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Future for Some Films Not in HD

4 Mar, 2007 By: Stephanie Prange

There's been a nagging question in the back of my mind for some time about the much-vaunted high-def future. I've written before about the new HD discs having no hope of matching the success of DVD. The reasons:

1. DVD was a sellthrough product, an easy advantage over rental VHS cassettes, which had a higher price. HD discs will likely remain more pricey than DVDs.

2. DVD had a shelf-space advantage over VHS. HD discs may hold more, but likely won't match the leap in space savings utility of DVD over VHS.

3. With regard to extras, DVD had them and VHS didn't. HD discs will have extras, but again, they can't match the leap forward from VHS to DVD in that realm.

The question that has been in the back of my mind is the fact that some older films — particularly those that weren't filmed in high quality — won't take advantage of everything that high-definition playback has to offer. If a fuzzy negative is all that is left of a classic film, it will likely find its best representation on DVD. HD won't offer much more than emphasizing the film-quality shortcomings. A film's fuzziness often masked a poor special-effects budget. HD discs will show the film warts and all.

For many films, especially independent productions on tiny budgets, DVD is the best format, not HD disc.

Another alternative for such films is packing a bunch on one HD disc in the lower DVD resolution. The studios already have begun offering several classics on one DVD, in a seeming nod to the ever-declining value of the format. But, as a storage medium, HD discs outshine DVD and can be used to package, say, a bunch of John Wayne films on one disc rather than on several DVDs.

In the end, HD discs are merely a better storage medium than DVD. That storage can be used in a few ways. One is to upgrade the quality of the video and sound. Another is to offer more-vibrant extras. And yet another is to offer numerous movies on a single disc, saving shelf space. It's up to the content owners how the future of the HD disc develops.

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