Red laser-based optical HD format debuts at CeBIT

Just as vendors of HD-DVD and Blu-ray players were preparing to do battle, and movie studios were choosing sides, a new competing optical format has emerged along with a red laser-based player expected to cost $150.

New Medium Enterprises (NME) last week announced at CeBIT in Hanover, Germany, the world’s first red laser (1920x1080 resolution) high-definition optical disc solution. NME unveiled its Versatile Multilayer Discs (VMDs) with pre-recorded HD content and varying storage capacities up to 40GB. Red laser players from NME’s strategic partner E-World played back feature-length films in 1920/1080 HD format from one side of a single VMD disc.

The VMD technology can store up to 20 layers of content on one side of a disc, which is about the same size and thickness as a DVD, increasing capacity from 5GB on a DVD to 5GB per layer of a VMD. That’s a total possible capacity of 100GB. Combining this with E-World's HD playback technology enables HD viewing of pre-recorded video content on enhanced red laser players.

To date, NME has signed content agreements in India, China, Russia and South America. NME's strategic partner in India, Eros Group, has rights to a catalog of about 2600 Bollywood movies. About 50 will be available in the VMD format by the end of 2006. Pre-recorded VMD discs will retail at close to DVD prices.

Whether or not the format makes inroads into the U.S. market is unclear. However, the availability of the large catalog of movies from India using VMD may pull the format into the United States and elsewhere with sizeable Indian communities.

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