Blu-ray vs HD DVD: State of the Division

Posted on July 21, 2007. Filed under: Videos |

State of the Union Division

Well, as far as HD DVD vs. Blu-ray goes, it looks like we've pretty much passed the point of no return now; with each passing day it seems less and less likely that a compromise will be reached on a next-gen format. The ongoing peace talks between the two camps, which have been on-again, off-again for months now, seem to have finally dissolved. It's disappointing, but however you feel about the fact that the HD DVD and Blu-ray factions squandered countless chances to make it right and come together, it looks like in just a few short months they're going to be duking it out mano a mano right in our livingrooms. There may not be a lot we can do to fight back – apart from refusing to adopt either format out of sheer spite of their pigheadedness – but no matter what we might as well at least arm ourselves with the knowledge necessary to understand the nature of the situation at hand.

Here's the background:

Philips's development of the Laserdisc in 1969 yielded many of the technologies Sony carried over and adopted when they partnered with Philips to create a little something called the CD way back in '79. Both companies were hard at work together once again in the early 1990s on a new high-density disc called the MultiMedia Compact Disc (MMCD-original name, guys), but their format was eventually more or less abandoned in favor of Toshiba's competing Super Density Disc (SD), which had the vast majority of backers at the time, such as Hitachi, Matsushita (Panasonic), Mitsubishi, Pioneer, Thomson, and Time Warner.

The two factions cut a deal, brokered by IBM president Lou Gerstner, on a new format: DVD. Toshiba wound up on top after the dust settled in 1995/1996, and Sony and Philips, who weren't cut in on the standard (and royalties) nearly as much as they'd have liked, immediately started work on a next gen system. The Professional Disc for DATA (aka PDD or ProDATA), which was based on an optical disc system Sony had already been developing in the side, would eventually become the Blu-ray disc. Toshiba, not to be outdone by the pair, also started work on a next gen system, the Advanced Optical Disc, which eventually evolved into the HD DVD. After thirty-five years of optical audio/video disc development we're back where we were years ago: two money-grubbing factions fighting each other and threatening to wreak havoc on the consumer electronics industry. Apparently history really does repeat itself.

So here's the technical nitty gritty before we drop the graphs n' charts on ya. Both systems use the same kind of 405nm wavelength blue-violet laser, but their optics differ in two ways. Since the Blu-ray disc has a tighter track pitch (the single thread of data that spirals from the inside of the disc all the way out—think grooves on a 12-inch vinyl single vs. an Elvis Costello full-length album), it can hold more pits (those microscopic 0s and 1s) on the same size disc as HD DVD even with a laser of the same wavelength.

The differing track pitch of the Blu-ray disc makes its pickup apertures differ, however—0.65 for HD DVD vs. 0.85 for Blu-ray—thus also making the two pickups technically incompatible despite using lasers of the same type. HD DVD discs also have a different surface layer (the clear plastic layer on the surface of the data—what you get fingerprints and scratches on) from Blu-ray discs. HD DVD use a 0.6 mm-thick surface layer, the same as DVD, while Blu-ray has a much smaller 0.1mm layer to help enable the laser to focus with that 0.85 aperture.

Herein lies the issues associated with the higher cost of Blu-ray discs. This thinner surface layer is what makes the discs cost more; because Blu-ray discs do not share the same surface layer thickness of DVDs, costly production facilities must be modified or replaced in order to produce the discs. A special hard coating must also be applied to Blu-ray discs, so their surface is sufficiently resilient enough to protect the data a mere 0.1mm beneath—this also drives the cost up. The added benefit of keeping the data layer closer to the surface, however, is more room for extra layers.

Still with us? No? Blu-ray discs are more expensive, but hold more data—there, that's all.

So now that you know why Blu-ray discs cost more and why Sony/Philips and Toshiba are all harshing on one another so much, we can get to the really important stuff: the numbers, and who's supporting who.

Capacity
Blu-Ray HD DVD
ROM single layer:
ROM dual layer:
RW single layer:
RW dual layer:
Highest test:
Theoretical limit:
23.3 / 25GB
46.6 / 50GB
23.3 / 25 / 27GB
46.6 / 50 / 54GB
100GB
200GB
Single layer:
Dual layer:


Highest test:
Theoretical limit:
15GB
30GB


45GB
60GB
Codecs
Blu-Ray HD DVD
MPEG-2
Microsoft Video Codec 1 (aka VC1, WMV HD, etc.)
H.264 / MPEG-4 AVC
MPEG-2
Microsoft Video Codec 1 (aka VC1, WMV HD, etc.)
H.264 / MPEG-4 AVC
Security
Blu-Ray HD DVD
Mandatory HDCP encrypted output
ROM-Mark watermarking technology
BD+ dynamic crypto (physical layer)
Advanced Access Content System (AACS)
Mandatory HDCP encrypted output (for HD)
Volume identifier (physical layer)
Advanced Access Content System (AACS)
Studios (movie and game) listed as supporting members
Blu-Ray HD DVD
20th Century Fox
Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Electronic Arts
MGM Studios
Paramount Pictures
Sony Pictures Entertainment
The Walt Disney Company
Vivendi Universal Games
Warner Bros.
Buena Vista Home Entertainment
New Line Cinema
Paramount Pictures
The Walt Disney Company
Universal Studios
Warner Bros.
Format founders
Blu-Ray HD DVD
Sony Corporation
Royal Philips Electronics
Toshiba Corporation
Hitachi Corporation
Companies listed as Members of the Board or Managing Members
Blu-Ray HD DVD
Apple Computer Corp.
Dell, Inc.
Hewlett Packard Company
Hitachi, Ltd.
LG Electronics Inc.
Mitsubishi Electric Corporation
Panasonic (Matsushita Electric)
Pioneer Corporation
Royal Philips Electronics
Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.
Sharp Corporation
Sony Corporation
TDK Corporation
Thomson
Twentieth Century Fox
Walt Disney Pictures and Television
Memory-Tech Corporation
NEC Corporation
Sanyo Electric Co.
Companies listed as Members, Associate Members, or Contributors
(may include duplicates and/or subsidiaries, major companies are bolded, major companies common to both camps are also italicized)
Blu-Ray HD DVD
3oh!5 Creative, Inc.
Adobe Systems
Almedio Inc.
Alpine Electronics Inc.
AMC Co. Ltd.
Anwell Technologies USA
Aplix Corporation
ArcSoft Inc.
Asahi Kasei Microsystems Co.
ashampoo GmbH & Co. KG
ATI Technologies Inc.
AudioDev AB
B.H.A. Corporation
Bandai Visual Co. Ltd.
BASF AG
BenQ Corporation
Broadcom Corporation
Canon Inc.

Ciba Specialty Chemicals Inc.
CMC Magnetics Corporation
Coding Technologies GmbH
Conexant Systems Inc.
Cryptography Research Inc.
CyberLink Corp.
D&M holdings, Inc.
Daewoo Electronics Corporation
Daikin Industries
DATARIUS Technologies GmbH
Degussa
Deluxe Media Services Inc.
Digital Theater Systems Inc.
Dolby Laboratories Inc.
Eclipse Data Technologies
Electronic Arts Inc.
Elpida Memory, Inc.
ESS Technology Inc.
Expert Magnetics Corp.
Fuji Photo Film Co.
Funai Electric Co.
Horizon Semiconductor
IMAGICA Corp.
Imation Corp.
Infomedia Inc.
Intersil Corporation
InterVideo Inc.
Kadokawa Holdings Inc.
Kaleidescape, Inc.
Kenwood Corporation
Konica Minolta Opto, Inc.
Laser Pacific Media Corp.
Lead Data Inc.
LEADER ELECTRONICS CORP
Linn Products Ltd.
LINTEC Corporation
LITE-ON IT Corporation
LSI Logic
M2 Engineering AB
Maxim Integrated Products
MediaTek Inc.
Memorex Products Inc.
Meridian Audio Ltd.
Mitsubishi Kagaku Media Co. / Verbatim
Mitsui Chemicals Inc.
Mitsumi Electric Co.

Moser Baer India Limited
MX Entertainment
Nan Ya Plastics Corporation
Nero
Newtech Infosystems Inc.
NEXAPM Systems Technology Inc.
Nightjar LLC
Nikkatsu Corporation
NTT Electronics Corporation
nVidia Corporation
Onkyo Corporation

Ono Sokki Co.
OPT Corporation
Optodisc Technology Corporation
Pixela Corporation
PoINT Software & Systems GmbH
PowerFile
Prodisc Technology Inc.
Pulstec Industrial Co.
Ricoh Co.
Ritek Corporation
Sanyo Electric Co.
SDI Media America
ShibaSoku Co. Ltd.
Shinano Kenshi Co. Ltd.
Sigma Designs Inc.
Singulus Technologies
Sonic Solutions
Sonopress
Sony BMG Music Entertainment
ST Microelectronics
STEAG ETA-OPTIK GmbH
Sun Microsystems, Inc.
Sunext
Taiyo Yuden Co.,
Tao Group Limited
Targray Technology International Inc.
Teac Corporation
Teijin Chemicals Ltd.
Toei Video Company Ltd.
Toho Company
Toppan Printing Co.
TOPTICA Photonics AG
Ulead Systems Inc.
UmeDisc Ltd.
Unaxis Balzer AG
Universal (inc. Music , Vivendi Games, Pictures)
VDL-ODMS
Victor Company of Japan (JVC)
Vidiom Systems Corporation
Visionare Corporation
Yamaha Corporation
Yokogawa Electric Corporation
ZOOtech Ltd.
Zoran Corporation
Acer Inc.
Almedio Inc.
Alpine Electronics, Inc.
Altech Ads Co.
Arcsoft, Inc
B.H.A Corporation
Bandai Visual Co.
Canon Inc.
Cyberlink Corp.
D&M Holdings Inc.

Daikin Industries
Daiko.Co,Ltd.
Digion, Inc.
Digital Site Corporation
Digital Theater Systems
Disc Labo Corp.
Diskware Co.
Ebistrade,Inc.
Enteractive Gmbh
Entertainment Network Inc.
Expert Magnetics Corp.
Finepack . Co.,Ltd
Fuji Photo Film Co.
Fuji Seiki Co.
Funai Electric Co.
The High-Defition Marketing Company
Hitachi Corp.
Hitachi Maxell

Hoei Sangyo Co.
Imagica Corp.
Imation Corp.
Interchannel
Intervideo, Inc.
Itri
Jp Co., Ltd
Justsystem Corporation
Kadokawa Holdings, Inc.
Kaleidescape,
Inc.

Kenwood Corporation
Kinyosha Printing Co.
Kitano Co.
Konica Minolta Opto, Inc.
M2 Engineering
Mcray Corporation
Memory-Tech Corporation
Mitomo Co., Ltd
Mitsubishi Kagaku Media Co. / Verbatim
Mitsui Chemicals, Inc.

Moser Baer India Ltd
Nec Corporation
Nec Electronics Corporation
Nec Fielding

Nero
Nichia Corporation
Nihonvtr Inc.
Nikkatsu Corporation
Omnibus Japan
Onken Corporation
Onkyo Corporation
Paramount Home Entertainment

Pico House Co.,Ltd
Pixela Corporation
Pony Canyon Inc.
Ponycanyon Enterprise Inc.
Prodisc Technology Inc.
Pryaid Records Inc.
Pulstec Industrial Co.
Q-Tec,Inc.
Ricoh Co.
Ritek Corporation
Sanken Media Product Co.
Sanyo Electric Co.
Shibaura Mechatronics Corporation
Sonic Solutions
Sumitomo Heavy Industries. Ltd
Super Vision, Inc.
Taiyo Yuden Co.
Teac Corporation
Teijin Chemicals Ltd.
Toei Video Co.
Toho Company, Limited.
Tokyo Laboratory Ltd.
Toppan Printing Co.
Toshiba Corporation
Toshiba Digital Frontiers Inc.
Toshiba Entertainment Inc.
Toshiba Samsung Storage Technology Corporation

Toshiba-Emi Limited
Toyo Recording Co.
Transmix Co.
Trendy Corporation
Tri-M, Inc.
Ulead Systems, Inc.
Unaxis Balzers Ltd.
Universal (inc. Music , Vivendi Games, Pictures)
U-Tech Media Corp.
Vap Inc.
Video Tech Co.,Ltd.
Visionare Corporation
Warner Home Video Inc.

Other interesting facts:

  • The Nichi Corporation, who holds the design patents to the Blu-ray's laser system, sits as an associate member of the HD DVD Promotion Group.
  • Even though Apple sits on the Blu-ray Board of Directors, its DVD Studio Pro software supports authoring HD DVD media.
  • Blu-ray, unlike HD DVD, requires a hard coating on its discs because it's 0.5m closer to the surface. The polymer coating it uses, called Durabis, was developed by TDK and is supposedly extremely resilient and fingerprint resistant.
  • The Java platform is mandatory on Blu-ray as it's the standard for menus/multimedia (i.e. all Blu-ray systems must support JVM)
  • Though Microsoft has not officially sided with either format, it has a number of long-standing IP cross-licensing deals with Toshiba. HD DVD systems will run Windows CE; the standard is currently the only next-gen optical standard with announced support in Longhorn, and an HD DVD version of the Xbox 360 is rumored for the future.
  • The first consumer Blu-ray device in the US market is expected to be the PlayStation 3.

Version 1.01, last updated 10.20.2005

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