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High Definition Video for Independent Filmmakers
A How To Guide for Digital Filmmakers
Welcome all! This is my blog to share my latest research,
thoughts, etc. on utilizing HD for independent filmmaking.
YES, I am available for consulting
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
All content copyright 2004-2007 Mike Curtis.
Monday, January 28, 2008
"Price cuts by Toshiba on its HD DVD players in the U.S. earlier this month may prove to be 'useless resistance' in the battle against the rival Blu-ray Disc optical disc format, according to Gartner.
The market research company expects Blu-ray Disc to win the battle against HD DVD (high definition digital video disc) in the consumer market by the end of 2008, becoming the next generation replacement for DVDs"
...so since I already own an HD-DVD player, I'll pick up some exclusive titles on the cheap maybe. But Blu-ray is where things appear to be going long term - more media sales, and better DRM for the studios' content, case closed.
UPDATE- further support in this good wrap-up article:
Hey HD DVD: It's Not Just a Flesh Wound | Epicenter from Wired.com
"in the week following the Warner Bros. defection, weekly HD DVD player sales tanked big time, falling from 14,558 the week previous to a measly 1,758.
Meanwhile, Blu-ray saw a reverse trend, climbing from 15,257 to 21,770. In fact, the format ended up capturing approximately 93 percent of the market that week,"
That should be a clear enough signal for any doubters out there. Woolworths chain in the UK dropped HD DVD after noting Blu-ray's 10:1 outsell ratio for titles over the holiday season.
Monday, January 14, 2008
-HD-A3 MSRP dropped to $150
-HD-A30 dropped to $200 (the 1080p model)
-top of line HD-A35 dropped to $300
-5 free HD DVDs with player purchase
-50% off HD DVDs on Amazon*
-also 50% off Blu-rays (perhaps in response) at same link
-so a good time to buy movies.
...but this sure smells like a last ditch desperation move. Do you already own an HD DVD player, like I do? Well....the format doesn't seem like it is going to go the distance - if they had done this prior to Christmas, it might have been a big help (but they hadn't seen the Christmas sales yet to make these kinds of decisions). But this is a good time to pick up some movies on sale then (if not later in the real fire sale if the format decidedly looks like it is going to lose...moreso).
* Link above is to a page listing best sellers from Amazon available though the HD for Indies Amazon Store - HD for Indies gets a commission on the sale, proceeds help keep HD for Indies running
Tuesday, January 08, 2008
FT.com / Companies / Media & internet - Paramount in HD DVD blow:
Paramount is poised to drop its support of HD DVD after Warner Brothers’ recent backing of Sony’s Blu-ray technology, in a move that will sound the death knell of HD DVD and bring the home entertainment format war to a definitive end.
Paramount and DreamWorks Animation, which makes the Shrek films, came out in support of HD DVD last summer, joining General Electric’s Universal Studios as the main backers of the Toshiba format.
The Warners move gives Blu-ray about 70 per cent of Hollywood’s output, although the format’s grip on film content will increase further when Paramount comes aboard.
OK...so don't go buying an HD-DVD player now. I officially declare Blu-ray the winner.
Here's to hoping Apple, as anticipated, reveals a Blu-ray burner/player in their forthcoming Macs in a couple of weeks.
UPDATE: Oh, how much changes when you check your email. Apple introduced new desktops this morning AHEAD of MWSF in an unexpected move - otherwise known as a soft release, otherwise known as it wasn't exciting enough for MWSF - just a speed bump, a bus upgrade (PCIe 2.0, 2x faster than before), and new GPUs. NO NEW OPTICAL DRIVES. Here's a performance rundown between the new top end box and Quad G5, Quad Mac Pro, and previous Octo Mac.
Also, an astute reader pointed out this Bloomberg.com article wherein Paramount denies that they are immediately switching to Blu-ray, but their phrasing is less than stunningly supportive:
"Paramount's current plan is to continue to support the HD DVD format,'' Brenda Ciccone, a spokeswoman for Paramount, said in an e-mail today.
....not "we are firmly behind HD DVD", not "we have no plans to switch", not "that's bogus, we'll never switch over", nor "we have no plans to support Blu-ray as well," just that the CURRENT (as in today, may be different tomorrow) PLAN (intended action, not definitive actions) is to support the HD DVD format. They announced solo HD DVD support back in August of 2007. They are probably anxiously regretting that at the moment.
Even with Paramount on the fence, I think this was the tipping point. I owe someone a beer if I'm wrong that Blu-ray will be the market dominant force for high def discs, and in a year or two HD DVD will be the obscure also ran. This is a GOOD THING that SOMEBODY wins. While I've gone back and forth on the who I'd prefer, Blu-ray, with greater capacity, I think is the long term better deal for folks like us based on what I know.
As always, thanks to Paul and the other readers like him that feed me these bits I haven't had time to keep up on. If you spot a good article that you think ought to be up here, please do send it in!
ANOTHER UPDATE - another reader pointed out this article:
Interview: Samsung Says There's Life After Hollywood for HD DVD - Samsung guy says HD DVD will be for personal content presentation, as Microsoft is a big backer there. OK - but that's a minority market position. If you were lucky enough to snag one of those $100 HD DVD players at Walmart, you can already make (short) HD DVDs at home with Final Cut Studio.
Universal: Current plan is to continue to support the HD DVD format; Currently. - Engadget yeah - that. As the Engadget article said, we're more interested in what your plans are BEYOND tomorrow.
Friday, January 04, 2008
....as rumored the other day. This looks like a very, VERY strong move for Blu-ray over HD-DVD. Player prices continue to drop - a quick, cursory skim found HD-DVD players as low as $250ish, and Blu-ray as low as $340ish. Under $200 is the magic consumer price point - by next Christmas then, I would presume, if not sooner?
Having one standard will push things forward. Having it be the more technically sophisticated one...a good thing. Having it be a Sony controlled format...doesn't make me dance for joy (as opposed to a broader coalition).
"The window of opportunity for high-definition DVD could be missed if format confusion continues to linger. We believe that exclusively distributing in Blu-ray will further the potential for mass market success and ultimately benefit retailers, producers, and most importantly, consumers," Warner Bros Chairman and Chief Executive Barry Meyer said in a statement.
Yep, that pretty much sums it up.
Warner said it would continue releasing in the HD DVD format until the end of May, although those releases would follow the standard DVD and Blu-ray releases.
...so if you DO have an HD DVD player (like I do), better grab'em while you can (I have a PS3 as well, which I continue to think of entertainment money well spent. If you had a PS3 and an Xbox360, you'd be pretty laced up for entertainment.
Didn't get one for Christmas? You can get'em here from my Amazon Store.
Thursday, December 06, 2007
Hmm.....if I get an iTunes version with the DVD? Sure, that's nice. Wait, the price is going UP for downloadable movies that:
1.) Don't look as good
2.) Aren't as ubiquitously playable
3.) don't include extras
4.) Aren't high def.
Two edged sword. Gets more folks into the game to make the format more viable, BUT at substantially higher price - WHOLESALE cost to Apple of $15, puts the purchase price up in brand new retail range for lesser quality product (that I can rip to AppleTV/iPod compatible with Handbrake).
The ONLY way this could turn out worth a damn is if they make 720p (doable on AppleTV) versions available at that price. Otherwise...bag it.
So hey - does this mean some movies will get cheaper as well? If the primo stuff is high priced....
But JEEZ, folks - Same as max retail price for a download? For lesser quality and quantity of content? WTF wants that? I'd rather HD PPV...
Monday, August 20, 2007
"Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks Animation have dropped support for Sony’s Blu-ray next generation DVD format in a shock move that will see the two studios exclusively use Toshiba’s rival HD-DVD system. Paramount, which is owned by Viacom, the media giant, previously released movies in both Blu-ray and HD-DVD. Significantly, it cited HD-DVD's cheaper costs as a decisive factor behind its decision to back it. The latest development is a blow for Sony, which has invested heavily in Blu-ray."
This is surprising - Blu-ray seemed to have been gaining ground of late, and for someone with a foot in both camps to drop Blu-ray is something I wouldn't have bet on.
I was about to the point of resigning myself that the more expensive (boo!) but higher capacity (yay!) format was going to win, and just wait for Blu-ray to go ahead and take over so we only have one standard that consumers would therefore more willingly back. Not yet with this move, that says that the game is still wide open.
I'm also surprised that a company the size of Paramount would dump a format - why NOT keep two formats out there and maximize sales? How much more is it costing them to make both rather than a single format? They already had the infrastructure in place to produce both, so dropping one is an especially surprising move.
AFAIK, the only reason to dump Blu-ray was because they felt it wouldn't make them as much money. They think NOT selling a product in another format is going to save them money? Ouch.
Toshiba's players have been dropping in price (the HD-A2 is now about $240, the 1080p capable HD-A20 is about $330, both available at the HD For Indies Amazon Store). The PlayStation 3 (60GB), still the favored Blu-ray machine, is now only $500, but don't forget the $25 Bluetooth remote if you don't want to use a game contoller to play/pause.
Thanks to reader Jonathan for sending in this link. Always feel free to send in something good/relevant if you come across it.
UPDATE MONDAY 11PM
READ THE COMMENTS- rumor has it $150 million was paid to get two groups to dump Blu-ray. Fascinatingly naked ploy. Links in comments (Comments link below)
Friday, July 06, 2007
The Digital Bits presents... The Soapbox presents a strong argument as to why they think Blu-ray is going to win, and they have a lot of good data to back that up.
Specifically, they point out that the Blu-ray to HD DVD software sales have been 58/42 percent since inception, and this calendar year they are 67/33, Blu-ray winning in both cases.
They also have a few things not quite so right - they think Microsoft is backing HD DVD to push VC-1 codec, stating "Second, HD-DVD uses Microsoft's VC-1 video compression codec almost exclusively." - this is misleading at least, wrong if you get technical. The format supports MPEG-2, VC-1, and H.264 - exactly the same as Blu-ray does. That VC-1 is used most often for HD DVDs....doesn't really motivate MS IMHO. MUCH more significant is that the interactive layer is based on Microsoft's efforts, whereas BDi is based on open Java, and MS doesn't want that out in the wild and popular.
Also, I'm not fond of their comparative math on Matrix vs. Pirates box set sales - different price points, different bundles. Their comparison of The Departed, available on both formats, is much more instructive, with Blu-ray outselling by a chunky margin.
Thursday, July 05, 2007
"HD DVD has recently faced some head wind in its struggle to become the high-definition successor to the DVD, but its supporters are playing an ace from their sleeve with the arrival of the first discs that take advantage of its players' built-in Internet connections."
That is a nice feature, but I don't see that as potently differentiating for most consumers. I don't know, I'll have to Netflix one and see what difference it makes. The first title is some who-cares Anime thing, but 300 comes out end of July:
The HD DVD version of "300" will allow users to re-edit the movie, selecting and ordering the scenes as they see fit, and upload their edit to a server hosted by the studio, Warner Bros. The edit will be accessible to other users, who can download it to their players and see the movie in its new form.
"300" will be available on the competing Blu-ray high-definition disc as well, but will lack the re-editing feature and a few other extras like a strategy game, Collins said, because not all Blu-ray players can connect to the Internet.
That's of marginal value, even to geeky me. Read on for the other less-than-thrilling options being offered online. If there were unique content, streaming video from related stuff....I'd be more interested. If I could watch on the big HDTV.
Talking to my pretty well connected geek crew as we waited to get into Transformers on Tuesday night (mmmm....beer 'splodey fun!), they were of the opinion that Blu-ray was pulling away and that the marketing clout and muscle of the PS3 was going to kick HD DVD's butt. Hmmm. Wait and see.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Firmware Update For 2nd Gen HD DVD Players Fixes Dreaded Chroma Bug.: "The firmware fixes the dreaded “Chroma Bug”, a.k.a “CUE” or “Chroma Upsampling Error” that was present in the players prior to this update. "
Chroma Upsampling Error - we see it all the time in DV and HDV footage - it drove Graeme Nattress so nuts he wrote some plugins to fix it in Final Cut.
Anyway, plug in your Ethernet cable and run the patch.
On the PS3 side:
PlayStation.Blog � Firmware 1.82 Coming Soon…: "firmware 1.82 is an update that enables the playback of AVC High Profile (H.264/MPEG-4) files"
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Good overview article on latest status of the format war.
-Blockbuster recently committed to renting Blu-ray only in the retail stores (but online HD DVD still available)
-Blockbuster says no clear winner, but obviously leaning in Blu-ray's favor.
-Netflix renting both formats, but not sharing the split between publicly (here anyway)
-Blu-ray discs outselling HD DVD 2:1 since January - but sales still miniscule for both overall
-Toshiba sold 100K HD DVD players in the first year, Blu-ray standalone less than that...but 3.5 MILLION PS3's have been sold, and they include a Blu-ray player
-China deal is a mixed bag for HD DVD group - lower component prices, but more cheap competitors likely to cheat on licensing (as is done with DVD players)
Someone on my LSOS mailing list (buncha friends) posted this article and asked who had taken the plunge. My advice there, as to anybody else, based on budget (po' to pimped):
1.) Sit it out until there is a clear winner.
2.) Punt - get the low cost HD DVD player and see regular DVDs upconverted well, with bonus playback of some of the high def discs (HD DVD only not Blu-ray). Be ready for Blu-ray to possibly take the lead in the future.
3.) Gamer? Buy a PS3 and lament the titles you can't get on HD DVD, but watch Blu-ray on it.
4.) Drop a wad of cash and get both. Ugh.
But skip the combo players unless you want a single box and not two, and unless you have no interest in games. You can get a PS3 AND an HD DVD player for less than the cost of the combo players.
Hard core gamer & A/V geek? A PS3 & a Xbox 360 with the HD DVD player will set you back about $1200. Or buy an HV20 and go make your own HD movies - that'd be the REAL indie way to do it!
I'm pretty happy with what I've got, but if I were shopping now and wanted one (or both), I'd get the Toshiba HD-A20 HD DVD Player ($395 on Amazon at the moment) if I had a 1080p set, or a Toshiba HD-A2 ($300) if I had a 1080i or 720p set. For Blu-ray, the Sony PS3 ($600) seems the way to go - 1080p, nice rezzing, plus killer games. Don't forget the Bluetooth remote, since PS3 is Bluetooth only, no IR for your "normal" universal remote. Don't want that kind of gaming heroin sitting around the house sucking up all your free time? The lowest cost Blu-ray player I've found is the Samsung BD-P1000 for about $510.
Don't forget cables, and don't pay too much for them!
PS - don't buy Monster Cables! Totally not worth it.
Saturday, June 23, 2007
for those curious about keeping tabs on the whole format war thing and how it shakes out for consumers, here's an update from the front lines - turns out my Blu-ray player, aka PS3, is a defective unit.
These things happen with consumer electronics from time to time. I got a defective Dell 2405 LCD monitor the other year, my original Macbook had to be sent back due to the crazy color stripes on screen problem, and between me and some ex-girlfriends a fistfull of laptop drives have gone bad (I end up being the extended tech support by default).
I originally received the unit the other week but didn't have HDMI or toslink cables for it, so those had to be ordered. They came in early this week, and I finally got it all hooked up in proper high def, surround sound glory. It has a beautiful bootup sound, and the glassy menu background is sinuously mesmerizing.
...but that's about all I can enjoy at the moment, since I have no PS3 games nor Blu-ray discs as yet. So I put in a DVD to see how the upres stuff looked, and after several minutes of play, the picture froze. A few seconds later, the audio stopped. I picked up the controller (remote isn't here yet), and it was unresponsive as well - nothing happened, no matter what - I was looking at a freeze frame from the DVD, and that's all the PS3 would do. Wondering if it was a Bluetooth shortcoming, plugged the controller into the USB port - still no go. Had to do a hard reset on the unit to get it to work.
Tried again. Same thing. Tried again with another DVD, same thing after a random interval of a minute or three of playback. Same thing with two other discs. Tried one of those discs in the HD DVD player, played that scene fine several times in a row. I don't know if anybody else has this issue, but I was noticing pure blue and red pixels in the image, either on freeze frame or for a single frame during playback.
So I emailed tech support on Monday, and got a response Wednesday evening, suggesting I update the firmware (already had), and that I clean the disc (5 discs, can't all be dirty scratched since they worked fine and are, um, MINE, neat freak that I am in that regard). The email also suggested I call tech support..which was already closed for the day.
Fast forward to today - I call tech support, hit 1 a zillion times (YES issue with PS3 and disc playback), listen to some obvious suggestions, and finally hear I can press zero to get a real human - which, impressively, I do right away. The nice guy who spoke clear English and sounded like he knew what he was doing suggested I reset the unit, which I did, and while he was on the phone a DVD played for several minutes. He said I could get the unit swapped out if I wanted to, I said let me fiddle with it some more before going to those lengths. Get service request # for follow-up, hang up.
Disc freezes. Update firmware from 1.80 to 1.81, disc freezes. Reset unit again, disc freezes. Call back to tech support, on hold for about 2 minutes (still STELLAR response time for a Saturday afternoon), get a woman who calls up my service request #, and she gets the process in motion. Here's the deal on what to do with a defective PS3:
1.) Call it in.
2.) They'll mail you a package for shipping your defective unit back. Sounds like it is coming ground.
3.) Once received, pack it up according to instructions provided (in email sent day you request and hard copy in packaging), slap on the pre-paid shipping slip, and it'll go to a service center.
4.) Once received (and NOT UNTIL) received at the shipping center, they'll ship me a new one and I should receive it in....7-10 working days from date of receipt.
I'll keep updating this article to let anybody know about how the process goes.
In the meantime, scorecard to date:
-quick response on the phone (4 minutes tops probably) to get a real, polite, knowledgeable human. Top marks.
-zero cost to me to get it replaced - not even shipping
-no cross shipping, they'll ship after receiving mine
-therefore, I guess it'll be AT LEAST THREE WEEKS before I have a working PS3 - sometime in mid-July. DRAT.
For a $600 consumer item, I guess this is about par for the course. My biggest quibble is the lack of cross-shipping -but that is even a challenge on multi-thousand dollar items. I wouldn't mind being able to secure it with a credit card if I could get it cross shipped. But I can grudgingly understand their position, selling this as a consumer device to a younger demographic - it'd be hell to deal with cross shipping from their perspective.
That's it for now, I'll update this when the box arrives - so the clock is ticking as of Saturday, June 23rd - anybody wanna place bets on when I get the replacement? I'm betting it'll be July 20th, since the weekends time out poorly and the 4th of July gets in there. So that'll be nearly a month, actually.
Gentlemen, place your bets....
STEP 1: SATURDAY, JUNE 23RD - call placed, process begun to get defective PS3 swapped out.
UPDATE WEDNESDAY EVENING, JUNE 27, 2007: I heard a thunk on the porch - UPS guy just threw the box from the base of the steps onto the porch at 6:15 PM - so 4 days to get the box. I'll swap it out and put in a call to pick it up, so it should go out tomorrow...
UPDATE JULY 3RD - ...BUT I was slow to drop it off for pickup - didn't drop it off at a UPS location until July 3rd, my bad. So we'll see how long it takes to get it back...
Thursday July 5th update - got a UPS email staring that a 16 lb package should arrive tomorrow - rocking turnaround if this the PS3
UPDATE JULY 6 - replacement unit arrives, KUDOS SONY for getting replacement to me in 3 DAYS
Monday, June 18, 2007
"Video rental giant Blockbuster will only rent HDTV DVDs in the Blu-ray format in 1,450 stores next month when it expands its high-def service.
That's according to an exclusive report today from the Associated Press.
The retailer has tested both formats in approximately 250 stores for the last several months. But Blockbuster officials say 70 percent of the high-def rentals are Blu-ray."
Wow - that is quite the dramatic statement if 70% of the rentals are Blu-ray. That isn't victory, but a 40% differential is pretty marked. There was a rumor floating around (can't recall if it was denied or proved flat-out wrong) that Walmart had signed on for 2 million HD DVD players that was supposedly going to define the format war battle winner.
But Blu-ray appears to be taking the lead, and that's interesting in light of the higher price on the playback devices. It would appear that the folks that plunked down for PS3's are following through and buying/renting HD movies.
I'd be curious what the split is between Blu-ray & HD DVD (and how those compare to regular DVDs) on Netflix, since they support both formats as well - would online rentals differ markedly from in-store rental patterns? I don't know - I'd guess not much, but that's TBD.
Hd Dvd On The Way Out?: Blockbuster's Blu-ray Endorsement Having Major Impact on HD DVD Player Sales - Gizmodo
"Blockbuster's decision to support Blu-ray in all of its 1,450 stores is having a bigger impact than it seems. A tipster at an unnamed retailer tells us they've had more HD DVD player orders canceled over the last few days than they've seen over the entire life cycle. The kicker? All of them were canceled because of the Blockbuster announcement."
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
First off, I recognize I'm certainly not the first to do this, but here's my OOBE (out of box experience) on this stuff. Pictures here. I just wanted to get my experience as an A/V consumer out there.
So UPS showed up with a box from Amazon today - my Blu-ray player! Or as most of you would refer to it - a Sony PS3 game system that also happens to play Blu-ray movies. I've heard that (and blogged earlier today) something like 90=% of existing Blu-ray players out there are PS3's - and I don't doubt it. One of my friends is a hard-core consumer A/V geek, and his opinion was that the PS3 was the best Blu-ray player, PERIOD. And he can afford ANYTHING (drives a 911 convertible during the week, a 600+ horsepower '71 240Z on the weekend at the racetrack - boy has BUDGET).
But I digress.
So I got my PS3, and I'll all jazzed to hook it up. It comes with power, A/V, and networking cables in the box, and conveniently, the controller itself is a USB device, so you can use any USB device cable with it. Sounds like you're ready to rock, no? Well, yes, but really no.
Looking to this as an HD audio/video device, some initial complaints:
1.) the included A/V breakout cable with three RCA plugs? That isn't component, that's COMPOSITE and RCA stereo pair. So while it is true that they include cables in the box to connect to your TV or HDTV, it is in the lowest possible common denominator plug. As a gaming platform, there's some logic to it, but as a high end A/V device, this comes across as just plain cheap for a $600 item.
2.) No HDMI cable included. Harrumph.
3.) Only one digital audio output, and it is digital optical - no digital coax. Many high end devices offer both.
4.) No digital optical cable included.
5.) There is no IR port on the device, remote control is done via Bluetooth - so 98% of the universal remotes out there can't be programmed to control the Blu-ray playback, you're stuck with at least 2 remotes for most folks. Double harrumph. Bluetooth is great for non-line-of-sight controlling, but far from ubiquitous. But I do like Bluetooth remoting - my coffee table is in the way for some of my A/V gear, and I have to either bankshot off the ceiling in the correct spot or hold up the remote to clear the table.
6.) while an Ethernet cable is included, it is only 9 or so feet long - who has an Ethernet drop or box within 9 feet of their TV stuff? I need a longer one - 12 would have done it for me.
7.) As a gaming device, only one controller included - this works for Internet based gaming, but not 1-on-1 in person.
8.) the controller cable is woefully short - I'd have to put the PS3 three feet in front of the TV to have the cable long enough to reach me sitting down EDIT - well, shows what I don't know - it is a Bluetooth, and the USB is just for charging. So nix this one! So New # 8: if you want to connect via component, in either SD or HD, the PS3 lacks traditional jacks - you have to buy Sony's cable for $20. Monster makes one, too, for $50 if you're a complete tool/sucker. For the record - Monster Cables are not only massively overpriced, but they aren't that good in the first place - lots of shielding, not so much cable in the core. There is no good reason to buy Monster Cables, EVER.
9.) As a Blu-ray player, the "this is a gaming platform" is reinforced by the fact that there is no "normal" A/V remote control included - until my remote gets here, I have to use a game controller to play back (once I get it set up). Awkward.
10.) Update - now I have a #10 - as a media device, there is no hardware disc eject on the device - you have to do it through the remote or a controller. EDIT - nope, there is one! It is just subtle - it is a touch sensitive area, clearly labelled, right in front of the drive slot - so they HAVE done a nice job with this. My unobservant bad.
So after plundering some other gear for an HDMI and toslink cable, I finally got all set up.
Firing it up for the first time, with HDMI, toslink, and Ethernet in place, you flip the master power switch on the back, THEN press the touch-sensitive on/off switch on the device.
The first screen you see tells you to connect the controller and press a button.
Then you select your language of preference.
Then you are presented with a choice if HDMI is connected - "An available HDMI device was detected. Do you want to output vieo and audio using that HDMI?" You can select Yes or No. Hmm...I want HDMI video, but toslink audio - which should I choose?
I'll select NO for now, since I want HDMI video...OOPS, bad choice, the screen went blank.
Fortunately, I already had the composite attached to the TV (the horror, the horror), so I was able to see the screen again. Now I was presented with a "Select a Time Zone" choice, but NO option to go backwards as I had on the prior screen. Hmm...bad.
I set the Time Zone to CST, then I can enter the date.
AH - I discover by accident that pressing the left pad button goes backwards....all the way to language selection. OK, let's try this again.
I change the HDTV input back to HDMI, and I can see the language selection again. GOOD!
OK, I pick English, this time I say YES to HDMI audio & video, and I get a new screen:
"Do you want to automatically switch to the optimal settings? If the reoslution is not supported, the screen wil temporarily go blank. After 30 seconds the system will go back to the original resolution."
That sounds good, so I switch from the default No to Yes and press Enter.
Next screen: nice and sharp at 1080p, so I accept by selecting yes within 30 seconds and we're back to Time Zone, which held the prior settings, and the next screen is:
"Enter your user name to log in to this system."
I do that, then there is a summary screen of all you've picked- English, CST, time/date, and user name. Done and good.
Next screen - sign up for PLAYSTATION Network? Gee, I dunno - does it cost? Lets find out.
I press the X key, and I'm told:
"A system software update is required.
Go to [Settings\] and perform [System Update]."
Wow, I'm glad I'm plugged into an Ethernet jack already.
Oh - I didn't realize I was already in the menu system yet. I go to System Update, that looks like it'll take several minutes to pull down the updates, but at least it successfully negotiated a DHCP based acquisition of an IP address.
After downloading the update, there's a soft-restart process, then a User Agreement pops up. Power scroll down and clickwrap your soul away.
New capabilities in the update include:
-PS1 & PS2 games uprez to HD
-PS1 & PS2 game saves can be brought to PS3
-DVDs are uprezzed to HD, but it says SOME cannot be upconverted when ouputting via component or D-terminal connectors. What is a D-terminal connector?
-Internet play enabled
-images & music can be shown/played on a remote device over a network with a PC or Digital Video Recorder...curious to see how that works, anybody already know, please Comment away below
-can print photos (!)
-zoom & trim functions for photos
-new slideshow types for photos
"Do not turn off the system during the update. If you do, you may not be able to restart the PS3 system. Once the update is started you cannot go back to the previous version of the system software. Press the X button to start the update."
Another progress bar - the last was downloading, now we're installing I take it? Then why the semi-reboot earlier?
Several minutes later update installed, click OK, then a definite reboot going on.
So now what? I start digging around the menus - there's choices for BD/DVD playback, there's what to name this system, etc.
Some interesting choices hiding in the menus:
RGB Full Range (HDMI) - Limited or Full - just doodling, Full seems contrastier/darker
Y Pb/Cb Pr/Cr Super-White (HDMI) Sets for use of a TV that is compatible with Super-White output - defaults to Off, turning it on does nothing obvious. Hmm...a little scary. But I'm using a Sony HDTV with a Sony PS3, I should get in trouble/overburn anything....right?
HEY! It appears the PS3 has WiFi capability - I may not need to hard-wire my unit - it can see my two wireless networks in the house (sweet!)
There's a web browser as well, but it is a bit non-intuitive at first - plugging in a keyboard & mouse (ostensibly doable w/USB ports) would certainly help.
There's LOTS of menu choices in here, so this is a good enough place for me to wrap it up.
General takeaway - this thing is LOTS more than a Blu-ray player, more even than a game system - it can do pictures, music, and videos as well, I just need to start figuring out how all that stuff works.
But I've got some work to do in the meantime, more later.
Update an hour later after writing - I'm already getting some feedback in the comments about stuff I didn't know. I intentionally went into this "blind," not reading a single page of the manual - what the typical consumer would experience and do. As I learn more I'll update. I did get wireless networking set up, so that's cool as well.
Who'd a thunk I'd need 3 internet connections in the living room? And I still don't have a DVR...
It'll be interesting, going forward, to see how this compares to AppleTV as a pictures/music/video playback device. A commenter has already pointed out how to get it to work with iTunes etc. - is it a one time export, or a live link that would, for instance, reflect changes in playlists, etc.?
HD DVD sales spike in wake of price cuts
"Trying to figure out which format actually has the upper hand isn't easy, however. Earlier this year, HD DVD was overtaken by Blu-ray when it came to movies sold, but in mid-April, the HD DVD Promotional Group reported that dedicated HD DVD players were outselling their Blu-ray counterparts by a large margin. HD DVD has also taken an early sales lead in Europe. Blu-ray enjoys greater studio backing and the fact that it is the optical format of choice for the PS3 gives it a wider reach than the HD DVD. But as we have pointed out before, sales stats are great for scoring PR points, but they don't really matter at this stage of the game."
Ars once again enters the fray with a well reasoned article.
It is hard to parse the carefully crafted press releases - when the HD DVD folks say their dedicated players are widely outselling the competition, think about what that means - that dedicated HD DVD players are outselling dedicated Blu-ray players.
And PS3 is NOT a dedicated Blu-ray player, it is a combo device, gaming platform, whatever. Point being - it is NOT a dedicated playback device. And what percentage of Blu-ray players on the market are PS3's? I read a stat somewhere that claimed 94% of Blu-ray players on the market were PS3's. OK. So what is the percentage of Xbox 360 HD DVD players compared to dedicated players? I don't know, but I'd bet money it is way, Way, WAY lower than 94% - if I had to take a completely blind stab at it (and I will, pulling these numbers out of my, er, hat) - I'd GUESS it was 35% or less of existing HD DVD players are Xbox360 add-ons - at best.
So comparing DEDICATED players between HD DVD and Blu-ray is a deceptive and almost meaningless statistic - since 94% of Blu-ray players are PS3s, the HD DVD camp is only comparing their dedicated player sales to....6% of the Blu-ray market.
That ain't exactly something to crow about.
And since they are particular to point out that they are only outselling dedicated players, that doesn't sound like good news at all to me. If they were outselling ALL Blu-ray players, they damn well would have said that.
Anybody have an update on that 94% Blu-ray stat? Ah - found it mentioned here, which links to this fact laden Ars Technica article from mid-January.
Sales of individual movies (or rentals) is a truer metric to my eye.
Now that (as of sometime today when UPS gets here) I'll have both a Blu-ray and an HD DVD player, I should (hopefully) have an unbiased view of it all. I'll see what the experience is like.
Friday, April 13, 2007
AACS hacked to expose Volume ID: WinDVD patch irrelevant - Engadget
Samsung to Launch Dual Blu-ray HD DVD Player - Yahoo! News But here's what's wrong with all the combo players:
"Sony's BDP-S300 will launch in the middle of the year for about US$599 while Toshiba's HD-A2 player carries a recommended price of $399 but can currently be found on Amazon.com for $309. In contrast LG's BH100 dual-format player costs $1,000."
...so if I can buy two separate players for less, or a $309 HD-A2 and a Blu-ray player for $600, or better yet a PS3 for $600....why would I spend $100 more on the combo player, other than for the convenience of "one box, one remote, one plug?"
They aren't solving the problem. The problem is price first, two choices of players second. Combo players need to be under $500, more likely under $300, for this market to move forward substantially IMHO.
With Toshiba's HD-A2 HD-DVD player available for $309 right now (no kidding!), and Sony's expectation that a $300 player is 2-3 years away, there's two choices - either wait for the format war to resolve itself (smart play, but requires patience), or say what the hell and get a more affordable player now and watch a bunch (but not all of) HD movies next week? Buy what I got - the HD-A2 if you're of a mind to buy in. This is from my Amazon Affiliate store I'm setting up, so I get a little luv from Amazon if you buy through me (but from Amazon really - all their sales/support/shipping/etc).
And BusinessWeek agrees with me - Blu-ray vs. HD DVD: Price Matters: "The war for dominance of the next-generation DVD market may be decided on price. Some analysts are betting that whichever format%u2014HD DVD or Blu-ray%u2014has the most players in stores for $500 or less in time for the holiday season will ultimately win over consumers. Everything else, including the movie studios that have already aligned with a particular format, will follow the money."
I so wholeheartedly agree with this article. Read on as they address issues of studio support, porn, price points, points of differentiation between the two formats (minimal), etc.
Will Porn Settle Next-Gen DVD Battle? - Yahoo! News: "Now some think that the adult entertainment industry could play a critical role in determining which format comes out on top. Diane Duke, the Executive Director of the Free Speech Coalition, an advocacy group for the industry, said that adult filmmakers are part of a powerful industry.
'We have led the way on a lot of technology,' Duke said, 'and it would make sense that the adult entertainment industry would play a similar role with high-definition DVDs.'"
While I like Blu-ray better in theory (higher capacity, Apple backing, not entangled with MS for interactivity layer), HD-DVD is making a lot of financial sense. The biggest advantage Blu-ray has is studio support, in part because Sony owns their own. As I keep saying, technology is only as relevant as its price point...
...so all this is to say, I'd LOVE to back Blu-ray more strongly, but the price point is making it tough to do so....a PS3 at about twice the price? Or a set top box with a $599 MSRP later this year? Better get on the ball, Sony folks, or you're going to lose this battle....AGAIN.
But if you do want to buy one, here's my Amazon Affiliate page with both HD-A2 & PS3.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
I'm tracking both formats, and bought an HD-DVD recently on a whim because it was a $150 upgrade over the uprezzing DVD player I was going to buy anyway (the Oppo unit that is so highly reviewed). The least expensive Blu-ray player is the brand new $600 list unit from Sony - and I'm not even sure they're available yet. Or a PS3 for the same price, with the bonus inclusion of, well, a PS3 for games as well as Blu-ray playback. (Edit - there's a Samsung unit that Amazon has for $500...but that's still more than double the price of the DVD player I was considering, and $125 more than the HD-DVD player...I'm writing this sitting on Congress Avenue in line to buy tix for the Rodriguez & Tarantino attended premiere of Grindhouse in Austin).
Blu-ray discs have been outselling HD-DVD of late (one week's sales a few weeks ago were 2 or 3 to 1 in Blu-ray's favor), I'm curious to see if that persists after the rush of PS3 sales for Christmas. HD-DVD players are cheaper, which the uneducated will buy on price alone.
The gamers are loving that PS3 includes Blu-ray by default, but the price matches that of Xbox 360 plus the HD-DVD unit - and it would APPEAR, for the moment, that they are spending more on movies than the HD-DVD crowd on a per-owner basis - the intereting thing is whether this is a long term trend or a temporary spike...oops, already said that elsewhere - but it is the thing to watch.
LG's Blu-Ray/HD DVD hybrid isn't the answer (yet), since it costs MORE than a HD-DVD plus a Blu-ray player together cost. The only savings is space and one less remote. But a good HD-DVD & Blu-ray players can be bought together for about $1000....$200 less than MSRP on this device. As I keep saying, technology is only as relevant as its price point. The $1200 price point is annoying from a consumer perspective - are there NO redundant components in the box? The idea was to save money by putting all in one device, sheesh...
The studios have been all over the map, and of late (last I heard, somebody correct me if I'm wrong) 7 of 8 studios were supporting Blu-ray, 3 of 8 were supporting HD-DVD. How many both? I don't have stats handy for which are supporting both, which I think is a crucial factor.
Quality CAN be the same with either format since they use the same video codecs, but in the field the authoring quality has varied a bit, and overall last I heard Blu-ray had more better looking titles than HD-DVD.
So I've got an HD-DVD player, but only on a whim - don't read that as a big vote of confidence on my part. Plus I can burn DVD-R discs with HD-DVD content on them and play them on my player and computer, which I can't at this time do with Blu-ray.
The oddness of the market is this:
-I can presently buy a Blu-ray burner.
-Toast 8 point something supports burning Blu-ray DATA discs.
-DVD Studio Pro can author HD-DVD content onto standard DVD-R media, which will play in HD-DVD players (I've verfied that, see post from a couple of weeks ago - search for HD-DVD)
-BUT there are no HD-DVD burners available for Macs AFAIK
-there is no Blu-ray video disc support for Macs as yet (hopefully we'll see that at NAB next month)
So is a bit of a conundrum in terms of indie authoring capabilities. I'll do a survey some
Standalone set-top Blu-ray players are still substantially more expensive than standalone HD-DVD players, and the combo players are more expensive than buying one of each, so THAT'S no solution in the near term.
All that said, King Kong and Batman Begins look GREAT on HD...but I wish I could watch Casino Royale on HD.
I'll eventually probably buy a Blu-ray player to go with the HD-DVD player, but I DON'T recommend everybody do that - I'm a nut, and I know it.
I say wait it out to see which format wins out...and if it is the more expensive Blu-ray, that is a mixed blessing...I like the greater capacity of Blu-ray for burning data, but the price point is still 50% higher than HD-DVD.
There's lots of factors at play - should "the winner" be declared for greater player sales or greater movie sales? Hmm...I think it'll be a combo factor.
I just want to see one clear winner within the next year, and that'll determine whether consumers should jump in. Except for the zealots (like me), I don't recommend most consumers buy yet.
OK, line's moving, gotta go, but thought this worth posting.
Oh yeah - and a Sony rep (read this somewhere on CinemaTech I think) acknowledged that player sales won't take off until prices drop, and suggested $300 as the price point that'll make a difference. I read that as Sony is working on a $300 player then - maybe by Christmas? Or earlier part of next year? Christmas would make the most sense. At present, $500 is cheapest street price I've seen for a Blu-ray player (a Samsung), and $375 least expensive HD-DVD player.
Another update - Xbox 360 Elite: new, black limited edition Xbox with HDMI and 120GB drive - Engadget headline says it all other than late April, $479 price. HDMI is the big deal here - no mention of 1080p support. Since previous generation was designed with component analog outputs, which only supported 1080 res when interlaced, I doubt it.
PS3 I hear is a REALLY nice Blu-ray player, and has HDMI out. Xbox360 SEEMS to be favored game platform from the gamer buddies I have talked to, but lacks HDMI. This'll fix that. That puts you at $680 for game box with HD-DVD playback capability, HD movie download rent/buy capability, etc. But Sony will always have access to that Sony movie library, and I don't know if they'll make it available to Xbox360 - they may want to keep that PS3 exclusive.