chances of one format have come and gone and that we are
stuck with two formats, even if one format might have a larger share of
the market.

Update (Febuary 2008): Well, whatever you did to ensuer only one format
survives, it looks to have worked! Blu-ray is now the only remaining HD
format (in the West, at least). My slightly pessimistic prediction of
two formats seems to have been wrong, with Toshiba doing the right thing
and ending the format war in quick fashion.

A. Appendix

A.1 Distributing this FAQ

If you wish to mirror this FAQ, please contact me
The reason for this is not that I don’t want this
FAQ to be distributed, but rather, I am planning to keep a record of all
the mirrors for this FAQ, eventually on a separate page sorted by
location (for faster access) and language. I will also need your details
to send periodic updates and to ensure all mirrors are up to date.

A.2 Terms and Concepts

Below are some terms and concepts mentioned in this FAQ, but not fully
explained:

Codec – Coder Decoder. Basically a way to describe a piece of software
or hardware that can decode or encode compressed video or audio.

CSS – Content Scrambling System. The form of copy protection used by
DVDs, and famously (or is that infamously) hacked, which led to
the MPAA DeCSS trials.

HDCP – High Definition Copy Protection. Now standard with every DVI/HDMI
connection, HDCP requires both the source (player) and
destination (display) to support HDCP if HD video is to be
played, otherwise playback will fail or a low resolution image
may be shown only.

HDMI – High Definition Multimedia Interface. HDMI is essentially DVI
with (digital) audio. Ever popular with high end home theatre
devices, it is starting to find its way onto mid-end and even
some budget systems. Most devices, including some next generation
game consoles (like the Sony PS3).

Interlaced/Progressive – On an interlaced display device (e.g. 1080i),
at any one time, only half of the horizontal lines are displayed.
This means that for each frame, every other line of information is
displayed first (usually the odd numbered lines, called a
“field”), and then the other lines, to make up the complete
frame. For progressive display devices (or progressive scan), all
the lines of information are displayed at the same time.

Similarly, when a BD/HD DVD player has interlaced output (eg.
1080i), half of the information for a frame is sent, then the
other half. With progressive output, all the information for a
frame is transmitted in one go.

The big debate is whether 1080p is better than 1080i, but there
is no simple answer for this.

Well, there is a simple answer and basically for film based
material connected to a 1080p display, in most cases, there is no
difference in quality between using a 1080i connection or 1080p
connection. The only difference is the order in which the
information is sent to the display – the display should in most
cases reassemble the information and produce identical outputs on
the screen. This is for native 1080p displays. For lower
resolution displays where down-scaling is required, this is where
the confusion comes from.

The confusion comes from the fact that many displays supporting
1080i (for example, many plasma screens) have a native resolution
of 720p – this means that no matter what kind of signal you send
to the display (480p, 576i, 1080i …), it will be converted
internally to 720p by the scaler and de-interlacer chip (if the
input is interlaced) and displayed as such. Digital displays like
plasmas and LCDs are all progressive displays.

Then you also have the resolution of the source and how the
source was captured.

For content shot on film (movies), the image is captured in a
progressive fashion. When this is stored in progressive fashion
in an optical format like Blu-ray or HD DVD, then transmitting
the signal over 1080i output simply means that the player will be
sending 540 lines (half) of information per frame first and then the
other half, and a good de-interlacer should be able to recombine
(weave) the information again to form a 1080p picture. When
the same signal is sent over 1080p, the display device does not
need to do any combining and you also get a 1080p
picture. However, if the de-interlacer on the display device is
the cheap sort, then it might take the 540 lines and upconvert it
to the native resolution, meaning you are only seeing half the
resolution of the source at any one time – in this situation,
1080p is clearly better than 1080i – even 720p might be better.
This AVS Forum thread
might be of interest. This article goes into some more technical details.

Confused yet? To best illustrate what all the above means, here
are some examples (focusing on high definition DVDs only playing
back movies shot on film):

  1. Playing back a Blu-ray/HD DVD movie on a 720p display through
    the player’s 1080i output. This is the most common
    scenario for current home setups (eg. high def DVD player
    connected to a plasma screen). The good de-interlacer on
    the display recombines the picture into a full 1080p picture.
    The scaler then scales down the picture to 720p resolution. If
    the de-interlacer was a cheap one, then you can get a fake 1080p
    picture by upconverting a half-resolution field, and then
    downconvert back to 720p – you are still not seeing more than
    540 lines of information, half of what was stored on the disc.
    If the same display (with the cheap de-interlacer) somehow
    accepted a 1080p signal, then it would look better than the
    1080i signal.
  2. Playing back a Blu-ray/HD DVD movie on a 1080p display through
    the player’s 1080i output. The good de-interlacer on
    the display recombines the picture into a full 1080p picture.
    Picture is displayed as 1080p and looks just like it would if
    the player’s output was 1080p. If the display’s de-interlacer
    was a bad one (doesn’t do the proper recombining), then the
    1080p signal would look better than the 1080i signal.

When every display accepts 1080p input, has a 1080p native
resolution and your Blu-ray/HD DVD player outputs a proper 1080p
signal, then things will be a whole lot simpler. Until
then, a 1080p native resolution display with a good de-interlacer
+ 1080i input will give you a great 1080p picture. Of course
there is still the matter of interlaced content (eg. HDTV), IVTC
and the difference between NTSC/PAL displays, but let’s just
leave it at that.

Sometimes you also see the 50i, 60i or 24p terms used after
indicating a resolution. The number (50, 60 or 24) represents the
frames per second (FPS), the i or p represents interlaced or
progressive frames. PAL is 50i, NTSC is 60i and FILM is 24p.

Lossless/Lossy Compression – With normal types of compression, quality
lost in favour of conserving space. This is called lossy
compression, because the quality loss is gone forever.
With lossless compression, the original quality is preserved when
the audio/video is uncompressed, although this does mean that
file sizes for lossless compressed content is much larger than
that for lossy compression.

A simple analogy which can be used is the difference between
JPEGs, which is lossy, and a ZIP file, which is lossless.

A.3 Acknowledgements

The author of this FAQ wishes to acknowledge the following websites for
providing information that contributed to this FAQ, listed in
alphabetical order:

http://www.avsforum.com/
http://www.blu-raydisc.com/
http://www.cdfreaks.com/
http://www.dvdsite.org/
http://www.hddvdprg.com/
http://www.lsilogic.com/
http://www.oes.itri.org.tw/
http://slashdot.org/
http://wikipedia.org/

A.4 ChangeLog

Version 0.8.1 (20 February, 2008):

  • Numerous updates in response to Warner’s decision to drop HD DVD
    support, and the eventual ending of the format war with Toshiba’s
    withdraw

Version 0.8.0 (8 November, 2007):

  • Added section on Blu-ray Hardware Profiles (3.10.1)
  • Added section on HD DVD performance levels (4.10.1)
  • Added section on CH DVD (4.10.2)
  • Updated list of mirrors
  • Update information on PC Blu-ray/HD DVD playback (2.4, 2.4.1)
  • Updated studio support information (3.3, 4.3, 7.2)
  • Updated disc capacities information (3.5, 4.5)
  • Update video codec usage information (3.7, 4.7)
  • Update list of supported audio codecs (3.8, 4.8)
  • Updated PS3 Blu-ray playback information (3.16.1, 3.16.2, 3.16.3,
    3.16.5)
  • Updated format comparison and personal opinion (7.2, 7.2.1)
  • Other minor updates

Version 0.7.9 (13 January, 2007):

  • Added section regarding PowerDVD Ultra (2.4.1)
  • Added section detailing Blu-ray playback on PS3 (3.16.5)
  • Added section detailing HD DVD playback on Xbox 360 (4.16.2)
  • Added section regarding the Xbox 360 HD DVD add-on drive’s PC
    compatibility (4.16.3)
  • Corrected information regarding 1080i/1080p storage (7.2)

Version 0.7.8 (2 September, 2006):

  • Added information regarding the Cyberlink BD/HD Advisor tool (2.4)
  • Added information regarding HDCP requirements for PCs (2.4)

Version 0.7.7 (25 August, 2006):

  • Added information about ICT (3.10)
  • Added information regarding 1080i versus 1080p (3.6, 4.6, 4.10, A.2)
  • Updated information regarding Xbox 360 HD DVD add-on drive (4.16)

Version 0.7.6 (20 August, 2006):

  • Updated list of mirrors
  • Correction and clarification regarding bitrates (3.9, 4.9)
  • Added more information regarding 1080p on HD DVD (4.6)
  • Added link to dvdloc8’s Blu-ray/HD DVD movie lists (3.19, 4.19)

Version 0.7.5 (2 June, 2006):

  • Updated list of mirrors
  • Minor grammar corrections
  • Added link to “Is your computer fast enough for high definition
    DVD playback?” guide (2.4)
  • Update Blu-ray/HD DVD launch dates (3.2, 4.2)
  • Updated information about HD DVD region coding (4.15)

Version 0.7.1 (5 February, 2006):

  • Updated list of mirrors
  • Clarified information regarding 1x transfer speed for Blu-ray
    drives (2x required for BD movies) (3.9, 3.17)
  • Updated information about HD DVD’s use of 1080p movies (4.6, 4.17)
  • Added information for NEC HR-1100A HD DVD reader drive (4.18)

Version 0.7 (8 January, 2006):

  • Corrected incorrect dates (3.2, 4.2)
  • Added more information about media availability (3.2, 4.2)
  • Added information about estimate retail pricing for BD-R/BD-RE
    media (3.4)
  • Added information about possible delay caused by AACS (3.13)
  • Added new section about region coding (3.15, 4.15)
  • Added new section on available hardware (3.18, 4.18)
  • Added new section on available software (movies) (3.19, 4.19)
  • Updated information due to Xbox 360 launch. Added information
    about Xbox 360 HD DVD drive add-on (4.16.1)

Version 0.6 (11 December, 2005):

  • Updated list of mirrors
  • Updated information about Blu-ray official launch date
    (3.2, 4.2)
  • Added information regarding HP’s request for Managed Copy and iHD
    (3.3, 3.13)
  • Added more information about managed copy (3.13)
  • Added more information about interactive contents differences
    between BD and HD DVD (7.2)
  • Updated information regarding Sony’s preference for MPEG-2 video
    compression (3.5, 3.7)
  • Updated information regarding availability of dual layered BDs
    (3.5)
  • Added information regarding Sony and NEC’s optical disc drive unit
    merger (4.3)
  • Added information regarding mass production of FVDs (6.2)

Version 0.5.1 (2 November, 2005):

  • Updated list of mirrors
  • Added basic information about AOD, thanks to DVDHelp.us (4.1.1)
  • Added opinion from DVDHelp.us (7.2.3)

Version 0.5 (25 October, 2005):

  • Updates due to Warner and Paramount’s decisions to support both
    formats.

Version 0.4 (4 October, 2005):

  • Mainly updates due to recent announcement of Microsoft and Intel’s
    support for HD DVD (3.5, 4.3,4.16.1, 7.2)
  • Added further information about the (delayed) launch of HD DVD in the US (4.2)
  • Added information about Blu-ray playback on PowerDVD (2.4)
  • Added opinion about Blu-ray vs HD DVD by www.dvdrs.net

Version 0.3 (24 September, 2005):

  • Updated list of mirrors
  • Added information about HD DVD playback on PowerDVD (2.4)
  • Added information on China only HD DVD format (4.7)
  • Added information on dual layer HD DVD-R (4.9)
  • Added more information about the effects of the porn industry and
    cheap Asian players on the success/failure of BD/HD DVD (7.2.1)

Version 0.2 (18 September, 2005):

  • Minor spelling/grammatical changes
  • Additional links (most to A.2) and minor clarification of
    information
  • Added list of mirrors
  • Added 7.2.1 and moved “The Author’s Opinion” to this section
  • More detailed information and correction of information about my
    DVD collection in 7.2.1
  • Added explanation of Lossless/Lossy compression in A.2

Version 0.1 (14 September, 2005):

  • First public release of FAQ

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