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THD packaging colors match well with Superman's costume - Image courtesy Engadget

Same disc, but now accepted by HD players of all sorts - Image courtesy Engadget
Two formats, one "Total Hi Def" disc

Warner Home Video today unveiled its “Total Hi Def” disc, which plays the HD DVD format on one side and the Blu-ray Disc format on the other. DailyTech originally reported on this development prior to CES, but things were not official until Tuesday’s presentation hosted by Warner Brothers Entertainment Chairman and CEO Barry Meyer at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.

Warner Brothers representatives said that discs in Total Hi Def will be available in the second half of 2007, and titles will be announced in a time frame consistent with the company’s standard trade announcements for home entertainment titles. The physical structure of the disc is the same as DVDs, HD DVD and Blu-ray discs. The Total Hi Def disc has the ability to contain both single layer and dual layers for both formats enabling either 15 GB or 30 GB on the HD DVD side and 25 GB or 50 GB on the Blu-ray side.

Until now, consumers have been forced to choose one high-definition format—not knowing if their favorite titles would be produced in their specific format or how long that specific format would survive.

“The Total Hi Def disc is about giving consumers complete choice, providing creators and artists the greatest possible distribution of their work, and helping retailers thrive in the marketplace,” said Kevin Tsujihara, President of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group. “By eliminating potential apprehension over formats, we believe this new disc could help consumers fully embrace the greatest home entertainment experience available.”

The Total Hi Def disc would also simplify point of sale issues for retailers by reducing the shelf space required to carry two versions of the same content.

“The research clearly shows that people are thrilled with high-definition devices and the stunning home entertainment experience they provide,” said Ron Sanders, President, Warner Home Video. “Now Total Hi Def provides the complete package with all the benefits of HD DVD and Blu-ray on a single disc.”

Sanders emphasized to the media after the announcement that a small increase in cost would pay for the licensing fees for both HD DVD and Blu-ray formats, but Warner will not be charging a fee for its method. 

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Whats the point?
By mkruer on 1/10/2007 5:00:04 AM , Rating: 2
I don't see how this is a "cheaper" option because now they have to master two formats. I wish one side would just give up. In the grander scheme of things this will end up being nothing more then a novelty. However this does prove one thing, the price delta between both formats is so miniscule that they are willing and able to manufacture a hybrid disc. So I guess the HD DVD camp cant claim that their media is "cheaper" anymore.

RE: Whats the point?
By therealnickdanger on 1/10/2007 8:49:46 AM , Rating: 2
If you read the article or the press briefing, this won't cost consumers anymore money. WB is absorbing the extra cost. Consumers FTW.

I hate dual-formats just as much as everyone else, but until the masses choose a victor, we're going to be stuck with this. Keep in mind that we're still very early in the battle and neither format is even close to the penetration of DVD. High costs, loose standards, confusion, and compatibility issues are the high price of being an early adopter.

RE: Whats the point?
By michal1980 on 1/10/07, Rating: -1
RE: Whats the point?
By marvdmartian on 1/10/2007 9:41:44 AM , Rating: 2
What's even funnier is, by the time a format war is finally over, it's highly likely that newer technology will exist, that will soon make it obsolete!! ;)

RE: Whats the point?
By Souka on 1/10/2007 3:02:47 PM , Rating: 2
We've heard about Blu-Ray and HD-DVD for what...2+ years now, and its just beginning to become available now...

So what new technology is even in the works to replace these two formats???

RE: Whats the point?
By peldor on 1/10/2007 4:13:19 PM , Rating: 2
Direct downloads will crush them all when the pipes get fat enough.

RE: Whats the point?
By timmiser on 1/10/2007 4:40:36 PM , Rating: 2
Only problem with that analogy is the HDTV resolutions/file size will keep going up just as fast as the pipes widen!

RE: Whats the point?
By Oregonian2 on 1/10/2007 3:03:27 PM , Rating: 2
Possibly, but not likely. These new formats are "driven" by the move to HDTV which is something that's taken about 60 years for the upgrade to happen (even with a government push to make it happen so "fast"), and it's not complete as of yet. About the only other alternative would be network driven distribution instead. Download the 60Gb and keep it on a (something) or download it every time you want to see it (that fast network will of course be very very reliable and not subject to backhoe's taking them out from time to time). But I suspect the HD format war will be over before then.

RE: Whats the point?
By FoxFour on 1/10/2007 4:10:48 PM , Rating: 2
Um, the consumer ALWAYS absorbs the cost at the end of the day. One way or another, we pay for it.

RE: Whats the point?
By timmiser on 1/10/2007 4:43:17 PM , Rating: 2
That's a popular analogy but really its not true. The movie companies will charge as much as they can get away with and keep the rest as profit. In this case, they wouldn't get away with it soley because most people would not buy into it, they would just buy the BR/HD-DVD individual format for what they have.

RE: Whats the point?
By Araemo on 1/10/2007 10:28:50 AM , Rating: 2
The mastering differences aren't as great as you might think.

The main movie and extra scenes can be encoded 100% identically between HD-DVD and blu-ray, and they just have to do different indexes and menus between the two. I bet they could even write some 'middleware' that uses a custom menu language, and has an interpreter that runs under HD-DVD or Blu-Ray so they only have to write the menu once... Then you just have the extra pressing costs of doing a double-sided disk - which isn't too horrible, many DVDs did similar things when they got too long and didn't want to pay for a second physical disk.

RE: Whats the point?
By masher2 on 1/10/2007 11:41:36 AM , Rating: 2
> "I don't see how this is a "cheaper" option because now they have to master two formats..."

It's cheaper because they'd have to master both formats anyway. Pressing them onto a single disc as opposed to two means less inventory to maintain, less SKU numbers to support, etc.

RE: Whats the point?
By Oregonian2 on 1/10/2007 2:54:06 PM , Rating: 2
Sony and Toshiba both agree 100% with you! Toshiba thinks Sony should give up, and Sony thinks Toshiba should give up. Everybody, including the companies involve think one of the camps should give up. Complete harmony. If you had a lot of your money invested in one of these systems, would you be willing to voluntarily toss it away for harmony's sake?

As to Warner, if they're going to sell disks in both formats anyway, the mastering issue is a non-issue. And it's probably a non-issue anyway, I suspect it's not so great a big deal, being only a one-time charge (especially if mastered by the same folk, just output rendering two ways). Having the dual disk lowers inventory costs for them (only ONE item to inventory) and lowers their risk in terms of picking the winner -- their discs are always the winning format. No dead inventory to send to the dump.

Nice but...
By Souka on 1/10/2007 4:40:01 AM , Rating: 5
Two problems....

1st: Album graphics are gone... Now when flipping through my binder I can't glance at the disc to see what it is. (very minor gripe...can be fixed with lables on binder sleeve.

2nd: The whole premise of HD vs BR really really irritates me. Consumers should NOT have to choose what player they want... I guess with this combo disc, you're ok regardless if BR or HD wins the "war". But then again, if my disc is double-sided, I'd rather have more unique content...not just the same data in two different formats.

I can bet you almost anything that a player will come out eventually that plays both formats.
Kinda like the DVD +R vs -R first you had to choose, but now its hard to find just a +R or -R burner.

My $.02 of 2am rant.... nite all.

RE: Nice but...
By Shark Tek on 1/10/2007 6:06:05 AM , Rating: 2
I can bet you almost anything that a player will come out eventually that plays both formats.

LG has the solution ;)

RE: Nice but...
By hellokeith on 1/10/2007 9:55:30 AM , Rating: 2
LG's player cannot be HD-DVD certified in its current state, because it does not meet the minimum requirements set by the DVD Forum.

RE: Nice but...
By exdeath on 1/10/07, Rating: 0
RE: Nice but...
By timmiser on 1/10/2007 2:03:55 PM , Rating: 2
Well since it has been officially announced, I am sure that all legal requirements have been met and accounted for.

RE: Nice but...
By VooDooAddict on 1/10/2007 2:08:50 PM , Rating: 2
Since the device isn't fully HD-DVD certified ... i think that's how they got around the BRD license issue. I'm wondering if Sony will still try to put up a fight.

RE: Nice but...
By Souka on 1/10/2007 2:59:56 PM , Rating: 2
Heh...duh..silly me on that point... I had heard on NPR about the LG player just earlier that day.

Price was stated on NPR.... $1200 OUCH.....

RE: Nice but...
By masher2 on 1/10/2007 11:40:02 AM , Rating: 2
> "Consumers should NOT have to choose what player they want..."

Choice is always good. I'd rather be able to choose my own format, than to have some standards body (or worse, a government agency) dictating what I must buy.

RE: Nice but...
By Oregonian2 on 1/10/2007 2:45:31 PM , Rating: 2
if my disc is double-sided, I'd rather have more unique content...not just the same data in two different formats.

Some plain-DVD discs are double-sided with wide-screen on one side and 4:3 format on the other. So this isn't new.

Yes, there is a dual-format player now, but due to price doesn't seem all that "hot". It's something like $1200 while a new Toshiba HD player can be bought from Amazon for about $400. That $800 difference would pay for a few discs. I don't recall this kind of disparity in the "+R" vs "-R" days.

The dual-sided discs are another vote to just buy the MUCH cheaper HD format player. IMO.

I personally feel this is great..
By Comdrpopnfresh on 1/10/2007 1:21:26 PM , Rating: 2
This allows for consumers to not get burned if there is an eventual winner. The studios that adopt this format will see increased sales, as they'll have a wider market. The wider market and increased sales can more than make up for the increased production costs. The market will be decided by the consumers based on price and performance- and buying the machines that play the discs alone. The only forseeable way that consumers might get burned is if they buy one format player, and the industry standard becomes the other- but atleast the discs they have can move over to the final standard.
The only problem I can think of is that this might forstall the decision of who wins, and what'll happen when both formats go dual-layer?

RE: I personally feel this is great..
By borowki on 1/10/2007 1:44:16 PM , Rating: 2
No it doesn't. One format inevitably will die and those who bought a single-format player will get burnt. The studios are not going to publish in both formats forever.

By masher2 on 1/10/2007 1:58:47 PM , Rating: 2
> "One format inevitably will die and those who bought a single-format player will get burnt..."

How will I get burnt? My player will continue to play my discs forever...or at least until it malfunctions. When it does, I'll replace it if its the standard format at the time, or buy a dual-format player if its not. Big deal.

And, of course, you forget the possibility of both formats dying. Even on my 102" screen, many of my friends can't see the difference between a good upscaled DVD and the HD version of the same film. Is it possible that neither format is enough better than DVD to justify its existence? Heresy to even suggest it, I know...but superior formats have died out for less reason before.

By timmiser on 1/10/2007 2:10:02 PM , Rating: 2
If one format dies, they will just make dual format players from then on out. Dual format prototypes have already been designed so it's just a matter of licensing and if one format dies, the licensing issue would no longer be present.

A better idea would be to just unify
By phatboye on 1/10/2007 10:37:34 AM , Rating: 2
This is stupid, hybrid disks? Why not just stay away from Hi-Def media until these corporate jerks (Sony and Toshiba) pull their heads out of their asses and make a unified Hi-def media standard. Having two competing formats only makes life harder from everyone. Not only does it confuse the average consumer it also drives up production cost so that the companies who sell Hi-Def media earn less money. If people would not buy into this stupid format war Sony and Toshiba would be forced into making a unified standard. And everything would be so much better.

RE: A better idea would be to just unify
By zombiexl on 1/10/2007 12:39:06 PM , Rating: 2
Sony and Toshiba would be forced into making a unified standard

If i'm not mistaken (and I may be) I think Sony is the one who pulled out of the talks. Everything is basically the same between the 2, compressions scheme, blue lasers, etc.

Sony/BR just has some added DRM (which we all hate), more space and a history of providing proprietary media technologies that fail to some extent.

RE: A better idea would be to just unify
By zombiexl on 1/10/2007 12:40:23 PM , Rating: 2
Before I get flamed, I know there are more technical differences, but I was making my point based on the high level specs.

RE: A better idea would be to just unify
By michal1980 on 1/10/07, Rating: -1
By masher2 on 1/10/2007 1:55:18 PM , Rating: 2
> "Which is why most studios are exclusive blu-ray. While only 1 is hd-dvd..."

Where do people get this stuff? HD DVD is backed by Universal, Warner Home Video, Paramount, HBO, New Line, and The Weinstein Company. Disney and a couple others have announced they're considering HD-DVD releases as well.

If the disc cost the same for consumers..
By ViperROhb34 on 1/10/2007 5:38:58 PM , Rating: 2
This is a win-win situation for consumers.. because no matter what format wins.. people will have THD disc that have either format so they aren't stuck.

By cubby1223 on 1/10/2007 8:19:45 PM , Rating: 2
But consumers still have the extra $600+ player they're stuck with which is far larger of a cost than a few movies at $20 a pop.

This new disc is a good step, but it still doesn't solve the original problem I have with HD content - I ain't wasting any money on a player of the losing format. So I ain't buying nothing until one wins or there's a cost-effective dual format player.

By daftrok on 1/10/2007 1:02:16 PM , Rating: 2
Lets use the Blu Ray disc hardware and the HD DVD software and stick THOSE two together instead?

By gilesslade on 1/10/2007 5:25:02 PM , Rating: 2
This is too little too late. Both Warner and LG have cottoned on to the fact that people are now getting their video fix via TIVO, video iPods, and the Internet. Soon, Verizon will help you access them over your phone. What's happened is that growth of the DVD market has slowed. DVD player manufacturers and DVD movie distributors want to arrest this trend before their market disappears and goes entirely over to Internet downloads. BUT HERE IS THE BIG NEWS: any form of content in disk format (CD-I or DVD, Blu-Ray or HD DVD) is already obsolete. CE manufacturers that favor video downloads via the internet or permit consumers to play downloaded digital files have already understood this. Sony, Toshiba, LG, Samsung, any company still trying to market a single use DVD player or any kind of DVD disk are all behind the curve and their market is evaporating fast. Video has already gone to the Internet.
Made to Break disks will soon disappear into the ether...

Lazers ?
By griffynz on 1/10/2007 5:34:34 PM , Rating: 2
Why were we told by the 'camps' a while back that multi players were not going to be made because they couldn't fit all the diodes/lazers inside.
I remembers articles saying that Blu-ray and HD-DVD players would have HD and CD only, or HD and DVD only. Now we have a player with HD/Blu/DVD/CD reading? How much more rubbish are we going to hear?
Cost? Well lets see, we already encoded the DVD yesterday = $0.00, HD format = $0.00 as indentical. Menus and double press = $$$unknown.
Wasn't that long ago we were told Blu-ray cost lots to get presses started, and HD-DVD were cheap. So how can they make these discs so cheap? And if they are even $1 more than a HD-DVD or Blu-ray version who would buy them?
Until the bulb on my old projector dies and I buy a HD panel projector I can afford to wait. Esp. when DVD now cost me around NZ$12-20 for new/1 year old movies...HD-DVD BLu-ray would cost me NZ$50.
I'm guessing the real safe bet is the multi-player as then you can buy ALL the movies from ALL the producers not just most as not every company is making these multi-discs.

Which way up?
By Rocketeer on 1/10/2007 8:27:49 AM , Rating: 1
I feel very sorry for the tech support people after this comes up...

There's already enough people who put DVDs in the wrong way up and wonder why nothing happens - add this, and there will be twice as many - this time with a good excuse!

This is a 'solution'?
By michal1980 on 1/10/07, Rating: -1
"I mean, if you wanna break down someone's door, why don't you start with AT&T, for God sakes? They make your amazing phone unusable as a phone!" -- Jon Stewart on Apple and the iPhone
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