HD VMD Nearing Launch in U.S., Europe

Come September, North America and a few other regions will have a third choice in the current two-way next-gen disc war. Unfortunately, with no major studio support, the new format, called HD VMD (Versatile Multilayer Disc) won’t be starting on the same industry footing as Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD.

New Medium Enterprises, based in the United Kingdom, is the prime mover behind the fledgling format’s distribution, which will be trickling into a few countries (Finland, Denmark, Poland, France, Germany, Sweden, Australia, New Zealand and the United States) with no major motion picture studios on board yet, according to Variety. Only one retailer, online Web site, PCrush.com, has agreed to sell the player.

However, NME has signed on a small number of independent distributors for some well-known titles, notably Icon Film Distribution for director Mel Gibson’s “Apocalypto” and the Academy Award-winning “The Queen” with Helen Mirren. In all, NME says it has deals with international distributors representing about 5,000 titles.

Proponents of the third format say production costs are considerably below Blu-ray and HD DVD (both technically blue-laser technologies) because HD VMD is based on red laser technology like today’s standard DVD. The format’s per-disc production cost is about $1, which is said to be only slightly higher than standard disc production. Blu-ray is close to $3.40 per disc, and HD DVD about $2.50, according to one distributor.

HD VMD players will retail for about $200 or less in Europe.