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Old 10-20-2006, 08:50 PM   #1
Chris Beveridge Chris Beveridge is offline
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Default VB Article on BD-50, General news items

Studios are rolling out the first high-capacity 50GB Blu-ray Discs but with muted bells and whistles that mostly don’t yet exploit the format’s interactive potential.

Some of the 50GB titles coming to market have exactly the same extras as their standard DVD counterparts, with extras in standard-definition. Others have the same features as standard DVD but with the extras in high-def. On some 50GB discs, the space is required just for the movie, like in the case of unusually long films such as 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment’s nearly 3-hour Kingdom of Heaven. (See table)

Meanwhile, some titles that are being released with Sun Microsystems’ Java interactive technology are on the more common 25GB Blu-ray Discs, rather than the heftier 50GB versions.

Nevertheless, studio executives say it is important to show the industry can produce 50GB discs and are positioning them and the Java-enhanced releases as just a taste of what is to come.

“I think right now, we’re just finding an audience” for Blu-ray, said Sven Davison, Fox VP of DVD production. “Putting out Java and 50GB will definitely help scratch the surface of what we can do. At Fox, we have a huge palate for us to play with, but we are just getting on the playground.”

Some of the upcoming discs do contain features unique from the films’ previous releases, most notably new games included on Fox’s Java-authored Nov. 14 releases Speed and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, both 25GB discs.

“It’s not going to be like PlayStation,” Davison said of the Fox games. “But it’s a cut above [any of the games] you’ve seen on standard-definition.”

With the Speed game, viewers can choose between trying to activate bombs as star Dennis Hopper or trying to defuse them as Keanu Reeves.

League is a first-person shooter game, and players similarly have a choice of characters and weapons.

“The extra Java features are a great incentive for a fan of a movie to reinvest, but it won’t woo over new customers as much as the quality of the movie itself,” said Virgin buyer Chris Anstey, who recently previewed Speed and League.

Lionsgate’s 50GB The Descent, out Dec. 26, is the first announced Blu-ray title to deliver picture-in-picture bonus feature viewing while the film is playing. The horror flick also includes the unique featurette “Caving.”

All 50GB discs are being manufactured at one Sony Corp. plant in Japan, but very shortly, Sony’s Terra Haute, Ind., facility will offer six lines of production targeted toward 50GB titles, said Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s executive VP of advanced technologies Don Eklund.

Additionally, Eklund noted Sony is testing two advanced compression technologies—AVC (aka MPEG 4) and VC-1. They can use disc space more efficiently than the more common MPEG 2, which has been used on all of Sony’s Blu-ray titles so far. Other studios use VC-1, including Warner Home Video, and AVC, including Buena Vista Home Entertainment.

“I think the major benefit to consumers at this moment [with Blu-ray] is that pictures and sound quality is vastly improved,” Eklund said. “In terms of wowing them with new types of added value, we have a long time to really explore that.”

He expects Java technology, which offers maximum interactivity possibilities for Blu-ray, will become “dominant” on discs by late next year.

Overall, retailers seem willing to be patient while sitting at the tip of the Blu-ray iceberg.

“Click is currently our No. 1 seller on Blu-ray, where we sold out of our initial order and have just one left right now of our second order,” editorial director Shannon Nutt said. “It offered bonus features in high-definition, and it was part of the first [Blu-ray] batch to have any bonus features at all. That step is in the right direction, but there needs to be more interactivity.”

Video Buyers Group president Ted Engen believes it’s wise to gradually ease consumers into Blu-ray.
Studios “might be able to put 100 things in this thing, but if the consumer knows how to do 10, [they] just wasted 90% of that disc,” Engen said. “Further down the line, they’ll give us more things that will really change the way we watch movies.”

What you get with 50GBs Title (Studio) Street Date Features
Click (Sony) Oct. 10 Same as DVD, but in high-def
The Searchers (Warner) Oct. 31 Same as DVD
Unforgiven (Warner) Oct. 31 Same as DVD
Black Hawk Down (Sony) Nov. 14 Custom “Blu-Wizard” menu
Kingdom of Heaven (Fox) Nov. 14 Same as DVD
From Hell (Fox) Dec. 5 Same as DVD
Talladega Nights (Sony) Dec. 12 Same as DVD, but in high-def
The Descent (Lionsgate) Dec. 26 High-def featurette “Caving,” Java-enhanced menu
LOTS Of interesting nuggets in here, including public admission of looking more seriously into AVC/VC-1. The more I read and the more new releases come out, tied with getting the Panny player and I'm beyond excited about Q4.
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Old 10-20-2006, 10:28 PM   #2
phloyd phloyd is offline
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Dec 2003

Yeah, I am getting very excited too. As we see more titles with HD extras and PiP and Java the Amirs of this world will have little to criticise anymore.

And that in itself will be precious
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Old 10-20-2006, 10:30 PM   #3
Jazar Jazar is offline
Active Member
Jun 2006

Sounds great. The only thing is I wish BD-J would be more widely used before Q4 2007.
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