Home entertainment has certainly reached new heights these days with HD-DVD and Blu-Ray. These are the two latest formats in which people can watch movies in the comfort of their own homes. As with most consumer electronics, when a new technology comes along, the old one is easily rendered obsolete and incompatibility issues soon arise. Consumers will have to make a choice between these two formats, as not all machines can support both.
The HD-DVD and Blu-Ray formats are the heirs of DVD. When high definition televisions started coming out in the middle of the 90's, a new and inexpensive format that could store high definition electronic media had to be devised for consumer level disc players. The major breakthrough was the invention of the blue laser diode. This made use of a shorter wavelength which increased storage of optical media to three times more than with a DVD. The succeeding developments of a new format naturally involved consumer electronics and PC manufacturers, TV and movie production studios and distributors, and software developers. Leading the charge for the advancement of HD-DVD was Toshiba. Its partner in the realm of software development was Microsoft. Simultaneously working on its own projects was Sony, and it chose to associate with the Java platform developed by Sun Microsystems. Thus by the year 2000, these two new formats came out in direct competition with each other. HD-DVD initially emerged as the ruling standard until 2008. In that year, proponents of the format in the television and movie industry as well as major retailers saw a decline in sales and shifted to Blu-Ray. Toshiba then conceded and publicly declared that it would stop making and selling HD-DVD players.
HD-DVD discs can be single or double sided. Each side can contain a single-layer capable of storing 15 gigabytes of information or 30GB with a double layer. The data layer is placed 0.6 millimeters below the plastic surface, which is a similar arrangement to earlier DVD discs. This format can accommodate several file systems. In terms of audio, the format can handle a maximum sampling rate of 24-bit/192 khz in stereo. In terms of video, it can handle all HD television resolution formats and use video codecs such as VC-1, AVC and MPEG-2. An HD-DVD device can play older formats such as DVD and even CD.
Physically, Blu-Ray discs are similar to standard DVDs and CDs but compared to HD-DVD, it can store far more information. A single layer of a standard 12 centimeter Blu-Ray disc can contain 50 gigabytes of data. High definition video in a Blu-Ray disc can have a resolution of up to 1920 x 1080 pixels. Movement in Blu-Ray videos will be smoother with a frame rate of 60 frames per second. The format uses most of the audio and video codecs that HD-DVD uses with the addition of MPEG-4. Early Blu-Ray disc players could read standard DVDs but not CDs.
The HD-DVD and Blu-Ray formats actually share a lot of basic technology from the blue laser diode to the encoding used. Blu-Ray's capacity to store more information, however, definitely results in better audio and video quality. Perhaps the biggest compelling reason for consumers to choose the Blu-Ray format is that HD-DVD, at least in terms of stand alone appliances, has been terminated. So the latest movies will be coming out in Blu-Ray discs. But HD-DVD is not yet dead in other areas. Other appliances that can contain devices able to read HD-DVD discs are personal computers with HD-DVD optical drives and the Xbox 360 with an HD-DVD drive add on. For a consumer to figure out which format to support, he or she needs to think about the hardware set-up. If it's a home entertainment system, then Blu-Ray would probably be best. If it's a PC-based media center, HD-DVD would find more compatibility.