How High Definition DVD will replace DVD

May 12, 2006

hd movie titlesOne criticism I’ve seen of both Blu-ray and HD-DVD is that the average consumer will be reluctant to buy into another format, regardless of its supposed superiority. Fair enough but I’ll argue that many of them won’t even know their buying another format or if they are aware, it won’t feel any different than replacing a cheap, broken DVD player.

Forget the hi-def DVD format war for a few minutes, for our purposes lets assume the date is May 12th, 2007. Let’s also assume that one side (Blu-ray or HD-DVD) has already established a market-share lead, not unreasonable in my opinion given the 12 month jump forward.

I see things unfolding something like this: (insert format name here) comes out on top and sales of that particular format increase, hardware costs will decrease accordingly and a snowball effect comes into play. Rinse repeat. In addition by this time, hi-def DVD’s will be released (day and date) right along with their SD-DVD counterparts. See where I’m going?

At some point in this evolutionary process, the price of the players and availability of titles will reach that magical-point where upgrading will be seamless or at the very least a fiscal afterthought. After all both HD-DVD and Blu-ray players are compatible with standard definition DVD’s as well, so it’s not as if those DVD’s will suddenly become useless.

What you’ll gain in this ‘evolutionary process’ is an easy upgrade path to a single player that allows you to enjoy HD versions of your favorite movies as well as your existing DVD collection, all without breaking the bank.


As to the actual costs of the players themselves in the year ahead, we can only speculate. But given the fact that the first DVD players sold for $1000, I think it’s reasonable to assume that hi-def DVD players will follow a similar price reduction path.

Add to this the need by both sides to become the dominate force with their respective formats and we might see a scenario where the manufacturers subsidize the hardware to even lower price points.

One of the reasons that high definition audio (aka DVD-A and SACD) has been such snore with consumers, is that no clear upgrade path exists. For example, you can easily spend several hundred dollars on a new CD player that may or may not include support for SACD. On the flip side of that coin, you might find that certain DVD players lack SACD support. How is this supposed to further the advancement of high resolution audio?

If DVD-A and/or SACD are really the holy grail of audio performance, why wouldn’t support for both formats be built into nearly all new DVD players? The answer is that no clear winner was established between DVD-A and SACD, so manufacturers are content to plod along status quo, until a clear reason to do otherwise presents itself.

Lessons Learned:

Assuming that a clear winner in the hi-def DVD format war can be declared in a reasonable amount of time, DVD players of all shapes, sizes, and price ranges will appear with support for the winning format. The end result of this will be (at some point) $300, $200 maybe even $100 hi-def DVD players that also support standard-def DVD’s.

It’s at this point those previously reluctant consumers, who are looking to replace broken DVD players or just add DVD playback to another room in their home, will either knowingly or unknowingly ‘buy into’ hi-def DVD. A good example of another piece of consumer electronics gear that followed this paradigm is car audio.

Years ago I was standing in a car audio shop and an older gentleman asked for a “car radio”. The salesmen asked, “CD or cassette?” The beleaguered shopper answered, “I just want a radio.” To which the salesmen answered, “Well sir I suppose we could special order one for you, but I could sell you a CD or cassette head-unit (with AM/FM) for about the same price today.” That shopper didn’t set out to buy a cassette head-unit that day, but that’s exactly what he got.

With the constraints of the format war removed, the players themselves can be presented as “High Definition DVD” players, or whatever other clever marketing term Madison Avenue comes up with. My point is that eventually these players will find their way into the homes of consumers, who didn’t necessarily set out to purchase a “hi-def” DVD player.

End result for us home theater fanatics? We can finally get down to what we should have been able to do from day one, own and enjoy high definition movies from all studios without the fear that our favorite titles will only be available on the ‘other’ format.



Posted by Bryan Greenway | | Filed Under Blu-ray, HD-DVD


Comments

  • B.Greenway

    In the case of LCD and Plasma you’re talking about something that cost upwards of 6-10k very early on, versus something that’s $500 right now.

    It won’t take HD-DVD or Blu-ray anywhere near the time it took LCD and plasma to become affordable; some would say HD-DVD is affordable right now.

  • B.Greenway

    In the case of LCD and Plasma you’re talking about something that cost upwards of 6-10k very early on, versus something that’s $500 right now.

    It won’t take HD-DVD or Blu-ray anywhere near the time it took LCD and plasma to become affordable; some would say HD-DVD is affordable right now.

  • Tim Houghton

    Interesting article, although I cannot agree with your time schedule. Just look at the gap between introduction of LCD and Plasma TVs and them becoming “affordable” (I would argue they still aren’t affordable). It was far more than one year. In fact just from my failing memory it was at least ten years.

  • Tim Houghton

    Interesting article, although I cannot agree with your time schedule. Just look at the gap between introduction of LCD and Plasma TVs and them becoming “affordable” (I would argue they still aren’t affordable). It was far more than one year. In fact just from my failing memory it was at least ten years.

  • Adam Griffith

    Good points and a nice, interesting break-down of what’s hopefully to come – and much sooner than later.

    However, isn’t the chance that neither format will “come out on top” still quite strong and/or likely?

    I now side with HD-DVD (for the fact that it’s out now and I already own it, mainly) but if I had to personally take a bet on the war’s outcome – I’d have to say that both formats seem set to exist in a laserdisc-like limbo. I mean only enthusiasts really care or will care for a long time (since they’re the only ones with the nice HDMI-supported sets, who are willing to re-buy their movies for a 3rd/4th time, have the home theaters that can truly take advantage of the format, etc) and then between the two formats each has seemingly equal advantages.

    I’d give it to HD-DVD right away for it’s lead-time and pricing but then again Blu-ray seems to have everything else that’s not those two things (the scariest of which are greater studio and manufacturer support).

    But there doesn’t seem to be anything we’ve heard yet that would clearly put one format over the other (and I’ve read about every tiny advantage that each has from ease of manufacture to region transfers/codings, etc, etc). And it also seems that if there is any winner, it will be determined by something intangible that has either not yet been announced or is something that no one could have expected.

    Though it seems the war will be a slow burn – I hope that that intangible will occur soon. Maybe it will simply be a combination of things that lead to a surplus of sales in one direction, after the marketing/release blitz that will occur this holidays. I know that if the tide had turned by, say, next Valentine’s Day – that the rest of the year would be a hell of a lot more relaxing.

    Here’s hoping (crosses fingers)…

  • Adam Griffith

    Good points and a nice, interesting break-down of what’s hopefully to come – and much sooner than later.

    However, isn’t the chance that neither format will “come out on top” still quite strong and/or likely?

    I now side with HD-DVD (for the fact that it’s out now and I already own it, mainly) but if I had to personally take a bet on the war’s outcome – I’d have to say that both formats seem set to exist in a laserdisc-like limbo. I mean only enthusiasts really care or will care for a long time (since they’re the only ones with the nice HDMI-supported sets, who are willing to re-buy their movies for a 3rd/4th time, have the home theaters that can truly take advantage of the format, etc) and then between the two formats each has seemingly equal advantages.

    I’d give it to HD-DVD right away for it’s lead-time and pricing but then again Blu-ray seems to have everything else that’s not those two things (the scariest of which are greater studio and manufacturer support).

    But there doesn’t seem to be anything we’ve heard yet that would clearly put one format over the other (and I’ve read about every tiny advantage that each has from ease of manufacture to region transfers/codings, etc, etc). And it also seems that if there is any winner, it will be determined by something intangible that has either not yet been announced or is something that no one could have expected.

    Though it seems the war will be a slow burn – I hope that that intangible will occur soon. Maybe it will simply be a combination of things that lead to a surplus of sales in one direction, after the marketing/release blitz that will occur this holidays. I know that if the tide had turned by, say, next Valentine’s Day – that the rest of the year would be a hell of a lot more relaxing.

    Here’s hoping (crosses fingers)…

  • shakaZOLO

    Perhaps a better title for your post might be: “Letter to David Pogue”. Here’s my 2-cents….

    What concerns me is the point made about screen size. It is said that the difference is least noticeable at sizes less than 35″. I think this is actually a political statement aimed at not-alienating those with 36″ sets (all too common with tube TVs). But from my vantage, 42″ is a better benchmark. In fact, the most common plasma size is 42″ and a great reference point.

    And with that, I’ve been underwhelmed by HD-DVD on a 42″ HD Plasma. I’ve been running a great video processor on this screen for years. Everything looks pretty good. The HD-DVD stuff definitely looks better, but the wow factor is not quite there.

    So, to me, the benefit really kicks in at 50″ and above. And for my money, it looks the best in a true home cinema, at 100″ or above. It is my most sincere hope (and profit) that everyone has video that big in the coming years – but it’s unlikely.

    In our insulated world we can appreciate this stuff and reap the benefits ten-fold. But when people like David Pogue, who actually reaches the masses, is not ringing bells over the new DVD formats, I get a little nervous.

    The comparison to DVD-A and SACD is unfortunately very poinant. You actually can get a player for peanuts now that supports both formats (Integra/Onkyo), but it’s too little too late. People are content, for the most part, with mediocrity. How else could we have lived with NTSC for so many years?

    I think in the end, if the manufacturers can stomach the loss they will take over this, the winner of the format wars will not be that big of a winner. Yes the price will come down and I agree it will become a standard feature. The people who will take advantage of it will be those who really care….but sadly for most, they’ll keep playing their regular old DVDs.

  • shakaZOLO

    Perhaps a better title for your post might be: “Letter to David Pogue”. Here’s my 2-cents….

    What concerns me is the point made about screen size. It is said that the difference is least noticeable at sizes less than 35″. I think this is actually a political statement aimed at not-alienating those with 36″ sets (all too common with tube TVs). But from my vantage, 42″ is a better benchmark. In fact, the most common plasma size is 42″ and a great reference point.

    And with that, I’ve been underwhelmed by HD-DVD on a 42″ HD Plasma. I’ve been running a great video processor on this screen for years. Everything looks pretty good. The HD-DVD stuff definitely looks better, but the wow factor is not quite there.

    So, to me, the benefit really kicks in at 50″ and above. And for my money, it looks the best in a true home cinema, at 100″ or above. It is my most sincere hope (and profit) that everyone has video that big in the coming years – but it’s unlikely.

    In our insulated world we can appreciate this stuff and reap the benefits ten-fold. But when people like David Pogue, who actually reaches the masses, is not ringing bells over the new DVD formats, I get a little nervous.

    The comparison to DVD-A and SACD is unfortunately very poinant. You actually can get a player for peanuts now that supports both formats (Integra/Onkyo), but it’s too little too late. People are content, for the most part, with mediocrity. How else could we have lived with NTSC for so many years?

    I think in the end, if the manufacturers can stomach the loss they will take over this, the winner of the format wars will not be that big of a winner. Yes the price will come down and I agree it will become a standard feature. The people who will take advantage of it will be those who really care….but sadly for most, they’ll keep playing their regular old DVDs.