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Toshiba/NEC Bow HD-DVD Technology

7 Nov, 2003 By: Marshal M. Rosenthal

Toshiba and NEC came to the Essex House Hotel in New York last week to jointly announce Toshiba's H.264 encoding technology (now being discussed by the DVD Forum).

According to Hisashi Yamada, Toshiba Corporation's chief technology officer, H.264 can reduce the bit rate to nearly one-half or one-third that of the existing MPEG2 standard -- while providing seriously high quality through use of both single 15GB and 30GB dual-layer discs (the 30GB disc will allow for full- length movies plus all the bonus features consumers presently enjoy, as well as the addition of Internet connectivity and interactivity).

Bringing out a new “standard” can be daunting when you consider that DVDs are the most successful media in the history of home electronics, having reached almost 50 million U.S. households in a little more than 6 years. So to be successful, the new format must be able to integrate into the existing manufacturing process so it can quickly come up to speed, said Toshiba and NEC executives.

“Understanding of the need for standardization is increasing among companies participating in the technical coordination group,” said Yamada.

It was noted that, currently, DVD manufacturing equipment can be used to produce HD-DVD discs. Similar conformity exists on the hardware side that will play the discs; a simple optical pickup head as found in current DVD players will be used, with a no-cartridge design for PC drives to ensure easy installation and use.

Also on hand were Cinram Manufacturing Inc. (formerly WEA) and Memory-Tech Corporation. Representatives from both affirmed the viability of the format, with Memory-Tech executives noting that the new HD-DVD players will support the new features while maintaining backward compatibility with current DVDs. This will allow for transparent use by consumers, who will have a choice of formats to view: current DVD or HD-DVD, depending on the DVD software being played.

A demonstration of the technology was made by splitting a high-definition display so that a standard DVD video of a recent major motion picture appeared on one side while the corresponding HD-DVD video appeared on the other. The difference was easily discernable: The HD-DVD displayed a sharper, more detailed image that blew the standard DVD right out of the water.

The startup process for HD-DVD is expected to begin in 2005, with mass consumer use projected by 2007, executives at the event said.

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