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HD Camps Court Video Enthusiasts

18 Jul, 2007 By: Stephanie Prange

(L-R): The Digital Bits' Bill Hunt, the Home Theater Forum's Ron Epstein, TVShowsonDVD.com's Gord Lacey and Home Media Magazine editor-in-chief Stephanie Prange at the Blu-ray party.

LAS VEGAS — The Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD camps are continuing to plead their cases at Home Media Expo 2007.

The volleys began even before the show with Toshiba offering attendees an HD DVD player for $99 with three titles.

Both groups are courting the Home Theater Forum audience of home video enthusiasts with presentations and a party.

Steve Nickerson, SVP at Warner Home Video, July 17 gave a presentation to the Home Theater Forum, promising dazzling extras for future HD DVD and Blu-ray titles.

Also July 17, Blu-ray backers Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Lionsgate, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment sponsored a soiree in honor of the 10th anniversary of enthusiast Web sites The Digital Bits and Home Theater Forum. Industry veteran Scott Hettrick introduced the new studio-sponsored site Hollywood in Hi-Def (www.hollywoodinhidef.com), for which he will provide editorial support.

During his presentation earlier in the day, Warner's Nickerson demonstrated an HD disc of the upcoming direct-to-video horror film Return to House on Haunted Hill, due just before Halloween. Both the HD DVD and Blu-ray versions will include “navigational cinema.” Through branching, viewers can choose their own storyline from 96 possible permutations.

“One of the things we're charged with is creating a product different from what has gone in theaters,” Nickerson said.

He said Warner decided to launch the new concept with a DTV title because of the “creative control” the home entertainment arm has over such products. He also credited the involvement of producer Joel Silver, who appeared in a video presentation to introduce the new feature.

“You really can become almost a filmmaker,” Silver said in the video, adding that viewers can decide if a character lives or dies.

Nickerson also demonstrated the Web connectivity on the HD DVD discs of Blood Diamond, released July 3, and the upcoming 300, due July 31.

“Connectivity will distinguish the high-definition product,” he noted.

These are the first discs in which Warner is differentiating the offerings on the Blu-ray and HD DVD versions. Blu-ray is not capable of such extras yet, he said.

He demonstrated the “Map of Conflict” Web interface that viewers can access through the Blood Diamond HD DVD, letting them learn the history behind the film. He showed polling capabilities that help “develop a community” around the title.

On 300, he demonstrated an online strategy game and the ability to buy cell phone ring tones and wallpaper for $1.99 billed to your carrier.

“This is the first title where we will allow you to purchase things,” he noted.

He also demonstrated the HD DVD disc's picture-in-picture feature, which allows viewers to watch 300 with and without CGI effects simultaneously with commentary from the director.

An audience member asked Nickerson what was holding up the release of Total HD, which has Blu-ray on one side and HD DVD on the other. He said it was a shelf-space issue in the fourth quarter, pushing the launch until next year.

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