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Lieberfarb: Blu-ray Disc ‘Vaporware'

8 Jun, 2004 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Perplexed by the secretive application codes and alleged 50-gigabyte capacity, among other claims, Warren Lieberfarb, former president of Warner Home Video and DVD pioneer, Tuesday openly challenged industry proponents of the nascent Blu-ray Disc, the next-generation, high-definition DVD format, during a session at the Home Entertainment Summit: DVD Lucky 7.

“If you don't have 50GB to use, you can't use it,” said Lieberfarb, who characterized the format as hyped “vaporware” and challenged Blu-ray supporters to manufacture a 50GB dual-layer disc.

Video Store Magazine presented the third annual event at the Wyndham Bel-Age Hotel in West Hollywood, Calif.

Lieberfarb, who is a supporter of rival HD-DVD format as the industry standard for the next-generation DVD, said a variety of issues that include rising broadband use in homes, competition from cable companies, peer-to-peer networks and limited global piracy have put the onus on hardware manufacturers to adapt a new DVD format that has improved security, realistic capacity and is cost-effective to manufacture.

“Thirty GB will satisfy the appetite of most creative [talent] and movies,” said Lieberfarb, a consultant to Toshiba, a primary backer of HD-DVD.

Dominick Dalla Verde, senior director of pre-production at Cinram, a Toronto-based DVD replication company, said his company has produced 1 million HD-DVD discs, including five playable discs that were unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January.

He said standard DVD replication lines can be switched to produce HD-DVD discs in “five minutes,” with cycle times needed to transfer content to a 30GB disc in less than four seconds.

Dalla Verde said the lack of published Blu-ray ROM specifications and the replication retooling costs needed to adapt the new format make it difficult to ascertain the format's viability.

Richard Doherty, a director at Panasonic Hollywood Laboratory, countered that a 50GB Blu-ray disc would be available by July 14, and added the dual-layer disc's capacity would be 67 percent greater than an HD-DVD disc.

“It is just a better value,” said Doherty, adding that the format's capacity will allow up to five hours of video content.

Maureen Weber, general manager at Hewlett Packard, said the company considered HD-DVD “an archaic interim solution” as the future of DVD, and together with Dell preferred Blu-ray as a “10-year solution.”

“We will create the economies of scale [to implement a Blu-ray launch],” Weber said. “We have the products and slots that can round out this convergence message.”

Benjamin Feingold, president of Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment, said Blu-ray's extra capacity is critical to the future success of the home entertainment business and would allow the studios to “recoup [a film's] theater costs.”

Feingold, who earlier this year said Columbia would release all home video product in the Blu-ray format by the end of 2005, said failure to adopt the format would seriously undercut content creators' ability to sell extended features on movies and video games.

“None of us foresaw [the potential of] TV on DVD,” Feingold said. “We were [too] busy looking at our film libraries.”

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