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Blu-ray winning format war?

BluRayvsHDDVD.jpgThe fight between the high definition formats of Blu-ray and HD-DVD has taken two major turns this week, first up is the announcement from Warner Bros. that they are going exclusively Blu-ray.

The second is that one of the major adult industry studios is releasing the biggest budgeted adult film to date exclusively on Blu-ray, and whatever you may think of them, the adult industry has always been the leader of new formats and technology.

The first news comes from James through Filmstalker Readers (yeah!) who has directed us to the USA Today article about the Warner Bros. announcement.

“Time Warner's Warner Bros. studio Friday said it would exclusively release high-definition DVDs in Sony Corp's Blu-ray format, dealing a big blow to Toshiba Corp's rival HD DVD technology.

Warner Bros, Hollywood's biggest seller of DVDs, representing about 18 to 20% of sales in the United States, was one of the few studios that backed both formats.”

Barry Meyer, the Warner Bros. Chairman and Chief Executive, has hit the nail on his head with his comment about the ongoing battle and why the decision needs to be made as soon as possible. With DVD sales falling last year in the first significant decline in sales since the first release in 1997, the studios are beginning to get worried.

“The window of opportunity for high-definition DVD could be missed if format confusion continues to linger. We believe that exclusively distributing in Blu-ray will further the potential for mass market success and ultimately benefit retailers, producers, and most importantly, consumers”

The other piece of news is that Pirates, which I've written about before, the largest grossing and budgeted adult film of all time, is being released by Digital Playground on Blu-ray.

Digital Playground are one of the leading adult industry studios, and previously these studios were releasing films in high definition on the WMV-HD format, a format that allowed high definition to be encoded on standard DVD's and decoded before playback on PC's.

Back in March of 2006 I wrote about this and how the mainstream studios weren't releasing much on this format while the adult studios were, and making rather a large amount of money from them. Not only that but the adult studios were already filming in HD pretty much as standard, making sure their content was ready for transfer to whatever format would win out.

Now it looks as though they are moving from WMV-HD to Blu-ray, well at least with their flagship film Pirates.

According to IGN the disc comes with a behind the scenes look in high definition, an audio commentary with the stars, various casting and bloopers shorts, and no region coding – everything a mainstream DVD would come with.

Now if some of you can put aside the possible negative and distasteful thoughts you might be having, the adult industry has always led mainstream studios towards new formats, cinema, video, DVD, online, and although they've been slow in this move this could be the start of the change.

So we see one of the largest adult studios releasing their flagship film on Blu-ray and Warner Bros. choosing Blu-ray for their entire catalogue. It does now make one format far stronger in terms of content.

The question will be if the other studios follow, and if the rumoured HD-DVD drive in the next Xbox 360 does appear, however I suspect they may be thinking on releasing a Blu-ray attachable drive in the near future. I also suspect, although there's plenty of time to be proven wrong, that Blu-ray is inching closer to being the dominant format.



Wasn't sure whether to report this here or on the Filmstlalker Readers section, so I went for both!

There are now reports that New Line Pictures will also ditch HD-DVD in favour of Blu-ray exclusive releases. This was coming - given that New Line are a subsidiary of Time Warner.

I think your analysis is correct. And I say that as someone who's dual format but who much prefers region-free HD-DVD. What's missing from the Warners announcement is whether or not their Blu-Ray titles will be region locked the way pretty much ALL Fox and Disney titles in the USA are (the UK is much more open-minded but since our discs are later and inferior to US releases they have no reason to want to stop making them region free).

Warners actions have, in my view, been despiscable because of the timing of their announcement. An announcement that took their colleagues so much by surprise that the HD-DVD forum have cancelled their planned press briefing due to take place at CES tomorrow. This announcement was clearly planned some months ago, as evidenced by all the leaks before the holiday season but in a policy of misinformation Warners emphatically denied that the rumours were true, in what appears to be a cynical attempt to sell as much 'obsolete' hardware (and Warners discs as possible over the holiday season).

Rumours are already rife that the pay-off fee from Sony for Warners to go Blu-Ray exclusive was $500 million. I hope the Judas of the high def studios is happy with its pieces of silver. Interestingly Toshiba have already said that Warners are in breach of contract in making their announcement and the company's rushed out statement that they will be producing HD-DVDs until May 2008 seems to be an attempt to avoid being sued.

In the meantime it's the customers (as ever) who lose out. At the moment it's still a dual-format game for serious film lovers - at least until Universal go dual-format (which seems highly unlikely at least until 2009 at the earliest). At the moment if you're serious about high def and want the best available material you're stuck with having to buy an HD-DVD player for Universal and Paramount/Dreamworks, a UK Blu-Ray player for the other studios and a US Blu-Ray player for Fox and Disney. The customer gets totally screwed over and then the studios have the cheek to blame us for declining DVD sales and weak high def sales. Unbelievable!


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