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blu-ray

Buying Guides - Blu-ray

What is Blu-rayTM?

Blu-ray, also known as Blu-ray Disc (BD), is the name of a next-generation optical disc format. The format was developed to enable recording, rewriting and playback of high-definition video (HD), as well as storing large amounts of data. The format offers more than five times the storage capacity of traditional DVDs and can hold up to 25GB on a single-layer disc and 50GB on a dual-layer disc.

Why the name Blu-rayTM?

The name Blu-ray is derived from the underlying technology, which utilizes a blue-violet laser to read and write data. The name is a combination of "Blue" (blue-violet laser) and "Ray" (optical ray). According to the Blu-ray Disc Association the spelling of "Blu-ray" is not a mistake, the character "e" was intentionally left out so the term could be registered as a trademark.

Who developed Blu-rayTM?

The Blu-ray Disc format was developed by the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA), a group of leading consumer electronics, personal computer and media manufacturers, with more than 180 member companies from all over the world.

Will Blu-rayTM discs require a cartridge?

No, the development of new low cost hard-coating technologies has made the cartridge obsolete. Blu-ray will instead rely on hard-coating for protection, which when applied will make the discs even more resistant to scratches and fingerprints than today's DVDs, while still preserving the same look and feel. Blu-ray also adopts a new error correction system which is more robust and efficient than the one used for DVDs.

Will Blu-rayTM require an Internet connection?

No, you will not need an Internet connection for basic playback of Blu-Ray movies. The Internet connection will only be needed for value-added features such as downloading new extras, watching recent movie trailers, web browsing, etc. It will also be required to authorize managed copies of Blu-ray movies that can be transferred over a home network.

When will I be able to buy Blu-rayTM products?

If you live in the US or Canada you can already find Blu-ray players from Samsung, Panasonic, Sony, Philips and Pioneer available in stores, as well as a growing selection of Blu-ray movies. We also expect to see Blu-ray players from LG and Sharp, as well as a second-generation Blu-ray player from Samsung introduced in the near future. The first Blu-ray hardware and software should also be available in many European countries now.

What will Blu-rayTM products cost?

As with any new technology the first generation of products will likely be quite expensive due to low production volumes. However, this shouldn't be a problem for long as there is a wide range of Blu-ray related products (players, recorders, drives, writers, media, etc) planned, which should help drive up production volumes and lower overall production costs. Once mass production of components for Blu-ray products begins the prices are expected to fall quickly.

According to the Blu-ray Disc Association, the overall cost of manufacturing Blu-ray Disc media will in the end be no more expensive than producing a DVD. The reduced injection molding costs (one molding machine instead of two, no birefringence problems) offset the additional cost of applying the cover layer and low cost hard-coat, while the techniques used for applying the recording layer remain the same. As production volumes increase the production costs should fall and eventually be comparable to DVDs.

Blu-rayTM vs DVD

Will Blu-rayTM replace DVDs

Yes, that's the expectation. The Blu-ray format has received broad support from the major movie studios as a successor to today's DVD format. In fact, seven of the eight major movie studios (Disney, Fox, Warner, Paramount, Sony, Lionsgate and MGM) have released titles in the Blu-ray format. Many studios have also announced that they will begin releasing new feature films on Blu-ray Disc day-and-date with DVD, as well as a continuous slate of catalog titles every month. For more information about Blu-ray movies, check out our Blu-ray movies section which offers information about new and upcoming Blu-ray releases, as well as what movies are currently available in the Blu-ray format.

However, the two formats (Blu-ray and DVD) will most likely co-exist for quite some time until HDTVs become more widespread.

Will Blu-rayTM be backwards compatible with DVD?

Yes, several leading consumer electronics companies (including Sony, Panasonic, Philips, Samsung, Pioneer, Sharp and LG) have already demonstrated products that can read/write CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray discs using a BD/DVD/CD compatible optical head, so you don't have to worry about your existing DVD collection becoming obsolete. In fact, most of the Blu-ray players coming out will support upscaling of DVDs to 1080p/1080i, so your existing DVD collection will look even better than before. While it's up to each manufacturer to decide if they want to make their products backwards compatible with DVD, the format is far too popular to not be supported. The Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) expects every Blu-ray Disc device to be backward compatible with DVDs.

Why should I upgrade from DVD to Blu-rayTM?

The simple answer is HDTV. If you've ever seen high-definition (HD) video on an HDTV, then you know just how incredibly sharp the picture is and how vivid the colours are. In fact, HD offers five times the amount of detail compared to standard-definition (SD). The problem with today's DVDs is that they only support SD and don't have the necessary storage capacity to satisfy the needs of HD. That's where Blu-ray comes in, it offers up to 50GB of storage capacity and enables playback, recording and rewriting of HD in all of the HD resolutions including 1080p. The format also supports high-definition audio formats and lossless audio.

In addition to the greater video and audio quality, the extra storage capacity also means there will be plenty of room for additional content and special features. This combined with the new BD-J interactivity layer adopted by Blu-ray will bring the menus, graphics and special features to a whole new level. For example, you will be able to bring up the menu system as an overlay without stopping the movie, and you could have the director of the movie on the screen explaining the shooting of a scene while the scene is playing in the background.

Thanks to the greatly enhanced HD video and audio quality as well as the advanced interactivity and networking features, Blu-ray represents a huge leap forward in the DVD viewing experience and will offer consumers an unprecedented HD experience.

 

What is the difference between Blu-rayTM and DVD?

 

Parameters

Blu-ray

DVD

Storage capacity 25GB (single-layer)
50GB (dual-layer)
4.7GB (single-layer)
8.5GB (dual-layer)
Laser wavelength 405nm (blue laser) 650nm (red laser)
Numerical aperture (NA) 0.85 0.60
Disc diameter
Disc thickness
120mm
1.2mm
120mm
1.2mm
Protection layer
Hard coating
0.1mm
Yes
0.6mm
No
Track pitch 0.32µm 0.74µm
Data transfer rate (data)
Data transfer rate (video/audio)
36.0Mbps (1x)
54.0Mbps (1.5x)
11.08Mbps (1x)
10.08Mbps (<1x)
Video resolution (max)
Video bit rate (max)
1920×1080 (1080p)
40.0Mbps
720×480/720×576 (480i/576i)
9.8Mbps
Video codecs MPEG-2
MPEG-4 AVC
SMPTE VC-1
MPEG-2
-
-
Audio codecs Linear PCM
Dolby Digital
Dolby Digital Plus
Dolby TrueHD
DTS Digital Surround
DTS-HD
Linear PCM
Dolby Digital
DTS Digital Surround
-
-
-
Interactivity BD-J DVD-Video

 

Will Blu-rayTM replace VCRs?

Yes, as VCRs don't support recording of HDTV programming consumers will soon need to replace them. Blu-ray recorders combined with hard drives offer a very flexible alternative for those that want to record HDTV. While HD-DVRs already allow consumers to record HDTV, the amount of HDTV programming that can be recorded and archived is limited by the size of the hard drive. Blu-ray recorders will offer a solution to this problem as they allow consumers to record the video to Blu-ray discs and then free up the hard drive. This should make them popular among people that want to archive a lot of their HDTV recordings. The Blu-ray recorders will also offer a lot of compelling new features not possible with a traditional VCR:

  • Random access - instantly jump to any place on the disc
  • Searching - quickly browse and preview recorded programs in real-time
  • Create playlists - change the order of recorded programs and edit recorded video
  • Simultaneous recording and playback of video (enables Time slip/Chasing playback)
  • Automatically find an empty space to avoid recording over programs
  • Improved picture - ability to record high-definition television (HDTV)
  • Improved sound - ability to record surround sound (Dolby Digital, DTS, etc)

What about Blu-rayTM for PCs?

There are plans for BD-ROM (read-only), BD-R (recordable) and BD-RE (rewritable) drives for PCs, and with the support of the worlds two largest PC manufacturers, HP and Dell, it's very likely that the technology will be adopted as the next-generation optical disc format for PC data storage and replace technologies such as DVD±R, DVD±RW, and DVD-RAM.

Blu-rayTM vs HD-DVD

Is Blu-rayTM the same thing as HD-DVD?

No, HD-DVD (previously known as AOD) is the name of a competing next-generation optical disc format developed by Toshiba and NEC. The format is quite different from Blu-ray, but also relies heavily on blue-laser technology to achieve a higher storage capacity. The format is being developed within the DVD Forum as a possible successor to the current DVD technology.

What benefits does Blu-rayTM offer compared to HD-DVD?

Although both Blu-ray and HD-DVD are similar in many aspects, there are some important differences between them.

The first is capacity. Because Blu-ray utilizes a lens with a greater numerical aperture (NA) than HD-DVD, the laser spot can be focused with greater precision to fit more data on the same size disc. This allows Blu-ray to hold 25GB per layer (50GB on a dual-layer disc), whereas HD-DVD can only hold 15GB per layer (30GB on a dual-layer disc). Blu-ray has also adopted a higher data transfer rate for video and audio (54Mbps vs 36.55Mbps). The greater capacity and data transfer rates for Blu-ray will allow the movie studios to release their movies with higher quality video and audio than the HD-DVD format.

The second is content. The Blu-ray format has received broad support from the major movie studios as a successor to today's DVD format. This is an important because some of the studios might only support one of the formats, so you won't be able to get your favourite movies in the other format. Choosing the format with the most content support minimizes this risk.

The third is hardware support. The Blu-ray format has broad support from the world's leading consumer electronics, personal computer and media manufacturers. This means that you will have a lot of choice when it comes to players and hardware. The HD-DVD format has far fewer supporters, so the amount of players and hardware will be very limited. Currently, Toshiba is the only company offering a stand-alone HD-DVD player.

 

What is the difference between Blu-rayTM and HD-DVD?

 

Parameters

Blu-ray

HD-DVD

Storage capacity 25GB (single-layer)
50GB (dual-layer)
15GB (single-layer)
30GB (dual-layer)
Laser wavelength 405nm (blue laser) 405nm (blue laser)
Numerical aperture (NA) 0.85 0.65
Disc diameter
Disc thickness
120mm
1.2mm
120mm
1.2mm
Protection layer
Hard coating
0.1mm
Yes
0.6mm
No
Track pitch 0.32µm 0.4µm
Data transfer rate (data)
Data transfer rate (video/audio)
36.0Mbps (1x)
54.0Mbps (1.5x)
36.55Mbps (1x)
36.55Mbps (<1x)
Video resolution (max)
Video bit rate (max)
1920×1080 (1080p)
40.0Mbps
1920 ×1080 (1080p)
28.0Mbps
Video codecs MPEG-2
MPEG-4 AVC
SMPTE VC-1
MPEG-2
MPEG-4 AVC
SMPTE VC-1
Audio codecs Linear PCM
Dolby Digital
Dolby Digital Plus
Dolby TrueHD
DTS Digital Surround
DTS-HD
Linear PCM
Dolby Digital
Dolby Digital Plus
Dolby TrueHD
DTS Digital Surround
DTS-HD
Interactivity BD-J HDi

 

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