Following China’s recent adoption of the CH-DVD specification, which is based on HD DVD, the Blu-ray camp is also eying the Chinese market. The BDA has begun formal evaluation of a Chinese-developed video coded, AVS (Advanced Video System), and a Chinese audio format, DRA (Digital Rise Audio). Support for AVS is the main difference between CH-DVD and standard HD DVD. The Chinese government has made support of AVS a requirement for any high-def format sold in China. The BDA may add these to the Blu-ray specification, for players made and sold in China, and possibly beyond. Since China is a huge market, it makes sense that the BDA would seek to address the requirements of the market and would not willingly cede it to HD DVD. (Picked up from Blu-ray.com)
In other BD development news, Hitachi has developed a 100GB 4-layer Blu-ray Disc variant that they claim today’s Blu-ray drives would be able to read with just a firmware update. Hitachi is working on stabilizing the signal quality before committing to a commercial roll-out. But since these disc apparently use today’s hardware, a commercial product could be not so far off. They’re also working on a 200GB 8-layer disc, but that’s farther off as they’re having issues reading the data from the ‘deeper’ layers as each layer decreases the signal strength. (Picked up from Blu-ray.com. EngadgetHD also covers.)
Switching tracks, Hollywood In Hi-Def’s Scott Hettrick interviewed Sony Computer Entertainment’s Kazuo Hirai. It is a brief interview, but they touch on the use of Blu-ray in the PS3 to provide more capacity for game developers than DVD’s 8.5GB, the PS3s boost to BD as a movie format, indication downloadable video content is coming to the PS3, and more.
Blu-ray users are running into problems on a couple of new Fox releases – Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer and The Day After Tomorrow. The titles apparently will not play at all in the Samsung BD-P1200 or the LG BH100, and they have frequent skips in the Samsung BD-P1000. They play fine in the PlayStation3, Samsung BD-P1400, and players from Sony, Pioneer, and Panasonic. There are conflicting reports on the source of the problem – if it is BD+ or BD-J – but, in either case, LG says they’ll have a firmware update in 3-4 days, while Samsung reports they’ll have a fix in “a couple of weeks”.
While this is unfortunate, and the HD DVD fanboys are already foaming at the mouth at the chance to get a dig in on Blu-ray, this is not a big deal, nor even unexpected. Nearly every technology that has implementations from multiple vendors suffers from interoperability issues early on. Over time the issues get ironed out and the implementations stabilize, and we won’t see as many of these situations. While there is a standard for Blu-ray, and it isn’t in flux or constantly changing despite what some idiots on message boards and in blog comments like to claim, you have a number of vendors all implementing that standard. Anyone who has worked with standards will tell you there are often ambiguities in language, especially in early revisions. And all it takes is two groups having slightly different interpretations, and you have an incompatibility. They get ironed out and the spec gets revised to clarify, and life goes on.
People forget that DVD had similar issues early on. There were players that required firmware updates to handle some releases. There were playback problems on players that needed updates to fix. Menus that didn’t work right. And DVD is a much simpler specification than Blu-ray. Many players also needed updates to play DVD-R/RW media. So this kind of thing is not new.
And the HD DVD fans should be careful about throwing too many stones. First of all, HD DVD has not been without its own problems. There have been HD DVD releases with playback problems, just check sites like AVSForum.com. While HD DVD may have arguably had fewer issued than BD to date, it perversely benefits from its losing position in the market. HD DVD is effectively a mono-culture. Toshiba so effectively dominates the standalone player market for HD DVD that the few other players are negligible. It is certainly easy for Toshiba to make their players compatible with the HD DVD standard – since they also write the standard. And they just about split the market with Microsoft’s HD DVD add-on for the Xbox 360. Microsoft and Toshiba worked hand-in-hand on the 360′s HD DVD implementation, so it may as well be part of the same family. You have the two vendors working together are partners, not competing with each other as with the BD vendors. That makes it much easier for both vendors to ensure there are no compatibility errors.
If HD DVD were to catch on and other vendors jumped into the market, it is likely that similar problems would arise as more implementations hit the stores. There is nothing about HD DVD that makes it immune to these common issues. Whenever you have a number of vendors implementing to a spec and trying to inter-operate, some issues are inevitable. It can be DVD, Blu-ray, WiFi, cell phones, or anything really. The more mature a specification and a market, the fewer issues arise.