Just as you were ready to bang your head against the wall in despair over the lack of a standard in the ongoing format war, along come two new entrants hoping to win over consumers looking for hi-def content. Hold on to your hat… this ride isn’t over yet.
Like most of you, I’m tired of the format war that has been raging between Sony’s Blu-ray and Toshiba’s HD-DVD high definition discs. I’ve read all the specs, listened to many arguments on both sides of the debate and still find myself a long way from choosing one of these technologies to replace my aging, but much beloved DVD player.
Now, it turns out that we all might be waiting much, much longer for a standard hi-def format to emerge victorious. Not only is the race between Sony and Toshiba a tight as ever, but we now have two new formats joining in: HD-VMD and CH-DVD. Sigh.
HD-VMD (or Versatile Multilayer Disc) is being developed by NME (New Medium Enterprises) and is based on the older, red laser technology that powers convetional CD and DVD players. NME claims that their proprietary standard will yield a full-HD 1080p image, while remaining backward compatible with all other existing optical disc standard (CD, DVD, VCD etc.). It can output audio in the current AC3 and DTS 5.1 formats but does not offer the newer 7.1 HD audio formats that both Blu-ray and HD-DVD feature. Most importantly, NME is selling HD-VMD players for $199 USD which is considerably cheaper than the other HD formats, and cheaper than some high-end DVD players.
There isn’t much of a catalog of movies available on HD-VMD at the moment (some 30 or so recognizable Hollywood titles so far) but if NME’s claim that existing DVD manufacturing techniques can be used to produce these discs, it may not be long before this library expands considerably.
For the geeks in the house, a welcome aspect of NME’s player specs is support for both the MPEG-4 and h.264 video codecs, both of which are likely to be the mainstay of video publishing for the forseeable future. Unfortunately no support for DivX or xvid codecs has been announced.
The details on CH-DVD are few at the moment, but it appears to be a Chinese derivitative of the DVD Forum’s HD-DVD blue-violet laser standard, with some additional copy protection technology thrown in. According to EngadgetHD, a foundation known as the China High Definition DVD Industry Association is planning to market players based on this standard in 2008. No word yet on which studios, if any, are planning to back this format. Pricing too, is unknown.