Random Thoughts

The Return of Front Row, Sofa

January 3rd, 2010

Back in the day, I wrote a weekly column for dvdfuture.com called Front Row, Sofa.  I have decided to resurrect it as an entertainment news site on the Internet.  I’ve set up the site as a SquareSpace page for now at frontrowsofa.squarespace.com.  I figured I’d post the announcement for the new site here, since a lot of people have set up RSS feeds off this page.

I will be taking advantage of SquareSpace’s two week trial to get the site up and running, and then will decide from there whether the permanent site will use their platform or if I’ll be moving it over to WordPress or a similar platform.  I love the idea of someone else managing the software side of things, and so far it seems like a pretty good solution.

I’ve also purchased the frontrowsofa.com domain name, but have not aimed it at the new site yet.  I’ll wait until I decide on a permanent home before doing that.

The turning point during World War II came on June 6, 1944 when the Allies launched 150,000 troops onto the beaches of Normandy and established a beachhead in France. For the high def format wars, D-Day is likely January 4, 2008, when Warner Bros. announced their decision to discontinue support for the HD DVD format and exclusively support Blu-ray disc.

Blu-ray has been ahead in software sales for some time, typically by a margin of 2:1 or 3:1 (depending on the week), but because of Toshiba’s aggressive pricing strategy, HD DVD had been holding on in the hardware front. According to Warner’s press release, the crucial holiday season showed that even the hardware trend had been reversed, despite Blu-ray’s $100 price premium over its most formidable competitor.

Back in June and August of 2007, I had provided some analysis of how the format wars stood from a box office perspective. The initial analysis was done more to satisfy my own curiosity, but turned out to be quite popular. When Paramount/Dreamworks announced they were switching exclusively to HD DVD in August, I provided an update so the impact could be understood. I am now providing another update, in order to understand the impact of the Warner Bros. decision.

A few items of note:

  • films DIRECTED by Steven Spielberg are captured as format neutral, with the exception of Close Encounters (which is captured as Blu-ray exclusive because it is currently available only on Blu-ray, and has been advertised as Blu-ray exclusive). This is to recognize that when the HD DVD group has tried to advertise any Spielberg films as HD DVD exclusive (twice, so far), Spielberg has required them to publicly acknowledge that his films are not exclusive to HD DVD. Films produced or executive produced by Spielberg are assigned based on the studio that released the film, as the public acknowledgments have only covered films he directed.
  • I have included films from Warner Bros. subsidiaries (e.g. New Line) as Blu-ray exclusive. I realize the “official” announcements have not come from these subsidiaries as of this writing, but realistically, it’s only a matter of time (the wholly-owned subsidiary doesn’t stray from the path of the parent company).

Read the rest of this entry »

On July 1st, I posted a piece on the Blu-Ray/HD DVD format war, which showed pretty effectively why HD DVD was on the losing end of the format war. With today’s announcement that Paramount and Dreamworks had been convinced to exclusively support HD DVD, I wondered what the impact would be on the overall picture. While this definitely muddies the waters, Blu-Ray supporting studios still have an advantage when looking at the numbers overall. Read the rest of this entry »

Recently, Bill Hunt over at The Digital Bits caught a lot of flack over a piece he wrote on the HD war, and why The Digital Bits was backing Blu-Ray as the “format to beat”.

Bill’s piece was a response to a post from Harry Knowles over at Ain’t It Cool News where Harry talked about picking up a HD DVD player, and why he had chosen that particular format. Bill decided to respond to the piece primarily because Harry’s piece was full of erroneous information (I know, on Ain’t It Cool News? Surely I jest…). Harry’s piece has since been edited somewhat, but is still far from correct. It is full of fear, uncertainty and doubt, and has several facts flat out wrong. Bill’s piece does a more than adequate job of pointing out the flaws in Harry’s arguments, though, so I won’t get into that here.

I found Bill’s piece thought-provoking, and very well researched. It is a very logically presented argument as to why Blu-Ray will ultimately prevail in the HD DVD/Blu-Ray format war. It also started me on a train of thought related to one of the specific reasons Bill feels Blu-Ray will win; studio support.

I thought it’d be interesting to take some data from Box Office Mojo related to the studios and which format(s) they support, and then amalgamate that data. Read the rest of this entry »

There seems to be a lot of misinformation out there in regards to the high definition format war. Hopefully this will help clear up some of the misconceptions.

1. HD DVD uses more advanced codecs than Blu-Ray

FALSE: HD DVD and Blu-Ray are both capable of using the exact same video and audio codecs. Early Blu-Ray titles used MPEG2 compression rather than the more advanced MPEG4 and WMV based codecs, but all Blu-Ray players can play back the same formats as HD DVD.

2. Blu-Ray is a proprietary Sony format / HD DVD is a proprietary Toshiba format

FALSE: Both HD DVD and Blu-Ray have been developed by different consortiums.

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