August 30, 2008.
For at least the last five years Sanyo and Panasonic have
been in pitched battle for supremacy in the mid-level LCD
projector market. The impressive (and expensive) Panasonic
PT-AE2000U and Sanyo PLV-Z2000 1080p models have been the
companies' most recent champions in this battle,
but Sanyo has decided to stir things up a bit with the PLV-Z700. The Z700 offers premium 1080p
resolution (although unfortunately using organic panels,
unlike its bigger brother), 10:000:1 contrast and 1200
ANSI Lumens for the decidedly entry-level price of
US$1995. I'm sure Panasonic (and possibly Sony) will have
a suitable response at this year's CEDIA, but it looks
like 2009 may be the year 1080p finally starts appearing
on more affordably-priced machines, with Sanyo leading the
August 30, 2008.
Do you own a Pioneer BDP-LX70A Blu-ray
player (the European/Australasian equivalent of the
BDP-95HD)? Is it region-free for DVD? If you do, and it
click here (54MB) to download a region-free version of
firmware version 3.25 (for details on how to burn an ISO
to CD-ROM, read the
'instructions' section on
this page). I've tried this
update myself and it works great, even with those pesky RCE discs from Sony and Fox. Enjoy!
And no, before you ask, sadly this is region-free for DVD
only, not Blu-ray.
August 28, 2008. 7:40pm
Toshiba's loss in the HD DVD/Blu-ray war, it doesn't look
like the company is in any rush to produce a Blu-ray deck
of its own (although it continues to develop the drives in
partnership with Samsung through their Toshiba Samsung
Storage Technology Corp. joint venture). Toshiba will
instead move forward with the 'XDE' line of upscaling DVD
players, which promises 'near HD' quality from standard
480p DVD. Now, I have nothing against upscaling devices,
and there's no doubt that Toshiba's HD DVD players were
especially good at the job (especially the REON-equipped
models), but this seems like a distinctly backward move to
me. The first XDE model, the XDE-500, will be available
this month for US$150.
August 24, 2008. 1:26am
Panasonic has announced the DMP-BD35
and DMP-BD55 Blu-ray replacements for the current (and
highly regarded) BD30 and BD50 models. The BD30 and BD50
have been on the market for less than six months, making
this one of the fastest new model rollouts I've seen. The
new machines will feature updated UniPhier video
processors and the now-standard HDMI 1.3 and Profile 2.0
capabilities. The BD55 will add to the feature list with
onboard Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio decoding
together with 7.1-channel analogue outputs (a feature that
appeared on the BD10 but mysteriously vanished from the
BD50) and 'audiophile' sound quality. Prices and
availability have yet to be announced.
April 17, 2008. 6:43pm
In news that will lead to much
dancing and rejoicing, Sony has released firmware 2.30 for
the Playstation 3 games console. This update adds the
long-awaited ability to internally decode DTS-HD MA audio
to PCM via the unit's HDMI outputs. PS3 owners will
finally be able to hear Fox's Blu-ray titles in their full
glory. The update is available now, so rush on over to
your PS3 and check it out (go on, you know you want to!).
February 19, 2008. 8:20am
looming ever larger on the horizon, Toshiba has
finally called it quits and announced that it will stop
producing and developing HD DVD technology. Warner
Brothers' recent decision to stop releasing HD DVD titles
was the final decisive blow in the format war, and one
that the format couldn't realistically recover from.
Following Toshiba's announcement Universal and Paramount
are expected to announce plans within days to move to the Blu-ray format.
All in all, this was a surprisingly short war
(especially compared to the protracted wrangling over
Betamax/VHS) but now the war is over, we can look forward
to a single format future. Hopefully this news will
motivate Blu-ray's bigger hardware supporters to finally
do something about the lack of BD-Live/Profile 2.0 machines and
the current crop of players' high street prices.
June 3, 2006. 10:42am
Sony has announced the future
availability of the HD optimised STR-DG1000 receiver. The
model will support up to 7.1-channels of uncompressed
audio and 1080p switching via HDMI, making it an ideal
companion for HD-DVD and Blu-ray players. The receiver
will retail for US$800 when it come on to the market in
May 19, 2006.
Pioneer's BDR-101A half-height Blu-ray
burner for PCs is now available in the United States and
Japan, offering a storage capability of 25GB on
single-layer BD-R and BD-RE media. The unassuming dual
speed capable (that's 72Mbps) E-IDE device retails for a
breathtaking US$1000, while blank discs retail for US$48
(write-once) or US$60 (rewritable). CD-ROM is not
supported. Hopefully prices will drop quickly; at $1000,
this particular burner makes the notoriously expensive LTO
format look like a bargain!
May 10, 2006.
has revealed that it will market an external USB HD-DVD
drive for its Xbox 360. This isn't an unexpected
development, but the implementation seems somewhat
peculiar. Given the HDMI or HDCP requirements for full
(720p/1080i) HDTV playback using HD-DVD, and the Xbox
360's lack of these features, I'm not sure exactly how
users will use these external drives as HDTV sources, or
if Microsoft has plans to offer this as a feature.
May 4, 2006.
Pictures Home Entertainment has delayed the launch of its
first wave or Blu-ray titles until such time players
become available, anticipated to be in June. The delay was
requested by Blu-ray hardware manufacturers alarmed at the
prospect of software on the market without players. "The
majority of our retail base and hardware partners have
requested that we reconsider this date to better coincide
with the first commercially available Blu-ray-compatible
hardware" stated SPHE's Benjamin Feingold.
marks the release of the first HD-DVD titles from Warner
Home Video and Universal. Warner's titles include 'Million
Dollar Baby', 'The Last Samurai' and 'The Phantom of the
Opera' while Universal has released 'Serenity'.
Soundtracks for the Warner Home Video's titles are
presented in Dolby Digital Plus at a bit-rate of 640kbps.
'Serenity' includes a 1536kbps Dolby Digital Plus
soundtrack, while 'The Phantom of the Opera' also includes
a Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. Video for each title is VC-1
18, 2006. 6:47pm
After much delay, HD-DVD has officially launched on the US
market with the arrival of Toshiba's HD-A1 on store
shelves. The 1080i/720p (although not, unfortunately 1080p
compatible) player sells for a very reasonable US$499,
which should be a very strong temptation for dedicated
home theatre enthusiasts. No reports on the player's
performance have yet emerged, but given the youth of the
format I imagine at least some teething problems should be
expected. Those of you who remember DVD's release will
remember the issues first generation players suffered
from, and the same should be anticipated with HD-DVD at
such an early stage (and Blu-ray for that matter).
Given the limited availability of these players and the
uncertainty of restock dates, if you want one I suggest
purchasing one sooner rather than later.
March 24, 2006.
just days after Warner Home Video's announced HD-DVD title
delays, Toshiba has announced that it will be delaying the
release of its first HD-DVD players, the HD-A1 and HD-XA1,
until April (or until such time that HD-DVD titles become
available). Jodi Sally, Toshiba's marketing VP,
stated that "In order to maximize the launch of HD DVD, we
intend to synchronize the launch of our players with HD
DVD title releases."
March 18, 2006.
Warner Home Video has announced the
delay of their first wave of HD-DVD titles, blaming
technical difficulties. The discs, which include 'The Last
Samurai', 'Million Dollar Baby' and 'The Phantom of the
Opera', should appear on shelves on April the 18th, three
weeks behind their original scheduled release dates.
Warner Home Video have also reduced the initial slate of
titles they plan to release on the format to 17. In all
likelihood, this is a means of improving the quality
control process for each title by reducing the total
number of titles being processed. Hopefully they will get
the kinks sorted out before their ambitious plan to
release all new titles on both DVD and HD-DVD come into
effect from May this year.
January 10, 2006.
Following a string of impressive Blu-ray
hardware displays from other manufacturers at this year's
CES convention, hardware manufacturer Pioneer has released
details of its first Blu-ray player. The Elite BDP-HD1
will retail for US$1800 and is slated for a May launch.
The player will include an HDMI output, 1080P/24 and
1080P/60 support, 1080P/i upconversion of DVD-Video media,
support for both 25GB and 50GB Blu-ray media and DTS-HD
output (but not internal decoding). Other manufacturers to
showcase Blu-ray players at the show have included
Mitsubishi, Sony, Philips, Samsung (with their BDP-1000
carrying a RRP of US$1200 and due for release in April,
making it possibly the first player available), Hitachi
In related news, the Blu-ray Disc
Association has announced that (as of the 5th of January)
Blu-ray disc specifications (2.0 for BD-ROM, BD-R and
BD-RE) have been finalised, opening the doors for hardware
and software manufacturers to begin the licensing process
needed prior to product roll-out.
In software news, Sony Pictures Home
Entertainment has committed itself to releasing Black
Hawk Down and Bridge on the River Kwai on 50GB
dual-layer Blu-ray discs, rather than the conventional
25GB single-layer variant. Development of the
higher-capacity 50GB disc has been behind schedule, making
this announcement of interest. SPHE has also revealed that
the Blu-ray releases of The Fifth Element and
The Last Waltz will utilise the large capacity of Blu-ray
to include uncompressed audio.
Finally, some news that will
interest owners of older non-HDCP monitors and projectors.
Reports from CES indicate that Blu-ray players are capable
of supporting HDTV via component video connection and are
not limited to playback of high definition video via HDMI.
The decision whether to allow this or not will rest with
disc producers and be judged on a disc-by-disc basis.
January 5, 2006.
Hardware manufacturer Toshiba has
released details of its first HD-DVD player models
destined for the North American market at the annual Las
Vegas CES convention. The company's initial line-up will
consist of two models: the HD-XA1 (RRP US$799.99) and the
HD-A1 (RRP US$499.99), shipping to retailers in March.
Both models will be fully backward-compatible with
existing DVD-Video and CD (Red Book) media.
The players will incorporate HDMI
outputs for unconverted HD video and audio, will be
MPEG-2/3, VC-1 and AVC compatible and include digital (via
HDMI and/or S/PDIF) and analogue (via internal decoder)
output of PCM, Dolby Digital, DTS, Dolby Digital Plus and
"As a leader in home entertainment
and a pioneer in DVD technology, we are very excited to
introduce our first HD DVD players for U.S. consumers.
With the support of some of the hottest films, we can
confidently say that Toshiba's HD DVD players will come to
market with important industry backing in time to meet the
HDTV transition." - Jodi Sally, Vice President of
Marketing, Toshiba America Consumer Products Digital A/V
16, 2005. 12:44am
Computer-maker Hewlett-Packard has
announced plans to support both HD-DVD and Blu-ray after
previously exclusively backing Blu-ray. The move is seen
as a backlash against the BDA for its refusal to support
iHD. This is good new for HD-DVD, after a string of recent
high-profile losses to the Blu-ray camp among Hollywood
Maureen Weber (Hewlett-Packard) had
the following to say about the decision: "By joining the
HD-DVD Promotions Group and continuing work with the Blu-Ray
Disc Association, HP will be in a better position to
assess true development costs and, ultimately, provide the
best and most affordable solution for consumers."
The decision comes after the BDA's
refusal to implement iHD on the Blu-ray format at HP's
request. iHD is an XML-based language used to add greater
interactivity to the format, and was jointly developed by
Microsoft, Disney and the DVD Forum. Blu-ray will instead
use the Sun Microsystems-developed Java-based BD-J.
Microsoft's next-generation Windows operating system,
Vista (formerly Longhorn), will natively support iHD.
December 2, 2005.
Fox Filmed Entertainment (a division
of Twentieth Century Fox) has announced that it will
exclusively support Blu-ray, and will not release any
titles on HD-DVD. Given Blu-ray's strong (some might
describe as 'draconian') copy-protection features, and
Fox's previously stated position, this is hardly news.
Given the statement's timing, shortly after Intel and
Microsoft's very public backing of HD-DVD, it is clearly
simply a public show of support for Blu-ray.
October 5, 2005.
Microchip-manufacturer Intel's Home
VP, Donald MacDonald, has stated at the annual CEATEC
(Combined Exhibition of Advanced Technologies) JAPAN 2005
exhibition that Intel will be pressuring Blu-ray and
HD-DVD supporters to develop a unified format.
Realistically, this pressure may be coming several months
too late given the significant technical changes needed
were any hybrid format to be approved, and the closeness
of both formats' proposed release dates. Given Intel's
support of the HD-DVD format, it is also unlikely to be
seen as an unbiased party by backers of Blu-ray.
29, 2005. 9:09am
Microsoft and Intel have jointly
announced their support for the HD-DVD format. Microsoft's
public support has been anticipated for some time given
its implicit support of the format through its Xbox 360
gaming console, but given its VC-1 codec's use on both
competing formats (Warner Brothers previously announced
their decision to use VC-1 on HD-DVD) it has been careful
to delay official statements of support for either side.
Microsoft arch-enemy Sun's Java engine will be used by Blu-ray,
while HD-DVD will use iHD, developed jointly by Microsoft
and the DVD Forum.
3, 2005. 1:03pm
Toshiba, the major player behind
HD-DVD, has revealed that it is seriously considering
pushing the new format's introduction back from late 2005
to early 2006. Under its previous release-schedule, HD-DVD
would have had a roughly three-month launch advantage over
Blu-ray, potentially giving the format an early foot-hold
in the market (and in consumers' minds). If Toshiba fails
to release the format this year, this advantage will be
lost, and the two formats would instead compete
head-to-head in early 2006.
23, 2005. 4:35pm
After initial tentative talks in May
of this year, the latest round of negotiations carried out
between supporters of the HD-DVD (Toshiba, NEC, Sanyo) and
Blu-ray (Sony, Matsushita) formats have failed to result
in a unified standard. Both parties will now proceed with
independent production of their respective formats,
despite their admission that a unified format would be
better for manufacturers and consumers, and more likely to
survive. Those of you who recall the early development of
the DVD format may be feeling a little deja vu at this
18, 2005. 1:59pm
Vancouver-based Lions Gate Home
Entertainment has announced that it will be releasing
titles from its film and television catalogue on the Blu-ray
format. Lions Gate acquired Artisan Entertainment in 2003
becoming the largest independent studio with a catalogue
of over 8000 titles (including the Trimark Entertainment
catalogue, which it acquired in 2000), the second largest
of any studio. For home theatre trivia fans, their
properties include Terminator 2 which was released by
Artisan Entertainment in 2003 as a WMV-HD title, and was
also the first title to utilise RSDL (Reverse Spiral Dual
Layer) technology on DVD back in 1997.
Lions Gate were the second studio to
announce support for the UMD platform used by Sony's PSP
after Sony Pictures Entertainment.
1, 2005. 7:20pm
Century Fox has finally decided to throw its hat into the
ring with an announcement of official software support for
the Blu-ray format. 20th Century Fox has long been a
member of the BDA (and on the board of directors since
October of last year), but has until now been reluctant to
announce plans to release its properties on the format.
Expect to see a wide variety of 20th Century Fox movies
and television shows from next year. 20th Century Fox owns
the rights to the Alien series (my favourite movies), so
it looks like a Blu-ray player will be joining my
household when they become available!
In other news, Microsoft has
announced that its upcoming Xbox 360 game console will use
the HD-DVD format. Sony had previously announced that the
future PlayStation 3 console would use Blu-ray. Neither
announcement was or is a surprise given their interests
June 7, 2005.
DTS, Inc. has announced that it has
officially and legally changed its name from Digital
Theater Systems, Inc. to DTS Inc. The change was
approved by stockholder vote on May 19th, 2005. Press
release extract follows:
The decision to change the company's name reflects the
growing strength of the company's DTS brand and an
expansion beyond the "theater" business into new markets
"The cinema market represents an important segment of DTS'
business, but the scope and breadth of our business today
is much broader than when the company was founded," said
Jon Kirchner, President and CEO of DTS. "Over the years,
DTS has expanded into the consumer electronics, music, pro
audio and broadcast markets and consumers and the trade
have come to know us by our initials. Going forward, this
change will clarify and simplify our corporate messaging
and support the continued growth and awareness of the DTS
May 13, 2005.
Hardware manufacturer and HD-DVD
co-developer Toshiba has announced plans to develop a
45GB HD-DVD disc in a bid to reduce the capacity divide
between HD-DVD and Blu-ray. The new variant would
increase capacity by adding an extra data layer to the
usual two, with 15GB capacity per layer.
April 12, 2005.
Software company CyberLink has
revealed that upcoming generations of its ubiquitous PowerDVD
applications will include Blu-ray playback and recording
support. Upcoming software is also expected to support
In other news, Warner Brothers has
signed an agreement with Microsoft to use the company's
VC-1 WMV format on HD-DVD, starting with the titles
announced back in January. VC-1 is supported by both
HD-DVD and Blu-ray, so this signing is seen as significant
and could give the format an edge as it seeks to become
the cross-platform standard for both.
announced at the German CeBIT trade show that it will be
joining the growing number of computer hardware
manufacturers supporting Blu-Ray as their next-generation
data storage format of choice. Previous adopters include
heavyweights Hewlett-Packard and Dell. Apple will also be
joining the Blu-ray Disc Association board. A brief
extract from Apple's announcement follows:
pleased to join the Blu-ray Disc Association board as part
of our efforts to drive consumer adoption of HD," said
Apple CEO Steve Jobs. "Consumers are already creating
stunning HD content with Apple's leading video editing
applications like iMovie HD and are anxiously awaiting a
way to burn their own high def DVDs."
format's huge storage capacity when compared with HD-DVD,
this does not come as a surprise. Undoubtedly more
computer and related peripheral manufacturers will be
throwing their support behind Blu-ray in the near future,
although Hollywood support is still as uncertain as it has
been up to this point.
February 15, 2005. 11:57am
The Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) surpassed a milestone
today as its membership grew beyond 100 companies. "What's
most remarkable about the growing support for Blu-ray is
not just its sheer volume, but its breadth." said Brian
Zucker of Dell Inc.'s Client Product Group. Established in
October of last year, the BDA has rapidly gained the
support of leaders from the computer, consumer
electronics, video gaming, optical media, disc
replication, authoring and content industries. All of
these industries are critical to the successful
development and launch of a high-definition optical
format. Among the most recent companies to join the BDA
are Toho Co., Ltd and Toei Video Company, Ltd., which are
the two leading movie studios in Japan. Toho Co., Ltd. is
a leading production house and distributor of movies in
Japan. Toei Video is known for its production of movies,
sales of DVDs as well as other packaged media. Toei Video
generates a steady stream of release titles from its
diversified parent company Toei Co., Ltd. that includes
Japanese films, animation and independent films.
For those of you wondering, the
BDA's Board of Directors currently consists of the
Hewlett Packard Company
LG Electronics Inc.
Matsushita Electric Industrial
Mitsubishi Electric Corporation
Royal Philips Electronics
Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.
Twentieth Century Fox
Walt Disney Pictures
Blu-ray discs have a data capacity
of 23.3GB, 25GB or 27GB on single-layer discs, and 46.6GB,
50GB or 54GB on dual-layer discs (multi-layer discs with
capacities up to 200GB are also planned for the future).
Blu-ray's supported video formats include MPEG-4 AVC
(H.264), MPEG-2 and VC-1 up to 30fps/1080P. Supported
audio formats include PCM, Dolby Digital and DTS-HD.
Columbia TriStar (including MGM/UA) and Walt Disney
Pictures have officially committed to releasing on Blu-ray,
but have yet to announce any titles. Twentieth Century
Fox, although on the BDA Board of Directors has yet to
commit to releasing titles.
February 5, 2005. 7:19pm
Paramount has revealed the sell-through price bracket of
its first wave of HD-DVDs: US$19-29. That's US$5-10 more
than an equivalent DVD-Video. Once retailer discounts are
accounted for, buyers can expect to have these HD-DVDs in
their hands for only a few dollars more than a new-release
DVD. Going by past form, Warner Brothers may price their
titles slightly lower, possibly even matching their DVD
February 1, 2005. 6:35pm
The first wave of HD-DVDs were recently announced at the
annual CES convention. Warner Bros, New Line, HBO,
Paramount and Universal will be releasing their first wave
during the fourth quarter of 2005 (Universal in early
2006). Titles announced are:
Warner Bros/New Line/HBO:
Above the Law
Angels in America (HBO)
Austin Powers: International Man
of Mystery (New Line)
Blade (New Line)
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Dark City (New Line)
The Dukes of Hazzard
Final Destination (New Line)
Friday (New Line)
From the Earth to the Moon (HBO)
Hard to Kill
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's
Harry Potter and the Chamber of
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of
House of Wax (2005)
The Last Samurai
The Mask (New Line)
The Matrix Reloaded
The Matrix Revolutions
Million Dollar Baby
The Music Man
Next of Kin
North by Northwest
The Perfect Storm
The Phantom of the Opera (2004)
The Player (New Line)
The Polar Express
Rush Hour (New Line)
Seven (New Line)
The Sopranos (HBO)
Spawn (New Line)
Wild Wild West
The Manchurian Candidate
School of Rock
Sky Captain and the World of
Mission Impossible 2
Save the Last Dance
U2 Rattle and Hum
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider
Star Trek: First Contact
We Were Soldiers
The Bourne Supremacy
The Chronicles of Riddick
End of Days
The Bone Collector
Conan the Barbarian
No real surprises. Mostly
blockbuster titles, with the re-appearance of more than a
few titles used for the launch of DVD in 1997. It is
interesting to note, however, the absence of the Warner/New
stable's crown jewels: the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The
presence of four Steven Seagal titles doesn't really make
up for their absence, in my opinion (YMMV). It looks
like The Mask may show on HD-DVD before the long-awaited anamorphic DVD is (finally) released. I'm a little curious
to see how From the Earth to the Moon will be presented,
considering the mini-series was shot in 4:3. Pan and scan
may haunt us, even in the HD age.
If you can't wait nine months (or
so) until the first HD-DVD titles are released, and you
have a recent computer (P4 2.8GHz+ or AMD XP 3000+ with
512MB RAM and a 128MB graphics card), you could try a
WMV HD DVD. These are 720p titles presented in WMV9 at
8.2Mbps and WMA Pro 5.1 at 440kbps. DRM is on-disc, so
there's no need to mess around with proxy Internet
connections (as many outside the US were forced to do with
the T2: EE 1080p DVD), although you will need a copy of
Windows Media Player 9 or 10. If you get your mits on the
Underworld WMV DVD, you may eventually have the
opportunity to compare the same movie on WMV DVD and Blu-ray;
likely to be a rarity in the future.
If you're the stingy type and don't
want to hand over any money for your HD fix, there are
free downloads from Microsoft (if you don't mind
downloading clips that average 50MB/minute of footage).
There are also several IMAX WMV titles available to tide
you over until the arrival of HD.
January 14, 2005. 11:18pm
Dolby Laboratories has demonstrated
its new Dolby
Digital Plus audio system at CES. The new format supports
bitrates up to 6Mbps (as compared to Dolby Digital's
640kbps limit; restricted to 448kbps on DVD-Video) and
eight or more discrete audio channels (compared with Dolby
Digital's six). Because of the format's bandwidth
requirements, which exceed the capabilities of S/PDIF,
Dolby Digital Plus will be transported via HDMI (High
Definition Multimedia Interface).
Like DTS-HD, Dolby Digital Plus will be fully compatible
with legacy decoders (the Dolby Digital Plus signal will
be convertible to 640kbps Dolby Digital by playback
devices for output to S/PDIF-equipped external decoders).
Channels will, naturally, be restricted to six when using
a legacy decoder.
Dolby Digital Plus has been accepted as a mandatory audio
format for HD-DVD, but not Blu-ray. Blu-ray mandates the
use of Dolby Digital classic, however.
November 2, 2004. 1:35pm
officially announced the new name of
next-generation audio platform: DTS-HD (formerly DTS++).
DTS-HD incorporates the existing core and core+extension
schemes currently available (DTS Digital Surround, DTS-ES
Discrete 6.1 and DTS 96/24) under one moniker. DTS-HD also
encompasses high-bitrate variants, well above DVD-Video's
1509kbps cap, for use on the upcoming optical HD
platforms. These bitrates will allow for lossless encoding
and additional audio channels in the future. Because
DTS-HD still relies on the Coherent Acoustics core, all
variants carrying the DTS-HD will be fully compatible with
legacy DTS decoders.
DTS is a mandatory audio format for both HD-DVD and Blu-ray
(meaning that players must support the format, not that
every disc must carry a DTS soundtrack), and DTS-HD
optional for both. DTS-HD is currently the only lossless
format supported by Blu-ray, which gives DTS a distinct
advantage as the only lossless system supported by both
Blu-ray and HD-DVD (MLP is only planned for use on HD-DVD
at the moment).