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What about the HD DVD and Blu-ray formats?


Next-generation DVD (NG DVD) was under development before DVD came out. It began to emerge in 2003. Some high-definition versions of DVD use the original DVD physical format but depend on new video encoding technology such as H.264 and VC-1 to fit high-definition video in the space that used to hold only standard-definition video. High-density formats use blue or violet lasers to read smaller pits, increasing data capacity to around 15 to 30 GB per layer. High-density formats use high-definition MPEG-2 video. and also use advanced encoding formats, supporting 720p and 1080p video.

As of mid 2005 there are five contenders for next-generation DVD, with the possibility of others. Here's a summary (more detail in the following sections):

Format Backers Data depth Laser Video Audio Capacity (single layer/dual layer) Data rate

WMV HD Microsoft 0.6 mm Red (650 nm) WMV9 WMA9 4.7G / 8.5G (standard DVD) 22 Mbps

HD DVD DVD Forum 0.6 mm Blue (405 nm) MPEG-2 SD/HD, H.264, VC-1 PCM, Dolby TrueHD (MLP), Dolby Digital +, DTS HD 15G / 30G (ROM), 20G / 40G (recordable) 36 Mbps

Blu-ray (BD) Blu-Ray Disc Association (BDA) 0.1 mm Blue (405 nm) MPEG-2 HD, H.264, VC-1 PCM, Dolby Digital +, DTS HD 27G / 50G 36 Mbps

EVD eWorld (Govt. of China) 0.6 mm Red (650 nm) HD MPEG-2 (later AVS) ExAC na / 8.5G (ROM) 22 Mbps

FVD AOSRA/ITRI (Taiwan) 0.6 mm Red (650 nm) WMV9 (1280x720) WMA9 6G / 11/G 25.05 Mbps

VC-1 is the SMPTE standard based on Microsoft's Windows Media Series 9.

Next-generation discs will not play on existing players. Even red-laser discs, which the player may be able to physically read, require new circuitry to decode and display the high-def video. Red-laser discs can play on DVD PCs with the right software (for example, HD versions of DVDs using Microsoft HD-WMV were available in 2003). Blue-laser discs require new optical assemblies and controllers. Next-generation players will undoubtedly read existing DVDs, so your collection will not become obsolete when you buy a new player.

WMV HD isn't really a new format. Microsoft's high-definition video format comes on standard dual-layer DVDs and plays in Windows PCs with enough power (2.4 to 3 GHz). As of mid 2005 about 40 titles were available in WMV HD format, usually with both a standard DVD and a WMV HD DVD in the package. This is an interim format that will probably disappear after HD DVD and BD come out, but in the meantime it's the best option for publishing high-definition video on DVD.



The DVD Forum's next-generation format, once called Advanced Optical Disc (AOD), currently being called HD DVD, but soon to have a new name. AOD is a modification of the existing DVD physical format to enable about 15 GB per layer using a blue-ultraviolet readout laser. The same 0.6-mm data depth is used. AOD is designed to improve data capacity while theoretically being able to use existing replication equipment. It is primarily supported by Toshiba and NEC.

For a while there was a proposal being called HD DVD-9, which put high-definition video on existing dual-layer DVD-9 discs. It has been combined with HD DVD (AOD) in the sense that the application format is being designed to work on both current red-laser DVDs as well as future blu-laser DVDs. It's essentially a compatible-but-cheaper-to-replicate companion to blue-laser HD DVD. A 2-hour movie can fit on a DVD-9 at data rates of 6 to 7 Mbps. Given advances in video compression technology, it should be possible to get high-definition quality of at least 720p24 at these data rates (720 lines of progressive video at 24 frames/second). Shorter movies could be encoded in 1080p24 format.


Blu-ray Disc (BD)

Blu-ray is a new high-density physical format that will hold 23 to 30 GB per layer using a blue-ultraviolet laser and a 0.1-mm data depth. Because of the 0.1-mm cover layer it will require significant changes to production equipment. Blu-ray is initially intended for home recording, professional recording, and data recording. Mass-market distribution of pre-recorded movies will come later, after the read-only format, called BD-ROM, is developed and the details of video, audio, interactivity, and copy protection are hammered out. Blue-ray backers are Dell, Hitachi, HP, LG, Panasonic, Philips, Pioneer, Mitsubishi, Samsung, Sharp, Sony, and Thomson. Sony released the first BD recorder in Japan in April 2003.

Technical details: up to 30 GB per layer using 0.1-mm recording depth (to reduce aberration from disc tilt), 405-nm blue-violet semiconductor with 0.85 NA (numerical aperture) lens design to provide 0.32 ? track pitch (half that of DVD) and as small as 0.138 ? pit length. Variations include 23.3 GB capacity with 0.160-? minimum pit length (used by Sony's Professional Disc system) and 25 GB capacity with 0.149-? minimum pit length. The physical discs uses phase-change groove recording on a 12-cm diameter, 1.2-mm thick disc, similar to DVD-RW and DVD+RW. 36 Mbps data transfer rate. Recording capacity on a single layer is about 2 hours of HD video (at 28 Mbps) or about 10 hours of standard-definition video (at 4.5 Mbps) . Cartridge size is 129 x 131 x 7 mm. Plans are to produce dual-layer recordable discs, holding about 50 GB per side, but such discs will take a few additional years to appear.



A government-backed consortium of companies in China, called eWorld, has developed a domestic version of DVD called EVD (Enhanced Versatile Disc). EVD is an aggressive program to standardize on technology developed within China, but in order to realistically release products, the early phases borrow from existing standards. EVD players released in December 2003 used standard red lasers and MPEG HD video, along with China's own ExAC audio format. The plan was to switch to a Chinese video format, AVS, in 2004. Future versions will use multilevel red laser and multilevel blue laser recording, where the pit depth is varied to achieve higher density.



The Advanced Optical Storage Research Alliance (AOSRA), formed by Taiwan's Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) has developed its own tweaked red-laser format called Forward Versatile Disc (FVD). The track pitch has been reduced from 0.74? to 0.64? to increase capacity to 5.4 GB, with the potential to hit 6 GB (9.8 to 11 GB with dual layers). Microsoft's WM9 is used for video and audio encoding. So far even Taiwanese companies seem to be paying more attention to BD than FVD. AOSRA has also developed its own variations of 0.6-mm and 0.1-mm blue-laser formats, which could be used for future versions of FVD.



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