July 01, 2006
| by Steven Castle
If content is king, then we need to look at the high definition dvd content currently available. With the HD DVD launch in April, Warner Home Video released “The Last Samurai,” “Million Dollar Baby” and “The Phantom of the Opera” on HD DVD. The titles seem almost fitting. “Samurai” is a battle among Japanese warriors between old and modern warfare, much like a couple of electronics giants we know. “Phantom” recalls the vaporware we were beginning to think both of these formats had become. And in “Million Dollar Baby,” the underdog triumphs ... at least for a while.
Additional HD DVD titles that should be available now (or soon) include “Batman Begins,” “Constantine,” “Training Day” and “The Matrix.” Paramount planned to release the concert video “U2: Rattle and Hum,” “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider,” and “Four Brothers.” Universal planned to launch “Serenity,” “Apollo 13” and “Doom” (we hope not) on HD DVD.
The first wave of Blu-ray movies will include “50 First Dates,” “House of Flying Daggers,” and “The Last Waltz.” Also look for “Crash,” “Saw,” “Lord of War,” “Terminator,” “The Fifth Element,” “Hitch,” “Resident Evil: Apocalypse,” “Stealth,” “Species,” “SWAT,” “Robocop,” “Legends of the Fall” and “Kung Fu Hustle.”
Seems like a lot of fighting and violence in those movies. You’d think there was a format war going on or something.
The catalog of high-def DVDs is certainly skimpy for now, but there are lots of other movie releases planned. Right now, “Star Wars” falls in the Blu-ray camp with Fox, while “Harry Potter” should be released on both formats. And all this will change if more studios start producing discs for both. (You can find what movies will be available at www.blu-ray.com and www.hddvd.org.)
It shouldn’t take long for the studios to start producing their new releases on both standard DVDs and high-definition discs. Warner Home Video, for one, plans to get new DVD releases out on both HD DVD and Blu-ray as soon as possible. Warner was considering releasing standard and HD DVD versions of “Rumor Has It” on May 9. (Another apropos title?)
“Because it’s a new format, we feel it’s important to have new releases out as soon as possible,” says Warner Home Video senior vice president Steve Nickerson. Warner plans on releasing HD DVD and Blu-ray titles simultaneously and wants to offer “hybrid” discs with both the standard and high-def movies on the same disc. Sony’s first new release on Blu-ray Disc will be “Underworld Evolution,” though Sony has no plans for hybrid discs.
Also look for bonus features to be limited early on. For all the promise and capacity of the new formats, there hasn’t been time to develop compelling extras like games and interactive features. For a while, you may see nothing more cutting edge than picture-in-picture video on the commentary tracks.
“New content and new ways of showing content will evolve over time,” says Warner’s Nickerson. He points to interactive features over the Internet, which we will likely not see this year.
Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates