Welcome one and all to the circus that is the format war. Well, let’s skip past the part where Sony will be putting copies of Casino Royale into their PS3s for the European launch, along with Fox’s announcement of Eragon on Blu-Ray for 3/20, along with rumors of Jaws on HD-DVD not dying anytime soon and Disney’s rumored releases of the two Pirates of the Caribbean and Sin City movies, and tackle a shot fired across the bow in the online community.
I like Bill Hunt and read…his work at The Digital bits from time to time. And I’m sure the guy knows what he’s talking about. He’s got studio ties (which I don), and he’s put out a book (which I haven’t), so bully to him for it. But, from the perspective of someone who a) doesn’t post in AVS Forums and b) is an enthusiast without being an extremist about DVD, home theater and film, allow me to throw whatever cred I’ve got into this discussion, without too much perspective or insight.
I bought HD-DVD for the sake of having next-gen video and audio presentations. It was the first such equipment out at the time, and I have and will continue to enjoy it. Lately, I’ve been eyeing Blu-Ray equipment, simply because of the activity that the BD community have put up over the course of the last few days/weeks/etc. And why not, we all want next-gen video with some great sound and pictures, right? But there are a couple of things that prevent me from doing so. First, the fact that any first wave standalone equipment is basically a four figure investment is something that I can’t justify. And for anyone who doesn’t have the disposable income, are they really going to use the PS3, something that from what I hear is limited from a home theater aspect, as part of their home theater? And second, if Blu-Ray has the edge in studio support, etc. etc., just how long will it be before catalog titles from these BD exclusive locations are remastered, setting up the double-dips that we have now? The Fifth Element was presumably the first to have problems, but if I want to be pulled into the next-gen format wars and occupy both sides of the fence, a good chunk of the catalog titles are going to be missing some supplemental material when they transfer over to BD discs. Most of them are now. And I rebought my vinyl to CD catalog, so if I’m going to do this again, it’s gotta be done right.
Now, I know what you’re going to say; I don’t care about that stuff, I just want the best picture. Well, we all want that, don’t we? But if the next-gen format is going to replace the standard def (and one day it may) and fend off the downloadable content issue, it’s going to have to create discs that have enough space for two discs of bonus material on Black Hawk Down, which, by the way, was a Columbia/Sony title that just on SD is available in FOUR different versions. So if the affordability of hardware isn’t an issue now, I’m sure at some point it’s gotta be, and rebuying the first wave of BD discs when you’ve already spent, let’s say $600 on a future gen player will get a bit tedious after awhile.
What am I saying? Well, it beats the hell out of me. However, not to sound like a cliché, it’s the power of the consumer that rules over it all. Early adopters can (and will) analyze every step of the battle like a frame of the Zapruder film, but for studios that may be exclusive to one format over another, you’ve got the power to make them go one way or another. If you don’t want to pay over $500 for a player, don’t pay it. If you’re pissed because you don’t want to rebuy your discs because a studio wants to gouge you for money because the transfer “really is” remastered, then don’t buy it. Remember the plans that Miramax had for the seventy four different versions of Kill Bill? My point exactly. Let the studios fight this out, and if you like HD-DVD, tell Fox and the rest to get off the schneid and do it right. If you want to yell at Universal to become format neutral, feel free. The point is that who suffers if you pick one side or another? You do. So if you’re supporting both formats now, you’re in (at a minimum) for $800 (a PS3 and a 360 HD add-on, if you’ve got a 360), so you’ve got some say if what they do and how they do it.
Anyway, with that all said and vented, I eagerly await what pans out. So until next time high definers, keep the brightness low and the resolution high!