One of the benefits touted by HD DVD supporters had been the capability of the format to support both HD DVD and DVD content on a single side. Though, with only two layers, this meant a HD DVD15/DVD5 was the result – providing limited capacity on both formats. I repeatedly pointed out that the Blu-ray camp had the capability for the same kind of single-sided hybrid disc, and they had been demonstrated by JVC but not commercialized. Since Blu-ray, unlike HD DVD, uses a different layer depth than DVD it is theoretically possible to have higher capacities – in theory a BD50/DVD9 is possible. JVC demonstated a BD25/DVD9, which provides enough capacity on both formats for a lot of content. However, producing the hybrid discs is more complex and costly, and I didn’t really expect to see them move beyond the lab curiosity phase. What we’ve seen to date are some vendors simply packing a standard DVD in with the BD release to support both formats.
Well, color me surprised. On February 18, 2009 Pony Canyon will release the first BD/DVD hybrid discs, in Japan. It is a box set of the TV series Code Blue. It is a multi-disc set, with the discs being hybrid BD25/DVD9 – a single Blu-ray layer ‘over’ two DVD layers. So it is like having a standard dual-layer DVD and a single-layer Blu-ray disc on one physical disc. The DVD’s red laser sees through the BD layer to see the DVD data, while the Blu-ray’s blue laser reflects from the BD layer and never sees the DVD ‘below’.
The discs are produced by Infiniti Storage Media Ltd. and they’re very similar to the hybrid discs demonstrated by JVC back in 2004. Infiniti is also apparently working on a BD50/DVD5 (2-BD layers, 1-DVD layer) standard with the BDA. A BD50/DVD9 isn’t mentioned, though I’d be surprised if that wasn’t the next step, JVC was talking about that in 2004.
It’ll be interesting to see if this catches on or is just a bit of a gimmick. If it is successful we might see more titles using hybrid discs, which would eliminate the BD vs. DVD purchasing decision. Though I’m not sure it will catch on, since they are more complex to make than BD or DVD alone. Still, as a geek I love the elegance of the solution so I kind of hope it will.