Blu-Ray, HD DVD

At E3, Microsoft announced HD DVD support for the XBox 360 in the form of an external peripheral drive that you’ll be able to buy and hook up to the XBox 360’s USB port.

I took a look at the the Blu-Ray and HD DVD formats a while ago, and at the time, concluded that HD DVD would win. I based this on two things: Mandatory Managed Copy, and Hybrid Discs.

Managed Copy is a feature that allows you to make a copy of the disc’s contents onto a computer. Support for this is one of the things that swayed Microsoft and Intel to the HD DVD camp. Blu-Ray supports it, but it wasn’t a required option. Turns out this has changed: Managed Copy is now mandatory.

But the bigger feature in my mind in determining the winner is the ability to have both standard DVD and HD DVD content on the same disc. This is called a hybrid disc, and would allow stores to stock one physical title to cover both standard and high definition discs.

I just can’t see stores carrying two copies of every movie. There’s no way Wal-Mart is going to give up that much shelf space (and there’s even less chance that they’ll carry three copies – DVD, HD DVD, and Blu-Ray). So having standard and HD in the same box makes a sense.

Blu-Ray is a better format for computer drives since it can hold a lot more data – but an HD DVD disc has enough space for a 1080p high definition movie, and that’s enough for the purpose it’s designed for.

I bought my first HD DVD movie a few days ago, Serenity. What a disappointment.

Not because of anything to do with the movie – I coudn’t watch it. I couldn’t watch it because I don’t have an HD DVD drive, and Serenity isn’t a hybrid disc.

In my opinion, hybrid should be the default. Consumers should be able to buy an HD DVD disc, and be able to watch the movie anywhere, in any drive. This is technically possible, but the movies coming out so far are not hybrid discs, so you can only play them using an HD DVD player.

It’s going to be a very long time before everyone has HD everywhere. You might have an HD DVD player hooked up to the big TV in the entertainment room, but what about up in the kids room? Nobody wants to buy two copies of a movie in two different formats, and that seems to be the route we’re being sent down.

I stopped buying DVDs over a year ago, when I bought an HDTV. I just didn’t want to buy movies that weren’t taking advantage of my TV. I was happy that I could start buying movies again when HD DVD discs started showing up in stores, but it seems I need to wait for this to get sorted out, because I’m not going to get stuck with a library of movies that I can only play on one expensive player.

I see Warner is starting to release hybrid discs. Let’s hope the retailers can pressure the industry to make hybrid discs the standard.