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Blu-ray and HD DVD may soon have more to worry about than each other, as a new much cheaper competitor emerges

At the Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association (CEDIA), a trade show held in Denver Colorado, a new potential competitor to Blu-Ray and HD DVD was demonstrated.

Instead of picking a side in the heated Blu-ray and HD DVD debate, New Medium Enterprises decided to go their own way, developing a new format called HD VMD.

HD VMD stands for High Definition Versatile Multilayer Discs -- and here's the attractive part:  it is far cheaper than either Blu-Ray or HD DVD, both for discs and for players.

The key to HD VMD's low price is that it utilizes red laser technology, which is still vastly cheaper than the blue-violet lasers used in HD DVD and Blu-Ray players.

HD VMD also stacks up roughly in the middle in terms of image quality, between Blu-ray and HD DVD.  The new format can be compared to Blu-Ray and HD DVD as follows:


             HD DVD vs. HD VMD vs. Blu-Ray


HD VMD 

    HD DVD  
Blu-ray
   

Price       
$150 (appr.)
€179 (Europe)

$179 (w./ XBOX 360)
$299 (standalone)
$599 (with Playstation 3)
$499 (standalone)


Single Side
Disc Capacity
30GB

15GB
25GB (single layer)
50GB (double layer)


Audio+Video
Data Transfer
40.0 Mbit/s (appr.)

36.55 Mbit/s
53.95 Mbit/s


Laser Type
Red

Blue-Violet
Blue-Violet


Encoding
MPEG-2,
possible future support for MPEG-4 AVC (H.264)

MPEG-2, VC-1,
MPEG-4 AVC (H.264)
MPEG-2, VC-1,
MPEG-4 AVC (H.264)

Maximum
Resolution
1080p
(1920x1080)

1080p
(1920x1080)
1080p
(1920x1080)


Source for HD DVD and Blu-Ray information


Additionally, the format supports up to 7.1-channel Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, and DTS audio output, though it will not offer the high-bit-rate Dolby TrueHD or DTS Master Audio surround-sound codec.

One feature that has not yet been discussed is whether the new device will support any sort of interactive code, such as HD DVD XML or Blu-ray's Java.  Blu-ray was harshly criticized when releases failed to measure up to HD DVD in terms of interactivity. If HD VMD does not support a language to provide advanced user interaction, its future releases may face similar critique.

While the HD VMD format is getting a late start in the competition, the format war remains undecided with the vast majority of consumers not having adopted either format, and still using DVDs.

Current sales figures show discs Blu-Ray format disc sales total 1.6 million from January 1 through July 1, while HD DVD sales amounted to only 795,000, and only 3.7 million hi-definition discs have been sold in total.  While both Blu-Ray and HD DVD camps try to use different portions of the sales numbers to indicate their dominance, the important thing to notice, is that these figures mean that only 1 in 100 Americans, approximately, have purchased any hi-definition content this year. 

With Blu-Ray and HD DVD's shallow market penetration, the new format has more of a fighting chance.

HD VMD is debuting with a selection of 20 videos next month, including "We Were Soldiers" and "Apocalypto".  The list has been criticized as not having many hot titles -- please refer to NDM's homepage for a full list.  However, there are currently only 329 titles released on Blu-Ray (as of August 21st), and HD DVD has only 279 titles (as of September 4th), and these formats did not start with significant catalogs either.

While the consumer market is very unpredictable, one thing that always drives sales is a low price.  If HD VMD is able to build its catalog with significant movie releases, and is able to offer a price point as low as planned, it may be very competitive with HD DVD and Blu-Ray.  Soon, Blu-Ray and HD DVD may have far more to worry about than each other.




"I want people to see my movies in the best formats possible. For [Paramount] to deny people who have Blu-ray sucks!" -- Movie Director Michael Bay
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