HD DVD – Beginner’s Guide
There’s a lot of talk at the moment about high-definition TV. This new broadcast format delivers vastly improved images compared with standard definition pictures.
Not surprisingly, the major film studios were keen to jump on the high-definition bandwagon as well. They realised that once the public experienced high-definition TV, regular DVDs (which once seemed so high-tech) would just not be good enough any more.
To cater for an anticipated demand for high-quality pictures from a home movie format, HD DVD (High-Definition DVD) was created. It is currently involved in a a format war with the rival technology, Blu-ray (see our Guide to Blu-ray).
Basic HD DVD technology
HD DVD uses similar technology to regular DVD – it is a natural evolution of the format.
The format uses the same structure of ‘bumps’ or ‘pits’ as DVD (see our Guide to DVD players), but they are much smaller, allowing about five times as much data to be stored on the disc.
This is all well and good, but by compressing the data a more precise laser is required in order to read it. This became possible with the development of blue lasers, which can focus on a much smaller area than the red lasers used in DVD players. Interestingly, the blue laser gives the name to the rival Blu-ray disc.
Further advancement has come in the form of data compression. DVDs use MPEG-2 compression, which gives wonderful picture quality on a standard definition TV.
For HD DVD, MPEG-4 encoding is used. This greatly reduces the amount of data needed to deliver a high-definition signal (it is the same compression technology used to deliver DiVX files via broadband internet connections).
This enhanced compression technology, coupled with the extra storage capacity, means that a dual-layered HD DVD can hold up to eight hours of high-definition programming.
HD DVD Pros
- HD DVD discs can hold up to 30GB of information on a dual-layered disc, enough for eight hours of high-definition programming
- The discs can be manufactured on the same machines used for DVDs, meaning that production costs should only be about 10% greater than those for regular DVDs
- The extra disc capacity also allows for a huge expansion in the range and quality of bonus material on movie releases, and also allows for standard-definition versions of a film to be carried on the same disc, although these features are not present on all HD DVD releases
HD DVD Cons
- Despite comparable production costs, HD DVD discs are still much more expensive as regular DVDs – early adopters are once more paying through the nose
- You are effectively being asked to buy new versions of movies that you may already own – but hopefully the improved picture quality will make this seem like a good idea!
- The format war between HD DVD and Blu-ray is no doubt causing some consumers to adopt a ‘wait and see’ approach
Top tips for buying an HD DVD player
- Remember that you need an HD Ready TV to get the most out of the new discs, and if you want ‘Full HD’ you need a TV that can display a 1080p image
- Make sure that the range of titles is to your liking. If you like more of the releases available on Blu-ray, that might be the one for you
- Consider carefully before jumping in. One of either HD DVD or Blu-ray is likely to falter eventually
- If you’re worried about backing the wrong horse, consider one of the hybrid players now available that can play both Blu-ray and HD DVD discs
HD DVD Glossary
Blu-ray – A rival to HD DVD, offering more storage capacity but still delivering high-definition movies.
DiVX – A video-compression format that can squeeze video files to a fraction of their normal space, allowing near-DVD quality movies to be downloaded from the internet and stored on a CD
HD DVD – A high-definition version of DVD technology
High-definition – A superior delivery format for TV that presents more lines of detail, resulting in a much sharper, more detailed image
Article from HomeCinemaUK.com