BitDepth 466 - March 29

BluRay is the format to watch in the new HD disc wars.
A blue period for movies on disc

New Blu-ray recorders from Panasonic, Toshiba and Sony are high concept introductions to the new format. Sony's records is for sale only in Japan and costs US$3800.

Now that we're all comfortable burning CDs and just getting used to using DVDs for data and movies of dubious heritage; a long heralded upgrade to the six-inch plastic disc format is slowly coming onstream.
Blu-ray discs, a technology that I once ill-advisedly mentioned two years ago (unleashing a steady trickle of queries that lasted for months), is finally emerging from the mists of vaporware into reality.
The discs, abbreviated to BD's, an acronym that's even less compelling than those of its forebears, offers one compelling feature and that's a quantum leap in data capacity.
Once we bragged about how many floppies that a CD could hold, then DVDs that held seven CDs worth of data emerged and now Blu-ray discs promise a whopping 50GB of data per disc.

Like DVDs, which use a technology that refocuses the laser reading the data on another layer embedded in the disc (like exploring an entire floor in a building and then jumping to another floor), BDs will also have a dual-layer edition capable of packing 50GB of data on an optical disc.
As robust as the push to Blu-ray is, guided by a membership of more than 100 heavy hitters in the technology industry, it's worth stopping a moment to take stock of where we're are in the personal technology adaptation of these high-flown technologies.
If the rate of accelerated adoption of professional data formats to consumer use continues, I suspect we could be looking at very expensive but usable BD burners by sometime in late 2006.

It took almost ten years for CD burners to move from prohibitively expensive professional technology to general use and another five for such burners to become reasonably commonplace.
DVDs moved quickly from a closed data format for marketing films to consumer burners in less than half that time. You can buy a dual-layer DVD burner that can mimic Hollywood's best product for around US$100 right now, though it's still hard to find dual-layer discs, and they still command a premium.
BD players use a blue laser that focuses more precisely than its red laser predecessors. Technically, it reduces the track pitch from .74 microns to .32 microns and the pit size to .15 microns, but if you understand that you already know more about the guts of Blu-ray than I can reasonably mention in this column.

The format has its competitors, some designed by nations like China, who created Enhanced Video Disc to avoid paying licensing fees and big rivals like HD-DVD (backed by Toshiba and NEC) a 15/30GB format that also wants to be the standard.
Driving the adoption of the format is a packaging industry that's pushed movies on DVD to its limits, with several popular movies being released on two or more dual-layer discs, it's certain that 50GB discs will offer even more goodies.
High on the agenda for Blu-ray packaged entertainment are popular films that will pump true high-definition images to your screen, with frames full of 1980 X 1080 pixels versus the current DVD specification of 720 X 486.

The sectors of the entertainment and technology industry that made a fortune off DVDs now wants you to buy all your favourite movies all over again when they're re-issued in high-definition formats to playback on your high-def, widescreen LCD displays and 7.1 surround sound speaker systems.
For most of us, making full use of Blu-ray discs will mean new everything. New burners for your computer, new players for new discs and new, high-resolution screens to look at everything on.

The first casualty of new, higher resolution versions of Terminator 2 will be VHS. The horrid tape format which has lingered on for at least a decade past its prime won't survive in a video environment in which DVDs are an inferior way to look at films. For the rest of us, those who can't spend thousands of dollars on the first or even second generations of these recorders, Blu-ray will remain the colour of pie in the sky.
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