DTV Primer

Chris Llana, Editor


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Blu-ray Software Moves Up to Next Level

September 1, 2006

But the hardware still seems to be sorting itself out.

At a recent Blu-ray shindig in Japan, purveyors of high-definition movies laid out their plans for a flock of new BD releases. Hardware manufacturers bit their tongues.

For the Japanese market at least, which caters mostly to folks who by a wide margin prefer DVD-recorders over players, there was more reason to keep release dates close to the vest. For the U.S. mostly-player market, however, it seems about time to be stepping forward with more details on the release of BD players.

Two of them (Panasonic and Pioneer), after all, are (have been) expected to be released in September, which by my calendar is really close.

But there is hope for cheer. A goodly number of BD software titles have just been announced by 20thh Century Fox, with a November 14 release date. The best part of this announcement has been the upgrade in both video and audio encoding formats, which gives hope that the rumored technical hurdles challenging players and BD discs are close to being resolved.

To wit, we're seeing:

1) Movies on 50 GB dual-layer BD discs,

2) Movies encoded using AVC (a.k.a. MPEG-4, Part 10, a.k.a. H.264) instead of the less efficient MPEG-2 encoding that has been more prone to digital artifacting, and

3) Movie audio encoded using the new lossless formats -- including specifically DTS-HD Master Audio.

Mind you, not all of the new Blu-ray titles have adopted all of these advances, but most of them are incorporating one or more.

Will the hardware be there to play them?

Let's hope so. I would not expect Fox to move forward with software unless they had good reason to believe that players would be available that could reliably digest these new technical features.

On the other hand, I'd be surprised if the hardware people aren't thinking hard about a slight delay if that meant they could incorporate HDMI 1.3 into their circuits. By November 14? Hmm.