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Update: Bay blames Microsoft on HD war

MichaelBay.jpgMichael Bay already let slip he preferred the Blu-ray format when he heard that his Transformers film was heading to HD-DVD, but he retracted that after seeing the final version from the studio, after all it was their choice as they are an HD-DVD studio.

Now he's reiterating his personal liking for Blu-ray and revealing the politics behind the scenes that are trying to destroy one of the formats, and for all the wrong reasons.

Remember the VHS - Betamax battle? VHS won that in the home market but Betamax remained in television and video studios because it was the higher quality format, however VHS won because of the studios backing it and the money behind it, not because it was the better option for the home market.

So is the same thing happening now? Well Michael Bay thinks so, and he's revealed on his own site that behind the fight is a move by Microsoft to kill off the Blu-ray format, a format he still believes is the superior format, and then HD-DVD, all in favour of digital downloads.

Here's what he had to say over on his Shoot for the Edit forums through IGN, and remember these are his own beliefs, not those of his studio, etc.

"What you don't understand is corporate politics. Microsoft wants both formats to fail so they can be heroes and make the world move to digital downloads. That is the dirty secret no one is talking about. That is why Microsoft is handing out $100 million dollar checks to studios just embrace the HD DVD and not the leading, and superior Blu Ray. They want confusion in the market until they perfect the digital downloads. Time will tell and you will see the truth."

I knew that there were hushed payments being made to studios to turn to HD-DVD, but these figures are pretty huge and I had no idea they were coming directly from Microsoft. Could it be that they want to kill off HD-DVD as well and concentrate solely on digital downloads?

Well it certainly would make sense as Microsoft are trying to go that way, but there's no way that digital downloads can deliver the content and quality of Blu-ray, or HD-DVD for that matter, just yet.

Actually saying just yet I can't see the average home user downloading 50GB of data and being able to play uncompressed PCM, Tru-HD or anything other than stereo for a very long time. Sure there are systems that can give you a home cinema system for your PC but how many people have them, and how many people have the bandwidth to download a whole HD DVD?

The most interesting part of that is not that Microsoft are trying to kill the better format, we already knew that Blu-ray was the better format, but that Michael Bay prefers Blu-ray. Could we see his films come to Blu-ray in the future? Not while they belong with an HD-DVD studio.


Update:
Over at the Shoot for the Edit forums the fan boy anger is rising fast, much like the typical XBox/PS battles where subjectivity is gone, the passion is rising for each format and argument. Meanwhile Michael Bay himself has returned with a few words.

"Does anyone out here want to challenge what I feel suits my films better in terms of look. I see every frame of my films over a hundred times before it is ever released. I know the lighting conditions I shot it and the result on the DI. I know the range. I know what the final product should look like - Blu Ray suits my films better. But that said - I don't a care about this format war because I have both formats in my screening room - I'm just filling you in on what people deep in the film industry feel ultimately is going on -

Transformers looks great even in DVD!!"

After that there's a heated debate of pages between HD-DVD and Blu-ray fans where the merits of the technicalities are entered into, and it's a rather interesting debate if you have the time for reading and the interest.





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Comments

We already knew Blu-ray was the better format? Are we judging on audio/video quality, or do other issues qualify? From what I've seen, storage capacity seems to be the only way in which Blu-ray exceeds HD-DVD, but then again, I don't keep up that much with the two formats. They can both die a slow, painful death as far as I'm concerned. Wake me up when Wal-mart and Apple offer DRM-free downloads over fios or 3rd gen cable connections.

Michael Bay is an idiot and his outpourings not only show he hasn't got a clue but that he's like one of the format fan boys with his ridiculous conspiracy theories. You'd think the man would have realised after he had to correct his first embarrassing outburst, but no, here he is again with his Microsoft conspiracy nonsense.

As hap has already pointed out, Blu-Ray is NOT the superior format with its sole advantage being that it has more capacity - an advantage that has yet to be realised in any release that's been made. What's really farcical is that Blu-Ray NEEDS extra capacity on the mere handful of titles that currently give "Picture in picture" because to support picture in picture it has to put two copies of the entire movie on the disk instead of having two separate streams (a large one for the movie, a small one for the picture-in-picture stream) - at least until the Blu-Ray camp get their act together and start releasing players that aren't beta players and actually support some of the functionality HD-DVD has had since day 1 of launch and which they're only now starting to put the specs together.

So "extra capacity" aside, what is Blu-Ray's other superiority? ALL reviews of titles released on both formats indicate the picture quality is identical, so it's not that. Blu-Ray titles from Fox and Sony are (in the US at least) all region locked and unplayable on British players, whereas any HD-DVD disc purchased anywhere in the world will play on any currently available HD-DVD player. How is region locking an advantage? I think HD-DVD wins the "superior format" argument there doesn't it?

Blu-Ray discs cost more to produce and require an elaborate manufacturing process that is already holding up titles (Bleak house just got delayed, apparently because of insufficient capacity concerns), where HD-DVD duplication costs are cheaper.

Ah it must be web interactivity? Oh wait, that's HD-DVD only at the moment too.

So what exactly was that "superiority" again? I seem to be missing something here!

Hap:
I don't see storage capacity as a problem as yet because I've not seen a film that really needs all that storage space as yet, and is it really a problem? Multiple discs per box have never been a problem before.

As I said in the article though, are you really going to download an HD film with uncompressed HD audio to watch at home? Maybe with a commentary or two? That's a huge file, plus unless you're on the leading edge you won't have the PC setup to cope, I'm sure the figures are that more people have home cinema systems than PC cinema systems.

Ian:
There are a bunch of Blu-ray titles that are region free, and not crappy films either. Is that a big problem being region locked on a percentage of the other titles? I don't think so because the prices are a lot more comparable between regions than they used to be with DVD.

Games and Blu-ray's that I've considered getting for Xmas are much closer priced in the US and UK than they were with DVD. Sure there's some cash to be saved and I don't agree with region locking, but it's not as bad as it was when I used to order DVD's from DVD Box Office in Canadian dollars!

I haven't seen beta-players in the shops, I've seen PC drives, players and PS3's all available in the shops that do the job just fine. No more "beta" than HD-DVD's.

I'm guessing there you mean that they are the first generation of players, which I think goes for both HD-DVD and Blu-ray.

"All reviews of titles released on both formats"? All? I think that's a bold claim, I've seen reviews that say the Blu-ray version is better for picture quality.

Apart from the Picture in Picture issue (which I have just heard of and don't see that I'd ever use anyway, I've had TV's in the past with that feature and it's never been used) what are the factual advantages that pitch HD-DVD over Blu-ray?

That "percentage" of Blu-Ray films that are region-encoded is significantly higher than anybody would like, and explains why I have so few Blu-Ray titles in my collection. Anything from Fox or Disney in the States seems to be region encoded and yet those are the two film companies that are "Blu-Ray exclusive" and most often touted as being the reason Blu-Ray will win the "war". More importantly the confusion is a nightmare - the research you have to do just to find out if a US title is playable on a UK player is ridiculous, not helped by the fact that pre-release information is usually not available and the information printed on the packaging is often completely incorrect, which is no solace when you've paid good money for a "Region A, B, C" title only to find you can't watch it! With HD-DVD you have no such problems: you just purchase any title from any country in the world (I've got great titles that are exclusive to Germany and Japan, not just the USA) play it and it works.

The typical UK Blu-Ray price is the same as that for HD-DVD: £25 in the stores, £18 online if you shop around. An imported HD-DVD from the States is typically £13 from Movietyme including delivery and all customs duties. A £5 difference per title is NOT what I'd call "comparable", as you state! Even ignoring pricing differences, assuming you're rich enough to not worry about a £5 per title difference, the main issue is the fact that the USA gets titles (and often with better extra's) months before the equivalent UK version comes out. I've even been able to buy high def versions of films on HD-DVD before their UK theatrical release and with HD-DVD I can just order them. With Blu-Ray, if my experience is typical, it seems to be that I can pretty much guarantee that if it's a title I really want to see (especially if it's a hi-def TV show like "Lost" or "Prison Break") it's not playable on my UK PS3.

Even the head of one of the film studios releasing titles on the format has described the current Blu-Ray players as "Beta". They won't play Profile 1.1 or Profile 1.2 features which add what has been basic and in HD-DVD from the day the very first player went on sale over a year ago. All HD-DVD players play all available features of HD-DVD discs. THAT'S what I meant about current Blu-Ray players effectively being "beta" players - early models rushed out while the Blu-Ray consortium still argue about the feature list and release it as a series of constantly-changing specs.

I'd be interested to see ANY reviews where it's claimed the Blu-Ray picture quality is better than the HD-DVD one. I've seen several that have said the opposite but since those were based on the first Blu-Ray disc releases where they were using inferior codecs I didn't think it was really fair to bring it up, as things have thankfully moved on since then!

Putting picture quality aside there's a reason why eg "300" won the "Best high def disc extra's" award last night but only on HD-DVD although the title is also available on Blu-Ray. It's the same reason Warners, who desperately want to release titles on both formats day-and-date, still don't have a date for the Blu-Ray version of "The Complete Matrix" - Blu-Ray doesn't yet have any players that support the specs needed for those special features and Warners are having to wait until they do before they can put the discs out (and even then of course they'll only play on the players that implement the latest ever-changing specs).

I think I've more than made it clear that HD-DVD has several advantages over Blu-Ray (if I were desperate I could add in the 'combo' feature that allows some discs to be played on ordinary DVD players as well as HD-DVD players, but I personally don't see this as anything I want or need, although others disagree quite vehemently with me, especially if they have several DVD players dotted around the house as well as a single high def player).

I have both formats but my HD-DVD to Blu-Ray disc ratio is about 5:1. Can you say the same, because I have to say your posts on the subject always seem to favour Blu-Ray without any valid reasons for doing so! Your arguments might carry more weight if you had an HD-DVD player and discs and could then talk directly as to why Blu-Ray is better than HD-DVD.

Now if we're talking "long term winner" then I'd agree that I think Blu-Ray is going to win. Their marketing is MUCH better than HD-DVD (especially when you add in the lies Fox and Disney put out about their intended release schedules), and they have some big names (Spielberg and Bay) apparently promoting them where, in Europe at least, Toshiba and Microsoft are doing very little to promote the format's advantages. But we can all hypothesise about what MIGHT happen in the future. For purchasers today it's what's available TODAY that's important, not some "might change", "will be available" scenarios that Blu-Ray fan boys like the technical editor at The Register (who really should know better than to spread FUD) are having to resort to to try and justify their preferred format's so-called superiority over its rival (apparently HD-DVD "Might" introduce region encoding that will affect any future hardware they introduce one day!)

I count 170 region free titles listed over at Movietyme. Here are a list of latest releases:

"Harry Potter and the Order of The Phoenix, Cars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Beowulf & Grendel, The Polar Express, The Aviator, Dragon Ball Z, Pixar Collection, A Clockwork Orange, License To Wed, Nature's Journey, AC/DC: Live At Donington, Hostel: Director's Cut, Masters Of Horror: Season 1 Vol's 1 & 2 both region free, Hollow Man: Dir Cut, The Reaping"

Compared to the region coded list of recent releases, this list is a much more interesting and has bigger titles.

Price? I just did a check. Die Hard on Blu-ray:
Movietyme (Region A - US) £17.99, on DVD.co.uk (Region B - UK), £14.95.

Some DVD's are cheaper, some are the same and some are a little bit more expensive. Even £5 isn't that much and you don't have to be "rich" to spend an extra £5 on a DVD, unless you're buying hundreds or thousands.

Worth noting is that delivery from the US takes 5-10 days once shipped, I'd pay a little more to get it quicker, as you say, some people feel speed of delivery is an issue.

On the waiting time for titles, well we do that already for films, and I don't think that the majority of home viewers are hugely concerned these days on the waiting times, times that are coming down for titles and we're even seeing more of UK first releases.

I have no idea what you're talking about on the beta and profile of players, from my point of view and the two players I've seen (PS3 is one of them) none of the Blu-ray's I've played have been missing features.

Something people seem to forget when they bring up the 300 winning the Hi-Def awards statement is that the film 300 is stunning regardless of format, that compared to the other releases of the year would already be a winner Hi-Def or not.

I still haven't seen the reasons why you think HD-DVD is better than Blu-ray, and I don't mean this in an antagonistic internet "hide behind typed comments" way, I really would want to be convinced if my beliefs are wrong.

To summarise you've said that the HD-DVD new features work on their players but the Blu-ray new features, which aren't out on any Blu-ray DVD's, don't play on their players.

I've been stunned by Blu-ray on my home cinema system.

As for owning both, I can afford an extra few pounds for the UK region discs for Blu-ray DVD's, but I cannot afford buying a new Xbox to give me HDMI and the extra cost of an add-on HD-DVD drive, or buying a new player. That's much more than £5!

I have however done extensive research and home cinema shop room demonstrations to chose HD over Blu-ray for my home setup - after all I took six months to select my TV (as I did with my previous) and months to choose a new Hi-Def amp, it's not a casual decision.

Oh, and like you, these are personal beliefs and decisions, neither of us have the definitive answer, we just have our answer.

Waves white flag. If you can't see that region-free discs, picture-in-picture extra's and £5 a title difference on titles are advantages I'm clearly wasting my time! (so you chose ONE example of a Blu-Ray title that's the same price. I have over 200 HD-DVD titles and 40 Blu-Ray titles, and can assure you that this is the exception rather than the norm!)

To be honest, if you're talking picture quality of Blu-Ray vs HD-DVD there is no difference on the titles released on both formats - the studios themselves have stated this (and frankly I think you make yourself look stupid saying "after extensive research" to claim one format is better than another - there is plenty of evidence from those who work with high-def technologies day-in/day-out stating the contrary).

I'd agree that the PS/3 solution is certainly a better player option if you don't already have an XBox 360 (the XBox 360 is too noisy compared to the PS3) and that if you can only afford one player and Fox and Disney are your preferred studios over Universal and Paramount then you should biy Blu-Ray.

But to keep reading silly nonsense that Blu-Ray is superior when quite clearly it isn't, no matter how much you may try and claim that enforced region coding on many titles, lack of web interactivity, picture-in-picture extra;s and the inability to take advantage of titles months ahead of UK release at £5/title difference is somehow NOT a disadvantage is frankly staggering, and FUD plain and simple.

For the record I get most of my American releases on or before the official release date (eg Battlestar Galactica on HD-DVD arrived this morning) - I wish the same could be said of UK discs where "out of stock" on the day of release despite pre-ordering titles tends to be more the norm. This is my biggest complaint about Blu-Ray. We've got screwed time and time again with inferior discs to the Americans and NEITHER Of the new high-def formats support region free standard DVD. I already have THREE players for my films (HD-DVD, Blu-Ray and a Region 1 DVD player), the last thing I need to do is get yet another player just so I can play Blu-Ray titles from the States.

"region-free discs, picture-in-picture extra's and £5 a title difference"

We discussed this already, there are plenty of region free discs on Blu-ray, picture in picture is like that TV feature fad that disappeared, and it's not £5 a title as the first example I picked shows - I was surprised it was exactly the same price, I didn't go searching.

Oh and you can't blame a release delay on titles at the foot of blu-ray, that happens in many other product areas, cinema included.

I don't make myself look stupid by saying that after my extensive research I chose Blu-ray because it has a better picture, how could I? These are my eyes, my brain, and my Sony KDL-40X2000 TV. That's my opinion and it's not stupid for me to say that.

Selectively picking facts and half facts to build an argument is the kind of thing I hate about these I'm right you're wrong "debates".

I've no need for PIP, never did on my telly, don't see the need on DVD. I can get a large amount of great region free titles and there are more coming.

you did extensive research?? and you concluded that blu ray is better? where did you do this research in a Sony store?
both formats are easy capable of holding data to produce a full 1080p picture (some old recordings are not so high quality in ether format)and top of the line sound on any system.
where you will get your advantage is the menu system that has transparency effects and pull down picture in picture, and no, the PIP is a whole new concept to the system used by TV you can be watch the film at the same time as a green screen or blue screen behind the scenes view so you can see both in real time also the Ethernet downloads are a good feature as well, although my blu ray player does have a Ethernet input that at the moment does nothing on any title i have.
the only reason i have both players is because some Sony films i like i wanted in HD.
the future in new payers is in dual format players, and at not much more than ether player costs as a single format player its worth it, one player will win and who knows who it will be my hope is that blu ray win but get there menu system sorted out and get some Internet extras on the go, but who knows if this will ever happen?
a disk with higher capability would be nice it could mean a huge collection of trilogy movies on one disk, i would love lord of the rings from beginning to end on one disk.
but in my opinion at the moment HD-DVD is a huge leap ahead and has benefits that don't include sound or picture.
HD-DVD for me at least till Sony sort out their format properly i do hope what we are seeing now is not the final product or will most likely be stuck with a inferior system :(

Q1: Not just at a Sony store, and does it matter if it was? Other stores, internet, other reviews, etc.

PIP: Showing a video playing on the main screen with a small picture showing another video playing is Picture in Picture, that's the same thing as PIP on televisions. Only difference would be that in this case the sources are HD.

Actually I'm beginning to think neither format will win as there has been talk of a number of new formats in development and trials already, and I think the war might just put the consumer off buying either. Perhaps we'll see a newer format appear while these two continue to battle it out and take over the marketplace behind their backs!

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