The gradual evolution of the optical disc technology saw the arrival of the DVDs. DVDs changed the entire entertainment experience. People could watch the latest blockbusters from the comfort of their homes with their latest high definition DVD players, with unmatched picture quality and audio output. DVDs are everywhere, so too are DVD players. You have the high definition DVD players with all sorts of features. The future lies with emerging technologies like Blu-ray and advanced optical discs.
Blu-ray, popularly known as BD or blue-ray discs, is a next-generation optical disc that has been developed by the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA). The group consists of leading consumer electronics giants, PC and media manufacturers, like Philips, Samsung, Sony, Sharp, HP, Hitachi and Panasonic, to name a few. The format enables recording, rewriting and playback of high definition video (HD). One major advantage that the technology has over conventional DVDs is that it allows for more storage capacity. It can hold up to 25GB on a single layered disc and 50GB on a dual-layer disc. The technology also incorporates advanced video and audio codes for the ultimate high definition viewing experience. The name Blu-ray is used because the format uses a blue-violet laser, instead of a red laser as in the case of traditional DVDs.
Another major advantage with Blu-ray format lies in the fact that the entire technology is backwards compatible. You can now play your old CDs and DVDs through a BD/DVD/CD compatible unit. The blue-violet laser has a shorter wavelength than a red laser, which enables it to focus on a disc area with greater precision. The data is also packed on the surface of a disc more tightly. This explains the disc’s capability to store more data, even though it is of the same size as a traditional CD.
The technology is supported by some of the world’s leading manufacturers. In fact, many major movie studios have already announced titles with Blu-ray in them. Warner, Disney, Sony, MGM, and Paramount are among the leading studios who have embraced the format. Some of the famous titles include movies such as Desperado, Fantastic Four, Hero, Kill Bill, and Lethal Weapon. Sony has in fact come out with a mass produced model, which has already hit the market. Several other leading brands have also announced their intentions to launch models with the Blu-ray format.
The Blu-ray movie codes are different from that of DVD region codes. So you have North America, South America, Japan, and East Asia excluding China forming the Region 1, followed by Europe and Africa forming the Region 2. China, India, and Russia make up Region 3.
One major disadvantage with Blu-ray format is that many standard DVD players are unable to read the discs. This problem is being rectified in the form of backward compatible players though. The growth of Blu-ray discs is expected to drive the growth of the home theater segments to further unprecedented heights.
Advanced Optical Discs
Yet another technology, or format to be precise, which is giving the Blu-ray format a good run for its money, is the Advanced Optical Disc (AOD) format. It has been created by Toshiba in collaboration with NEC. Even though it is considered the main rival to the Blu-ray format, ironically, it is being supported by the DVD forum that includes nine members, who are ‘Blu-ray disc founders.’ While a single layered disc using this technology holds around 15 GB of data, a double layered disc would hold 30 GB of data. One can compress 20 GB of data in the recordable version.
This format too uses the blue laser, the difference being the higher compression of the video stream. One major advantage of the AOD format over the Blu-ray format is the fact that the AOD format will cost you less. Although not a great deal is known about the format as yet, if one were to go by the Toshiba-NEC team, then the players would be smaller than the ones using Blu-ray format.
Capable of playing high definition DVD, some models using the AOD format from Toshiba have already hit the markets. They are roughly priced around $500-$800. Details available on the progression of the technology are sketchy, however, during this point in time.
Industry analysts believe that the Blu-ray format would hold sway over the masses in the near future. There are other related technologies which are also trying to break in, like the Holographic Versatile Disc (HVD) technology. This technology is still at a research stage and claims to have greatly increased storage capacity than both Blu-ray and HD DVD formats.
Researchers are also working on many other technologies. Some of them are claiming to be working on a technology with a storage capacity that is, believe it or not, 100 times that of a DVD. The technology involves making disks with a three-dimensional structure rather than the traditional two dimensional DVDs. With data storage and protection assuming importance, research on various lines is being carried out. Most of these research activities have the potential to revolutionize the home theater market.
With convergence of various features being the trend nowadays, there are several models of DVD players already available in the market, which have gaming options apart from playing DVDs. The increasing popularity of home theater systems is driving the research in this field.
Movie makers too are increasingly dependent on digital formats for both film making and projection. Digital video and audio outputs are considered far more superior to the existing traditional methods, and offer viewers an enhanced movie experience.