21-08-2007, 02:42 PM
Los Angeles (CA) – The HD DVD camp today received an exclusivity commitment from two major movie studios – a welcome commitment the group needs in its battle against Blu-ray.
According to the announcement, Paramount and Dreamworks will publish home videos in HD DVD only, including titles from Paramount Pictures, Dreamworks Pictures, Dreamworks Animation Paramount Vantage, Nickelodeon Movies and MTV Films. The program will begin with the release of Blades of Glory on August 28, followed by Transformers and Shrek the Third.
Today’s announcement does not include films directed by Steven Spielberg as his films are not exclusive to either format.
The HD DVD group said that its format has "emerged as the most affordable way for consumers to watch their movies in high definition" and "offers consumers the chance to personalize the movie-watching experience, to interact with their movies and even to connect with a community of other fans."
Finally. I'm wondering why it took so long for them to realize that Sony Pictures is their competition and Sony "is" Blu-Ray.
22-08-2007, 11:05 AM
Paramount's CTO on Why His Studio Is Dumping Blu-ray
Alan Bell discusses why HD DVD is his studio's exclusive high-definition format.
In a surprise move, Paramount and DreamWorks Animation announced this week that they would align themselves exclusively with the HD DVD high-definition format. The controversial decision has attracted a lot of attention, and not just because it comes at a time when market indicators have been pointing to competitor Blu-ray Disc as having the lead (disc sales have been running 2-1 in Blu-ray's favor).
Rumors have swirled since the news broke, suggesting that Paramount and DreamWorks are being heavily compensated for their exclusivity pact--to the tune of $50 million and $100 million, respectively. A Paramount spokesperson says only: " ... whenever we conduct co-marketing, production deals, or other agreements, we never discuss business terms."
If this exclusivity arrangement holds for the long-haul--Bell says it's "indefinite" at this time--it represents a setback to consumers trying to move up to high-definition content. Now, the available pool of studio content will be more split between Blu-ray (backed by Sony, Fox, Disney, MGM, Lionsgate, and Warner) and HD DVD (backed by Universal, Warner, and now Paramount).
And it means that when you're investing in hardware, you'll need to think hard about what format to buy: DreamWorks' "Shrek" movies, for example, will be available only HD DVD, while Disney's "Cars" and "Sleeping Beauty" will be available only on Blu-ray.
I don't doubt that some level of financial incentive made the HD DVD a good business decision for Paramount and DreamWorks. But according to Alan Bell, executive vice president and chief technology officer for Paramount Pictures, there's more to the change in allegiance than either a mere abandonment of Blu-ray's higher-capacity advantage or pure business dealings.
Here's some background from Bell about the recent news.
PCW: Presumably, making this move wasn't something you did lightly. What led up to the decision to shift your production exclusively to HD DVD?
Bell: Paramount has been getting experience with publishing titles in both formats for the last year. We've had a hands-on ability to see how these formats work in practice. And after some hands-on analysis, we decided that HD DVD was the format we wanted to support.
PCW: Why was that?
Bell: For one thing, the lower prices of the players: It's good for consumers, it's good for our customer base.
For another thing, HD DVD came out of the DVD Forum. The DVD Forum is very experienced at developing and managing specs. [HD DVD] was launched in a very stable way, with stable specifications, and they had specified a reference player model, so all players had to be compatible with the HDi interactivity layer, and all players had to be capable of the interactivity. So when we publish titles in the future that have interactivity, we can be assured that every HD DVD player will be able to handle this content.
PCW: So, as a studio, you believe that the underlying stability of HD DVD's specs is a benefit?
Bell: When you look at what the DVD Forum has specified as required, it's a good set of advanced technologies. You can be assured that that benefit will be available to all consumers, no matter what [player] model they purchased. That speaks to the DVD Forum, that it published specs that were complete and market-ready, and that it didn't need to publish up [and change the specs], as Blu-ray has. To some degree, [such changes are] going to create some legacy issues.
For example, HD DVD players have [ethernet] connectivity built-in. If the player doesn't have that, or it's optional, you can't rely on that [as a feature].
PCW: Didn't we see the same thing with DVD players, though, where some features were mandatory and others weren't?
Bell: When you have a format, you generally have mandatory requirements on players, and you sometimes have optional features. On DVD, Dolby Digital 5.1 was mandatory, but DTS 5.1 was optional. But that meant that when you published a title, you never really knew how many customers had players that supported the feature you were adding to the disc at some cost. On HD DVD, the mandatory audio technologies are Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, and Dolby TrueHD. [For more details, see an explanation of the differences among the various Dolby technologies (http://www.dolby.com/consumer/technology/tech_overview.html).]
PCW: Over time, though, DTS became a de facto standard on DVD players. Don't you expect to see the same thing happen over time with Blu-ray's specs, such as the requirements for storage and interactivity via an ethernet connection? [Paramount's decision comes ahead of Blu-ray's new minimum specs (http://www.pcworld.com/article/id,130452-pg,1/article.html), which go into effect for players sold after October 31.]
Bell: Eventually, that's true, but right now we have early adopters and enthusiasts [buying players]. If you do migrate the spec and your options are not included on the early players, these are the very people you leave behind. They're our most valuable customers in launching a new format, and you want to make sure that what they buy continues to represent the best of the format.
PCW: What about the additional capacity of Blu-ray, which has 50GB dual-layer discs, as opposed to HD DVD's 30GB dual-layer discs? Some studios have cited the additional capacity as necessary. Are you going to miss having the extra headroom?
Bell: This is a little bit overrated. Making a choice like the one Paramount has made is a multifaceted choice: It depends upon manufacturability, the reliability of players, the cost, the infrastructure that's developed to support our creation of titles. Many different factors came into play--including capacity. When Paramount made this decision, we considered the broad spectrum.
If everything else were equal, more capacity would be better. Why not?
But if you convert the playing time, a 30GB disc gives you somewhere between 3 and 4 hours of capacity. It depends upon the nature of the movie and how you compress it. There's no compromise on the quality. We've found that 95 percent of movies are less than 2.25 hours long. With a disc whose capacity is 3 or 4 hours, you can put a fair amount of bonus material on that disc as well. So 30GB with the option to add another disc is fine, from our point of view.
PCW: What if the multiple soundtracks and high-definition bonus materials won't fit on a single disc?
Bell: If there's an overflow of bonus material, we'll just go to another disc. That's not an issue for consumers. In some cases, they consider that it has more value. It's done routinely in DVD. Why put every single title on a high-capacity disc if it doesn't need it?
PCW: Do you expect capacity needs to change in the future?
Bell: A 45GB disc is under development. [Editors' note: This disc has been in development for two years.] Secondly, compression will become more effective. The number of minutes you get on a disc depends upon how much you can compress a movie. As we gain experience with the new codecs, the ability to compress at high quality will be improved.
Capacity is a factor, but it's not an overriding factor. In the grand scheme of things, the better proposition for consumers in our view, and for our business needs, is HD DVD.
PCW: From your first-hand experiences, what can you tell us about the difference in programming languages between HD DVD, which uses Microsoft's HDi technology, and Blu-ray, which uses BD-Java?
Bell: BD-Java is a programming language. The benefit is that it's very flexible. The drawback is that you may need 100 lines of BD-Java code. HDi is a relatively compact piece of code; one command can cover quite a bit of interactivity.
BD-Java is also more complex, so the possibility of errors is greater. And when BD players are put out, [there's the question of whether] they all support the scenarios as coded up from the low level. [Some of the early problems with BD-Java discs] were in part due to the complexity that BD-Java brings. From our point of view, HDi offers all of the flexibility we need, in practice, and it does so in a more simplified way and in a way that we feel leads to better compatibility, better reliability, and lower costs.
PCW: Up until now, how have you approached coding your discs for HDi and BD-Java?
Bell: At this particular point in time, we've been able to supply more features with HDi and HD DVD than with BD-Java and Blu-ray Disc. What we have typically done in practice is that we've created the interactive scenarios in HD DVD and then tried to pull them into Blu-ray. But that has not been entirely possible: Some things we can do in HDi are not supported in BD-Java. If you're going to do BD-Java, you need someone who's capable of programming at a low level. With HDi, you don't need somebody with that additional level of training. We don't need programmers to code our discs.
PCW: Do you think users are interested in the interactivity on these discs?
Bell: Interactivity is an important part of why you would move up from DVD. Yes, [high-def] has a great picture, but is that enough? Connectivity is something that studios will grow into, and it's something that we believe studios will grow into.
We're thinking about [having media servers to provide extra content via the Internet], but those kinds of investments cost money. The motivation to do them grows as the installed base grows. If we see there's a sufficiently large installed base to justify the cost of the server, we'll do it. Right now we're concentrating on getting a great picture out, and great interactivity.
PCW: Will this exclusive period extend for a limited time, or is this an indefinite arrangement?
Bell: At this moment in time, it's an indefinite commitment. The core of this announcement comes from our experience, and what our consumers are looking for. We hope this will influence consumers' choices.
22-08-2007, 12:04 PM
Update: Michael Bay Throws a Fit Over Paramount, HD DVD Exclusivity
Yesterday, Paramount and DreamWorks made an announcement that shook the tech community -- just when everyone was getting used to the idea that Blu-ray was gaining considerable traction in the high definition format war. The two companies decided to reverse their support for both HD DVD and Blu-ray in exchange for exclusive support for the former.
The news sparked quite a stir from both sides of the aisle. Supporters of the HD DVD standard declared that the move meant that the war is still on. Blu-ray supporters on the other hand saw the move as nothing more than a multi-million dollar payoff for Paramount and DreamWorks.
One high-profile member of the film community decided to make his feeling known about the decision to go HD DVD only. Michael Bay -- known for action blockbusters like "Bad Boys" and "The Rock" as well as critical disappointments like "Pearl Harbor" and "The Island" -- expressed outrage after hearing that "Transformers" would become an HD DVD exclusive title upon its release for high definition players.
"I want people to see my movies in the best formats possible. For them to deny people who have Blu-ray sucks! They were progressive by having two formats. No Transformers 2 for me," exclaimed Bay on his official site.
“Transformers” has racked up nearly $303 million USD in ticket sales in the U.S. alone since its July release. The release of the DVD and HD DVD versions of the movie this fall are sure to bring in considerable dollars to Paramount.
The question remains, however, if Bay has enough clout to reverse Paramount's decision on an HD DVD exclusive HD release for "Transformers" or risk Bay bolting altogether for "Transformers 2."
Thanks to Dane for letting us know that Michael Bay has cooled off a bit following his earlier statement. Bay made the following post this evening on his official site:
Last night at dinner I was having dinner with three blu-ray owners, they were ****ed about no Transformers Blu-ray and I drank the kool aid hook line and sinker. So at 1:30 in the morning I posted - nothing good ever comes out of early am posts mind you - I over reacted. I heard where Paramount is coming from and the future of HD and players that will be close to the $200 mark which is the magic number. I like what I heard.
As a director, I'm all about people seeing films in the best quality possible, and I saw and heard firsthand people upset about a corporate decision.
So today I saw 300 on HD, it rocks!
So I think I might be back on to do Transformers 2!
22-08-2007, 04:49 PM
Michael Bay "drinks the Kool Aid," now supports HD DVD
Ha, so much for standing up (http://www.engadget.com/2007/08/21/michael-bay-responds-to-paramounts-abandonment-of-blu-ray-no-t/) to the boss-man. Michael's latest post now says that, "I drank the Kool Aid" blah blah blah "so I think I might be back on to do Transformers 2!" Whatever, wuss.
23-08-2007, 08:10 AM
Paramount announces first HD DVD title following exclusivity decision
Burbank (CA) - Paramount has announced it will be bringing the 2007 drama "A Mighty Heart" to HD DVD, the first official new movie announcement since the studio opted to back HD DVD exclusively.
A Mighty Heart, starring Angelina Jolie and Dan Futterman, is scheduled for an HD DVD release date of October 16, the same day it will come out for DVD. According to Paramount, all bonus features will be presented in 1080p HD resolution.
Paramount, which previously released films on both Blu-ray and HD DVD, earlier this week announced it would move exclusively to HD DVD, saying, "HD DVD is not only the affordable high quality choice for consumers, but also the smart choice for Paramount."
Paramount immediately stopped production of Blu-ray Disc versions of movies it had previously released. The first title to come out of the HD DVD exclusivity agreement will be the Will Ferrell comedy "Blades of Glory", slated for an August 28 release.
A Mighty Heart will carry a list price of around $40.
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