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or is it more that given the current 4.7 GB restriction on DVD size that they can't cram all of the splendor into the space they need and DVD media enhancements will make that possible

yes. GusSmed's reply to David is right on. I'll elaborate:


DVD is not able to store the high resolution of film, which is so great it can be projected onto a huge movie theater screen without getting fuzzy. HD-DVD (high definition DVD) will be able to store many times more information than today's DVD standard. Quite simply, HD-DVD will give you another way to enjoy the capabilites of your HDTV.

Are the movie studios ready for HD-DVD?
The movie studios are already mastering (new films) and re-mastering (older films) in high definition. Take a look at a few DVD boxes and you will find one that says something like "created from a new high definition transfer!" This means that the studio went back to the original film print, made a high definition digital transfer that is then stored on a computer, probably did some digital restoration, and then transferred it onto a DVD. The DVD itself is NOT in high-definition.

Since the studios are already building a library of high-definition masters of their films, they won't have to do anything special when they start releasing films on HD-DVD.

Will you be ready for HD-DVD?

As with high definition broadcasts, you will need some sort of HDTV. Of course, you will also need to buy a HD-DVD. They won't be cheap, and I doubt they will drop in price as quickly as current standard DVDs did. The urge to buy one right away will be great (if you can afford it), but it is usually better to wait awhile as the prices drop, the standards and design flaws get hammered out, and more HD-DVDs are released.

It can't be that simple
Of course not. Consider for a minute that you own the rights to hundreds of popular films. You have spent a lot of money transferring the film prints onto high definition masters. Since DVD and VHS don't come close to capturing the fidelity of the original masters, reselling your movies on VHS and then DVD has been a lucrative business. Piracy bugs you, and reduces sales, but at least the pirates don't have copies that are virutally identical to the masters in the proverbial film vault. What I'm getting at is that releasing films on HD-DVD gives the consumers digital copies of the film that have virtually the same fidelity as the originals. This fact has the movie studios shaking in their boots.

What this means to you..

The studios could develop software encryption to thwart copying, but that software will get cracked in about 5 minutes by some 13 year old computer whizz. An attractive alternative (from the movie studios perspective) is to require HD-DVD players to use an output cable that prevents recording to a HD-DVD recorder (or computer). That is what DVI cables are all about and why they are now being required on all new HDTVs with built-in tuners.

Technically, high-definition content can pass through component cables, but the signal is not copy-protected. There is a possibility that HD-DVD players will only output in true HD if you connect the HD-DVD player to the HDTV using a DVI cable. Using the component (or firewire) connection might only allow a signal at 480p, which is the same as today's DVD players. This could create a problem for consumers who have HDTVs without a DVI input, and it also creates complications for people who like to route all of their signals through a home theater receiver. (That is, the home theater receiver would need at least one DVI in/out.) All of this is being hammered out, and we will just have to wait and see the specs of the first HD-DVD players.

Competing standards: Players

There are three competing standards. Each standard is being backed by a different group of manufacturers. To avoid having competing formats actually hit the market, an organization has formed to (hopefully) reconcile this issue.

What might a HD-DVD player/disc look like? Here is a prototype for Sony's "Blue-ray" HD-DVD recorder. Blue-ray is one of the three competing standards.

Good news
Every indication is that HD-DVD players will be backwards compatible with today's DVDs. In other words, you will be able to play your current DVDs in a HD-DVD player. It won't magically make them high-definition, but my understanding is that today's DVDs could look slightly better due to advances in the decoding of digital video.

Your current DVD collection won't self-destruct or become instantly obsolete.

1. HD-DVD players will be backwards compatible to play today's DVDs.

2. HD-DVD will be a niche market for many years, and it isn't even available today. HD-DVD players will be expensive, and a relatively expensive HDTV is required to enjoy the format. It will be many many years before HDTVs and HD-DVD players are so widespread that the studio can afford to stop supporting today's DVD. Heck, people are still watching VHS.

3. DVDs never degrade in quality, and that quality is pretty good. For most people, the quality of current DVD standards is perfectly acceptable. High-definition is awesome, but it doesn't make DVD unwatchable.

What about sound?
Good question! Audio also benefits from being recorded with less compression, which is part of the reason why DTS audio usually sounds better than Dolby Digital audio. The available storage space on a HD-DVD should allow for less compression. Regarding surround sound, I suspect 5.1 channel DTS and Dolby Digital will still be the overwhelming standard. No need to upgrade the receiver and speakers, unless you want to upgrade to an already available 6.1 or 7.1 set-up.


"The DVD Forum"
This is the organization responsible for seeing that there is a minimal amount of conflict in DVD standards, including HD-DVD.

"The One-format Only Campaign"
This is a consumer-based website to keep you informed about the various proposed HD-DVD standards.

Blu-Ray will probably be the chosen format for HD-DVD. It is backed by the most manufacturers, and it is a very powerful format. A standard Blu-ray disc can hold 27 gigs, and has the potential to hold almost twice that as they refine the recording process. It is also the most expensive of the three leading proposed formats and will probably take the longest to hit the market because it requires a completely new manufacturing process.

Please feel free to correct me if any of my info has gone out of date.

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