Warner Bros. Little Secret in the Format War

September 3, 2006

Warner Bros.It’s amazing the kind of things you can stumble upon while looking at old quotes for references in future articles. For example let’s say you were trying to get some background information on how the studios arrived at which format(s) to support.

Google being the vast resource of current and archived information it is, provides you with all sorts of little hidden gems for any particular search. Again, for example let’s say you started out with a search of “studios + support + format war”, you’ll see that search returns a broad range of on and off topic results.

Ok, what happens when you narrow it down a bit, for example “studio + support + HD DVD + universal”, that’s more like it, hey yours truly is even in there. However this line of search still didn’t uncover what I was after. What I was looking for was more relevant to how the individual studios made their format choices.

So I substituted Blu-ray and HD DVD for “HD optical disc” on the assumption that legalese might forgo some of the brand names. Then I narrowed down my studio options to their full corporate names, thinking I might uncover some of the older and hopefully more relevant details I was looking for.

What I found made me forget about what I was looking for in the first place. Just to make sure I wasn’t seeing things I ran what I found through Google a few more times and couldn’t find any articles or references to my findings outside of two or three patent applications. Yes patent applications, what could that have to do with Blu-ray/HD DVD and studio support? Well I told you it was a long strange trip.

On December 23rd of last year ‘Warner Home Video Inc.’ filed for an international patent for “A Multilayer Dual Optical Disk” which is described as “A data disc (that) consists of several layers, including at least one layer conforming to a first format, and a second layer conforming to a second format. The formats can include CD, DVD, HD and BD formats and the layers may be physical, logic or application layers.”

That’s wild I thought to myself, BD (Blu-ray) and HD (HD DVD) on the same disc, this would really take the sting out of buying the wrong disc as you’d be covered either way. Mt next thought of course was, why haven’t we heard anything about this?

Well as it turns out this may never move beyond the patent stage as the description of the physical disc is probably incompatible with at least one of the two competing formats. I was able to find the U.S. patent application for the same “HD dual-disc” by searching for the same application under the firm listed as the patent applications “agent”.

The US Patent & Trademark Office filing goes into quite a bit more detail on the subject and ultimately sheds more light on why we haven’t heard more about this. First off this is a dual format HD disc and not a dual format player, regardless of whether this disc manufacturing technique might save us the expense of buying the wrong disc; it doesn’t solve the inherent problem of studio support.

e.g. Universal isn’t going to allow their titles to be released on Blu-ray and vice versa we wont see any Sony Studios titles on HD DVD anytime soon. What we really need is dual format players but even that won’t solve the conundrum of what happens when a winner emerges and all remnants of dual format support vanish years later, we’d still be stuck with unplayable discs.

Not to mention that this entire dual format HD disc manufacturing method might have one fatal flaw (mentioned above) as HD DVD already uses a dual layer to achieve 30GB’s, so in theory at least we’re really talking about a triple layer disc, even if we settled for a HD30/BD25 combo. Nevermind the fact it would very likely raise the price of the disc itself, even if it could be manufactured in large volumes.

Or in other words I just can’t see how they can get the disc to conform to the thickness specifications of both formats with a triple layer, although the patent application does explain this to some degree, I’m still left with the feeling this solution might be a pipedream.

So I suppose at the end we’re still left with what we had at the beginning, two non-compatible HD disc mediums vying to replace the DVD as our home entertainment medium of choice. Pre-recorded HD movies with lossless sound for the masses are so close yet so far away, in any significant numbers at least. Technical feasibilities aside, I thought this was pretty damn interesting and wanted to share it with you.



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


Comments

  • B.Greenway

    I suppose but the U.S. patent clearly spells out one intended use, “4. The disc of claim 1 wherein the first data layer conforms to an HD-DVD protocol and said second data layer conforms to a BD protocol.”

  • B.Greenway

    I suppose but the U.S. patent clearly spells out one intended use, “4. The disc of claim 1 wherein the first data layer conforms to an HD-DVD protocol and said second data layer conforms to a BD protocol.”

  • Kevin

    I’d suspect this would have more utility with CD/DVD stamped on top of an HDDVD/BluRay layer than it would to combine the two formats. Since DVD-A and SACD are still niche formats, a CD layer on an HDDVD/Bluray disk could finally provide you with high resolution audio that you could still put in your car CD player. A DVD layer could also be useful to save the studio from having to print two versions of the movie.

  • Kevin

    I’d suspect this would have more utility with CD/DVD stamped on top of an HDDVD/BluRay layer than it would to combine the two formats. Since DVD-A and SACD are still niche formats, a CD layer on an HDDVD/Bluray disk could finally provide you with high resolution audio that you could still put in your car CD player. A DVD layer could also be useful to save the studio from having to print two versions of the movie.