region encoding for HD-DVD

It seems that the new HD-DVD format will have region-encoding much like the present DVD standard. Since the competing Blu-ray standard will also have region encoding, it seems that we consumers will never be totally free of this annoyance technology, which fundamentally serves a single purpose: limit choice and distort the free market. Of course, the unintended consequence will be more piracy, not less, as well as driving more and more users (like myself) into the arms of BitTorrent for our video viewing.

One interesting thing to note however is that Blu-ray will combine the Americas and Asia into a single region. The impact of this upon US anime fans will be quite significant, as we will be able to import the latest discs from Japan and watch them on either the Playstation 3 or the new Blu-ray players (which are going to be expensive, it must be noted).

For those interested in more details about the limitations of the new DVD formats, here’s something worth knowing more about – the Image Constraint Token. In a nutshell: users without an HDMI-compliant TV will have a forced-downgrade of video quality.

4 thoughts on “region encoding for HD-DVD”

  1. At this point, I’m not sure if HD-DVD or Blu-ray are going to catch on much beyond the bleeding edge. Sure they’re bigger and can fit higher quality video (or more data), but the difference isn’t as striking as the difference between VHS and DVD, and plus, most of us have spent a lot of time building up our DVD library and won’t want to replace it just yet. Other issues like DRM (including the region encoding you mention) could also pose a problem, depending on how it’s implemented. I get the distinct impression that by the time one of these formats is ready to really catch on, there will be some other technology or service that will make them obsolete (or at least lessen their impact significantly – think Netflix delivered through a Cable Company’s onDemand service – yeah, I know that’s probably not likely, but I can dream).

    The one advantage blu-ray has is the PS3. If the PS3 sells a lot of units, it’ll provide a good base…

  2. I dunno, Mark – given that the move to HDTV is legislated reality, the move to a higher-res DVD format isn’t that far behind. I remember the same arguments about building huge VHS libraries being applied back in the day when DVD itself was new. I myself didn’t even buy a DVD player until LOTR came out, so I suppose I am not as invested as others are, but I still think that the inertia is pretty much inescapable.

    There was talk of unifying the formats a while back, but for the most part the trend now is that studios will probably release titles in both formats. Blu-Ray is going to be very, very expensive – and the PS3 is no exception, it will cost almost 600 dollars. That’s why I think that PCs will go the HD-DVD route but maybe some entrepeneur can engineer a dual-format player.

    I am especially curious which direction Apple will go.

  3. Perhaps, but the one thing about a VHS library is that it degrades over time (and usage). So when it got to the point where that VHS of the Godfather was unwatchable because of inescapable tracking issues, well, DVD it is! But DVD will not suffer from such degradation (aside from scratches, which have never been a problem for me in 6 years).

    I hadn’t considered the fact that HD was legislated, but while I think that will speed adoption a bit, I seriously doubt one of the formats will pick up steam as quickly as DVD did, and I think it provides some entrepreneurial folks an opportunity to leapfrog this generation of media (either through better optical media, or coming from a different direction). Then again, new efforts would probably be hampered just as much by things like DRM, so maybe it’ll be a wash. I don’t mean to say that they won’t be adopted at all…

    Like you say, Apple should be interesting to see… and I do believe that there are already dual-format players in the works (though they will be expensive)

  4. agreed – VHS tapes are definitely degradeable. I have my treasured copies of the original Star Wars trilogy in widesccreen VHS and am still looking for a way to transfer them to digital format for preservation. Tip for VHS archivists: store your tapes vertically, not flat, so that the film is hanging on the rolls and the weight is not on the edge.

    But DVD discs are also not permanent. In fact they degrade as well, and are very susceptible to scratching. With time they too will become unusuable. The only real solution for someone wanting to build a permanent archive is to go fully digital.

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