High Definition DVD Today
Until recently, two rival formats had been fighting to be the successor to DVD. On the one side, HD-DVD, the next logical step from the existing DVD technology, backed by Toshiba and the HD-DVD Promotion Group. On the opposite side, the Sony-backed Blu-Ray disc so-called because the technology uses a refined blue laser that maximises storage capabilities.
The great news for consumers is that Blu-ray has emerged as the dominant format, Toshiba (heading the HD-DVD consortium) conceding victory to the rival High Definition DVD consortium.
What is Blu-Ray?
Blu-Ray is an optical disc format which can hold up to 50GB of data, which is around six times the capacity of standard DVD's and 40 times the amount of data that a CD can hold.
The extra storage capacity of Blu-ray allows films to be stored at a much higher resolution which in turn produces a picture of unparalleled sharpness and clarity - a truly awe inspiring experience.
Although the technology is similar to CDs and DVDs, the fundamental difference with Blu-Ray is the laser that is used to read the discs. A blue laser is used instead of the usual red laser. Blu-ray has a shorter wavelength than red lasers and therefore the beam can be focused on a smaller area which in short means you can fit more data on an identically sized disc.
Blu-Ray discs are not readable on standard CD and DVD players. Many Blu-Ray disc drives, however, will be backwards-compatible to enable playback of the older disc formats.
Standard and High Definition compared
As long ago as 2006 the first Blu-ray players were launched while the 'blu-ray' specification had not been finalized - these early players lacked certain features the format was capable of producing and hence were known as Profile 1.0.
Profile 1.0 was quickly replaced in 2007 by Profile 1.1 which introduced secondary video and audio decoders. Features such as picture-in-picture commentary became available on 'BonusView' discs.
The Blu-ray Profile 2.0 (also known as BD Live) has increased local storage capacity from 256MB to 1GB with an Ethernet connection being a mandatory feature of players. These latest players can access bonus content associated with a particular disc from the internet.
Blu-ray Audio Support
Being compatible with Dolby Digital and DTS audio formats found on standard DVD's, all Blu-ray discs support Dolby 5.1 surround sound (which most home cinema systems can handle). Far more interestingly, the new format also supports a number of High Definition audio formats.
Dolby True HD, DTS HD Master Audio, Dolby Digital Plus and DTS HD High Resolution Audio offer a confusing array of High Definition audio formats. The majority of Blu-ray players are able to decode Dolby True HD, DTS HD Master Audio and DTS HD High Resolution audio and output via their HDMI sockets.
These new high definition audio formats are a huge improvement over standard DVD's. It is worth noting that Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Mater Audio have been developed for future, even higher clarity (7.1 Channels) high definition audio.