Blu-Ray/HD-DVD combi players and high definition video discs go under the J. Takiff microscope in this babble-on.
Duo-Player Universe Expands: Consultant Vito Mandato, an advisor to Paramount, recently suggested that the Blu-Ray vs. HD-DVD war could be over within three to four months , that Blu-Ray “could win it all” with its higher powered array of exclusive titles.
But now Samsung’s confirmation of a forthcoming “Duo-HD” player which spins both formats of high definition disc will surely prolong the battle. Then possibly spark a truce.
I’ve been hanging out with the first of this hybrid species, LG’s Super Multi Blue Player (BH100), and can attest that it really is a peace maker . The other night, I wanted to watch “Children of Men,” a brink-of -extinction sci-fi thriller newly out from Universal Studios and thus, an HD-DVD exclusive. My honey put in a bid for Pedro Almodovar’s arty chick flick, “Volver,” a new Sony Pictures Home Entertainment release for Blu-Ray lovers only. Thanks to the LG, we could stage a double feature of both films and formats in our own little HD grind house, on one and the same disc player .
The BH100 kicks into gear pretty quickly , even when you aim to confuse it with a different format of disc than the last one played. Except for the rare drop-out glitch, picture and sound reproduction has proven extremely good with both high def disc varieties.
Still, there’s some tweaking to be done on this machine. Designed originally as a Blu-Ray-only player, the LG hybrid can handle all the interactive bells and whistles of that particular format – the slick menuing, on-the-fly feature switching, and theoretically the picture-in-picture option that are all produced through the format’s BD-Java interactivity software.
But if you slide in an HD-DVD disc, it’s as if the concept of “value added extras” never existed. (And that’s the reason why this non-standardized machine can’t carry an official HD-DVD logo.) The LG player jumps immediately (and only) to the movie. Call up the “menu” and all you get is a generic, ultra-minimalist display , with no custom graphics. In its haste to be first to market, LG’s engineers didn’t have enough time or ROM space on the player to install the HD-DVD system’s Advanced Navigation (aka iHD and HDi) software. And that’s what’s needed to get HD-DVD discs doing their special interactive tricks – which at the moment are a lot deeper and glossier than the Blu-Ray competition is serving , ironically.
While you wouldn’t know it from the LG player, Universal has really been having fun with immersive, interactive content , which it packages under the banner “U-Control.” On “Children of Men, “ you can summon up brief picture-in-picture interviews with director, cast and crew, that don’t just explain but also illustrate how/why things happen in the flick. And get a better gander, pop-up video style, of the spooky, darkly comic 2026-style advertising (say, for the self-suicide pill Quietus) and news headlines that otherwise rush by in the background.
Warner Brothers has also upped the fun factor and perceived value of some high def discs with slick, back-stage interactive features. Tellingly, you’ll find these “In-Movie” enhancements only on select HD-DVD titles. To avoid spotlighting BD-Java’s late-in-coming developers’ tools, WB has not issued any Blu-Ray versions of movies that would reveal an inferior feature set. To date, the only films the studio has offered in both high def formats are those titles without system-taxing extras.
Another, kinda funky thing with the LG100: it’s capable of putting out a 1080p (progressive scanned) signal, but only at 24-frames-per-second, the film standard. That’s great if you have a brand new HDTV panel, RPTV or projector that does 1080p/24fps “native.” But most high end TV sets only do 1080p at 60fps. If the LG player sees that grade of HDMI connection, it puts out a 1080i (interlaced) signal, which might upset some ultimate tweakers.
I’ve got a vibe that LG will fix these concerns in a second generation (Super-Super Multi Blue?) player that could arrive by year’s end. That’s also when Samsung is now planning to deliver its much talked about, contemplated, postponed , denied and now re-instated Duo HD player, the BD-UP5000. We’re taking its’ existence as a company statement that the format war will not soon be resolved. Oh, and it’s also a way for Samsung to steal some business (as has LG) from the other, big name electronics companies who are doggedly committed to one format or the other.
Cosmetically similar to Samsung’s second generation Blu-Ray-only BD-P1200 player just now coming to market at $799, the Duo-HD version will fully support HD-DVD and Blu-Ray interactivity, as well as the latest, lossless audio codecs , HDMI 1.3 connectivity and resolution up to 1080p/60fps. It also will do 1080p/24 fps, but only with Blu-Ray discs. For up-conversion of standard def DVDs, the BD-UP5000 will use a Faroudja DCDi processor (while the BD-P1200 uses the higher priced HQV chip.) The trade off is that the Duo-HD model could wind up selling for a premium of only 10 percent above the BD-P1200, which would surely please enthusiasts and force LG to sharpen the pricing of its dual format player