Wednesday, January 23, 2008


A war fought with blue lasers that - against ALL odds - manages to be supremely uncool. What. The. Hell. ?

I am, of course, referring to the High-Definition Format Wars, or 'What part of "Industry Standard" don't you understand?', as it will come to be known by future generations. The so-called "merits" of each format have been stated, and re-stated, so I feel no need to go on in a lengthy, biased diatribe about which I think is better and why. If you don't know what's different about the formats, congratulations, you're a victim of this disgusting and entirely uneccesary war (which isn't as bad as being a victim of the other disgusting and entirely uneccesarry wars currently ongoing)! I was unlikely to speak up on this issue, until people started proclaiming a "winner".

The first problem with proclaiming a "winner" in this so-called "war" is that everyone is actually a loser. The people who bought into the rival HD format will be holding expensive coasters inside of a generation or two of electronics. The people who funded and backed the losing format effectively wasted money on production, but that's true of all failed business ventures I suppose. The people who financed the success of the winning format had to buy it new, and at a rather inflated cost for what everyone else will be paying a more palatable amount. "Hold up, there!" you say, "don't they get to enjoy AECH-DEEEE content before the rest of us plebes, AND get to keep the discs?". I would respond by asking you if you really wanted to see more pixels of hollywood drek in advance of everyone else. I mean, you can lead a cavalry charge into pointy sticks, but is it fun? Oh, and the people who fund the winning format had to spend a lot of money trying to prove it was better, which may have paid off, but why should they have had to spend it in the first place?

As if it matters, but it's Blu-Ray that has been accepted as the de-facto victor. That would be OK, except for this. It's a petition to "Save HD-DVD. The existence of two formats is HURTING THE CONSUMER, so can we please just adopt one of them and move on? I don't really care which, although personally I think that content-wise, HD-DVD should have been winning. Sure, each format had equal amounts of over-produced, overly-preachy, overly-macho crap, but HD-DVD had Battlestar Galactica and Heroes, those two Geek-demograpic shows that managed by virtue of (*shock*) actual TALENT in the acting and writing departments, to garner critical praise and mainstream viewership. I know I was intending to go that route in order to see those shows in glorious, glorious 1080i (yes, I know, it's all about 1080p these days, but the media is apparently encoded in 1080i and has to be processed in order to refresh all the pixels at once on a 1080p display. No, it doesn't make any sense to me, either, but the upshot is I have a clunky old CRT that's 1080i...). Note about my earlier comments: sure, it's the same content, but the cynicism about more pixels is only justified if the content is lame. Good content is only ever enhanced by being made bigger, see: Imax. Ok, so I lied about not doing a diatribe, but at least it was a short one. I'll try to salvage this paragraph by pretending like I had a second problem in mind with respects to calling one format a "winner": number two is that it seems that the actual programming quality wasn't a factor (or early adopters had no taste...), which doesn't instill hope for the future.

Problem the third is that this shouldn't have happened in the first place. ISO standards, JEDEC (the people that do RAM standards, the people you have to thank for your computer not being more confusing than it already is)...THESE KIND OF GROUPS EXIST FOR A REASON! You make a single industry standard, and then everyone competes to make their product sell better, using that medium as a carrier, no more, no less. It's consumer-friendly, for example: my motherboard accepts DDR RAM. I can buy a gigabyte or two of DDR from a dozen or more different vendors, and barring some bizarre circumstances, it will fit in the memory slots and it will work. Even if I have to choose between going DDR2 or DDR3 for a current core 2 duo/quad setup, each is an open standard, and so I can buy a motherboard from whichever vendor I want, and then I can buy RAM from any vendor I want, so long as I put DDR 2 in a DDR2 motherboard, and DDR 3 in a DDR 3 motherboard. Most importantly, most vendors make at least one model of each, and some have even implemented BOTH kinds of RAM slot on their motherboards, it's FANTASTIC! This is the sort of setup I'd love to see for any format, not this useless bickering where we have two separate standards, each promoted by a consortium of utter dickweeds and assholes (Sony and Disney on one side, Microsoft on the other) who want to opress creative thought through draconian legislation and DRM.

Problem number four is that the HD optical formats make up very little of the current market. DVD is actually winning, look at everyone: they have DVD players in their homes, DVD drives in their laptops, and they don't need to know what the fuck HDCP is in order to view that content. Hell, you can get 7" screen dedicated DVD readers, you can take them ANYWHERE. Remember when DVD was all new and fancy? That was easily five or six years ago, it will be AT LEAST that long before HD optical media is that ubiquitous. Finally, as much as I hate to give Michael Bay any credit, he has accused Microsoft of pushing "technologically inferior" HD-DVD to prolong the format war, so that people will become disgruntled, and turn to digital downloads to serve their video needs. I hope he's right! While video encoding is another one of those proprietary nightmares sometimes, you will invariably get RealAlternative, or VLC media player, and be freed from your shackles! Discs are prone to damage, they barely hold a 10th of what your hard drive holds (and this is dual-layer Blu-ray versus a single 500GB hard drive. I have two 500GB hard drives, and Hitachi has announced 500GB LAPTOP hard drives, I have heard), and the drives have relatively slow data-to-disc transfer rates. The obvious answer is to move to a digital model, which eliminates packaging, shipping, and you moving your fat ass to the store, only to find that they're sold out! The content would create demand for more bandwith, as people would not want to wait three hours to download a one-and-a-half hour movie. This could drive broadband prices down, and perhaps force the convergence of TV and computer entertainment. I don't see Blu-Ray doing any of these things. All I see it doing is making people grumble about their rights being violated, and their A/V equipment being made obsolete.

I kinda still want Battlestar in 1080i, but I'm trying to resist the temptation


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