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At Digital Hollywood, DVD Forum Says It’s ‘Resetting’

By Chris Tribbey | Posted: 29 Oct 2008

SANTA MONICA, Calif. — HD DVD is not dead. It’s found a home in China and has a new name: China Blue High-Def (CBHD).

That’s blue with an ‘e.’

The format war loser’s specs have been changed a bit to accommodate China’s own set of audio and video codecs, but little else has changed: The DVD Forum’s optical disc will likely have to fight Blu-ray Disc again for high-def dominance starting next year. And Toshiba is carrying the banner against Sony again.

“It’s really morphed into a Chinese-led effort,” said Forum director Mark Waring, with Sanyo. “The licensing has been started and the wheels are certainly rolling. HD DVD, we’ve always argued, from a physical spec choice, was better. Those logical factors don’t always play out.”

Waring lamented the death of HD DVD during the Forum’s session at Digital Hollywood Oct. 29, partly because of the effect it’s had on the Forum’s industry-perceived importance: Last year while the format war was still raging, this session drew a nice crowd.

This time the speakers outnumbered the audience at one point.

“I had one person say ‘DVD Forum? You guys are still around?’” Waring joked at a table that had a PlayStation 3 a few feet away.

Waring, Kilroy Hughes of Microsoft, and Julia Cutler of Sonic Solutions took the anemic attendance in stride, however, sharing news about 3-D efforts, digital copies on DVD, and manufacturing-on-demand efforts.

“We’re obviously resetting,” Waring said. “We still have 120 active companies. Ninety six percent of media sales are DVD. It’s still the main delivery format. There are 1.5 billion devices [that play DVD]. It’s still appealing to studios and consumers.”

Next up …

The DVD Forum is working toward finding an industry standard for digital copies of movies, which content owners beyond the studios have started to include on DVDs. Each studio generally handles digital copies in a different way, including different PC and/or Mac versions of the film on the discs.

“It’s currently kind of a mess,” Waring said. “It’s good because it discourages people from stealing, but they have to put multiple copies on there. The concept should be ‘Buy a movie, you get to watch it wherever you want.’”

For 3-D, the Forum is working to create optional specifications for the transfer of information to either a display or a third-party device.

In the download-to-burn and manufacture-on-demand arena, the Forum is halfway there: You can already order a newly burned DVD via Amazon.com, and do-it-yourself computer drives from Dell and Pioneer are available, with CinemaNow as their online partner. Retail kiosks — where consumers can order ahead of time or while they shop — and fully independent standalone at-home manufacturing on demand DVD burners are coming soon.

“We think it’s a particularly interesting model,” Cutler said of the PC drives. “It’s the flexibility of having the digital file and the DVD … the inverse of [digital copies].”

The Forum is still perfecting its DVD-R for download, working to make sure discs burned on the fly will play in almost every DVD player. For the important Content Scramble System that’s to be used on newly recorded DVDs, the Forum is awaiting answers to some technical questions it posed to the DVD Copy Control Association.

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