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HD-DVD vs. Blu-Ray vs. Alien vs. Predator

I've been watching the HD-DVD vs. Blu-Ray debate going on for a while now, and I'm starting to really lose interest.

For those of you not in the loop, HD-DVD and Blu-Ray are the two competing formats for high-def content to bve delivered on round flat discs much like CDs or DVDs are now. The debate is hugely reminiscent of the VHS vs. Beta wars of the early 80s.

The reason that I'm starting to lose interest is that regardless of which format "wins", there will still be a several-year period where the technology matures and comes down in price before it becomes affordable, and recorders will be even further off. Aggressive estimates are about 7-10 years.

What I think is going to happen is that consumers who actually want HD content will download it, and completely bypass the round flat thing entirely. Look at what MP3/iPod technology has done to audio CDs: I can't remember the last time that I actually listened to a CD, and I cant even tell you where my (one and only) CD player is anymore. The ONLY reason for a round flat thing will be the movie industry who wants to control sales and distribution, and there will be intellectual property and copy protection wars that make the current RIAA debacle look like a walk in the proverbial park.

In the meantime, independent content producers will use the democratization of inexpensive HD production tools to distribute their works to a much wider audience. The encoding of H.264 is already available, as is WMV9, with playback codecs freely available.

Home theaters are already heading toward being computer based (Media PC anyone?) rather than DVD player based, and broadband connections are more and more commonplace.

The only thing that makes me rush headlong into that as the future is that I can't reconcile a model of online distribution that will actually create revenue. For instance, I look at the shareware model, which is nice in that it doesn't require any copy protection (and actually relies on the lack of it), and essentially say "Hey, if you like the movie, send us ten bucks", but shareware rarely produces sustainable revenue streams, and movies are a lot more expensive to make than software.

The model that I really like is the online authorization model, which provides the data/movie in an encrypted form and requires an online authorization to "unlock" the content. Basically I can see two prongs to this: the first is a limited unlock where you pay a small amount to unlock the movie for a limited time (say 24 hours), and a second tier that unlocks the movie permanently (similar to rental and purchase). Problem there is that currently the authorization only unlocks to a single computer (or more technically a single computer ID), where a permamently unlocked movie is something more likely to be wanted on multiple systems.

I actually have a way around this: when you do a permanent unlock, you unlock to a single ID, but you can also be shipped a disc with the unlocked content on it. That disc can actually be serialized or identified as belonging to a particular user, because burning a DVD or two is actually pretty quick and can be pretty automated as an operation grows. (H.264 and WMV9 compress a lot more than MP2@ML on current DVDs, and a dual-layer DVD can hold a whopping amount of movie.)

It's not without problems. But honestly, the current system has a lot of problems too.


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Jul. 14th, 2006 03:12 pm (UTC)
I agree. The current media distribution model is dying.

As an owner of a home built Media PC, I have to admit that I'm generally happier with the Xvid copies of TV shows that I'll download than their DVD distrubuted counterparts. Example: I was given a copy of the 2005 Doctor Who last year, and watched it on my LCD TV from my Media PC. The picture and sound were just amazing.

Flash forward to March 2006. Doctor Who appears on Sci-Fi channel. It looks terrible. Washed-out and flat. MonkeyBoy constantly says "Our copy looks better."

Flash forward to July 4th. We buy the box set on DVD. We pop it in, and imagine our dissapointment when see that the picture is still not quite as clear as the Xvid version.

So, to me, anyway, there is no real reason to prefer the flat round shiny thing over digital distribution.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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