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Finally Amazon has been listening and announced that they'll roll
out their DRM free MP3 online store internationally. Unfortunately,
the date is rather vague so we could end up waiting another 11 months.
It was too good to be true after all: First came the news that
labels weren't onboard after all, and now it appears the whole
sharing part of Qtrax
doesn't even work yet. I guess the "P2P?? Attack, burn kill"
attitude of the studios finally got the better of them.
At the annual gathering of the music industry in Cannes, the industry
goes on a rampage against ISPs, demanding filtering and cutting
off their own subscribers. The
latest to chime in is U2's manager who compares safe harbor
provisions (meaning ISPs cannot be held accountable for the data
they transport) to a "thieves charter" and blames tech
companies for creating "burglary kits". Working in the
tech industry I find that attitude astounding and I'm surprised
how anybody could fall for such a pile of crap. In a world globalized
world where those that cannot keep up and / or rest on their laurels
get chewed up and spit out, we have this industry that apparently
hasn't come to terms that there's only one way to go and that's
And I'm sure that the European Court of Justice ruling that ISPs
have the right to not hand out subscriber information to an
industry on the warpath will only fuel the fire.
On the other side of the pond, madness rages just as much, with
the industry trying to jack up statutory damages (that's the money
they are awarded regardless of any piracy actually taking place..
accidentally put a song on a network share and you can already be
held liable) to an
astounding $1.5 million per CD.
1.2.6 supports TrueHD and MPEG 1/2/3 audio and fixes some bugs.
contains a bunch of bugfixes and stability improvements, has an
updated Russian interface and skin engine.
1.2 can mux pretty much anything into a regular transport stream
and now even Blu-ray's M2TS.
You can't compete with free! At least that's what the music industry
is saying about P2P - but that doesn't stop them from launching
their own, ad-sponsored (but otherwise free) P2P network Qtrax.
Initially, the whole thing is supposed to be PC based, with the
possibility of downloading content to your MP3 player / mobile phone
coming at the end of next month and downloading to your iPod in
mid April. Burning content to CD should not be possible - so that
has me wondering.. just what kind of DRM will we be dealing with.
The service claims to have 25 million songs (thus easily beating
Amazon and Apple's online music stores) and has all major labels
and many independent ones on board. The website says that a beta
will be available in about 6 hours so I guess we'll see soon.
During the past few days, the forum appears to have had some temporary
glitches that would result in connection time-outs or database errors
to being displayed. This culminated in a complete downtime for over
an hour last night. Hopefully, those issues are now under control
and I'm sorry for the inconvenience.
2.18 adds the fps value to the MKV header and fixes a bunch
HD Decrypter 126.96.36.199 once again improves its handling of corrupted
discs and fixes a few other issues.
6.0 RC1 supports the EVR renderer, makes subtitle configuration
easier, has an improved communication and control API and contains
The copyright industry recently tried to sneak a copyright term
extension and mandatory ISP filtering into EU law - fortunately
miserably, for now. I'll make sure to report when it's once
again time to increase the pressure on your representatives in Brussels
to not succumb to the industry's flawed point of view. The IFPI
hasn't given up on the idea of mandatory filtering though - they've
just begun to push the idea. Hopefully, the ISP's own layers
smell the bacon before it's too late - imagine, if an ISP is filtering
all data on its network, then the ISP is no longer a dumb access
provider, but turns more into an entity that is responsible for
the content they are delivering (much like newspapers, TV and radio
are regulated) - so the next time somebody accesses any forbidden
material (say kiddie porn, bomb building sites, etc.), the ISP could
be held responsible. So instead of using your monthly Internet access
fee to build a better infrastructure, the money would have to be
thrown into the filtering hardware and the lawsuit defense pit.
One of the reasons the IFPI uses to peddle the idea of ISP filtering
sales - but as we know, those have been more than compensated
by increased sales in video games. I wonder if the IFPI will ever
start suing game producers for daring to offer consumers a more
compelling product ;)
If only we had more politicians with a spine to stand up to the
copyright cartels: Canada's privacy commissioner just recently sent
a public letter to the ministers in charge of Canada's Copyright
them to reconsider portions of the proposed changes (which include
DRM circumvention prevention and data retention so that the industry
can go after alleged infringers) as they would interfere with existing
privacy laws in Canada.
We all knew it - but now even the MPAA had to admit that
their piracy number are grossly inflated.
Will Yahoo follow Amazon in offering
a completely DRM free online music store? According to record
label execs, they're in discussions with the major labels to make
In high def news, the last two weeks saw a
massive move towards Blu-ray in software sales. Naturally, the
Blu camp totes Warner's intention to dump HD DVD, whereas the truth
often is a little more diverse: HD DVD's release slate was inexistent
last year, and it stinks this year as well - plus in the first week
since the announcement Amazon had half of the Blu-ray catalog available
in a BOGO offer (and on top of that, Fox titles that traditionally
retail for $27.90 bucks were discounted to $19.90 so you could get
two Fox titles for only 10 bucks - needless to say this encourages
people to buy). We also had some leaked
hardware sales numbers that show a massive reduction of HD DVD
players sold in the second week of January - and that leak actually
prompted NPD - who compiles these numbers - to come out with a statement
people not to draw the wrong conclusions and await the official
numbers for the entire month of January which are due in the 2nd
week of February. Either way though, HD DVD currently finds itself
in the ropes and it will be interesting to see if they can come
back swinging (the price cuts went into effect after the leaked
Meanwhile, Sony, while still heavily subsidizing Blu-ray pressing
since yields aren't anywhere near HD DVD or even DVD, is at least
making some headway in another area concerning Blu-ray: they've
come up with a new
blue laser which reduces costs and is significantly smaller,
making regular size notebook Blu-ray writers/readers a reality.
Of course, looking at prices of Blu-ray blanks, I have to wonder
who'd rather use disk media than a hard disk for storage.
And while we're still at the subject, despite having two formats,
it seems that high
definition players sales are in fact doing better than DVD player
sales at a comparable point in time. And according to DisplaySearch,
the main reason for this are price cuts due to the format war (so
much for two formats holding back the market, eh Warner). Of course,
the mandatory warning: only Sony's Playstation 3 (fully future proof)
and Panasonic's BD30 (no profile 2.0 ever) will give you access
to some of the features studios are currently developing.
Last but not least, I've previously reported on how a lawfirm tries
to use copyright law to prevent websites from publishing Cease and
Desist letters. And it appears they
even found a judge to agree with them. Somebody needs to take
a refresher course on the Constitution - First Amendment, what's
2.15 contains many improvements when dealing with VC-1 tracks
inside EVO files, allows direct muxing of raw VC-1 tracks to Matroska
files, allows removing pulldown flags from external raw VC-1 tracks
(and the same is done automatically when demuxing VC-1 tracks from
an EVO file), it uses the latest revision of the E-AC3 decoder and
contains some other minor changes and bugfixes as well.
If consumers have bought less CDs and DVDs in 2007 - here's one
game sales went up by 43% compared to 2006.
If you're in the market for a Blu-ray player - this comprehensive
list of available players and their features might come in handy.
I'd especially look for profile 2.0 and bitstreaming/decoding of
all lossless formats (especially DTS-MA which is Fox'es choice for
lossless audio). And speaking of Blu-ray, one of the format's many
disadvantages is the fact that it contains optional region coding.
In order not to buy a title that won't play on your player, this
site lists region code information for discs released in the
Region A (mainly North America) and Region B (mainly Europe)
HD Decrypter 188.8.131.52 supports yet another type of DVD structure
supports M2TS input (only if it contains AVC video though), can
convert TPR/REC files to transport streams, has an improved drop
useless frames option and fixes some bugs.
5.02 fixes some bugs.
Following Warner's announcement to abandon HD DVD there have been
more editorials than you'd care to know. It started out with painting
doom and gloom, then came Paramount's statement they wouldn't give
up, followed by Universal's
statement they'd stick with HD DVD and finally Toshiba has reacted:
They have slashed
prices on their players - now the list price for the entry level
model is just $149 and the list price for the more advanced model
just $200 - so below $100 suddenly seems within reach. Toshiba will
also be launching a major PR offensive and one of the focus point
will be that those not so expensive players are also great upconverting
players for your standard DVDs. I wonder how long it takes for the
Blu-ray camp to slash prices on their 1.0 players (which you really
shouldn't buy). Speaking of profiles, the BDA has come up with some
fancy marketing terms for the profiles: Bonus
View is profile 1.1 and BD Live is profile 2.0. But the kicker
is the admission by the Blu-ray camp that basically if you have
gone Blu in the past, you should've known what you got yourself
into (with a standalone player that is... even today the PS3 despite
its noise and the remote situation remains the best solution - unless
you are looking at PC playback where an upgrade to BD Live is also
only a question of when, and not if). And finally, it seems to dawn
that Blu-ray was indeed rushed out to compete with HD DVD.
Admits the doom stories also came some questions about the future
- if HD DVD falters, can Blu-ray become the dominant player or will
download options become more prevalent in the future? One serious
contender in the diskless area is Apple: They have just announced
high def rentals for $3.99 to $4.99 (per 24h), have all major studios
on board, and they already have the standalone player to go with
it: Apple TV 2.0.
By the way, even though Sony has yet to call itself the winner
of the format war yet again, they're already looking forward to
the next format war and have come
up with their own wideband short-range wireless standard.
And speaking of Sony, they have officially thrown in the towel
as far as audio DRM is concerned - Amazon just announced that they'll
Sony's full catalog in their online music store (which only
hosts DRM free MP3s). Too bad we'll have to go through the entire
sad story yet again as far as video is concerned. Any takers on
when DRM on video will be dealt the death blow (the NY Times hosts
on whether copy protection is necessary this week which might
be worth checking out)? And will
the industry now suddenly come around to the idea of a "music
tax" on your Internet connection bill?
As if we needed more examples that you can in fact still sell music
if it's available for free online, Radiohead's latest album - which
has been available in a "pay as much as you like" form
online - still manages
to sell quite well now that it's out on CD. Of course, labels
have a different take - they claim the band attracts a lot of people
who cannot be bothered to download music.
Then some good news for people living in Canada: unlike Switzerland,
their proposed tax
on digital music players have been struck down.
Last but not least, TorrentFreak hosts an interesting editorial
by the author of "The Pirate's Dilemma: How Youth Culture Is
Reinventing Capitalism" - who basically makes the point
that piracy comes in whenever established systems aren't effective
enough at getting people what they want and that in the end piracy
has often enabled business to prosper.
Following the Gowers report on intellectual property law in the
UK, the government is now asking for your input on various potential
changes, including the right to make copies for personal use. You
can count on big content to respond very forcefully against giving
you any rights whatsoever - but it's up to you to make sure that
your side of the story is heard. So grab
a copy of the proposals, read it carefully, and then follow the
instructions on how to respond.
Meanwhile, back at CES, the Blu boys had their big press conference
and I cannot resist to play with the numbers a little: Afaik, we're
talking about 4 million PS3's in the US and Toshiba's own press
conference yielded about parity in terms of standalones (they say
they made 49.3% of all high def players made - and there's a small
percentage of others which should include both HD DVD and Blu-ray
makers), and with 1 million HD DVD standalones, parity should mean
1 million Blu-ray standalones (I feel the number should be lower
but let's let it be until better numbers arrive). Now the
Blu-ray camp expects to sell another 3 million PS3's and 2 million
standalones. So that's 5 million total, which is about the same
number as they had in 2007 - is anybody else wondering why that
number shouldn't go up? I mean - there are some important PS3 exclusive
games coming up, and starting June 1st, Warner won't release any
HD DVDs anymore (it appears more and more that they're
only sticking around to fulfill some contractual obligations).
BD-Live was also a big topic - and once again I cannot resist but
point out how the Blu camp constantly downplayed HD DVD's interactivity
features up until the point where they finally caught up. If it's
them doing it, nobody should care - if it's us, it's all the rage.
That's marketing in a nutshell for you.. Be careful though, a large
percentage of those 2 million standalone players won't be able to
And in the first mention of this tidbit ever (anyone else wondering
why it didn't come out with the $150 payoff back when Paramount/Dreamworks
dumped Blu-ray), the Financial Times reports that Paramount might
have an escape clause built into their HD DVD contract. I've seen
this in two FT stories within 24h, and the
latter one seems to imply that Paramount is about to switch back
to Blu-ray. Paramount promptly
denied that rumor. Of course, Warner also denied it would change
from its dual format strategy for a long time. But until you see
Transformers in a blue case - Paramount remains in the HD DVD camp.
And I wonder why people won't sit back, enjoy a beer, and watch
the show evolve rather than engage in the rumor mill that is already
Besides all the HD commotion, CES also had an industry panel discussion
on DRM. Ars has
And now I'm going to sit back and watch the show myself ;)
Yesterday was Blu day at CES as the Blu-ray camp came out with
a bunch of new players. Since Profile 1.1 is mandatory since last
November, all players support the better profile - yet few support
the full spec (2.0). Sharp seems to mix up profiles 1.1 and 2.0
in their press release so I presume that the BD-HP50U
is only a 1.1 player (although the press release then goes on about
tapping into additional information which could be a hint at 2.0
- I guess we have to wait and see) capable of sending out DTS HD
(no mention of the lossless Master Audio variety) and TrueHD audio
formats via HDMI (unlike HD DVD, decoding of TrueHD is not mandatory
on Blu-ray) and the player is supposed to go from disc loading to
viewing in less than 10 seconds. However, the whole thing retails
Then we have Samsung's
BD-P1500 is definitely limited to profile 1.1 despite having
an Ethernet port, but it can output all audio formats via HDMI (once
again no internal decoding for the lossless formats) and costs only
$399. Samsung also continues with dual format players - the BD-UP5500
is limited to Blu-ray profile 1.1 while doing the full HD DVD thing,
plus it should handle all DTS audio formats internally (and output
TrueHD via HDMI - which might not be what you want if you have a
bunch of HD DVDs - they usually use TrueHD if they have a lossless
track). The player will retail for $599, making it the cheapest
dual format player yet.
DMP-BD50 is a full fledged profile 2.0 player and it also has
internal TrueHD and DTS-HD MA decoders - however, Panasonic has
not announced a price yet (seeing that this is a fully featured
Blu-ray player, I'd expect Panasonic to charge accordingly - but
if you're in the market for a complete player, this is probably
the one you want).
Sony was obviously cheering over Warner's decision, and only had
a Blu-ray reader for PCs in store: The BDU-X10S
should retail for under $200 and is SATA based. There's no word
on the tech specs yet. Sony also noted 1.2 million PS3's sold during
the Holiday season, bringing their yearly total to 3.9 million (versus
million HD DVD players). They're also showing two upcoming profile
2.0 players, but no word on specs or prices yet.
Philips also announced their BDP7200
for $349. There's no word on audio support yet.
I can't help but note though that there's not much in terms of
new manufacturers - so far there's Marantz (at $2000 not exactly
the player most people are looking for) and Funai and that seems
to be it. If this thing was truly over, wouldn't you see everybody
rushing out to cash in?
Meanwhile, Toshiba has announced their first
HD DVD recorder for PCs. However, at 1x for HD DVD-R, apparently
no HD DVD-RW and with only 8x DVD±R burning (and 2.4x for
DVD±RW), the price better be pretty darned low. If we look
at Blu-ray burners, they might not be up to the latest DVD/CD burners,
but at least they get up to 12x DVD burning (and up to 4x Blu-ray
burning although this has to be taken with a grain of salt considering
the automatic data verification that slows you down). Toshiba will
also continue selling HD DVD equipped notebooks.
And now for some music news - years after being shut down, Napster
returns to its roots (at least codec wise): they've announced to
start selling songs and albums in the ever popular MP3 format and
without any DRM. The 5 million title catalog should be available
starting in the second quarter.
Deviating from an established standard is always a bad thing -
Hollywood had to learn this the hard way with their special DVD
player to play screener DVDs. Apparently, Academy members weren't
thrilled to have to use a separate player so the
manufacturer has dumped the special models.
Could this be the winning argument in the appeals process of the
first ever P2P lawsuit to go to trial? Apparently, the industry
expert made false statements while in the witness chair on a
crucial subject of whether ripping your own CDs is legal or not.
Even though the Blu-ray camp's press conference is only taking
place later today, an interesting player has already been announced:
NB500 is a sub $300 Blu-ray Profile 1.1 player that should be
released in the second quarter. Meanwhile, Disney has reiterated
that we'll see their first BD-Live (AKA Profile 2.0) titles later
this year - so hopefully those Profile 2.0 players will be announced
(and affordable) later today or you'd be stuck either being unable
to make full use of certain upcoming movies, or having to resort
to a noisy gaming console or PCs as playback devices.
Last but not least, Toshiba apparently won't let HD DVD die without
a fight: at their CES press conference they mentioned that the format
has died many times over (according to statements by various members
of the Blu-ray camp) and despite
all that, they're still here.
Want to catch up on Lost in HD? ABC now offers all
episodes of the popular drama in high definition until the end of
the month (at least if you live in the US).
Will fans pay for music if they don't have to? Rapper Saul Williams'
latest album was released online for free (with an option to pay
for it) and the results
are in now.
It was kind of obvious, but New Line follows Warner in their move
to Blu-ray. Sorry, there won't be any LOTR in HD DVD folks. On the
upside, at least we'll be spared any unfounded blabber about bandwidth
limitations and how the movie could've looked better if encoded
solely for Blu-ray. Actually, I haven't been at the movies a lot
recently, but I went again 2 days ago and it got me thinking - I
suppose all the codec comparisons fundamentally changed the way
I look at movies. Nowadays, I try to find imperfections in the picture
and the noise on screen really bugs me a lot. There were a few scenes
in 'The Golden Compass' that featured fog - and I couldn't help
but think it appeared to be washed out - like the results you'd
get compressing a movie using aggressive filtering or a codec that
tends to smooth out details (Microsoft codecs come to mind..). Then
again, there's no compression in what you see at the movies - so
the scene is as original as it gets - and that's an important point
to remember: no matter the format of the movie you're watching,
in the end the source has a large influence on the end result. If
fog appears to be smoothed out in the source - it doesn't matter
how much bitrate you throw at it and which codec you use - the end
result can only be as good as the original, or worse. Sure, you
can get creative with filtering (sharpening filters anyone?), use
edge enhancements, etc., but that doesn't make it any better - it
just deviates further from the original. So don't expect the Matrix
Trilogy to look any better on Blu-ray than on HD DVD despite what
reviewers that favor Blu-ray will try to tell you. And while experience
indicates that some AVC should beat VC-1 - in the end the only way
anybody can reasonably claim that codec choice would matter at 30
or 50 GB is if we had the uncompressed source to compare - it doesn't
really matter whether we think something should look different -
what matters is how accurate a compressed movie represents the original.
Following Warner's shift of allegiance, rumors of massive payoffs
were not far behind. In fact, Warner is rumored to have received
as much as $500 Million. And that is not all - the HD DVD camp had
a big press conference planned for later today - apparently in anticipation
to announce that not only would Warner give up Blu-ray, but that
Fox would follow as well. But then Fox, for an undisclosed amount
of money, reiterated their undying love for Blu-ray and Warner decided
that going HD DVD would only result in a stalemate and instead went
for what they think would end the format war. So, instead of holding
a celebratory press conference, the whole thing has been postponed
to an undetermined later date - and meanwhile Toshiba
put out a press release that is reminiscent of what the BDA
said when Paramount and Dreamworks jumped ship last year, noting
that they are surprised with the decision and hinting that Warner
might be in violation of certain contracts that bind them to HD
DVD. Either way, it appears that this time around the HD DVD camp
While Blu-ray backers undoubtedly have dipped into their champagne
reserves since the announcement - I'd be cautious to call the war
over. Pressure on HD DVD exclusive studios has certainly increased
considerably - but Paramount and Dreamworks appear to be bound for
at least 18 months, and prior to the two studios defecting, HD DVD
only had one exclusive studio which kept reiterating that it was
in for the long haul. I'd be surprised if Universal suddenly caved
- and unless you can pick up the Bourne Trilogy in Blu-ray, this
isn't over yet. And you have to wonder what happens if Sony's subsidies
- which lowers the $4 replication cost of a BD-50 disc down to the
$1.xx level of a dual layer HD DVD disc - run out - will we continue
seeing new titles for $19.99 or will there be a price hike to Fox
($39.99 list price) levels followed by whatever decline the free
market warrants over time (assuming that a single format will sway
consumers to eventually upgrade). And even if the BDA could announce
that Universal had joined up at their CES event tomorrow (highly
unlikely but never say never), the more fundamental issues of Blu-ray
all remain - former Warner Home Video Boss Warner Liebfarb made
some interesting statements back in the day - many of which
have since been backed up. What good will winning the fight be when
in the end the winner cannot take on DVD? I'd consider it very unfortunate
if the 'cheaper' format were beaten by a more technically advanced
but more expensive format that then fails to get people onboard
in the move to high definition packaged media - no matter how many
Playstation3 consoles Sony will sell, a DVD replacement will need
standalones and that's a category where the Blu-ray camp has failed
big time so far.
2.14 uses the latest revision of the libavcodec EAC3 decoder,
support 24bit output from the DTS encoder and fixes problems in
the TrueHD and DTS decoder.
Is Sony caving on DRM a lot quicker than we thought? Businessweek
reports that Sony
BMG will make at least part of its catalog available without DRM
in the first quarter.
Meanwhile, the music industry's second favorite business partner
they love to hate - iTunes - is once again facing
its second antitrust lawsuit on the subject of the DRM used in the
In what should be a good thing for consumers, EU
regulators are looking at harmonizing the online market in the EU
- so instead of stores currently tied to specific territories, customers
could finally shop for online music and films at any EU store. Needless
to say that the industry will object violently - the free market
is only good if its about being able to sell your product in yet
another place - but not if customers get to buy from stores in another
country. Likewise, regulators are looking at harmonizing DRM - and
that's of course where they go wrong: they only good DRM is no DRM.
In the face of the music industry finally turning around to DRM
free content, there can only be one approach that makes sense to
EU consumers: a complete ban on DRM. It is both the easiest, and
most cost effective way to do away with any incompatibilities and
burdensome restrictions once and for all. And barring DRM, the industry
has one less tool to prevent the success of online business (the
other major factors being quality and price - especially the movie
industry still has a lot to learn in both areas, and the music industry
could still do better in the pricing area, as well).
Wireless transmission of high definition content is one step closer
to reality with the ratification
of the WirelessHD 1.0 specification. However, since the MPAA
had a hand in the development of the specification, you can take
DRM for granted - and you have your biggest stumbling block right
there. The MPAA, along with other content industry groups, have
a long history of trying to prevent new technology, rather than
to embrace the possibilities to extend their business.
And since DRM is the subject of the day, here's yet another horror
story of how
DRM can screw you over even if you pay all your dues to the content
And then for some high def news - only hours after today's big
HD story (we'll get to that in a sec), I found this
editorial that offers a slightly different perspective at the high
def war - instead of focusing on software or hardware makers
or consumers, it focuses on brick and mortar retailers. The author
suggests that unless the beforementioned three categories can settle
on something soon, retailers might have more influence on the whole
war than you'd think (if we presume that once high def becomes more
prevalent, the large majority of buyers will pick up their discs
in traditional retail stores and the current online affinity of
the audience (early adopters are more prone to shop online) will
And finally, the one that almost turned my Friday evening beer
sour - and I reserve the right to bill the culprit for one perfectly
fine Hefeweizen. Anyway, after a lot of rumors, Warner - the only
remaining major Hollywood studio not to have chosen a side in the
high definition war - has
chosen a side after all: Blu-ray. They'll keep releasing new
HD DVD movies until the end of May 2008, but that's it. A quick
look at the HD
DVD statistics reveals that Warner has been responsible for
more than one third of all HD DVD movies (and interestingly more
Blu-ray movies than Sony - slightly more than every 4th Blu-ray
movie is from Warner), so that statistic along should be enough
to tell you the significance of this announcement. With the HD DVD
promotion group's CES event coming up in short order, it will be
interesting to see the reaction (I for one expect at least some
juicy details about how much Warner cost). Needless to say that
Blu-ray fans, that were spewing poison when Dreamworks and Paramount
dumped Blu-ray are now in a very cheery mood (and who cares if money
exchanged hands, right?) - while I remain convinced that either
move was not beneficial for consumers.
Suppose this is the beginning of the end for HD DVD. The Blu-ray
camp has reaffirmed many times that they don't see player prices
dropping any further - and if the pre
CES announcements of plus 1000$ players are a sign of things
to come - I wouldn't expect affordable players Blu-ray players for
every room in your house anytime soon (considering the percentage
of HD media versus DVD, absent a war, I doubt we'd have seen a sub
$100 player until any format breaks a double digit percentage in
terms of market share in the entire movie market). And absent the
competition boasting titles with all kind of fancy features, where's
the motivation to bring affordable profile 2.0 players and improve
in the quite abysmal performance of BD-J? I don't recall the source
but in one reaction to the news I read something about HD DVD being
at its best now whereas Blu-ray still had places to go - that's
quite true, but not in the way the BDA would like to have you believe
- if it weren't for the HD DVD competition bringing 30GB titles
with advanced video codecs, the percentage of MPEG-2 encoded BD-25
titles would not have shrunk so fast (and BD-50 titles encoded using
AVC wouldn't have taken off the way they had), and as I said.. faster
loading times and 2.0 players (especially cheap ones that don't
make any noise - unless you're a gamer or can't get your kids out
of the living room I don't see the PS3 as a viable market leading
Blu-ray player in the long run)? Don't expect any wonders. Here's
hoping that if HD DVD fades away, regionfree cheap and fast profile
2.0 players will become ubiquitous before 201x and that BD+ will
be summarily broken. If not, we're in for an extremely rough ride
(oh yeah and I almost forgot about Fox's outrageous prices - don't
expect those BOGO deals that have driven Blu-ray stats to stick
around forever - they're a sideeffect of the format war). High def
has a long way to go to unsubsidized $14.99 titles currently on
sale at Amazon (BD-50 didn't just suddenly get cheaper to produce
- and those BD-J guys certainly won't come in as cheap as the HD-I
enabled web designers).
Last but not a tidbit I found peculiar: the recent
NYTimes Story about people riding out the format war on the sidelines
contains a statement by the president of Adams Media Research, hinting
that Blu-ray owners buy twice as many discs as their HD DVD counterparts.
I've always thought it was the other way round (seeing the number
of PS3's sold and the free discs to go with them that turns a lot
of gamers into Blu-ray owners) - and I recall Sony hinting at there
being a large number of PS3 owners using their console as a high
definition player as well. Assuming Sony and I are mistaken, the
62 - 38 split of media sold would effectively mean that the number
of people actively buying Blu-ray is smaller than the number actively
buying HD DVD - and thus quite in opposition about Warner's "Consumers
have clearly chosen Blu-ray". Then again, as I said I believe
that the advantage in disc sales stems from a large installed base
HD Decrypter 184.108.40.206 has an improved PathPlayer that can find
multiple BOVs in a single cell, contains updated language files
and contains a few bugfixes.
Microsoft's recently released VC-1 Encoder SDK contains an improved
VC-1 encoder that can output elementary streams, contains performance
optimizations for modern CPUs as well as perceptual improvements.
The SDK contains a sample encoder that Nic enhanced to also support
AviSynth input: AVS2ASF.
PowerDVD is the first software Blu-ray player to support
Blu-ray's Profile 1.1. And so it begins - if you want profile
1.1. discs, you will have to upgrade now and lose the ability to
play AACS-less BD+ titles or play HD DVD or Blu-ray discs from your
While Christmas means good business for many stores, the RIAA will
soon start crying about piracy yet again - since music
sales have gone down 20% during the Christmas season.
Japan might soon join the rank of nations with overboarding copyright
suggestions made in recent reports will be implemented.
Looking back at 2007 yet again, there are the official statistics
on popularity of movies and TV shows, and then there are download
statistics. And those are increasingly
used by the industry to gauge how content is doing.
And since I didn't want to write that much just to have it shown
for a single day on the frontpage, here is a copy of the New Year's
And with that said, let's turn our attention to 2008: Will Warner's
recent move to unprotected MP3s encourage Sony, the last remaining
major, to follow suit in 2008, thus once and for all ridding us
of the annoyance called DRM? Will we finally be able to resurrect
old MP3 players and put them to good use and kiss PlayFair, PlayForSure
and all the other crap good-bye? And will Hollywood learn anything
from the music industry and finally become serious in online movie
purchases by realizing that online content should both cost less
than the physical medium, and still be more convenient (so allow
people to burn the content to a DVD, as well as being able to play
them on any of their computers regardless of OS, and via their home
entertainment network, regardless of the manufacturer of said equipment)?
Will high definition content become more than a tiny blimp on the
radar or will Sony's unwillingness to settle for a format others
have developed keep customers on the sidelines (with $799 for a
dual format player, we're a long way off from a price most consumers
would feel comfortable with, and PC drives are a far cry from the
price of a pure DVD burner as well)? And fully understanding that
I will catch flack for saying this - here's my suggestion to everybody
considering high def media in 2008: Do NOT buy Blu-ray. Forget about
the 20GB smokescreen (if you think size is all that matters head
over to my forums and discuss with the experts that more space doesn't
necessarily translate into better quality (or read a codec comparison
of mine) and how quality depends on a lot more than raw bitrate
and how codecs max out at a certain bitrate) and focus on your rights:
especially in this early phase, being able to get content from other
countries can come in quite handy - and even more when studios decide
to align them into one of two camps. There are plenty of so-called
exclusive titles that are available in the other format if you just
know where to look - and unlike Blu-ray, HD DVD is guaranteed to
be region free (and unlike we had it back with DVDs, regionfree
Blu-ray standalone players are nowhere to be found - @update: the
first players have since been sighted but for now the selection
is limited and the price is beyond reasonable). And besides keeping
region codes, Blu-ray enters a whole new era of copy protection:
Unless SlySoft gives us another reason to drink champagne tonight,
the rumored BD+ crack has yet to surface - so, at this point it
is uncertain whether you'll ever be able to back up those recent
Fox titles (and there's no stopping Sony, Disney and Warner adding
BD+ to their titles as well). Even SlySoft - the only ones who can
get the last 3 months worth of high definition content decrypted,
strongly encourage you to go for HD DVD instead - if anyone has
an idea about breaking copy protection it should be them.
While an older PowerDVD release and some standalone players can
play an AACS less BD+ titles, creating such a backup will set you
back more than buying the original disc, plus both Cyberlink (PowerDVD)
and Sony (Playstation3) seem to have already plugged the BD+ workaround
and it would be unreasonable not to expect that future firmware
upgrades wouldn't take care of that for other manufacturers - plus
there is no way to turn any BD+ titles into any other formats (the
Return of the Silver Surfer Blu-ray rip comes from the German Blu-ray
disc which has no BD+). And just to top this off, to make use of
the Blu-ray Profile 1.1 titles that will be released in 2008, you
will need the latest PowerDVD which no longer plays HD content from
your harddisk and no longer plays BD+ content altogether.
Buying into any format that could reliably prevent you from ever
making a backup copy goes against everything this site has ever
stood for - so if you care at all for what you can do with movies
you pay good money for, you should stay away from Blu-ray just as
any music buyer should stay away from DRM infected online music.
And just so that it is said again: Blu-ray champion Sony has single-handedly
killed RipIt4Me, is behind ArCCoS, has infected millions of PCs
with a rootkit and has been peddling proprietary formats over standards
for decades (MiniDisc, ATRAC, MemoryStick and UMD are just a few
examples leading up to Blu-ray).
Last month's news can be found here.