“Let our rigorous testing and reviews be your guidelines to A/V equipment – not marketing slogans”
Facebook Youtube Twitter instagram pinterest

Blu-ray Disc... Emerging Format or Hurry Up and Wait? - page 2


Lest you forget there is one little item that also needs to be solved - content protection. The approach that currently has broadcasters' and content owners' blessing is the Advanced Access Content System (AACS). This is designed to control digital rights on downloading movies, burning them to DVDs, sharing them at home or using them in your portable/car video players. HiDef content won't be delivered until this protection has been hammered out. And you can be certain that the music industry is working on a similar solution to get the horse back in the barn.

But HiDef can be stored on today's DVD media especially the 8.5GB DL media (double or dual layer, ± respectively). Especially if you are using DivX or MPEG-4 (H.264 can put a complete HiDef on a single layer disc). You may have to get a new DVD player but even with combination codecs they would cost almost nothing.

Analysts at Semico, a market research firm, say recorders are going to grow from 22.8 million this year to 86.9 million by 2009. There's very little profit in these units which is why people are increasing their purchases with Europe, Japan and the U.S. with an average of about 70% plus of the total purchases annually.

Of course Blue units don't make a lot of sense if all of the movies you rent/buy are in today's standard. Playing them on your HD TV after watching your TV shows in HiDef is a little brutal unless you have an upconverter like ADS Tech's HD UpConverter. The $500 box (and there are others) converts standard interlaced video and standard definition television signals into HDTV, progressive-scan resolutions.

And there are a lot of DVD movies to choose from according to the Digital Entertainment Group (DEG). They note that the total number of DVD discs shipped since the launch of the format to more than 4.3 billion discs and that there are now more than 43,000 DVD titles available today.

DEG notes that since their launch, more than 135 million DVD players, including set-top and portable DVD players, DVD recorders, home-theater-in-a-Box systems, TV/DVD and DVD/VCR combination players, have sold. They estimate that the number of DVD households in the U.S. is 73 million and that about 46 percent of DVD owners have more than one player.

But if you want HiDef movies in HiDef, don't worry. While Panasonic agrees that a compromise Blue-ray solution is best, they have begun BD-ROM pilot production down in Hollywood. Of course they will need titles and you will need a BD player but that's a small problem…

Content Control

We'll admit right off the bat; we have never ripped a music CD. If we wanted a second copy - for the office or car - we bought one. Just seemed to be a lot easier even though there are some excellent hardware/software products available that will let you convert your old music to disc or put together music lists and burn them to CD.

While we're at it, we've never copied a movie even though there are solutions to let you do it almost flawlessly.

With that said the RIAA and MPAA lawyers can start looking elsewhere for people to sue.

While the record industry recently saw an uptic in CD sales (the first in a couple of years) they are determined to press their lawsuits at every turn. They may have taken on more than they bargained for with Carnegie Mellon University when they claimed their high-speed Inet2 was a license for students to steal music. Professor Roger Dannenberg responded by saying that the claim was as one-sided and illogical as the organization. He noted he has musician friends who cannot get paid the royalties due them by RIAA members.

At the same time there are thousands - if not hundreds of thousands - of musicians who can't get their creative work heard by the consuming public. These folks have found a great way of reaching the music loving public by online sites like artistserver.com and other free and minimal fee posting sites.

But if the RIAA's sales had been damaged by music pilfering as they assert, you have to wonder why so many radio stations are changing their formats. An article in a recent issue of The New York Times recently reported that in recent months stations across the country in big media markets have switched formats in an effort to retain listeners.

Music is a long way from a fading art form if you visit events like the Coachella Valley Music Festival, Bonnaroo Music Festival, Austin Arts Festival, Monterey Blues Festival and the hundreds of local and regional music events held around the country and around the world. Some encourage/condone capturing the music. Others sell their DIY CDs at a very low price.

Content protection seems to be designed to protect the machine, not the individuals.

The Polished Approach

On the other hand the MPAA has taken their case to the Supreme Court and Congress where their financial muscle does more good. They've had mixed success in this "professional" approach.

They did stumble occasionally because at the Grokster trial. An MGM spokesperson admitted that ripping movies for personal backups could be legal. However, the movie industry has claimed all along that any and all copying of DVDs is illegal. When asked the spokesperson said that at the time the iPod was invented, it was clear that there were many perfectly lawful uses for it, such as ripping one's own CD and storing it in the iPod. Ooopppsss! Now they won't be able to challenge ripping again under the doctrine of judicial estoppel.

France has said that adding an anti-copying mechanism violates the consumer's rights to have and make a private copy. While they pressed forward in the U.S., they didn't count on the Bible belt's push for clean visual air.

With the Family Entertainment and Copyright Act of 2005 (has a nice friendly ring doesn't it?) they got the content protection law they wanted. But those sneaky guys on The Hill snuck wording that would in effect terminate a lawsuit that film directors and Hollywood studios brought against ClearPlay whose electronic filters let viewers skip over violent, suggestive or profane sections of DVDs.

The Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) got a lot of support from "red state voters" when they said, "Once you have the DVD in your living room, it's nobody's business how you choose to watch it."

Boy... you know that had to hurt!

But don't start cheering.

Remember…the FCC's broadcast flag may have been recently ruled illegal by the Supreme Court but the NAB and MPAA will now head to the Hill for assistance. We're not certain if one Supreme Court beats a full house but you can bet all the cards haven't been played.

Just remember those immortal words of the NAB Chairman, ""Without a broadcast flag, consumers may lose access to the very best programming offered on local television."

Translation: If we don't get our way, we'll pick up our chips and go home. Then what will you watch? Of course why would they bother to "create the very best programming" if they will be the only ones viewing it?

Talk about self-adulation!!!!

Don't worry…it isn't over till the fat Congressman sings.


Confused about what AV Gear to buy or how to set it up? Join our Exclusive Audioholics E-Book Membership Program!