Death watch for HD-DVD in full swing.

Update: Gizmodo is reporting that Wal-Mart will be dropping HD-DVD in June. That’s pretty much it for HD-DVD then. Put a fork in it, it’s done. Wal-Mart is huge and losing them as an outlet is very bad indeed.

An article in The Hollywood Reporter says that rumors are swirling that Toshiba is poised to announce the death of HD-DVD in the coming weeks:

[…] Officially, no decision has been made, insists Jodi Sally, vp of marketing for Toshiba America Consumer Products. “Based on its technological advancements, we continue to believe HD DVD is the best format for consumers, given the value and consistent quality inherent in our player offerings,” she said.

But she hinted that something’s in the air. “Given the market developments in the past month,” she said, “Toshiba will continue to study the market impact and the value proposition for consumers, particularly in light of our recent price reductions on all HD DVD players.”

[…] But in the end, sources say, the substantial loss Toshiba is incurring with each HD DVD player sold—a figure sources say could be as high as several hundred dollars—coupled with a series of high-profile retail defections has driven the company to at last concede defeat.

“An announcement is coming soon,” said one source close to the HD DVD camp. “It could be a matter of weeks.”

I found it particularly amusing that in that article they had an ad promoting a contest where you predict who will win an Oscar in hopes of winning, among other things, a Blu-ray player. As for HD-DVD it’s looking more and more like it’s death is inevitable. Netflix just switched to being Blu-ray exclusive and Best Buy announced that, while they’ll continue to sell HD-DVD to folks who want it, they’d be promoting Blu-ray as the format of choice. Even smaller independent studios such as anime-importer ADV Films have gone Blu-ray only.

Best Blu-ray DVD player? The future proof PS3.

Now that it looks like HD-DVD is in for a slow death some of you may be wondering which of the various Blu-ray players is the best one to buy. According to the folks at ArsTechnica.com you should seriously consider Sony’s PS3:

New Blu-ray 2.0 spec makes PS3 the most future-proof player – ArsTechnica.com

Before we can understand why the PlayStation 3 is able to so easily deal with new profiles, we must first look at the difference between the 1.0, 1.1, and 2.0 profiles to see why a simple firmware update isn’t enough to make a player compliant.

  • 1.0 is the launch profile, and secondary audio and video decoders are optional, as is local storage and network connectivity. The majority of standalone players fit into this category.
  • 1.1 is the newer profile, and to take advantage of these discs, players need a secondary audio and video decoder to handle picture-in-picture, as well as at least 256MB of local storage for content.
  • 2.0 is the profile of the future, requiring the two secondary decoders, 1GB of local storage for updates and content, and an Internet connection.

HD DVD players have included networking as standard since the beginning, but Blu-ray has not, and the evolving standard may become a large problem for early adopters. The 2.0 profile actually changes the minimum requirements for full compatibility. In other words, there is only one player currently on the market that will be 2.0 compatible: the PlayStation 3, which, with its upgradeable hard drive, Ethernet port, and powerful graphics capabilities, will be able to adapt to any and all future updates. This is quite the slap in the face to consumers who paid several hundred dollars for players that won’t be to be updated to take advantage of the 1.1 profile, much less the upcoming 2.0

Of course this only really matters if you give a shit about having the extra features that the 1.1 and 2.0 profiles bring with them. The Internet connectivity of profile 2.0 seems like another PR gimmick more than anything else. There have been interactive DVDs for ages now that would connect to the Internet and download all sorts of extra stuff when you played them on your PC, but how many folks really take advantage of that feature? I think I did it once just to see what all the hype was about and the extra content was less than overwhelming. So much so that I’ve never felt the need to try it on any of the other DVD’s I own with that ability. From what I’ve seen of the plans for this feature in profile 2.0 I’m not at all certain I’d ever make use of it. I suppose it’s always possible they’ll come up with new uses that might make it worth checking out, but so far I’m not worried about it.

Then there’s the Picture-in-Picture feature in profile 1.1 that looks like it’ll be used to do pop-up style commentaries or bonus footage of how a scene was filmed while you’re playing the movie and I imagine there are folks out there who will find that useful, but I’ve never been one much for interrupting a movie I’m watching for that sort of thing. I generally go back later and watch that stuff separately so even if the PS3 didn’t support it it wouldn’t be a big deal to me. Again, it’s not a deal breaker in my book.

Still if you’re the sort who wants to have all the bells and whistles then the PS3 is probably the best Blu-ray player to consider as upgrades are just a firmware update away. I’d tend to think that so long as the early adopter’s 1.0 profile machines continue to playback Blu-ray discs just fine, and there’s no reason to think they wouldn’t, then the omission of the extra bells and whistles of profile 2.0 won’t be a big deal for most of them. Of course the other bonus to buying a PS3 for Blu-ray is it just happens to be a pretty kick-ass game console and media hub as well.

DVD players now outnumber VCRs in American homes.

Considering the standard was only formalized in 1996, a mere 10 years ago, it’s pretty impressive that it’s now in the majority:

During the third quarter of 2006, 81.2 percent of all US households reported owning at least one DVD player compared to 79.2 percent for VCRs. That figure marks a 6 percent increase in DVD player ownership from the same period in 2005, while VCRs ownership fell. It’s a far cry from 1999, when Nielsen first began tracking DVD ownership. At the end of the 90s, only 6.7 percent of households owned a DVD player, compared with 88.6 percent owning VCRs.

The recent surge recent surge in DVD ownership is largely due to falling prices. Early on, DVDs were very expensive compared to VCRs. (Those of us who are old enough to remember the introduction of the VCR in the late 70s and early 80s will also recall how expensive they were at first launch.) Now, shoppers looking for a new DVD are confronted with a dazzling array of sub-$50 players. DVD players are now less expensive than VCRs and DVDs far outnumber videotapes in the majority of video rental places, making the old stalwart VCR an even less-attractive option.

I still have a ton of VHS tapes in my collection so the old VCR isn’t disappearing from my living room anytime soon, but it doesn’t get used anywhere near as much as it used to.

I got me some Star Wars DVDs.

A package arrived from Amazon.com today with the Star Wars DVD collection inside. We popped in the first disk to take a gander at while eating dinner and I must say that the movie has never looked better. Yeah I know all about the changes that’ve been made, but I don’t really care about that enough to let it overpower my love for the original trilogy. Full review later after we’ve made it through the set.

News on what’s in “LotR: The Return of the King Extended Edition.”

***Dave points us to an article on TheOneRing.net that details what to expect in the 50 minutes worth of footage that’ll be included in the upcoming The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King Extended Edition. It is labeled as being very spoiler heavy as there are some non-canonical surprises in the additional footage so don’t read it if you want to know ahead of time. Those of you looking for more reasons to be outraged will, of course, want to read it right away so you can get a good start on your ranting.

“Unscrewed” interviews guys behind “Red vs. Blue.”

Was watching TechTV’s Unscrewed last night and they had an interview with Geoff and Burnie, two of the guys behind the hilarious Red vs. Blue animations that I’ve been a fan of for awhile. Looking through my archives I realized I’ve never talked about Red vs. Blue so I thought I should correct that oversight.

Basically, RvB is what you get when you take the game Halo on the Xbox, the ability to voice chat over Xbox Live and a group of fans of the game who like to be silly and put them all together with a VCR. More than just random silliness, the RvB site tells the story of a group of soldiers titled The Blood Gulch Chronicles and they’ve already got a complete “season” of shows under their belt. All of them are free to download in several different video formats and if you get to be a big fan, like I have, you’ll be happy to learn you can buy a DVD of the first season that has over 2 hours of content for $20.

Being a fan of the video game isn’t necessary to enjoy the RvB saga, though it does enhance the experience, as it’s amazingly funny on its own rights. It’s also pretty impressive what these guys manage to pull off considering they’re using a video game as their film studio. Want a taste? Then go download the trailer and see for yourself. There’s some naughty language so if you’re sensitive to that sort of thing consider yourself warned. Of course, if you’re sensitive to that sort of thing then what the fuck are you doing here??

“Star Wars” trilogy to finally hit DVD this year.

Fans have been threatening gory suicide over it for years now and it looks like it’s finally going to happen. The original Star Wars trilogy of films will be released on DVD on September 21, 2004. Purists won’t be happy about the fact that this won’t be the original theatrical releases, but rather the “enhanced” versions so they’ll still have something to whine and beg LucasArts about for awhile, but most folks should be happy.

Star Wars: Episode IV | The Star Wars Trilogy on DVD

“We know how long fans have waited for this release and how much they have been looking forward to it, so everyone has been working overtime to make sure that the Star Wars Trilogy on DVD is an awesome experience,” said Jim Ward, Vice President of Marketing and Distribution for Lucasfilm Ltd. and the DVD collection’s Executive Producer.

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back and Episode VI: Return of the Jedi will be available in a four-disc set that includes a bonus disc filled with all-new special features—including the most comprehensive feature-length documentary ever produced about the Star Wars saga and never-before-seen footage from the making of all three films. Each of the three films in the Star Wars Trilogy has been digitally restored and re-mastered by THX for superior sound and picture quality.

“First and foremost, the DVDs will deliver the very best possible sound and picture and take advantage of everything the medium can offer. On top of that, we are creating added-value material that gets inside the creation of the Star Wars films in a fresh and fun way,” Ward said. “We want watching this DVD collection to be as memorable as seeing the movies for the first time.”

The films of the Star Wars Trilogy will be available exclusively as a collection and will feature Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround EX. All three films are closed-captioned and subtitled in English, French and Spanish in the U.S. Internationally, sound and subtitling specifications will vary by territory.

Start saving your pennies now.

Red Dwarf comes to DVD.

One of my all time favorite science fiction/situation comedies is finally coming to DVD. On November 4th of this year the world will be treated to the joy that is Red Dwarf. If you’ve never seen it then check with your local PBS station to see if it’s airing in your area. You can also check out some clips from the series at the BBC website.  Smoke me a kipper, I’ll be back for breakfast.