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A new coating on top of the same polymer-based substrate as DVD

Count 'em, four layers

The optical scheme of the VMD drive

Another look at the VMD drive
A DVD capable of holding 20GB could go head-to-head against HD DVD and Blu-ray

The home entertainment market is still wrestling with having two HD optical formats, HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc,  but soon it will have to deal with another. UK-based New Medium Enterprises (NME) has developed the Versatile Multilayer Disc (VMD), a new optical-based format capable of storing 20GB of data.

Unlike HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc, VMD is a red-laser technology that achieves its storage capacity by using a greater number of layers. VMD is precisely the same size and thickness as DVD. However, while DVD technology utilizes two layers of a disc, VMD technology has conceived multi-layering, where up to 5GB can easily be stored on each layer.

New Medium Enterprises said that in January 2007 that it secured worldwide patents surrounding its technology that provides up to eight information layers on each side of a disc. NME patents filed in 2004 cover the principles of NME's “modified 2P process,” which involves producing more than two layers on a single-sided disc, and allow for the replication of multilayer discs with the production yield and subsequent production costs comparable to current DVD production. The patent also covers the general set-up of a VMD production line and method of playing-back multilayer discs.

NME says that its VMD technology drastically diminishes the cross talk between layers—a problem that prevented original DVDs from breaking through the dual-layer barrier. Keeping cross talk at bay is a separating layer that holds a definite distance between neighboring information layers. The intermediate layers are formed with application of so-called “2p technology.” It is a very simple process implemented on the usual DVD bonding machines, according to NME.

VMD technology has been validated by established Netherlands-based replicator VDL ODMS, and NME has entered into a production agreement with the replicator to produce the mass production machinery based on standard DVD equipment augmented by VMD 2P technology.

“Our scientists and engineers have been working to perfect the 2P process for years, while many others abandoned this process as too costly and complex,” said Mahesh Jayanarayan, NME CEO. “With the validation of VMD technology by an established replicator and our strong patent portfolio in multilayer disc technology, we are excited about our position to help provide answers and low cost solutions to the high-definition disc debate.”

Current VMD are quad-layer, yielding 20GB, and New Medium Enterprises has already outlined specifications for 24GB, 30GB, 40GB and 48GB sizes. For cost reasons, NME says that its technology works best with red-laser discs. However, the company believes that its multilayer technology is also applicable to blue-laser discs for 200GB of storage. Toshiba has said it has achieved a triple-layer HD DVD capable of storing 51GB, while Ritek claims it has designed HD DVD and Blu-ray media with 10 layers for up to 250GB of storage.

The extra space afforded by even red-laser VMD has led the format to be another option for high-definition video. Although dual layer HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc media hold 30GB and 50GB, respectively, the 20GB afforded by VMD is still able to hold a feature length, high definition film thanks to advanced video codecs such as VC-1 and MPEG-4 AVC.

NME is touting HD VMD as a true high definition format with 1920 x 1080i/p resolution, up to 40Mbs data transfer rate, video upconversion for SD DVD, AES encryption and all region codes. HD VMD supports the same range of audio and video codecs of HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc, and will also support a number of open source video codecs in the future, according to the company.

As with any new optical format, new players are required. In a three-year deal with NME, PC Rush will be distributing and marketing in the U.S. channel the HD VMD Media Player Duo and HD VMD Media Player Quattro. The players, designed for VMD, will also upconvert existing standard-definition DVD collections to HD resolutions. The HD VMD Media Player Duo, starting at $199 (MSRP) and the HD VMD Media Player Quattro, starting at just $249 (MSRP), will both be available from PC Rush in Q2 2007.

“The first products will be available in the world’s markets, including the U.S., very shortly,” added Jayanarayan. “With [our] HD media format quietly adopted by content providers and distributors in 12 regions of the world … HD VMD Media Format and products will become a universal media format and standard worldwide.”

NME has signed content and distribution deals in 12 regions worldwide, including Brazil, Central Europe, China, France, Germany, Iceland, India, Japan, the Middle East Russia, Scandinavia and the United States.





"If you look at the last five years, if you look at what major innovations have occurred in computing technology, every single one of them came from AMD. Not a single innovation came from Intel." -- AMD CEO Hector Ruiz in 2007
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