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Blu-ray Disc Java is coming this fall, and it may be incompatible with some of today's machines

The most common piece of advice given to those unsure about which high-definition optical format to buy is to simply wait until a victor emerges. Early adopters, however, should be aware that being cutting edge could come with a price, such as the risk of bugs or complete hardware and software obsolescence.

The Blu-ray Disc Association has mandated that all players of the format released after October 31 must adhere to a specific feature set that is currently not standard for today’s hardware. All Blu-ray Disc players after the fall date must support BD Java, a programming language for Blu-ray Disc media used mainly to deliver picture-in-picture for in-movie commentary and special features.

“Blu-ray player requirements and BD-Java specifications have been gradually changed over and over again, which has caused a good amount of grief for player manufacturers,” said optical storage analyst Wesley Novack. “The new specification and requirements will ensure that all Blu-ray players manufactured past October will be able to support the full range of BD-Java capabilities, including picture in picture and more.”

Early adopters of Blu-ray players may find themselves with inadequate hardware to support media using BD Java software.

Novack continued, “This might be bad news for early adopters who have already purchased a player, but it will not prevent them from playing back future Blu-ray movies. Owners of first generation Blu-ray players will probably not be able to use the full range of interactive features available on future Blu-ray Disc titles.”

Owners of current Blu-ray Disc players who are concerned about the future utility of their hardware are assured by manufacturers that current players won’t be made completely obsolete with the new standard.

“As is common in new format introductions, future products will include some additional features such as picture-in-picture,” said Philips VP Marty Gordon to Video Business. “Regardless of whether first-generation hardware supports these new features, the discs will still play.”

Unlike the HD DVD standard, Blu-ray players are not required to have Ethernet ports for firmware updates. Blu-ray machines with upgradable firmware likely will have a greater chance of conforming to the mandated format this fall.

Although HD DVD is not without its own set of early adopter issues, support for a standard programming language is already solidified for the format. HDi, an XML-based format developed by Microsoft and Toshiba, is mandatory on all HD DVD players and enables picture-in-picture special features to run alongside the feature length film.

Warner Bros. has released titles such as Batman Begins and V for Vendetta for HD DVD but not Blu-ray for the sole reason of the latter format’s lack of standardization. The upcoming Matrix trilogy release will also appear on HD DVD first for the same reason. Warner Bros. said that it would release Blu-ray Disc versions of such films in the fall, assumingly after the BD Java mandate takes effect.

Paramount has taken a different approach with Blu-ray’s apparent shortcoming. The studio released Mission: Impossible 3 on both HD DVD and Blu-ray, though the HD DVD version features a video picture-in-picture commentary, while the Blu-ray version does only with audio.

Only a couple Blu-ray movies feature picture-in-picture commentaries, those titles being Descent and Crank, though they do so without BD Java. Cleverly, and perhaps inelegantly, two complete versions of the movie are stored on a 50GB Blu-ray disc. One version contains the normal version of the film, while the second one features the picture-in-picture commentary hard-encoded on top of the film.

The addition of BD Java is not the only new requirement for Blu-ray players this fall. All players released after October 31 must hold a minimum 256MB of persistent memory storage. Those with network options will have to have 1GB of memory to support Web downloads.

Famed DVD producer, Van Ling, expresses discontent over the lack of standardization of the Blu-ray format. “The whole problem comes in when some manufacturers toe the minimum line and some others might make twice the minimum [functionality] on players,” said Ling. “In my view, I shouldn’t have to know what every single player can do. Rather than downgrade my creative vision for the lowest common denominator player, I want to create something [that fully realizes Blu-ray abilities].”

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RE: At the very worst....
By sapiens74 on 4/2/2007 9:49:38 PM , Rating: 2
Well here is the Issue

In the States you usually have 3 Audio Streams in English, French and Spanish. And the English one add Regular channel, 5.1, and now some form of Lossless and that starts taking up some room. In addition to the movie and special features. Movie like LOTR which is bound to have every form of Audio and is almost 3 hours long may be pushing it for 30GB

RE: At the very worst....
By The Sword 88 on 4/2/2007 10:13:09 PM , Rating: 1
A couple languages on one side, a couple other languages on the other side, problem solved

RE: At the very worst....
By saratoga on 4/3/2007 9:57:48 AM , Rating: 2
I have to agree. Multiple languages seem the least likely to cause a problem. Its not hard to have an English/Spanish side and a French/German side (or whatever).

Also, i think its fairly ridiculous to say that lossless will be a factor at all. Consumers don't even know what lossless is. Not saying I approve, but as far as the market is concerned, you could put 256k AC3 tracks on there and 98% of people would never notice. Hell, 98% of current HD-DVD and Bluray buyers wouldn't know the difference as long as they got the right number of channels.

RE: At the very worst....
By Lakku on 4/3/2007 1:23:16 PM , Rating: 2
People buying HD-DVD and Blu-Ray now know what lossless is. Why spend 1k on a player and not have the equipment to support lossless? No, I think the early adopters know about lossless, and will want to use it. Neither of these formats are anywhere close to mainstream, so people buying them now know more about what they are jumping into. With that said, it is the reason I use Blu-Ray over my HD-DVD add on for my 360, because the 360 and many HD-DVD titles don't have lossless tracks, while most Blu-Ray movies do. And yes, it makes a very noticeable difference.

RE: At the very worst....
By masher2 on 4/3/2007 1:34:48 PM , Rating: 2
> "Neither of these formats are anywhere close to mainstream"

That's the point. They're not mainstream...and the diference in lossless or not isn't going to propel either of them into that mainstream.

RE: At the very worst....
By Oregonian2 on 4/3/2007 1:54:02 PM , Rating: 2
And if one can really tell lossless over high rate quality compression in a movie, one REALLY wants direct to disk vinyl, not any of this digital stuff that ruins things inherently to start with anyway.


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