12.06.2004 08:00 AM
HD-DVD gains critical Hollywood studio support

The DVD Forum, the group supporting the HD-DVD optical disc format for high-definition video, received a boost in its battle against the rival Blu-ray Disc format with pledges of support from four Hollywood studios and a major cable network.

Paramount Pictures, Universal Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures, New Line Cinema and HBO will use the HD-DVD format.

The studios didn’t announce the names or number of titles to be released using the format, and there was no mention of timing, with the exception of a pledge from Universal to have content available by December 2005, the IDG News Service reported.

This the first time that any Hollywood studio — with the exception of Sony Pictures, which is owned by Blu-ray Disc backer Sony — has announced support for one format. In October, Twentieth Century Fox Film joined the Blu-ray Disc Association, but stopped short of committing to release any content in that format.

Both the HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc use blue lasers in their optical systems. The discs are the same size as CDs or DVDs, but offer data storage capacities several times greater than a DVD. The extra capacity provides enough room to hold high-definition versions of movies and other content.

Toshiba and NEC back the HD-DVD format. The format is being developed under the umbrella of the DVD Forum, the group that developed the DVD format. Blu-ray Disc has more major backers: Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Hitachi, LG Electronics, Matsushita Electric Industrial (Panasonic), Mitsubishi Electric, Philips Electronics NV, Pioneer Electronics, Samsung Electronics, Sharp, Sony, TDK, Thomson Multimedia and Twentieth Century Fox.

To date, Sony Pictures is the only movie studio to announce plans to release content on the Blu-ray Disc format. Sony Computer Entertainment also plans to use the Blu-ray Disc in the successor to its PlayStation 2 console.

At present the only hardware available is for the Blu-ray Disc format. Sony and Panasonic have released HDTV recorders in Japan, and Sharp will sell a similar product shortly. However, these machines don’t include support for the Blu-ray Disc movie format, which is still being standardized.

On the HD-DVD side, Toshiba, NEC and Sanyo Electric said they are on schedule to release hardware in 2005. Included in Toshiba’s plans is an HD-DVD player.

Optical-disc maker Memory-Tech said it is ready to begin producing HD-DVDs. The company has already demonstrated test production and said it currently has five production lines each capable of producing 700,000 discs per month. By the beginning of 2005 it plans to add a sixth line.

For more information, visit www.dvdforum.org, www.dvdfllc.co.jp, www.blu-raydisc.info, www.blu-raydisc.info/.

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