CONFUSED by the high- definition DVD disc format battle? Be prepared to become even more confused. Last week, another high- definition format gained some ground on the HD DVD and Blu- ray technologies. Not much ground, mind you, but it’s a start.
New Medium Enterprises, developer of the HD VMD ( versatile multi- layer disc) format, has signed a distribution deal with Icon Film Distribution, the local arm of Mel Gibson and Bruce Davey’s company.
What is the difference between HD VMD and HD DVD or Blu- ray?
For a start the colour of the laser ( red and blue is different. But far more important, we are promised much cheaper players because only small modifications are required to present models to get them up to speed with VMD. So VMD players are set to be about five times cheaper than HD players.
But the real key appears to be that VMD can hold more data because it can use more layers of data on a disc than the others. It offers 20GB storage capacity a disc by combining four layers of 5GB each or three hours of 1080p HD content a side.
And there is a promise of multi- layered discs being able to carry 100GB of storage against present HD DVD and Blu- ray capabilities of 15GB to 25GB.
That’s all fine, but how does this new standard compete against the burgeoning behemoths or, more precisely, the many film studios, distributors, hardware producers and technology partners who have aligned themselves to Blu- ray ( mostly) or HD DVD?
It attacks two of the world’s fastest growing markets, China and India, and signs up a deal to distribute Bollywood films.
NME also has some quite strategic partnerships brewing, including one with the French distributor of The Lord of the Rings trilogy and this deal with Icon, distributor of Apocalypto , The Butterfly Effect and its sequel, Gosford Park, Miss Potter and others.
NME has also signed foreign- based film suppliers in Germany, Poland and Scandinavia, among other places.
It is expected to roll out the discs and players here within the next six months, with new players coming in at less then $ 300.
Pricing will be the key and give the format its true competitive advantage, at least in the short to medium term.
Yet one doubts the format can overwhelm the incumbents, even though HD DVD and Blu- ray haven’t launched with the kind of oomph we may have expected.
It only confuses the process and makes you wonder how desperately we need to commit to new technologies.
Which leads to another piece of DVD news that questions the longevity of DVDs and presumably the life of this column.
Warner Bros Home Entertainment Group has announced it will test release the blockbuster movie 300 via video on demand and DVD simultaneously in Belgium, Scandinavia and other European markets later this year.
Still, you’ll need snappy broadband to enjoy VOD. Perhaps the DVD format is safe in this country for some time yet.
* * * DISC WATCH: Constructing Australia twodisc edition ( Roadshow, $ 39.95, G). Many terrific documentaries have been released in recent weeks and this amalgam of the three local docos screened on the ABC is as good as any. Includes the program about the history of the Sydney Harbour Bridge featuring The Australian ’ s Peter Lalor.
bodeym@ theaustralian. com. au