Archive for February 22nd, 2008


So the Format War is Over…. (or at least the physical format war)

OK, so it’s finally official: HD DVD is dead and Blu-Ray has won. (You know it’s become a mainstream story when my mother talks about it.) I’ve been surveying the tech pundits and listening to them weigh-in on the situation now that the so-called “High Definition DVD Format War” is over.

Much of the tech community agree (and have always agreed) that a war like this wasn’t good for the industry. (At least on the surface, it wasn’t.) The mainstream public is already confused enough about the difference between plasma and LCD….720P and 1080P….Dolby True HD vs. DTS….and now add the fact that they need to choose between high definition DVD formats? While it’s true that having a single format from the start would seemingly make for a clearer choice for consumers, Ben Drawbaugh of Engadget HD had an interesting take on benefits gained from this “war”. On the podcast this week, he talked about the fact that a lot of the progress that both formats have made has been the result of competition. Had it not been for the fierce competition between both the Blu-Ray and HD-DVD camps, we probably wouldn’t have seen player prices get below $400 this quickly. We also might not have seen the same intense effort from studios cleaning up the quality of the film transfers (early Blu-Ray discs were notorious for their poor quality transfers.) And we also might not have seen this many high-def titles released “day and date” alongside their standard definition DVD versions. So, I guess the competition was healthy somewhat in helping to bring us lower cost players and better releases.

So now, the so-called “war” is over. After Toshiba (HD-DVD’s biggest champion) announced that they are no longer supporting the format, Blu-Ray was officially declared the winner. But what does this really mean? I’ve spent a few long bus rides thinking it over and I think that it means a lot less than people may realize.

Here are a few reasons why:

Fool Me Once, Shame on You. Fool Me Twice…. – I remember back in 1999 when I bought my first DVD player. (I’m embarrassed to admit how much I paid.) My first movie was Alien and I must have watched it about five times in two weeks. Man — looking at the quality of DVDs vs. non-digital cable television or VHS tapes at the time was amazing. So I bought a few more titles. It got addictive. Before I knew it, by 2006 I realized that I had amassed a collection of more than 350 titles (not discs…titles. Some titles have multiple discs).

Now, don’t get me wrong — I enjoy my collection. Wouldn’t dream of trading it. I appreciate the fact that I can just go over to the library and watch Ronin or The Godfather or Notting Hill or any other disc that I own on a whim without having to go to the store to rent or wait for it to come on television.

But the fact is that we’ve been here before. I’ve lived through several media switches. I remember looking at my LPs in disgust and deciding to move to the new hot thing — cassette tapes. Didn’t take long to figure out that cassettes were flawed and I moved on to CDs. And now it’s certainly the case that the majority of teens and young adults are “acquiring” their media through digital means…where the only limits are your disk space and how high you’re willing to encode your audio.

When it comes to movies, I was a fool again. Spent hours upon hours recording movies from television onto VHS tapes. (I wish I knew then what I know now). I even collected VHS tapes for awhile (but not nearly as many as my DVD collection).

And now, looking up at a wall of almost 400 unique movies (many of which I’ve only seen once — and some which embarrassingly I’ve never seen) I am sure that I’m not alone in taking a step back and considering how foolish yet another physical format purchase would be. (I know I’m not alone in looking at my collection and wondering what $15.99 times 350 would look like in my wallet. It doesn’t take a fortune teller to realize that if I can get a DVD quality download now, in five years I’ll be able to get a better-than-Blu-Ray quality movie via download.

You might have fooled me in the past, big studios…but you won’t get me this time. Continue reading ‘So the Format War is Over…. (or at least the physical format war)’