The NST has an article on Blu-ray technology. For non techies, this article will be very enlightening.
Blu-ray is the latest buzzword in high-definition home entertainment. With the promise of delivering a more immersive home entertainment experience, the new optical media storage format is gaining attention from manufacturers, industry players and consumers.
|Tan sees prices of Blu-ray players and discs coming down to a more affordable level in the next two years.|
|From top: The BDP-S300, The BDP-LX70A, The BH200-01 and The BD-P1500.|
Blu-ray struggles with mass appeal
By Chandra Devi and Siti Syameen Md Khalili
FIRST, there was VCD technology. Then came DVD technology. Now, the world is stuck fast on Blu-ray.
The victor in the much-publicised high-definition optical disc format war with HD DVD, Blu-ray promises more to take home entertainment to the next level. There is now the option of having more content on a single disc, higher-resolution audio and video, drastically improved interactivity and networking features.
Blu-ray is capable of storing more data – 25 gigabytes on a single disc and 50GB on a single dual-layer disc, which is six times the capacity of a dual-layer DVD [commonly called DVD9, which produces clearer pictures then the normal DVD]. This capability alone makes the format exciting, especially for content makers.
For example, today’s film-makers can produce movies and accompanying material such as trailers, comments and voice-overs in HD video. With the interactivity layer inside Blu-ray, special features, menus and graphics also can be added and accessed by users throughout a movie without having to stop the movie. All this means more entertainment byte for movie lovers to consume in a single package.
Others who stand to benefit from Blu-ray’s high-capacity storage are professional photographers, animation designers and those who deal with high volumes of data.
Another engaging experience with Blu-ray is its support for Ethernet connections, which allow content developers to support features such as downloading and updating content through the Web.
Despite all the benefits of Blu-ray, consumers are still slow to embrace this technology. Industry observer Dick Tan says the higher price compared to standard-definition DVD technology could be a factor.
Many people expected Blu-ray disc and player prices to fall after the format war ended, but this did not happen, he explains.
“Blu-ray players are still in the high-end price range, between RM2,999 and RM6,999, while Blu-ray disc movies are priced at about RM140 each. Compare this to a standard DVD player with upscaling features which you can easily purchase for RM400 and an original DVD movie for about RM50.”
Tan sees prices of Blu-ray players and discs coming down to a more affordable level in the next two years.
[Next 2 years ? I think factories in China are already manufacturing cheaper models of Blu-ray players to be available in Jalan Pasar in Kuala Lumpur, Carrefore and Tesco hypermarkets in Malaysia soon]
Besides the price factor, consumers are generally satisfied with the performance of standard-definition DVD players and their ability to upscale to HD, Tan says, so they do not see it necessary to invest in Blu-ray.
But he points out that to achieve the best picture and audio, a Blu-ray player must be paired with a 1,080p HDTV.
“This will be the perfect match, providing pixel to pixel matching. Playing an HD movie on an HDTV, you will see sharper images and more vivid colours and details never possible before. The problem with DVD is that it only supports standard definition.”
Tan believes that the push to create awareness among consumers on the potential of Blu-ray must come from industry players. More efforts must be taken to provide proper demonstrations on quality enabled by this format and to educate consumers, he says.
Tan also believes that HDTV will drive the adoption of Blu-ray in homes and that Blu-ray and DVD will most likely co-exist for another four or five years until HDTVs become more widespread.
Also a concern among consumers about Blu-ray is backward-compatibility with older disc technology. But Tan points out that although earlier generations of Blu-ray players were not able to support older disc formats, now almost all manufacturers of Blu-ray players have made their products backward-compatible to play CDs, VCDs and standard DVDs. Nonetheless, he advises consumers to take note of region coding, as Blu-ray players sold in a certain region may only play discs encoded for that region.
In terms of content on Blu-ray media, Tan says this is no longer an issue because all Hollywood movie studios and others around the world support Blu-ray. There are now hundreds of classic and contemporary movies available on this format.
Asked about Blu-ray becoming a victim of piracy, Tan says it is already happening. “Hackers have cracked the code for Blu-ray twice faster than they took to crack DVD.”
Blu-ray product manufacturers since last year have been introducing such players into the local market. Here are some offerings.
As one of the companies that started the Blu-ray Disc Association, Sony has been the busiest in terms of Blu-ray product development. In the local market, you will find two of its players: the first-generation BDP-S1 at RM4,999, and BDP-S300 at RM3,999.
The company has announced that it will include a Blu-ray player into the PlayStation 3 gaming console.
• LG Electronics
LG was the first to develop the dual-format playback player when the HD format war raged on. Now that
Blu-ray has won the war, the company is continuing with its combo option, the BH200-01 Blu-ray/HD DVD player.
This model offers full backward-compatibility and supports Dolby TrueHD/Dolby Digital Plus/DTS-HD with 7.1 channel.
Pioneer’s latest Blu-ray offering is the BDP-LX70A. At RM6,999, the model is an upgrade to the BDP-LX70 introduced last year. Features on both models are similar, except the newer model supports bitstream output for both Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio.
Last year, Samsung brought into local shores its third-generation option, the RM3,999 BD-P1400. Currently into its fourth-generation of Blu-ray players, the latest model is the BD-P1500, which will be available in September.
This player is able to upconvert standard DVDs to 720p, 1,080i and 1,080p resolutions, offers full HD video playback, and supports Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD High Resolution and Master Audio audio playback plus bitstream audio output through high-definition multimedia interface.
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