Next-Gen DVD Features have Little to do with Capacity

The other day I was talking to a friend about HD DVD (and Blu-ray) and why they offered a better experience than standard DVD (and, in particular, why HD was better than BD 🙂 ). Obviously the sound and picture quality are better, but he specifically asked what other features made the new formats compelling. As you might expect, I mentioned the great interactivity features like seamless menus, cool games, internet connectivity, and so forth as features that make old-school DVD look pre-historic.

His response?

"well, i can certainly agree with that. how does the storage help with that though? isn't that a function of the processing power of the player?"

Congratulations, we have a winner!

Whilst all the audio-visual content on a disc eats up a lot of capacity (feature film, audio tracks, commentaries, deleted scenes, alternate endings, documentaries, etc.), the interactivity features like games or internet connectivity rely on the software "platform" made available to the content authors and, in turn, on the processing power of the hardware. Interactivity has virtually nothing to do with disc capacity, yet this type of misinformation continues to be reported in the press on an almost daily basis.

Now -- hypothetically speaking -- if one believed one's format had more storage capacity than one's competition, one might be inclined to aggressively market that feature. But -- hypothetically speaking -- if one's format comes late to the party with less capacity than one's competition, one's claims linking features to storage capacity might come back to haunt one.

Hypothetically speaking, of course.

But any rational individual can see that this argument doesn't even make sense: In order to download information from the internet, you need more capacity on your (read-only) movie disc?

No; what you need to download information from the internet is a network connection and (preferably) somewhere to store that data so you don't have to download it next time. Neither of these things are delivered on a shiny disc, and neither of them are guaranteed to be in your Blu-ray player. Only HD DVD ensures that every player you buy can connect to the internet and permanently store the downloaded data on the device.

Sure, you definitely need somewhere on the disc to store the application code and the graphics and sounds that make up the advanced interactivity, but compared to the size of a 1920 x 1080 movie and lossless surround-sound, they're positively miniscule. Proof positive is that you can actually make fully-featured HD DVD titles on standard recordable DVDs today. That's right -- you could download our Interactivity Jumpstart Kit, author some cool menus and features with XML and script, and burn it on a red-laser DVD using your existing DVD burner. All in only 9Gb of space, and all with existing technology.

You don't need massive disc capacity to do advanced interactivity; you need a standard that guarantees a rich feature set in all players.

Comments (11)

  1. Jim Ley says:

    If you’re saying the player MUST be able to connect to the internet and MUST have local storage, I’ll be heading for the one that doesn’t I’m afraid.  DVD User Interfaces are bad enough, without having them even more random with internet elements.

    Report back when I watch a movie?  Interesting watches Sponge-Bob Square Pants every day at 3am…  I’d rather not.

    DVD boxes are currently <$40 dispobable items, connecting to the internet is not going to be something to make people buy newer ones. Regular DVD is about to hammered by internet delivery, and the people with HD TV’s are those with the 500 channel cable or satelite systems who use little in the way of DVDs anyway.

    For me, cost will be defining the factor, and if one mandates a few gig of flash memory or a hard-drive and a wifi connection etc. then that one is going to be the more expensive one, and will lose out.  It will also be the more complicated one, seamless turn it on and it works wifi isn’t available today – half the time you connect to your neighbours.

  2. ptorr says:

    Jim, you are absolutely *NOT* required to hook it up to the internet. You can use your player without any internet connectivity at all (which is how I am enjoying HD at home right now 🙂 ).

    But every player must have the ABILITY to connect to the network IF THE USER CHOOSES TO DO SO.

    Funnily enough, the BD players are the more expensive ones… 😉

  3. Dean Harding says:

    If you want worrying internet connectivity, take a look at Nintendo’s Wii (what a stupid name).


    "Wii can communicate with the Internet even when the power is turned off. This WiiConnect24 service delivers a new surprise or game update, even if users do not play with Wii. Users can connect wirelessly using IEEE 802.11b/g"

    I wonder what will happen if the bad guys ever figure out how to deliver a "surprise" to every Wii in the world – even the ones that are turned off!?

    I can see how internet connectivity can be useful. But thankfully at least with HD-DVD, it can be turned off (and "off" actually MEANS "off")

  4. Jim Ley says:

    That ability comes at a cost, I also don’t back the ability of UI designers to manage the “connect to my wireless” in a consumer device, I see so many people who are using their neighbours wireless, because their laptops connect to just what’s there.

    Even SSID’s I think are a big problem, let alone if you have you start entering wep or WPA SK keys or something.

    I know you say the BD drives are more expensive now, but right now is irrelevant, the HD penetration isn’t high enough to make it a mass consumer device yet.  Of course it may mean that devices just have an ethernet port, that’s cheap – but it will also mean the vast majority won’t be using such features.

    Hardware vendors will also have to be dealing with the software bugs from the consumer device, “Hello Mr Junior wal-mart salesman, my box doesn’t work anymore?”, “Let me just return that to toshiba sir”  Or are you expecting the minimum wage walmart guy to fix things?

  5. I’m still waiting for mass-market availability (i.e., CircuitCity or Best Buy) of stand-alone DVD players with WMV (HighMAT/Video) playback–announced something like three years ago.  Such a device would supposedly give us HD-content (compressed with WMV9) on a standard red-laser disk.

    With all the current emphasis on blue-laser tecnhnology (be it HD-DVD or Blue-Ray), I don’t expect such players to ever be widely available.  In fact the site now redirects to a generic “Windows Media” page with no mention of HighMAT.

  6. ptorr says:

    I think those players are available in Europe (they do a lot of WMV HD titles over there).

  7. wmerydith says:

    I’d be curious to hear why you think (I assume) iHD is better than BD-J.  I’m interested in developing/authoring content in both frameworks, but curious as to what limitations each has compared to the other.

  8. ptorr says:

    Well, I haven’t personally seen any BD-J specs, so I can’t comment on that specifically. iHD was designed to be usable by mere mortals (not Java programmers) and is based on a timeline concept similar to Flash.

    iHD also has the guaranteed features that I mention above, which means you can rely on them being in all players.

  9. Bill says:

    >iHD was designed to be usable by mere mortals (not Java programmers) and is based on a timeline concept similar to Flash.

    Although, frankly, looking at all the JavaScript code in your tutorial, it really doesn’t look much different from BD-J code, nor something that an average creative-type non-programmer would deal with.

    >iHD also has the guaranteed features that I mention above, which means you can rely on them being in all players.

    Yes, but you can’t rely on them being hooked up.  Given that BD-Live (Profile 2, with required broadband support) will be mandatory next year, and the PS3 will be network capable, I’m certain there will be far more network-connected BD players than HD-DVD players by early next year.

  10. ptorr says:

    iHD programming is still required, but it will be more familiar to web developers than BD-J.

    We’ll see about the PS 3 😉

  11. Mac hine says:

    <i>"That ability comes at a cost, I also don’t back the ability of UI designers to manage the "connect to my wireless" in a consumer device,"</i>

    Well its going to be a lot easier for HD-DVD as the developers can concentrate on making the interface not wrestingling with JAVA. Nothing says performance like Java

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