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January 30, 2007

Video and DVD Formats: InterVideo DVD Copy 5 Platinum

So many video formats -- discs and files, video and audio, set-top and PC and portable, high-res HDV to TV-quality MPEG to tiny portable screens. How can you make sense of them all, figure out the right format for a particular purpose, and then get your clips converted properly? For discs there's DVD -- R and RW, dash and plus, single and double layer, and even VR. And for files there's Windows Media Video (WMV), the MPEG-1 and -2 standards, and now MPEG-4, plus AVC and 3GPP versions. Arrg!

Sometimes you don't want to edit video and discs -- you just want to assemble, copy, and convert them. This calls for a dedicated tool like the new InterVideo DVD Copy 5 for Windows, which can grab video from discs and/or files, convert among a zillion formats, and deliver the results by burning discs or creating new movie files.

Full article: Video and DVD Formats: Copying and Converting with InterVideo DVD Copy 5 Platinum

February 13, 2007

Digital Media Trends: Roxio Easy Media Creator 9

In 2007, trends that began developing last year are coming to fruition. Sites like YouTube and Google Video have exploded interest in informal short-form video, and low-res video thrives on portable devices from pocket MP3 players to cell phones. At the other extreme, in the living room, the home theatre high-def experience is coming into reach with affordable wide-screen displays, HDV camcorders, and next-gen DVDs. And new networking technologies allow even broader sharing, both between devices on the home network, and peer-to-peer across the Internet.


The newest poster child for these developing trends and technologies is the latest Roxio Easy Media Creator suite, version 9. EMC 9 handles all different types of digital media (video, audio, photos, data) through the end-to-end workflow, from capture to editing to sharing. The EMC suite provides a nicely integrated collection with both strong individual tools, and a variety of utilities for doing simple things quickly and efficiently.

Full article: Desktop Digital Media Trends 2007 -- with Roxio Easy Media Creator 9

March 6, 2007

Blue-Laser Blues: Getting HD video to disc

All we want is HD video on disc! It's bad enough to have the confusion of yet another messy format war between the Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD formats. But the industry is further dampening the promise of these formats by failing to learn from the hard-fought experience of the early days of DVD on PCs. Instead, the same frustrations in just being able to play movies, and burn and share content are back again -- and further aggravated by the confusions created by aggressive copy protection.

   

As a result, the industry's best customers (the enthusiasts and early adopters of high-def video (that might even be useful in promoting the formats) are actually being blocked from being able to work (or even play) with the new formats.

For example, an independent production house here in Princeton is eager to author their new HD production to Blu-ray disc, but has continually run into brick walls. They're not part of the in-crowd that are authoring studio films with $100,000 tools, but they've been trying to work with manufacturers and integrators and buying Blu-ray software, burners, and players.

However, the first tools only created discs with no menus, and while some new tools create menus, today's set-top players refuse to play the recorded discs. Oops! Meanwhile, the tools and players are only starting to provide the ability to save the cost of burning expensive discs by working from folders on hard disc. And the format itself does not support the intermediate path of sharing short-form HD material on DVD.

Why is this so hard to understand? Well, here's an attempt to write down my rant on the problem, and explain what's needed to address it.



Continue reading "Blue-Laser Blues: Getting HD video to disc" »


April 30, 2007

Creating Blu-ray Discs: Roxio DVDit Pro HD

The first software for Blu-ray authoring, including CyberLink, InterVideo/Ulead, and Roxio MyDVD, used the basic BDAV (audio/video) format that was designed for recording video clips to disc, but without menus or fancy DVD interfaces.

Roxio DVDit Pro HD is the first tool to offer full-up DVD authoring for Blu-ray discs, using what's known as BDMV (Movie) mode.

The base Roxio DVDit 6 Pro is $299.99, with support for up to 8 audio and 32 subtitle tracks, plus Dolby Digital stereo encoding (plus pass-thorough support for 5.1 surround sound).



But we're interested in the full Roxio DVDit Pro HD for $499.99, which allows you to author a project at full HD resolution, and then deliver the result as fullscren or widescreen, standard DVD and/or Blu-ray. It's all the same old DVD authoring stuff that you may remember from the previous version, except that you can now author menus with full HD widescreen content, and it outputs to Blu-ray format.

See full article: Delivering HD Discs: Roxio DVDit Pro HD

    Check out Roxio DVDit Pro HD on Amazon.com.

May 11, 2007

Summary: Ulead DVD MovieFactory 6

Corel / Ulead DVD MovieFactory 6 was released in February 2007, as the next generation of this simple and easy-to-use disc authoring tool, designed for consumers who want to get videos and photos from camcorders to disc.



Key new features include built-in "Edit Room" video editing tools. plus support for high-definition editing and burning, including HDV, DivX and AVCHD video, and burning to HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc.

For the new HD disc formats, author to DVD or HD DVD using the main DVD MovieFactory application, complete with menus and navigation, including burning HD DVD content to DVD discs using standard DVD burners. Or burn clips to Blu-ray disc in BDAV format (playable video, but without menus), directly from HDV camcorders or from HD files.

DVD MovieFactory 6 is available in two versions:

- The base Ulead DVD MovieFactory 6 is for creating standard-definition DVDs, i.e., from DV and other standard-def video. It provides a quick path to nice-looking discs with built-in templates, plus the ability to personalize the menu design and navigation (US $49.95 retail).

- The enhanced Ulead DVD MovieFactory 6 Plus adds support for high-definition, with HD capture, editing, and burning to the new HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc formats ($79.99). It also adds disc utilities for copying discs, creating audio DVDs or CDs, and burning password-protected data discs.

You can download trial versions of DVD MovieFactory and related applications over the Web, so go ahead and give it a try.

See full article: Summary: Ulead DVD MovieFactory 6

See the DVD Authoring Software Gallery with related products, consumer and professional.

    Check out Corel / Ulead DVD MovieFactory 6 on Amazon.com.

December 26, 2007

DYMO - DiscPainter CD/DVD Printer

This was a nice holiday surprise -- a technology device that worked right out of the box, and has lived up to its promise. Plus, it's a very cool design for a useful product.

The DYMO DiscPainter is a CD/DVD printer that prints on inkjet printable discs. It works quickly (in a few minutes), and has a compact design that's very quiet.



As a bonus, the DiscPainter is really fun to watch, because it prints while the disc is spinning. When you insert the disc it is pulled back under the main housing, and then the DiscPainter prints from the inside hub out to the outer edge, quietly advancing the disc under the cover so you can see it being painted.

The DiscPainter also is easy to use, because its software installs as a USB printer device under Windows (it also includes Mac software).You then can print from any application -- i.e., Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop or something simpler. DYMO provides disc templates, so you just set the page size to match before printing to the device. Or you can use the included Discus for DYMO software for designing disc labels.

The DiscPainter works with inkjet-printable discs, standard-size CDs and DVDs (120 mm), plus mini discs (80 mm). It prints the entire surface of "full-coverage" / hub-printable discs, printing to the inner edge of the center hole, as well as non hub-printable discs (with the larger unprintable inner plastic ring).

Use the printer properties dialog to set the print quality, print area on the disc, and the ink density (matte to glossy to colored discs).


The print time then ranges from 30 seconds in Fast / draft mode (fine for simple text labels) to a still-quick 3 minutes for Best quality and complex graphics designs.

DYMO recommends using inkjet-printable discs with a glossy surface -- the shiny surface looks better than a duller, softer matte surface. There also are a variety of water-resistant / "tough coat" discs available that will hold the print better with less-gentle handling.

The unit is only 4.3 x 10.6 x 5.7 inches, and weighs 2.65 pounds. Released in late 2007, it's available for around $279. It also uses a single, but custom, ink cartridge, rated for printing 100 discs at Normal quality, and is available online for around $40

See my High-Def / DVD Gallery for details and related products

    Find the DYMO DiscPainter on Amazon.com

June 9, 2008

Memorex SimpleSave DVD For Automatic Backup

Back up your stuff! Everybody knows you should, but it's just so clumsy to do, and who has the time, or you run out of backup discs or storage -- and that's for us tech people, who should know better! For many consumers, backup is just not feasible at all -- they need not one-click backup, but zero-click backup -- automatic backup to a removable device, with no software installation, no setup, no messing around with details.

Imation/Memorex has launched a line of recordable DVDs that get right to the heart of these issues --

The Memorex SimpleSave Back-Up DVDs are recordable discs that have a pre-recorded region that launches back-up software directly from the disc.


There's no fuss, no configuring -- the software automatically scans your disc and backs up all your photo or music files, prompting for additional discs if needed. (See press release)

To make backup even easier for consumers, the discs are available in separate products for specific types of files: Photo (5-pack for $12.99) and Music (3-pack for $9.99). Just insert the disc, and all files of these types are found and archived. (Of course, you can specify advanced backup options for specific file types or locations.)

The software used on the discs is actually DVD Click Free Backup from Storage Appliance Corp. in Ontario, Canada. Another way to use this idea is for backing up to hard drive -- the ClickFree Backup HD700 external hard drive, introduced in January for $169, is a 120 GB USB 2.0 hard drive that runs the ClickFree Automatic Backup software. Just plug in the drive, and the software auto-runs and automatically backs up files from your computer. (Again, you can override the defaults and use your own settings.) A similar product was shipped earlier -- the Polaroid Media Backup Photo Edition -- the 40 GB drive for around $119 stores up to some 40,000 digital photos.

See my High-Def / DVD Gallery for more on optical disc formats and media.

See my Portable Storage Gallery for details and comparisons on memory cards, USB drives, and hard disk storage.

June 1, 2008

Digital Copy: Movie "Downloads" from Blu-ray Disc

With the victory of the Blu-ray Disc format for high-def movies, the great hope of the movie studios and consumer electronics industry is that that consumers will rush out to buy HD movies on disc for viewing on their home theatre displays.

But today's consumers want their media available where, when, and how it best fits their needs. And if you spend the money to buy a new HD version of a movie you already own on DVD (and maybe previously on VHS), you're not going to be thrilled to be asked to buy additional lower-res versions for your Apple iPod, Sony PSP, or other portable player.

The studios do understand this, and so, for example, Fox has been experimenting with an ongoing effort to provide digital files of movies along with its Blu-ray discs, what it calls Fox Digital Copy.


Warner Home Video, in comparison, has been tryiing out two forms of digital copies. Special editions of titles like Superman Returns included the option to download an electronic copy over the Internet. But electronic downloads are slow, and it really may not be a good idea for the industry to be training consumers to learn the joy of downloading movies over the Internet.

The more convenient option is to store the digital copy right on the disc with the movie, as with the December release of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. The Warner digital copy is only in Windows Media format (i.e., not for Macs or iPods), and authorizes a copy for one PC and one portable media device.

Meanwhile, Fox has worked with Apple to support Fox Digital Copy on both PCs and Macs. Fox then provides digital movie files in iTunes-compatible format for playback on PCs, Macs, and iPods (and the iPhone), as well as in Windows Media format for playback under Windows and on compatible Plays For Sure portable devices (e.g., from SanDisk, Creative, Samsung, Sony, and others).

I had the chance to try out the Digital Copy feature with the Juno and Alien vs. Predator: Requiem Blu-ray releases. These are two-discs sets: Disc 1 is the movie on Blu-ray, with special features, and disc 2 is a DVD with the digital copy files. 

The disc 2 DVD actually contains three copies of the movie. 

  • Windows Media "PC", ~ 720 x 390 - 300 resolution
  • "Portable" Windows Media, lower 320 x 174
  • Apple iTunes, ~ 853 x 460 - 356

The two higher-res versions are just over 1 GB in size, and the smaller portable versions are around 400 to 520 KB, so all three fit well on a single DVD at good quality.

When inserted in a PC, the DVD launches a simple Copy Manager application (in Adobe Flash). It then can transfer the movie files on the DVD disc to your hard disk, installing the digital copy to iTunes and/ or Windows Media Player, and from there to a portable player.

While the process was relatively painless, after entering the 16-digit serial number, the copy protection will get in the way if you want to move the movie to a another computer or different portable device.The Fox website advises consumers to call with such license authorization issues.

It would seem that these digital copies make sense for the studios, adding real value for consumers while not threatening high-def Blu-ray releases (or even standard-res DVDs) too much, since the digital copies are somewhat lower resolution. Even more, the movie video files do not contain the interactive navigation and extra features that can make the disc versions much more interesting, especially as the more advanced BD-Live interactive capabilities become available later this year.

See the full article: Digital Copy: Movie "Downloads" from Blu-ray Disc

    Find Alien vs. Predator: Requiem [Blu-ray]
    and Juno [Blu-ray] on Amazon.com

August 19, 2008

Blu-ray Movies on Your PC: CyberLink BD Advisor

Blu-ray Disc format (BD) is the next-generation DVD, so that once you move up to a beautiful widescreen HD television you can also enjoy high-definition movies on Blu-ray discs -- as long as you upgrade your set-top DVD player to a Blu-ray player (or have a Sony Playstation 3).

The upgrade from DVD works similarly for playing Blu-ray movies on your PC as well -- you need a Blu-ray disc drive and compatible player software. But unlike with DVDs, Blu-ray imposes further constraints on PC playback, both technical and business.

Even if you buy a Blu-ray driver and compatible player software, you still can't play Blu-ray movies on your PC unless you have both a relatively high-end system and a compatible digital display. And there's another wrinkle -- Blu-ray discs and players come in three "Profiles" of advanced features, so you'll need a newer player to take full advantage of the new discs that will be released (see below).

You need the system performance because the high-def video formats used with Blu-ray are just big -- at least 4 times the resolution -- resulting in massive amounts of digital data to move around a PC (from disc to memory), and then to decompress.

And you need a compatible digital display because, when the Blu-ray format was created, the content owners (e.g., Hollywood studios and TV networks) required it to use significant additional content protection technologies, including special digital cabling to protect the video between the computer and the display (e.g., HDMI, as also used with HDTVs).

The best way to enjoy Blu-ray on a PC, then, is to buy a new system designed with built-in Blu-ray movie playback, especially a laptop with an integrated display, from companies including Dell and Sony.

But if you want to upgrade your existing system, it can be tricky to determine whether you've got enough performance for the job. CyberLink, creators of the PowerDVD disc player software (see previous post), is trying to help with its CyberLink BD Advisor software, just upgraded to version 2 and available as a free download.

Designed as a "good faith" reference tool (and not a guarantee of performance), BD Advisor reports on your system configuration, including processor, memory, and graphics card, to check for basic movie playback capability. It also examines support for advanced Blu-ray features, including picture-in-picture and networked interactivity (see Blu-ray Profiles below).

On the other hand, these same video player applications typically can play high-def video clips just fine on reasonably recent systems, including the new HDV (MPEG-2) and AVCHD (MPEG-4) formats. So what's so special about Blu-ray? It's just that trying to be conservative in ensuring reliable continuous playback of a two-hour movie raises the bar a bit in setting system requirements.

So regard a tool like BD Advisor as a useful way to profile your system and provide helpful feedback in deciding whether to upgrade components of your system for Blu-ray playback.

See my High-Def / DVD Gallery for more on the Blu-ray format.

Blu-ray Profiles ...



Continue reading "Blu-ray Movies on Your PC: CyberLink BD Advisor" »


September 24, 2008

Verbatim PhotoSave & Memorex SimpleSave Backup DVDs

Verbatim has joined Memorex in trying to take the pain out of doing backups -- at least to archive the piles of photo files that you've uploaded from digital cameras, downloaded from the web, and received via e-mail.

It's too hard to install backup software, and remember to run it. And for many, it's too hard to remember to do backups at all.

The solution is to use what Verbatim calls "Self-Recordable Media" -- the recordable DVD that you use for burning your files also contains a small pre-recorded section with the backup software installed on it.

This idea is now available as the Verbatim PhotoSave DVD (3 pack $9.99, 5-pack $14.99), and the Memorex SimpleSave Photo and Video Back-Up DVDs (5-pack $14.99), which can find and burn some 2,000 photo files to a disc. (Memorex originally also planned to do a music backup disc -- see previous post).

The software auto-runs directly from the disc when you insert it, and automatically searches over your computer to find photo files wherever you have stashed them (or you can select custom folders and file types, including video). Then click to burn the disc.


The Verbatim PhotoSave software (Auto Mastering 3.5 from Soft-R Research) also supports burning multiple times to add additional photos until the disc is full, and spanning a backup across multiple discs for large collections of files.

Now please go do some backups!

See my High-Def / DVD Gallery for more on optical disc formats and media.

See my Portable Storage Gallery for details and comparisons on memory cards, USB drives, and hard disk storage.

    Find Memorex SimpleSave Backup DVDs on Amazon.com

September 26, 2008

Peaceful HD TV: Widescreen Screensavers

That big-screen TV is great for experiencing the explosions of action movies, the immersion of sweeping historical epics, and the excitement of live sports. But sometimes it's nice to just kick back and relax. Instead of turning off your display so it sits as on the wall as a big black rectangle, you can use it to help with calming music and peaceful scenes.

Screen Dreams Living Series DVDs

You can get started with the inexpensive Screen Dreams "Living" DVD series, which started as animated screensavers (Living Aquarium, Beaches, Waterfalls, Butterflies) and have expanded into widescreen video (Living Fireplace, Aquarium volume 2) and photo slide shows (Living Earth) -- for $11.99 each.

For example, the Living Earth disc cycles through a two-hour slide show of 42 outdoor nature scenes, at three user-settable speeds.

It's accompanied by user-selected music tracks, including orchestrial, chamber, and guitar.


    Find the Screen Dreams Living Earth DVD on Amazon.com


Alpha DVD / Ralph LaBarge

For more peaceful relaxation, meditation, and background ambiance, look to the earth and the sky with some of the more than 200 DVD projects created by Ralph LaBarge of Alpha DVD, an independent DVD title developer, and distributed by DVD International.

These classic discs include the Planet Earth series (Visions of the Earth from Space) with seven titles featuring video of different continents taken from the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station (North America, South America, Australia, Oceania), each with over an hour of imagery, with music complementary to the region ($7.95).

The StarGaze discs (Visions of the Universe) feature images from the Hubble Space Telescope, plus the option to jump to more information about the current celestial object on the screen. ($21.99)


And the Natural Splendors series displays photography of nature scenes with surround sound music ($17.99).

    Find the Planet Earth DVDs, the StarGaze DVDs
    and the Natural Splendors DVDs on Amazon.com


BBC - Planet Earth / The Blue Planet

Beyond background video and music, and widescreen but standard-defintion DVD, the 11-part BBC Planet Earth series offers the full high-def experience of natural history filmmaking.

It was shown in the U.S. on the Discovery Channel (also see the Planet Earth Guide), and is available on Blu-ray ($63.95)


The earlier series from the BBC, Blue Planet: Seas of Life explores the natural history of the oceans and deeps (also shown on the Discovery Channel), and is available on DVD ($38.99).

    Find the Planet Earth on Blu-ray and the
    Blue Planet: Seas of Life on DVD on Amazon.com

October 19, 2008

Bond is Back -- in Blu-ray

To celebrate the upcoming release of the 22nd James Bond mission, Quantum of Solace starring Daniel Craig, coming November 14 in the U.S. (see the aptly named 007.com) -- MGM and Fox Home Entertainment are releasing six films across the Bond canon in high-def Blu-ray Disc (BD) format, available on October 21.

The films are restored and re-mastered for high quality picture and sound via digital frame-by-frame restoration, and includes scads of special features, including featurettes refinished in HD.

The James Bond franchise has generated more than four billion in global box office gross and has an astounding 98% global consumer awareness. Casino Royale, the most recent James Bond film, debuted on Blu-ray in March 2007, and continues to be one of the best selling BD releases to-date.

The six films newly released in Blu-ray are:
- Dr. No, 1962, with Sean Connery
- From Russia with Love, 1963, with Sean Connery
- Thunderball, 1965, with Sean Connery
- Live and Let Die, 1973, with Roger Moore
- For Your Eyes Only, 1981, with Roger Moore
- Die Another Day, 2002, with Pierce Brosnan

Each film is available individually in Blu-ray format for $34.98 U.S. ($24 street), and includes an e-movie ticket cash certificate (up to $10.50) for the new Quantum of Solace Bond adventure.

The films also are available in two sets of three, the James Bond Blu-ray Collection Three-Packs, with two movie tickets:
Volume 1 (Dr. No / Die Another Day / Live and Let Die) and
Volume 2 (For Your Eyes Only / From Russia with Love / Thunderball), each for $89.98 ($59 street).

Or you can get the full set in the James Bond Blu-ray Collection Six-Pack for $179.96 ($112 street).

The Hollywood studios will be pushing Blu-ray for the holidays, hoping that you upgrade your movie collection to enjoy new releases -- and classics -- on your widescreen HD TV.


So MGM / Fox hopes you agree that "Blu-ray was made for Bond" -- See FoxBD.com for information on the latest releases, including the Planet of the Apes series coming on November 4.

Find the James Bond Blu-ray Collection Three-Packs Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 and the complete Six-Pack on Amazon.com

January 8, 2009

Archiving to CD and DVD: Verbatim UltraLife Gold Archival Grade Media

We can all empathize with David Pogue's frustration in a recent blog post, after he discovered that some DVDs that he had burned less than four years ago were no longer readable, at least on some of his systems.

And it's not just old discs -- I have a similar issue with a particular set-top player that just refuses to recognize DVDs burned with some combinations of software and discs. Irritating!

Yes, the CD and DVD formats are well-established standards, and should "just work." But as commodity products under heavy price pressure, discs, burners, players -- and software -- all have little tolerance for problems.

While each individual product may be within its technical specs, if some of the parameters for each device slip from well-in-spec to just-barely, then the combination of a particular disc, burned on a particular drive, and with particular software, then may no longer be playable on a particular player. Crud!

So what can you do?

If you're burning discs to give to others, it's a good idea to first burn some test discs to make sure they work well on all the intended players.

Similarly, professional videographers build up long experience with getting discs to play well on a wide assortment of customer systems. When they find a particular combination of equipment that works, they stick with it, even to the extent of ordering large quantities of a particular brand of disc that works well for them.

And what burning archival discs? -- Can you rely on them lasting for more than a few years?

The core problem, of course, is that there's no margin in the industry to sell battle-hardened discs to the mass market.

But if you're willing to pay a (significant) premium, then products like the Verbatim UltraLife Gold Archival Grade CD-R / DVD-R media offer better compatibility and longevity.


How much more? The industry is reluctant to make exact promises, since there are so many variables in how the disc is burned and then stored. Roughly, most reputable brand name standard optical storage media has a minimum data life in excess of 50 years and archival media has a minimum data life in excess of 100 years. These lifetime numbers are based on accelerated life testing (i.e., in temperature and humidity chambers).

The Verbatim UltraLife Gold Archival media has a dual reflective layers, with a highly reflective silver layer for broad read/write compatibility and an outer gold layer to protect data from corrosion. The DVD media also has a hard coating on the recording surface to protect from scratches or abrasion.

The UltraLife Gold Archival line includes both CD-R and DVD-R discs, available in a 5 pack jewel case or 50-pack spindle. The DVD-R 4.7 GB / 8X 5-pack is $15 list, around $9 street. The CD-R 700 MB / 52X 5-pack is $16 list, around $8 street.

The idea is that you can store content based on the personal value of the data to you. Burn to less expensive discs for quick sharing, do some testing with better discs when you're spending more time on a production, and consider archival grade media for long-term archiving.

Of course, by the time our 100-year discs reach the end of their lifetime, the whole idea of optical media will be a faint memory of an obsolete format.

But until then, you still can successfully use DVDs and CDs to share video productions and store plain old data. Just pay attention to your equipment and your process, pay a bit more for better quality, and be conservative about pushing boundaries (e.g., don't burn at the latest highest available speed).

Also check out the best practices for taking care of your discs, for example, see the
    NIST CD and DVD Archiving Guide for Care and Handling.

See my previous article on Hard Coat Protection for Recordable Discs
    and earlier article on "DVD Rot" / DVD Longevity and Reliability

See my High-Def / DVD Gallery for more on optical disc formats and media.

    Find the Verbatim UltraLife Gold Archival Grade DVD-R and
    CD-R Media on Amazon.com

April 11, 2009

More Bond in Blu-ray -- Quantum of Solace

More James Bond (see 007.com) in high-definition Blu-ray Disc (BD) format, with the release of Quantum of Solace, plus more additions to your collection of Bond classics in high-def Blu-ray (see previous post).

According to Home Media Magazine, Quantum of Solace continues as the top-selling Blu-ray title for the week of April 5, even in competition with the teen vampire romance Twilight. For the previous week ended March 29, the Blu-ray edition accounted for 28% of the title’s total sales, on the top of both the Nielsen VideoScan Blu-ray Disc chart and Home Media Magazine’s video rental chart.

The high-def versions are also popular as digital downloads (see previous post). While Twilight continues on the top of the Apple iTunes chart, Quantum debuted at No. 2, and MGM reports that half the purchases were in HD.

Meanwhile, on Amazon.com, Casino Royale and Goldfinger remain the top-selling previous Bond titles on Blu-ray. These prices do move around: Goldfinger and other Bond titles are currently around $22.99, and Casino Royale is $19.99. There are also other collector's editions, including three- and six-pack collections.

For more information on upcoming Blu-ray releases, see Fox's FoxBD.com.

Find Quantum of Solace on Amazon.com
Find the James Bond Blu-ray Collection Three-Packs Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 and the complete Six-Pack on Amazon.com

July 3, 2009

Blu-ray Disc Publishing Costs (Finally) Reduced

Imagine you are promoting a replacement format for DVD, to support delivery of high-definition video on optical discs -- and let's call this new format Blu-ray Disc (because it uses a sexy blue laser beam). Is this format just about selling Hollywood movies on disc in high-def? Or might it be even more attractive as a more general format, like DVD, that could be used by smaller producers and independent videographers to package and sell HD productions, from weddings and sports and corporate events to independent films?

Blu-ray had obvious benefit for Hollywood, especially as DVD sales were cooling off, with the promise of reviving their catalogs of titles by selling a new copy of favorite movies in HD. Then the industry got caught up in the format war with the HD DVD format, so the attention was focused on getting the major studios on board with the format, and then on promoting the catalogs of movies now available in HD.

Yet while Blu-ray won the battle with HD DVD, the larger war is still ongoing, as it faces competition including DVD (entrenched, and good enough for many consumers), cable video-on-demand (also in HD), electronic delivery (HD, and even free) -- plus all the other options for consumer dollars, both for entertainment, and for more basic staples in these difficult times.

So you might think that the industry would be interested in encouraging the growth of a much broader range of content from the many independent publishers and videographers who have moved to high-def production, and are interested in the promise of Blu-ray for delivering HD content on physical media.

After all, getting into Blu-ray is already a big step for early adopters -- not only in hard production costs for equipment and tools, but also in the time and effort of ramping up on the more complex format. But the barrier to entry is actually even worse -- to license just the AACS (Advanced Access Content System) content protection technology required an entrance fee of $3000, plus another $1300 fee for each title, plus an ongoing fee of $0.04 per disc.

And unlike DVD, where producers can decline to use the CSS content protection technology, AACS is mandatory for manufactured Blu-ray discs -- even if you do not want to use it.

Finally, this week, the AACS licensing fees have been changed (as reported by Sonic Solutions, the leading developer of authoring tools and technology for Blu-ray, DVD, and other digital media for pros to consumers):

- First-time Blu-ray users can choose to start with an annual AACS Content Provider Agreement Fee of $500 (which accrues not to the old $3000 total, but to a maximum of $5000 over 10 years).

- And the per-title Content Certificate and Order Fulfillment Fee is reduced to $500 (from $1300), although technically this fee is for each "glass master" needed to manufacture copies of a disc.

- The Media Fee of $0.04 per disc (i.e., $40 / 1000 discs) for each disc replicated remains the same.

So the initial cost of entry, at least for the AACS license, has been reduced from $4300 to $1000, a helpful improvement for first-time and low volume content holders who are interested in taking a first step into the business.

Of course, it's still unfortunate that AACS is required at all. And there's still lots more the industry can do to take advantage of the full promise of the Blu-ray format, including more compelling use of interactivity and networking in new titles, more focus on Blu-ray on the personal computer, for data backup (at 25 to 50 GB per disc) and for creating personal HD videos, and more use on the set-top, including Blu-ray recorders for more flexibility in personal recording...

More information and links:



Continue reading "Blu-ray Disc Publishing Costs (Finally) Reduced" »


September 2, 2009

RealDVD - The Product and the Case

In September 2008, RealNetworks released RealDVD, a $30 software product that allowed consumers to "save, organize and watch DVDs on their PC and on the go" by copying DVD discs to your PC's hard drive (see my RealDVD product summary article). The idea was that you would no longer face the hassle of searching through piles of DVD cases, or be troubled by scratched discs. Instead, you could instantly access your movie collection from the hard drive, along with additional information like plot synopses and cast lists. And laptop users could watch longer without the DVD drive draining the battery.

Rob Glaser, RealNetworks CEO, described how he was inspired to create RealDVD by using the Kaleidescape high-end DVD jukebox system (a $10,000 product). In addition to RealDVD, Real also developed a related set-top hardware product, a consumer DVD jukebox code named "Facet." (The RealDVD software product was called "Vegas.")

RealNetworks positioned RealDVD as providing consumers with "more value and flexibility for their [DVD] purchases." And it attempted to protect the interests of the movie industry by using encryption to restrict further sharing of the copies -- much like the Digital Copy versions of movies distributed with some studio DVDs that can be played on PCs or Macs, and downloaded to iPods and other portable players (see Digital Copy article).

However, litigation seeking to prevent the distribution of RealDVD began immediately after the product was released (see my RealDVD litigation summary article). The DVD Copy Control Association (DVD CCA) and several major motion picture studios claimed that Real had breached its license agreement and violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

U.S. District Judge Marilyn Patel quickly granted a temporary restraining order in October 2008, which was in force pending a "mini-trial" which was held in April and May 2009. Then Judge Patel granted a preliminary injunction in August, enjoining RealNetworks from distributing its DVD copying products.

While I was an expert witness for RealNetworks in this case, these articles are intended to be factual summaries, based on links to publicly available materials that I have found useful in laying out the RealDVD product and associated litigation:

- See RealDVD Product - Save Your DVDs to Your PC for information on the RealDVD product features and technical information, based on public product information from Real.

- See RealDVD Case - Litigation Summary for details and a chronology of the RealDVD litigation and associated legal entanglements, based on public statements, case documents, and news reports. It also includes extensive links to source materials, including news reports that provide information on the ongoing developments in the case.

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