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Get Burned in the Latest Format War? Make Red just like Blu

by February 25, 2008
Heres to Michael Bay, who singlehandedly created Blu-ray and won the format war.  (Image via Gizmodo)

Here's to Michael Bay, who singlehandedly created Blu-ray and won the format war. (Image via Gizmodo)

Rearrange the identical 1080p content only readable on an HD-DVD player and convert it into 1080p content readable on a Blu-ray player.

It is bad enough that a transition from SD/480i prerecorded content is asking consumers to shell out more money for the same movies in HD/1080p, but at least there is an improvement in video and audio quality for the additional cost.  But because the movie studios and the hardware manufacturers couldn’t all agree, they split up and offered two incompatible containers, Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD, which provide the same HD/1080p movies, and then pulled the plug on one container format after passing some cash around amongst themselves.

Are consumers now expected to shell out again, this time for identical quality, just because they can no longer buy the compatible player to read an identical audio/video encoded video?

Well, some of the more creative technical types are calling BS.

The answer for those consumers who bought into the losing format: before turning all those HD DVDs into coasters, Gizmodo is reporting about a Wired Wiki that shows how to convert those old HD DVDs into fancy new Blu-ray Discs.

Using various free and retail software tools, one can pull the data off an HD DVD to a computer and convert it from an HD DVD file system to a Blu-ray file system and burn it back to a Blu-ray disc.  It’s just not an easy task thanks to the movie industry, which has taken great pains to attempt to force every consumer to re-buy what they already own.

HD DVD is dead.  Long live HD DVD!

By converting your movies into a more enduring format, you can ensure your movie collection survives the death of the machine that plays them.

The process is simple in principle but excruciating in practice, thanks to the complexity of the technology, the myriad of applications needed and the predations of an industry that doesn’t want you format-shifting at all.

Wired How to Wiki: Convert Your HD DVDs to Blu-Ray

Basically, one has to rip the HD DVD to a hard drive, demultiplex the HD DVD file system, tweak the audio and video using software consistent with the recording codec to fit it on a 25 GB BD, re-multiplex the data into the BD file system, and finally burn away.  The Wired Wiki provides suggestions and links to all the required software, including free alternatives to commercial products.

Considering the price of BD burners and blank media, it might be wiser to just get a big hard drive and leave the HD DVD content there for a software player to decode or just bite the bullet and repurchase the movies on Blu-ray.

With an HD DVD ROM, a Blu-ray burner, blank Blu-ray media, an Internet connection, and a great deal of stubbornness, one can embark on the journey from the land of Red to the land of Blu to watch the same damn movie encodes on the victorious player.

But, if your time is worth money, you just might be better off grabbing some new movies or signing up for Netflix.

About the author:
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Professionally, David engineers building structures. He is also a musician and audio enthusiast. David gives his perspective about loudspeakers and complex audio topics from his mechanical engineering and HAA Certified Level I training.

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Recent Forum Posts:

allargon posts on February 28, 2008 11:18
dobyblue, post: 381315
Of the hundred plus titles that were available on both formats, every MOVIE sold better on the Blu-ray format.

Most did–every movie did not. I believe We are Marshall was one. I think maybe 5 titles total sold better on HD DVD.

“Planet Earth” was not a movie, but it definitely sold better in 2007 on HD DVD than Blu-Ray.

However, this is crying over history. HD DVD is but a footnote. At least HD VMD and its retro sound never succeeded.
dobyblue posts on February 27, 2008 14:11
That's a redundant statement.

No media fight has ever gotten to Joe Six Pack when it comes to home video or home audio.

SACD vs. DVD-Audio? Nope, J6P isn't interested in a format war.
Betamax vs. VHS? That's about the CLOSEST you can get. I think I knew one person growing up that had a Betamax player, everyone else had VHS.
HD DVD vs. Blu-ray? Nope, J6P isn't interested in a format war.

It will always be like this. The consumers that were willing to buy into either format were choosing Blu-ray on almost every count more often than HD DVD.

And no, the consumers will not get the same audio and video on HD DVD titles making their way to Blu-ray. Watch and see if Transformers doesn't have a 24-bit uncompressed PCM track on it.
Buckeye_Nut posts on February 27, 2008 14:08
It doesn't really matter to me…..

What I want to know is how I can get me one of ‘dem purdy yellow Camaro’s!!!!
(preferably one without the HD-DVD logo)

DavidW posts on February 27, 2008 11:24
JackT, post: 381045

I don't agree that consumers “ignored” the HD disc formats. I think you can only claim this to the extent they have “ignored” HD in general.

I say this based on adoption rates for HD disc formats compared to that of DVD at the same point after inception. If memory serves (and it may not), sales of players match or even exceed that for DVD at the same point, whereas the sales of discs is roughly half. (Hope I have that right.)

But to make a REAL comparison, you have to keep in mind that the market size at comparable points in time is roughly one quarter what it was for DVD. (i.e. there are only a fraction of HD capable homes now then there were SD capable homes back whenever.)

So, the adoption rate for HD media has been fairly good, it seems to me. You can only say the consumer has ignored these media by also claiming they have ignored HDTV also.

Without dragging this back-and-forth out too much longer, I just want to further make the point that, fundamentally, my negative reaction to articles like this stems largely from my strong suspicion that this article would have been written REGARDLESS of how the war turned out.

I mean, that is the narrative the media were always going to push, right? The consumer got screwed by the man? It was always going to be a new Betamax fiasco regardless of what happened. Except with Betamax, the story was that consumer choice didn't work because the dummies chose the “wrong” one. (Complete BS in my opinion.) Now we have a conspiracy theory where the consumer didn't really have a choice, an assertion that requires dismissal of the actual sales data by saying they are too small to mean anything. This is also the reason for breathlessly focusing on tales of “payoffs” to studios, as if the job of a format consortium goes much beyond lining up content provider support, because the consumer demands such support on a broad level.

Actually, you are completely off base for two reasons.

I am not part of the media in the sense that you refer to as I am not a professional journalist, I am an engineer who also happens to write for a technically oriented audio/video site.

The point of the article was to relate the technical information that is available to convert between two media formats that are identical on a fundamental technical level, but differ to incompatability only in details of implementation.

As an engineer, I am frustrated that the war had to occur in the first place, for technical reasons, and not for just the typical media everyman spin.

Both foramats have the same 1080p video resolution, they both support the same video encoding schemes, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, and VC-1, and they support the same audio encoding schemes, Dolby Digital, Digital+, TrueHD, DTS, DTS HD, and DTS HD MA.

The only two differences are the physical structure of the disc where BD uses smaller divits for the data with a tighter track pitch to cram more in and the data file structure, ie the order that the data is stored in those divits. Both of which are inconsequenetial to end user experience who will get 1080p video.

As contnet that was previsously only available on HD-DVD migrates to BD, everyone who buys the BD version will get the identical audio and video encode from the HD-DVD version run essentially through the process I just outlined. It would be a silly waste of money for the studios to reencode the original video back into the same codec. You can expect that to occur down the road when the studios want to resell it again when they will claim that the reencode would make for an improved special edition, and even then, they might not.

You have read way too much into the article or you only really read certain parts an imbuded them with your own spin through interpretation.

As to sales data, HD players at the height of holiday discounting were less than 10% of the sales for DVD players.

High-def player sales still just 10% of standard DVD
DisplaySearch: Discounting gave HD DVD two-thirds of next-gen holiday sales

There is no dismissal of sales numbers, people were not buying in and Warner said as much:

Not only did neigher format really take off as expected in the fourth quarter, but standard-def was softer than expected given the release slate,” said Warner Home Video president Ron Sanders told VB in explaining the studio’s decision. “We’re seeing research now that shows that consumers are starting to delay purchases because of the format war, not just on high-def, but on standard-def purchases as well. That’s alarming.”
“Warner Bros.’ move to exclusivity release in the Blu-ray Disc format is a strategic decision focused on the long term and the most direct way to give consumers what they want,” said Warner chair and CEO Barry Meyer. “The window of opportunity for high-definition DVD could be missed if format confusion continues to linger. We believe that exclusively distributing in Blu-ray will further the potential for mass market success and ultimately benefit retailers, producers and, most importantly, consumers.”

“A two-format landscape has led to consumer confusion and indifference toward high-definition, which has kept the technology from reaching mass adoption and becoming the important revenue stream that it can be for the industry,” said Kevin Tsujihara, president of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group. “Consumers have clearly chosen Blu-ray, and we believe that recognizing this preference is the right step in making this great home entertainment experience accessible to the widest possible audience. Warner Bros. has worked very closely with the Toshiba Corp. in promoting high-definition media, and we have enormous respect for their efforts. We look forward to working with them in the future.”

Look at the double speak about consumer indifference side by side with consumers clearly choosing BD. Warner took miniscule sales data that showed preference for BD among early adopters and extrapolated it to say consumers clearly choose BD while simultaneouly saying they had to pick one for the consumer in an attempt to jump start the HD disc market before downloads come along to dominate with smaller profit margins, just like what has happened to the music industry.

Why early high-def disc adoption rates don't really matter

Battle between Blu-ray and HD DVD fizzles as consumers watch and wait

While Warner repeats statements about consumer preference, in the end, all the consumer wants is HD quality video, he does not care which version of an otherwise identical shinny disc it comes on, looks just like old CDs and DVDs. The only benefit to the consumer is that now the choice is clearer which way to get HD without further worry that the compatable machine will go the way of the dodo because of the war.

Think what you want, but this fight never got to Joe Sixpack and that is what the sales numbers say.
dobyblue posts on February 27, 2008 09:10
Clint DeBoer, post: 380873
Not saying anything more than that one way or another, but it's silly to think that consumers chose the winning format.

Of the hundred plus titles that were available on both formats, every MOVIE sold better on the Blu-ray format.

To me, that's the consumer picking a format.

What is silly is for people to suggest that all studios should have supported both formats and expecting the results to somehow be different than the sales Paramount, Dreamworks, New Line and Warner experienced.

Shooter, Disturbia, 300, Blood Diamond, The Departed, etc., etc., etc., all sold better on Blu-ray. If the consumer wasn't buying them, who was?

And all these backdoor deals other than the $50 million to Viacom and $100 million to Dreamworks, which even Katzenberg has concurred, are idle speculation. People can pull numbers out of their butt all day, but with the exception of the aforementioned deals there is nothing either way that points to any deals ending the format war. Marketing, well that much is obvious. Toshiba definitely got outdone in the marketing department. Not surprising when pretty much ALL other major CE's are behind Blu-ray, two years before Sony decided upon Blu-ray for the PS3.

The retailers, the studios, they want a new revenue media to succeed too. You don't need a bribe to support the format that most people can see quite clearly, after winning 60+ weeks of software sales in a row, is the most viable format for mass market adoption, not when that industry is worth over $20 billion.
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