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
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.