Unbiased Coverage Of All Things HD: HD-DVD, Blu-Ray and Beyond
Switzerland of World War HD
Recently I've noticed a disturbing trend. Several internet sites have deemed it necessary to choose a side in the HD format war. Why they're doing it is beyond me. Could it be passion? Maybe an over-inflated sense of ego? Perhaps it's just a desire to see this format war come to an end, regardless of which side ends up becoming dominant. No matter what the reason, it makes no sense. What good does it do to declare a winner when both formats are still not selling more than a few thousand copies for a majority of titles? It's just silly, and a waste of time. Worse, it engenders ill-will between supporters, who spend more time fighting with each other than they do watching the movies they love in high definition.
Furthermore, it presupposes that the best thing that could happen to the HD world at the moment would be an end to the format war. I contend that this is simply not true. As has been stated before, the format war has done nothing but benefit the consumer. Hardware prices have come down and software has been improved at a tremendous rate. We wouldn't be seeing either format in the condition they are in today if it weren't for the war.
Case in point: At Blu-ray's launch in June of 2006 (a year ago), Sony released The Fifth Element, long a cult favorite and a shoo-in for home theater demo material. Unfortunately, the disc looked awful. There are many reviews you can find detailing exactly what was wrong with it (we have two on this site alone), but no matter the particulars, it was considered a major failing on Sony's part. And now, a year later, what do we see? An upcoming remastered release of The Fifth Element with not one but two lossless audio tracks. Do you really think Sony would have re-released the movie so soon were they not trying to outdo HD DVD in any way they possibly can? And do you think we would have seen a Sony release with 24-bit Dolby True HD as we will be getting without the competition to force Sony's hand? I think not.
And that's just one example. Both Blu-ray and HD DVD hardware have been dropping in price. But even now, the cheapest Blu-ray player (outside of the flawed first generation Samsung) is still $500, and if people think Blu-ray might win, the players are going to have to become even cheaper, a process that competition will speed up. We're still seeing releases lacking extras readily available on the DVD versions, and studios such as Universal and Paramount have been loathe to embrace lossless audio. There's no better way to spurn these studios to action than to make them think they will lose money without providing these on their HD discs.
Of course, the war won't always be to our benefit. But let's not throw the baby out with the bath water. Right now, we're reaping the rewards of good old fashioned capitalistic competition. Once we get to the point where players are cheap, all DVD extras are being ported, new HD extras are being made, and lossless soundtracks are the norm instead of the exception, that is when we want to call an end to the bickering. Until then, I say let it ride. Right now the studios understand that HD optical discs are a present investment for greater profits in the future. Why should we as consumers stunt the growth of either HD DVD or Blu-ray when the studios are more than willing to release in their format of choice?
And this brings me back to my original point. All of these websites declaring their support for one side or the other are just blowing hot air. Their announcements are nothing but empty posturing. Here at DVD Talk, we are proud to provide unbiased coverage on everything high definition, and will not waste anyone's time making pointless statements of support. As for the format war, don't bother getting in a huff about it. What does that achieve? Instead, if you've decided to support Blu-ray, then buy Blu-ray discs. If you want to support HD DVD, buy some HD DVDs. There are plenty of each. Or, if you're like us, buy both and let the studios sort it out.
Blockbuster recently announced that they will be exclusively carrying Blu-ray discs in 1,450 of their locations across the country. Previously Blockbuster carried both formats in only 250 locations. These locations will continue to offer both formats. Blockbuster did not specify whether this would affect their online site, which offers a Netflix-like rental by mail service.
In addition, Starz (who owns cult favorite label Anchor Bay) has also announced Blu-ray support, starting with their "Masters of Horror" series. Starz said they're looking at other catalogue titles to release on the Blu-ray format. Although release dates have been confirmed, this year's fourth quarter is the projected time frame for these releases.
In news that's good for both sides of the fences, the BBC's epic Planet Earth has become the best selling HD media disc to date. The combined sales of the HD DVD and Blu-ray versions pulled in roughly 3.2 million dollars, topping The Departed's previous record of 2.8 million. The reviews for both versions have been unanimous in their praise of the set, and it seems that at even $70 a pop, people are willing to pay for quality. This is a good sign for anyone who wants to see either or both formats succeed, as the more studios see profit, the more they will support HD.
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