HD DVD (not HD-DVD, there’s no hyphen) stands for High Definition Digital Versatile Disc. It is one of two high definition digital video formats (Blu-ray is the other) poised to replace DVD as the primary media used by consumers for home movie viewing. The format was primarily developed by Toshiba, and lists
the DVD Forum (the international association of hardware manufacturers, software firms, content providers who oversee the DVD format) as its industry supporter. Paramount, Universal, Warner Brothers, HBO and New Line Home Entertainment are its key movie studio supporters. HP, Intel and Microsoft are its information technology supporters.
HD DVD Player Pricing
HD DVD players range in price from just under $200 for the Xbox 360 add-on drive to $999 M.S.R.P. for the top of the line Toshiba HD-XA2. If you don’t own or plan to own an Xbox 360, you can purchase the Toshiba HD-D1 HD DVD player for as low as $325.
HD DVD shares the same disk structure as DVD, in that it is 12 cm in diameter, 1.2 mm thick, and has two 0.6 mm substrates. It is fully backward compatible with the existing DVD format. So, if you already have a large DVD collection, you can use them in your HD DVD player. Your old DVDs will look better too, since HD DVD players will digitally manipulate the content and up-convert it to HDTV quality.
Compared to DVD, HD DVD delivers significantly superior picture and sound quality. The difference in quality is about the same stunning difference as the move from VHS to DVD. For sound quality, the HD DVD format builds on the foundation of the DVD format, which mandated that all discs be encoded with Linear PCM (2-ch), Digital Dolby surround, and MPEG Audio (Europe). HD HVD adds, Dolby Digital Plus, DTS surround and Dolby TrueHD (Dolby Laboratories’ lossless sound technology) as mandatory audio tracks. DTS HD can optionally be encoded on HD DVD discs.
The original DVD format was capable of delivering 720 x 480 (vertical and horizontal respectively) lines of resolution. HD DVD is capable of 1920 x 1080 lines of resolution. This is possible because the type of laser being used (to read and write to the disc) allows the disc to store denser information. The original DVD format used a red laser which has a 650 nanometer wavelength. HD DVD players use a blue laser (as does competing Blu-ray players), with a 405 nanometer wavelength. The short wavelength allows the laser to focus with greater precision, so that it can read information that has been stored on those denser discs. The increased precision of the laser allows for the storage of 15 GB and 30 GB of information on single and dual layer HD DVD’s respectively, compared to the 4.7 GB and 8.5 GB on DVD discs.
To provide the additional detail and quality of HDTV, a great deal of information must be stored and transmitted. The increased capacity of HD DVD discs along with continued advancements in information compression technology has made this new high definition video format possible and affordable. HD DVD players utilize the MPEG-4 AVC (H.264) and Microsoft’s VC-1 compression technology, as well as the original MPEG-2 compression used by the original DVD standard. As a result a single layer HD DVD disc can hold about 4 hours of high definition video. So there is lots of room for even the longest feature film, with lots of room left over for bonus material (out-takes, deleted scenes, multiple endings, directors notes, etc). The double layer discs can hold (no surprise here) over 8 hours of high definition video.
Interactive content is plentiful on HD DVD discs and the depth and breadth of the content has reached new levels. Navigation of the menu system is greatly improved, allowing you to navigate deep into the menu system without ever removing the movie from the screen. Things like scene selection (chapter selection) now have a visual timeline, removing the guess work out of how far you have to skip back to view what you missed. There is picture in a picture (PIP) so you can get commentary on a scene as you watch the main movie, or watch a different camera angle in the PIP. The familiar internet browser technique of bookmarking has made its way into the interactive content of HD DVD; you can bookmark your favorite scene(s), to find them more easily in the future. You can also upload your bookmarks onto a server on the Internet (courtesy of the built in Ethernet port on all stand alone players) and share them with your friends. Your friends can download your bookmarks, pop the same movie in their HD DVD player and go right to the scene you bookmarked. There are lots of other interactive goodies as part of this format.