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HD-DVD: To use WM9 Codec


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Just read that the DVD forum, that manages the HD-DVD standard, will support MPEG-2, MPEG-4, and WM9. First, I am of course very excited for HD-DVD, so any progression is very exciting. Second, it is good to see a little competition for this standard, though I wish Sony's Blue-ray would just die because I really don't want HD-DVD to be split like SACD and DVD-A.

 

Of course, it is a little weird that every HD-DVD player will have a Microsoft logo on it. Perhaps HD-DVD will be the format for XBOX 2?

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Will they have HD-DVD ready in time for XBOX 2? I'm thinking not.

 

But I am very excited for this as well. I have been thinking about getting into DVHS, but it would be silly if HD DVD isn't too far off. In the meantime I can enjoy HD on broadcasts.

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With three different visual compression standards, and another four audio standards (Dolby, DTS, MPEG and PCM) I've a horrible feeling that compatibility problems will be even more widespread than they have been with DVD (early players in particular) where only the audio formats have been a variable.

 

On another note, isn't WM9 just an implementation of the MPEG-4 standard with extra DRM in any case?

 

Any hope of getting a compromise solution between HD-DVD and BluRay looks forlorn, though. While there are sound technical reasons for the argument (I would much rather have the added bandwidth available on BluRay than just messing around with codecs on a standard disc), most of this is about license charges. Sony really don't like the fact that they aren't getting a slice of that juicy royalty cash with DVD, and the others are too used to it to lose any to them.

 

Its actually kind of amusing that the Hi-Def video market is setting Sony and Microsoft in opposite camps. I wonder if Sega can be persuaded to help out with DVHS? ;)

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The Blu Ray camp is kind of marred by backwards thinking. We may end up with little more than a disc based DVHS format. Mpeg II based with lossy (read Dolby & DTS) audio formats. The sad part is they have the bulk of coporate muscle behind the format. The Blue Ray camp has admitted it is now re-evaluating the use of the VC9 codec however, which could make for some interesting results.

 

The argument with storage between Blue Ray and it's MPEG II encoding vs HD-DVD and its wm9 encoding is certainly rendered moot given the fact that whilst the former holds 50gb on a dual layer disc, and the latter 30gb on a dual layer. Despite capacity sixes, the difference in codecs actually sees them able to hold roughly the same amount of information. Blue Ray 50gb with wm9 would allow for a ridiculous amount of material on a disc too, so it'll be interesting if the Blue Ray camp side with it. Of course, the DVD Forum may now say "look, we'll license this from you, but on no account are you to allow those buggers to use it too!".

 

I must say I find it VERY hard to voice support to the Blu Ray camp however and it upsets me when I see people like Bill Hunt touting it before a final HD-DVD demo has even been shown to the public. It's a good format to be sure, but the fact they've yet to say they'll make the very best of it bothers me (again, lossy audio, chances it?ll still be MPEG II, and 1080i vs Thosiba/NECs interest in 1080p/24).

What bothers me more however is the fact they NEVER put the format forward to the DVD Forum for consideration. Had they done so, we may have been faced with a single format; a 50gb disc using WM9 featuring lossless audio... Their greed and want to break away from the DVD forum now sees us under the shadow of a raging format war and just how anyone can support them when they?re practically responsible for the mess that will face us over the next two years baffles me.

 

We're going to end up with a format that is compromise in one area or another, instead of having a format that is as good as it can be from the get go. DVD wasn't as good as it could have been because not enough standards were set, and it's all just a little bit of history repeating as Dame Shirley once said.

 

Many will scoff at the siding with wm9, but they shouldn't purely on a Microsoft hatred basis. It is a brilliantly efficient codec that can deliver remarkably good results, and if word is to be believed, the results the studios have been seeing behind closed doors on demo HD-DVD discs are even greater than the wm9 material currently available to the consumer.

 

 

With three different visual compression standards, and another four audio standards (Dolby, DTS, MPEG and PCM) I've a horrible feeling that compatibility problems will be even more widespread than they have been with DVD (early players in particular) where only the audio formats have been a variable.

 

I wouldn't be concerned, honestly. I think with HD-DVD, Dolby will return as the mandatory standard and alongside it I'd hope will be God's gift that is Meridian Lossless Packing (MLP), created by Meridian, and licensed via Dolby. DTS as usual would remain optional. The studios know they have to excel the next format in every way or people just won't upgrade. They actually want lossless audio, which is comforting to know. It's a knock against the Blu Ray boys who remain content with Dolby and DTS.

 

 

Whoever wins this war is down to the studios at the end of the day. Blu Ray is the only format with any studio currently bound to it (Columbia, for obvious reasons). Every other studio seems on the fence, there is a lot of demand from them both camps come together and make a unified format, but as Iain says, it?s remarkably unlikely. Warner and Disney seem to me edging toward HD-DVD, and it would be a huge boost for the official format if they came aboard as Disney accounts for a vast amount of the market share on home video, and Warner?s catalogue is huge ? least we forget with Warner comes New Line too. Warner also seems to be eyeing up MGM for a buyout too (as is Sony, though their window to make a move has expired for now).

 

So HD-DVD seems to be winning more interest in its cost and efficiency, whilst Blue Ray has the mass of corporate giants behind it, so we?ll soon see where the studios? interests truly lie with DVDs successor. The nice thing is, as I have said, they acknowledge an HD format has to offer remarkable steps up in both video AND audio over DVD, as well as progression in interactivity and supplements, and the DVD Forum is really trying their best to cater for such demands.

 

Both parties need to do some serious duelling at CEDIA this September. It?s high time both camps told the world exactly what their copy protection schemes are, because this too is obviously a major part in winning the affection of the studios.

 

Interesting times ahead.

 

Daniel

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In addition, Bluray focuses to the edge of the disc, whereas HD-DVD and regular DVD both focus to the center of the disc. This is why Bluray can get 25 GB/layer using MPEG-2 while HD-DVD needs to use MPEG-4. Bluray focuses the laser to a tighter spot allowing more 'bits' to be written, but new specific media will need to be manufactored to be used (that has the substrate on the edge of disc vs. middle.) New media = more cost per disc. The Bluray media (discs) also have much tighter specs than HD-DVD, so I expect the discs to go for more $ at retail.

 

Where Bluray shines is for a PC HDVD-R type setup. After all, if you choose to burn a Bluray disc in MPEG-4 instead of MPEG-2 on your PC, you can get double the space for no cost. You might not be able to play it in a Bluray player that only knows MPEG-2, but if you had an HTPC setup Bluray might be pure gold (imagine playing an entire LOTR EE movie in HD without changing the disc.)

 

In other words, Bluray actually burns more information to a disc (in 1s and 0s) than HD-DVD, but HD-DVD player uses better compression to compensate (MPEG-4 > MPEG-2.) But in the PC world, compression is fairly meaningless and pure data storage is king, so Bluray is arguably much better. So choose your poison, VHS or Betamax; there can be only one. :D

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Indeed. I think if the studios side with HD-DVD, then Blu Ray will still have a life of its own just as beta continues to do so today in the media industry. In that industry field, and in PCs, and perhaps in the PS3 it will find it's home. They've certainly not wasted any time in developing the format, it is a good format, but again if they want it to be the future of movies in the home then they should seriously re-consider their chosen video and audio codecs.

 

Blood will fly at Cedia and CES as I say though. :) Can't you just imagine them going at it in another shared press conference?

 

Lieberfarb: "You suck"

Fidler: "no, YOU suck"

Lieberfarb: "ah shut up"

Fidler: "You shut up"

Studios: "Copy protection! rabble, rabble, rabble!!"

Consumers: "oh for the love of...."

 

:)

 

Dan

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I'm going to be a lame realist here and posit something that I'm sure has been considered a thousands times.

 

But...

 

I'm of the opinion that it's still too early for them to try to lock down a standard for this, and because of that I believe it will fail only to be re-considered in a few years.

 

Given the current adoption rate of DVD and surround sound, the home theater market is JUST hitting mass appeal. People are just now running out and outfitting their homes with DVD players and six speakers. People are just now figuring out what the hell 16x9 and 5.1 are. People are just now replacing their VHS collections with DVDs.

 

No one (i.e. the average consumer) is going to want to hear anything about HD-DVD or Blu-Ray. They think that DVD *is* HD.

 

Blu-Ray and HD-DVD will see a similar fate to that of the LaserDisc, IMO. Something better and simpler will come along, much like DVD did.

 

That's just how I see it.

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Originally posted by stencil@Jun 15 2004, 12:43 PM

No one (i.e. the average consumer) is going to want to hear anything about HD-DVD or Blu-Ray. They think that DVD *is* HD.

That's my brother. While he's not as savvy on tech stuff as he was when he was younger, he's still more informed than the average person, I think, and yet when I tried to explain to him the whole idea of HD-DVD he looked at me like I'd flipped my lid. "What the hell do they need a better picture for? It's already perfect!" :)

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The way they introduce products stencil it's based on a selling curve. The early adopters will prove that there is enough of a market for them to continue. As they continue, prices come down as parts become cheaper and designs get better. They usually measure this in product cycles, which typically equal one year each.

 

So:

 

Year 1: a $1000 player that 5000 people will buy ($5 mil industry).

 

Year 2: a $600 player that 50,000 people will buy ($30 mil industry).

 

Year 3: a $300 player that 1,000,000 people will buy ($300 mil industry).

 

Year 4: a $200 player that 10,000,000 people will buy ($2 bil industry).

 

Year 5 ...

 

To get to that juicy year 4+, you need to go through the previous 3 product cycles, just no way around it. So it makes money even early on, but the race is for the market share at the end of the lifespan when you can make $$$$$$$$$$$.

 

Also, there probably won't be any other standards. Once these things are set, they are set! Just like the CD standard today is the same one from 1988 and the DVD standard is same as in 1998, in 2020 the HD-DVD standard will be the same one as today. The Bluray isn't an officially sanctioned HiDef DVD standard, but Sony has so much money and time wrapped up in it that they really don't care anymore.

 

My prediction is that by the time you have $200 HDDVD players they will be able to handle both HD-DVD and Bluray by refocusing the laser to account for the media. That's what happens today with DVD-R and DVD+R, you have to be able to handle both or you're dead meat.

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No one (i.e. the average consumer) is going to want to hear anything about HD-DVD or Blu-Ray. They think that DVD *is* HD.

 

Blu-Ray and HD-DVD will see a similar fate to that of the LaserDisc, IMO. Something better and simpler will come along, much like DVD did.

 

That's just how I see it.

 

 

Ah but you speak of HD-DVD being a niche format like laserdisc as if it were a bad thing. It's not going to go the way of LD for all its life, though for its first five years it will surely remain a format only embraced by a select crowd, and that's really not a bad thing by any means.

 

There will actually be a natural progression. Both Blu Ray and HD-DVD players will playback existing DVDs, but as HDTV becomes more popular in homes over the years, more and more consumers are going to start asking why their DVDs don't look as good as what they're watching on TV, and when the masses ask this question, they'll find the answer in whatever format succeeds between the two about to battle it out, and what's more, that will already have an established software library having existed as a niche format for a number of years.

 

I liked the fact that with laserdisc we had set standards in what to expect from software output, certainly as far as out expectations concerning original aspect ratio were concerned. With DVD, as it's become ever more popular, standards have begun to drop. More pan and scan is hitting the markets due to demand, many big AA releases face atrocious video mastering so they look better on smaller interlaced displays and so on.

 

I fear for the day HD gains in mass popularity and, for example, people freak out at the levels of grain in the image. That's grain inherent to the source material that should be there, but is seen by many as a defect. This results in studios filtering the image to smooth out grain structure, and in turn leaves us with a softer transfer hiding the finest details. 90% of DVDs today suffer this fate (all the Region1 LOTR releases for instance).

 

It's a pompous attitude to have I know, but I don't care about HD-DVD being mainstream. I want another Laserdisc, and we'll get it to a degree, but it won't suffer LDs same fate because the natural progression is in place for others to adopt it in future. Global TV standards are (slowly but surely) conforming to HD. Whichever format were faced with in 2006 will last, I have no doubt.

 

 

I don't ever see a day we have 4k resolution at home in our lifetimes, I don't ever want to see such high resolutions in the home as theatrical exhibition should always have the one up over us at home.

1080p will be enough for the consumer, more than enough, and great incentive to make the studios work hard on keeping people coming back to cinemas because HD in the home is going to be stiff competition in the quality and presentation battle vs cinemas over the coming years. It's easy enough even with the best DVDs out there to dismiss ever going to the cinema, and that's just from a standard 720x480 resolution.

 

I'm with Snakefish on a point made above. Too much investment is going into both blu-ray and HD-DVD from both the companies involved in making them, and the Hollywood sutudios. That's why one of these formats has to get it absolutely right, and why the studios keep saying they will accept nothing less than a set of standards that are leaps and bounds over what we currently have. They're looking to build a format to last.

 

The masses are not meant to embrace a disk based HD format right away. The studios know it, the manufacturers know it and marketing is going to reflect this in who the products are advertised at, and how much they cost. It'll take time, but the way I see it, the sooner a format exists the sooner adoption of HDTV across the globe can begin, and it really needs to get moving globally. Only now in the UK are we FINALLY hearing news from the BBC and Fox owned Sky Television that they aim to transmit HDTV here within a few years. Things are moving, but HD-DVD/Blue-Ray, whichever, is going to co-exist peacefully with DVD for a long time, the trick is to already have that infrastructure in place when the masses start demanding it.

 

Dan

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I understand and appreciate your views on this. Makes sense. I'll be there right with you shelling out for the new goods, just like I did for Sony's Minidisc format as well as for laserdiscs.

 

My point is, though, that I think this next generation could be one of those "glossed over" periods that never gets to that "sweet spot" that Snakefish so accurately explained. While people will buy it, I'm feeling that most people won't.

 

Another competitor to this that we're not discussing is the Video-On-Demand industry. Already a lot of people are simply clicking with their cable remotes instead of going to Blockbuster or dealing with Netflix. And to be honest, I don't blame them. What's more, this industry is already suited to devlier on-demand HD content without having to deal with standards.

 

As it is, within 10 years, I'm guessing that most set-top boxes will contain some sort of mass-storage device, be it a hard drive or whatever (maybe even Blu-Ray). With the current interest and investment in on-demand content, the next generation might not have a physical medium at all.

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I feal the same way you do stencil. I don't think there will be much of a need for a removable media device specifically designed to store HD content. I think most HD content will be download to either a set top box, or some sort of HTPC. This aready seems to be the trend for music, just seems logical video would follow suit.

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This may be a rather unpopular opinion, but when HDDVD started to get batted around, I decided that there were three requirements for me to buy it.

 

1. It must be playable in my PC.

2. It must not have any kind of DRM that it has to call home for me to play it.

3. Microsoft can't be involved in anyway.

 

On the brighter side, if it does become mainstream, which honestly I don't think it will, I will be able to get DVDs really cheap. Personally, I have found DVD to be close to the perfect format. The quality is rather good on my HTPC, they are small enough to put on my media server, and the studios don't have to much control over the media I buy.

 

Clay

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With the current interest and investment in on-demand content, the next generation might not have a physical medium at all.

I guarantee this. This isn't even a question of if, but when. Unfortunately, HD and VOD are two new technologies that most people don't know a thing about, and it will be interesting to see how they eventually develop and converge. With Tivo I declared the eventual death of broadcast television. Ironically though, the end of broadcast television means the end of Tivo, and golden age of VOD.

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As it is, within 10 years, I'm guessing that most set-top boxes will contain some sort of mass-storage device, be it a hard drive or whatever (maybe even Blu-Ray). With the current interest and investment in on-demand content, the next generation might not have a physical medium at all.

 

Yes I'd absolutely agree that one day we may never see a physical format, but that said, the fate of all future formats will of course lie with the content providers. The studios are confident enough to invest in whatever disc based HD format takes off, so they won?t be looking to abandon anything too soon, not within a ten year window I don't think. We?ve got it now with audio of course, and absolutely with these efficient codecs downloadable HD content will become quite common.

 

You hit upon the great point that technology in this field is progressing so incredibly quickly though, it's difficult to know what will have the greatest longevity. With films, the studios will dictate where we go in fifteen years though because a format is nothing without their support. This is really why I can't bring myself to be overly concerned about just how popular Blu-Ray/HD-DVD becomes because everyone involved in their creation is looking to make long term plans for the success of both formats, so whether the future will see another competing format, or something for it to co-exist with remains to be seen, but I think it will be the latter.

 

Your thought of integrated set top boxes with huge hard disc capacity and in built compatibility with either HD- disc format is one I share. You sort of see it now with these DVD players/recorders that share boxes with an HDD. That in its greatest form with HD is certainly something in out futures. When it comes to the whole idea people will simply stop purchasing physical content though, I remain on the fence. Personally I am one of those who are far happier buying a CD. I'm not won over by the coming of the 'download age' as yet, so this of course influences my opinion on the whole subject.

 

I foresee a happy medium, rather than one over the other if you follow me.

 

1. It must be playable in my PC.

2. It must not have any kind of DRM that it has to call home for me to play it.

3. Microsoft can't be involved in anyway.

 

Well, two out of three isn?t all bad (although Steve Jobs is dead against point 1). :)

 

It should be noted HD-DVD using wm9 will not use DRM or any kind of copy protection from Microsoft (this has been thankfully been noted numerous times by a guy from MS over at the AVS Forum). There?s no way a consumer will be asked to connect their player to the internet to watch a movie every time, you?re narrowing the market greatly in doing so. Microsoft?s involvement goes no further than licensing of the codec, and use of wm9 is at the discretion of the studio who is free to encode in wm9, MPEG 4 or MPEG II. So there?s not a great deal of mass dominance from MS with HD-DVD. Right now they?ve got the best codec out there, and well, so be it.

 

Back to the DRM issue though. Although the current DVD9 discs with some WM9 content have DRM (T2 Extreme Ed..etc), HD-DVDs copy protection is to be handled by another consortium outside of the DVD Forum itself. I think with both competing formats we?re going to see encryption like we have seen on DVD-A and SACD.

 

Talking hardware for a second, what I am curious is whether the Blu Ray and HD-DVD players will keep analogue component outputs. It would be astonishingly stupid to leave them out given a lot of the early generation HDTVs across the world lack HDCP compatibility. I know the aim it to push ahead in making HDMI a standard and that?s great, but I just hope they don?t ignore component for the millions of installed users they have out there with older generation HDTVs, digital projectors and CRT projectors. They?d be mad to.

 

Dan

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Talking hardware for a second, what I am curious is whether the Blu Ray and HD-DVD players will keep analogue component outputs. It would be astonishingly stupid to leave them out given a lot of the early generation HDTVs across the world lack HDCP compatibility. I know the aim it to push ahead in making HDMI a standard and that?s great, but I just hope they don?t ignore component for the millions of installed users they have out there with older generation HDTVs, digital projectors and CRT projectors. They?d be mad to.

 

 

I know I would be...

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First generation units will definitely have component connections at the very least. What's more, they'll probably have s-video and composite connections, ironically, and as goofy as that sounds, but it would definitely sell more units to the dorkii.

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Originally posted by stencil@Jun 16 2004, 11:48 AM

First generation units will definitely have component connections at the very least. What's more, they'll probably have s-video and composite connections, ironically, and as goofy as that sounds, but it would definitely sell more units to the dorkii.

My Hi-Def TV receiver is like that as well. There is a version of it for non-HD, but the HD version also has S-Vid and composite. WTF are those for?!

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Originally posted by Sam P+Jun 16 2004, 10:51 AM--></div><table border='0' align='center' width='95%' cellpadding='3' cellspacing='1'><tr><td>QUOTE (Sam P @ Jun 16 2004, 10:51 AM)</td></tr><tr><td id='QUOTE'> <!--QuoteBegin-stencil@Jun 16 2004, 11:48 AM

First generation units will definitely have component connections at the very least. What's more, they'll probably have s-video and composite connections, ironically, and as goofy as that sounds, but it would definitely sell more units to the dorkii.

My Hi-Def TV receiver is like that as well. There is a version of it for non-HD, but the HD version also has S-Vid and composite. WTF are those for?! [/b]

$$$.

 

I guarantee there's some dude telling his friend RIGHT NOW about how he has HDTV and how r4d it is. Meanwhile, the thing is connected to his Wega via s-video.

 

Oh... this guy also has "surround sound" but still hasn't connected a digital cable to his receiver. He thinks PL is DTS. And it sounds amazing to him.

 

He also buys P&S DVDs because he "didn't pay $600 for a beautiful Wega only to use half the screen."

 

Annnnyway...

 

These guys are the ones who will keep HD-DVD from taking off. It's too confusing and they just finished buying the complete Terminator series on DVD, and that's HDTV in their world. S-video is the best, right? What else do they need?

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