1 (edited by unfettered one 2007-09-09 18:40:03)

Topic: Blu-ray's Dirty Little Secret


So, after a long Blu-ray disc (BD) release hiatus by Fox and MGM, how does one celebrate the recent press release that new titles are coming? This, of course, arrives fast on the heels of Paramount and Dreamworks Animation announcement to drop BD,

Why, one celebrates by buying one of these studios’ BD-only titles on HD DVD! Yes, Blu-ray-Only Titles are available on HD DVD. Yes, that is correct.

One might ask: How does one do this? The answer has been available all along.

BD-Only Studios’ Dirty Little HD DVD Secret
Apparently, a number of (US) movie studios that claim to be devout, faithful supporters of the BD format are guilty of a little electronic adultery. HD DVD is the mistress at a secret challis, in other markets. Life is interesting indeed.

In a recent post on Home Theater Forum, Dispelling rumors around Paramount/Dreamworks and Microsoft - Home Theater Forum, Kevin Collins, Microsoft’s key HD DVD man, says he would like to dispel rumors surrounding the recent decision of Paramount/Dreamworks Animation to drop BD. Collins disavows any payment to sway Paramount/Dreamworks Animation to support HD DVD exclusively and takes a bit of umbrage at certain articles that suggest Microsoft cash was responsible.

Much of what Collins says is similar to what Paramount/Dreamworks Animation has officially said, and incidentally, similar to what a number of other industry insiders have said regarding the costs of manufacturing Blu-ray vs. HD DVD: Blu-ray is expensive to manufacture.

PC World: Paramount's CTO on Why His Studio is Dumping Blu-ray

What is even more interesting is that Mr. Collins provides links to several web sites, such as Amazon.co.uk, that sell movies on HD DVD, movies that supposedly should only be available on BD because of studio exclusive format deals. At least according to what we are told in the US by the BD (sic) only studios.

Xploitedcinema HD DVD

Amazon.co.uk HD DVD

The best part of the whole Blu-ray farce is which titles are available and from whom.

Why, there are titles from every BD only studio around, in one incarnation or another.

If I were to say that a study of the film industry and the interrelationship between major studios and independent studios, (who owns catalog movie rights) would reveal a convoluted mess of inbreeding, it would be an understatement. Independent studios team up with majors... what might appear to be independent studio is often a front company for a major... back catalogs are not always owned by the original production studio even if they are still in business... major titles often have split distribution in different parts of the world... and competitors on both sides of the format war are often business partners elsewhere.

While perusing the availability of HD DVD outside of the US, I noticed studios that release both or HD DVD-only have no problem releasing titles under some form of their own moniker while BD on HD DVD titles tend to be hidden away under the names of local distribution and production houses or subsidiary companies to obscure who owns the rights.

All of the BD-only studios seem to have movies released as HD DVD titles in Europe and elsewhere, but they don’t use their real names in these other countries. Even better, many of the very first batch of BD releases are available.

Wikipedia: Blu-ray Released Titles

Below are titles I found just using the two links provided by Mr. Collins, but I am sure further digging will reveal more. I have provided Wikipedia links to articles about the respective companies, studios, and films. In each Wikipedia film article, a column on the left provides production information including which studio released the title, but as rights change hands, I have grouped the movies based on who currently owns rights to release the titles using information kindly provided by www.blu-ray.com, a US-based web site.

An Evaluation of Studios and Titles

Blu-ray.com: The 'Now Available' List

Beyond these titles, I found additional titles on HD DVD that are not out on BD yet that would ultimately come from BD-only studios.

While I have included links to the websites where these titles are for sale as a convenience, this is not intended to advertise these particular merchants and I welcome all to submit the web addresses [CLICK ON THE PICS OF THE HD DVD COVER ART] of any other merchants that readers might discover.

Wikipedia: TriStar Pictures (spelled Tri-Star until 1991) is a subsidiary of Columbia Pictures, itself a subdivision of the Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group, which is owned by Sony Pictures. It was founded in 1982.

Wikipedia: Screen Gems is an American subsidiary company of Sony Pictures Entertainment's Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group that has served several different purposes for its parent companies over the decades since its incorporation.

Walt Disney
Wikipedia: Touchstone Pictures (also known as Touchstone Films in its early years) is one of several alternate film labels of The Walt Disney Company, established in 1984. Its releases typically feature more mature themes than those that get released under the Walt Disney Pictures banner. Touchstone Pictures is merely a brand and does not exist as a separate company: the two de facto companies behind it are Walt Disney Motion Pictures Group, Inc. and Walt Disney Pictures and Television.
http://ec1.images-amazon.com/images/I/51NkyIQnoCL._AA240_.jpg http://xploitedcinema.com/catalog/images/reignfirehd.jpg

Wikipedia: Miramax Films is a film production and distribution brand that was a leading independent film motion picture distribution and production company headquartered in New York City before it was acquired by The Walt Disney Company. It was considered an important quasi-independent studio for many years after the Disney purchase.

In 1993 Miramax was purchased for $70 million by The Walt Disney Company. Harvey and Bob Weinstein ran Miramax until they left the company on September 30, 2005. During their tenure, the Weinstein brothers ran Miramax independently of other Disney companies. However, Disney had the final say on what Miramax could release (see Fahrenheit 9/11 and Dogma, for examples). Disney's Buena Vista Home Entertainment division releases Miramax output.

Despite initial fears by some critics and film fans (based on the fact that the release date was rescheduled several times), The Brothers Grimm was released August 26, 2005 after final arrangements made by the Weinstein brothers and the Walt Disney Company concerning how to divide the catalog of Miramax films currently in production. MGM and Miramax's Dimension Films produced the film, MGM has international rights, and Dimension/Miramax has US distribution rights. MGM backed out of its deal to co-distribute in the US, which also contributed to the delay in its release.
http://ec1.images-amazon.com/images/I/519aCygk8CL._AA240_.jpg http://xploitedcinema.com/catalog/images/renaishdde.jpg

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc., or MGM, is an American media company, involved primarily in the production and distribution of films and television programs.

On April 8, 2005, the company was acquired by a partnership led by Sony Corporation of America and Comcast in association with Texas Pacific Group (now TPG Capital, L.P.) and Providence Equity Partners. MGM Mirage, a Las Vegas-based hotel and casino company listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol "MGM", is not currently affiliated with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Sony Pictures will distribute several MGM/UA/Columbia TriStar co-productions—most notably Casino Royale—but outside of the co-productions MGM is now actively involved in acquiring worldwide film rights and distributing theatrical motion pictures domestically. 20th Century Fox will be handling the international theatrical distribution and worldwide home video distribution of MGM titles.

Twentieth Century Fox
http://xploitedcinema.com/catalog/images/mrmrssmhdpl.jpg http://xploitedcinema.com/catalog/images/fantfourden1hd.jpg

Lions Gate
Wikipedia: Lions Gate Entertainment Corporation, (usually rendered as Lionsgate) is an American entertainment company which originated in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada and now is headquartered in Santa Monica, California. As of 2007, it is the most commercially-successful independent film and television distribution company in the United States.

Artisan Entertainment was a privately held independent American movie studio that has been owned by Lions Gate Entertainment since 2003. At the time of its acquisition, Artisan had a library of thousands of films developed through acquisition, original production, and production and distribution agreements.

The company owned the home video rights to the film libraries of Republic Pictures, Vestron, and Carolco Pictures. They also owned Family Home Entertainment (FHE), and its motion picture subdivision, FHE Pictures.
http://g-ec2.images-amazon.com/images/I/516G3U-kHgL._AA240_.jpg http://ec1.images-amazon.com/images/G/02/ciu/87/b7/63c8f96642a0df501e964110._AA240_.L.jpg http://xploitedcinema.com/catalog/images/BASICINSHD.jpg http://xploitedcinema.com/catalog/images/rambo2.jpg http://xploitedcinema.com/catalog/images/rambo3.jpg

How and Why Is This Happening?
So why are HD DVD’s being made in Europe and why is Paramount/Dreamworks Animation dropping Blu-ray?

The Economist: Video Wars II - Can Toshiba's David Topple Sony's Goliath?

For a start, HD DVD is a cheaper system all around. Unlike Blu-ray, which has a much shallower (and therefore a more delicate) data layer, an HD DVD has its digital information etched deeper beneath the surface just like a conventional DVD—and can therefore be stamped out on much the same sort of equipment as a DVD. That translates into a larger profit margin for the studios.

Meanwhile, because of the robustness of the disc, HD DVD players have proved to be much cheaper to build. Models now start at $299, and are expected to fall to $199 by the coming holiday season. By contrast, basic Blu-ray players start at $449.

That’s not all. Engineers who’ve worked with both formats say Blu-ray is a pig to program. While extremely flexible, its programming language, BD-Java, requires lots of low-level code for even the simplest of instructions. The highly skilled programmers needed to do the job don’t exactly grow on trees. And because of the program’s complexity, even the best produce their share of bug-ridden software.

By comparison, writing software for HD DVD using Microsoft’s HDi interactive technology is a doddle—with one simple command doing the task of scores of lines of BD-Java. More importantly, HDi is the key to HD DVD’s better navigation around menus, and its instinctive ability to interact with the outside world.

- Tech.view/The Economist

Ars Technica: The economics of the next-generation DVD formats

The Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) has long asserted that its Blu-ray (BD) format is superior to the rival HD DVD format, and BD’s "revolutionary" buzz has understandably caught the fancy of certain technologists. But CEOs should be wary, because what the BDA does not sufficiently address is what lies behind those assertions. The numbers are stark: manufacturing BD discs will require an estimated US$1.7 million cost per manufacturing line. Per line!

Then, each major manufacturing facility would require the implementation of a minimum of two mastering systems, at a minimum cost of US$2 million per system. DVD, at the height of its success, resulted in an estimated 600 manufacturing lines globally. Even allowing for a decline in systems costs over time as the manufacturing base expanded, the tab for radically overhauling the media manufacturing industry would approach a billion dollars worldwide or more. Already-beleaguered CFOs will be challenged to raise—and risk—this significant amount of capital.

Compare this to the estimated cost of retooling for the HD DVD format compared to BD. HD DVD is able to utilize virtually the entire existing manufacturing infrastructure. The cost of upgrading an existing DVD line is about US$150,000—less than a tenth the cost of a BD line. A DVD mastering system can be upgraded for US$145,000. Basically, HD DVD is a DVD-9—a version of DVD we have enormous manufacturing experience with already—with a denser pit structure.

Once people realize the hidden costs of the Blu-ray format, they will also realize the extent to which it actually endangers their very industry.

Blu-ray is the Emperor’s New Clothes—it advances the agendas of a few select companies instead of the markets and that of the consumer. No one—the studios, the disc manufacturers, the consumer electronics manufacturers—can afford a format war today.

- Rick Marquardt, former GM, Warner Advanced Media Operations,
via Ars Technica

BetaNews: HD DVD: Blu-ray Has Problems

The costs to convert a DVD production line is roughly 10 times the cost of conversion to HD DVD and the BD converted line can no longer make DVDs, therefore requiring two production lines. Quality control issues also exist, with limited BD manufacturing experience, the disc yield of a production run is lower than with either DVD or HD DVD; there are a lot more ‘coasters’ as the techies like to say. On top of all of this, hardcore programmers are required to code the interactivity and menu structures, not typical movie post production staff, and coding bugs abound like the loop that the ‘Dead Man’s Chest’ Liars game goes into with some BD players. Current, poorly executed retail pricing strategies might suggest to consumers that BD is cheaper: it is not.

Then everything comes together: unfaithful for convenience and cost. Maybe when one is away from home, one can get away with having a different wife in every port, who would know?

It’s a very old trick, that.

Collins points out that only two production facilities for 50GB Blu-ray Disc exist in the world, one in Japan, and on in Terre Haute, Idiana. So in addition to the other costs of BD manufacturing, local production is used to avoid the costs of having to produce discs in either Japan or the States and then ship them to Europe. Because of the costs of switching to BD production, few facilities in Europe have spent the coin to go BD.

So, what does this mean, strategically, to BD’s goal of taking over the (HD) world?

The marketers solution: get a foothold in the two countries that are effectively home base for BD companies, Japanese electronics manufacturers and US movie studios, lie through ones teeth about the availability of titles, create lots of marketing hype, and obscure the economic and technical limits of BD. Then once the foothold is established on home turf, expand and force out the competition in other markets.

We here in the States are having the wool pulled over our eyes.

Fortunately, as Mr. Collins kindly points out, unlike Blu-ray, HD DVD is region free. As long as the titles still have an English soundtrack, one doesn’t mind subtitles, or speaks the language these HD DVDs will work just fine in an American HD DVD player. Fortunately, many releases in non-English countries still seam to have the original English sound track.

Over the years, I have acquired quite a few imported CDs that were not available in the US. In looking through these web sites, I noticed a few titles from HD DVD supporters that I don’t recall seeing at US merchants. It looks like I will now be importing some movies as well.

So, what are you waiting for?

Go order yourself some European HD DVDs of some (supposedly) BD-only movies. My HD DVD copies of The Prestige, Terminator 2, and Total Recall should be arriving sometime next week.


Re: Blu-ray's Dirty Little Secret

Really good article, thanks!

Re: Blu-ray's Dirty Little Secret

you're doing an amazing job with all those articles unfettered one, thanks indeed big_smile


Re: Blu-ray's Dirty Little Secret

So, what does this mean, strategically, to BD’s goal of taking over the (HD) world?

The marketers solution: get a foothold in the two countries that are effectively home base for BD companies, Japanese electronics manufacturers and US movie studios, lie through ones teeth about the availability of titles, create lots of marketing hype, and obscure the economic and technical limits of BD. Then once the foothold is established on home turf, expand and force out the competition in other markets.

We here in the States are having the wool pulled over our eyes.

Damn, if you didn't hit the proverbial nail on its proverbial head!  This format war is a very emotional one and I've had a hard time explaining to some people why that is.  Your article basically sums up every feeling I've had about this HD war. 

Now what I would like to see is a response from a BD person showing why they APPROVE of blu-ray!  I can't help but think if someone is on the blu-ray side, that someone is either blatantly ignorant or grossly mis-informed.  smile

Re: Blu-ray's Dirty Little Secret

I'll play devil's advocate smile

It's in the PS3.


Re: Blu-ray's Dirty Little Secret

...which just means that you won't be playing all your dvd's on it.
Or are you going to go out and buy all the movies in your collection again on Blu-ray? smile

That's the biggest obstacle for Blu-ray from my perspective, people get backwards compatability with HD-DVD and they don't with Blu-ray.
(and where has the damn E in Blue gotten to? smile)

Re: Blu-ray's Dirty Little Secret

logiztik wrote:

(and where has the damn E in Blue gotten to? smile)

lol indeed I was wondering that too, but have you tried to get a brand or trademark on a color wink
A misspelled word which sounds exactly the same but has legally no problem does the trick. And now we have this nice logo roll



Re: Blu-ray's Dirty Little Secret

I don't see what the problem is here?

I have a PS3, it plays Blu-Ray DVD's in HD quality on my HDTV and i don't want to have to buy a $300 (AU) add on for my 360 to play HDDVD movies. So i'm all for BluRay winning this so called format war, because it's the one i've already got. If it doesn't, i'll buy a HD-DVD drive i guess.

For the record, I have a AU PS3, and all of my Blu-Ray DVD's are US format and they all work fine. I have a catalog of about 12 BD movies.

Re: Blu-ray's Dirty Little Secret

A premium 360 with an HD DVD addon still comes out cheaper than a PS3 though smile

The thing with Sony is that they're stupid and are not selling the PS3 first as the cheapest blu-ray player on the market and second, WHEN they get into the homes of people, as a gaming platform. That'd be a steal for them, while the blu-ray still has a shot.


Re: Blu-ray's Dirty Little Secret

I understand all that but i already own my PS3 and my Xbox 360 so these things don't help me. I didn't get my PS3 for Blu-Ray movies but with the current game line up that's mostly what i use it for. My point is, i don't get why people care so much. I mean, i can't remember the exact statistic, but at this point in time Blu-Ray and HDDVD COMBINED have stolen something like 2% of the market share from the DVD. People who own either HD media player are very much in the minority, so the sales and things that happen right now don't actually matter. When your Average Joe joins the HD revolution, then there's a War. At the moment we've got some lame fist fights.

Re: Blu-ray's Dirty Little Secret

Well said.

The stat you are looking for is less than 1%.

And yes, it is not really so much a format war as more like a couple of drunks down at the pub getting into a pissing contest.

I will tell you what does bother me about blu-ray. Despite all the hyperbole to the opposite, it really is the inferior tech of the two next-gen technologies. On so many levels it is as if the BDA did not even give much thought to exactly what it represented to the consumer to be next-gen. They just upped the technical stats of the original DVD and called it a day.

As everyone here knows, I already own a standalone HD DVD player (got it a few months back), and I own a PS3 as well (even though I will be purchasing a standalone blu-ray player closer to Xmas). I get to dabble in both formats and I have to admit that outside of picture and audio quality (which is equal on both formats), blu-ray leaves a lot to be desired when I compare it head to head against HD DVD.

You live in Australia, so maybe you do not get the entire blu-ray message shoved down your throat everytime you turn on the television or head to your favorite website, but here in the States, Sony and the BDA is pretty much ramming the "blu-ray is God" message down every orifice they can ram it down. That alone would not be a bad thing if blu-ray really was the best technology or if adoption of blu-ray as a de facto standard wasn't literally going to bankrupt half the industry. Unfortunately, blu-ray isn't the best technology, and so to have this message rammed down your throat every time you turn around is more than a bit bothersome.

Of course all of this was made all the worse when Sony decided they were going to put blu-ray into the Playstation 3. In the process they have managed to ruin two of my favorite things on the planet - high end home theaters, and video games. The PS3 would have been fine without blu-ray, and would likely be continuing Sony's domination over the video game market had they simply just settled for DVD. But now all of that is up in the air and the entire industry is thrown into all sorts of uncertain turmoil as they try to figure out what to do now that Sony no longer has any chance at continued dominion.

Meanwhile, the entire high-end home theater community has now been flooded with videogame fanbois with all the frothing fire, brimstone and holier than thou of a true holy roller. Used to be you could go to any of the home theater forums and engage in all manner of insightful discussions about the pros and cons of damned near anything the industry had to offer. But since Sony put blu-ray into PS3s, thereby inviting Playstation fanbois to suddenly feel qualified enough to put long time home theater pros and enthusiasts into "our place" by constantly ramming the "blu-ray is God" message down the throats of anyone within shouting distance, now even that has gone to pot. It got so bad recently, that one of the world's most respected outlets for home theater discussion (and one of my favorite places to visit), just closed up shop recently because they could not stop all the Sony fanbois from ruining every discussion thread with all the trolling, flaming and flame baiting. Now they just report the news and have closed down the forums for good. It's really sad, the place has been there for a decade, and now thanks to all these "gamers" feeling they know better than people who have spent their lives learning this stuff . . .

This kind of childish behavior would have served the world better by staying on the gaming forums where it is commonplace and apparently accepted behavior in far too many places to count. But it's had to spread like a cancer and ruin everything else it comes in contact with. It's enough to make a guy break into tears. The internet in general used to be such a friendly place - never in my life have I ever known so many perfect strangers willing to give the shirts off their backs to help an unknown face in their cyber communities. These days, it's all about people bitching and moaning about something or other - most of it inconsequential, and almost all of it selfish. I miss the good old days.

I digress.

Anyway, I really do not think you can go wrong purchasing either format, and I honestly do not recommend one over the other. I know in my mind that HD DVD is the more next-gen of the two formats, and that blu-ray is in a constant battle to play catch up in terms of what it offers. However, at the end of the day, it is about watching and enjoying movies. And at that, both formats excel. You cannot go wrong with either, however, I recommend you buy both.

And if the recent studies are true, about both formats ending up like SACD and DVDA and having to co-habitate (that's a word that all of the fanbois hate to see in print), just like the format war between SACD and DVDA, neither is ever likely to have a victory over the other, then both formats are what you are most certainly likely to wind up with anyway. Best to get over that fact now and just bight the bullet. I have and I get the best of both worlds, which is a fair sight better than wasting my time trying to badger people into buying only "this" format.