Microsoft has announced that they are working with Universal Pictures to release HD DVD titles using VC-1 and iHD. Here's part of their press release:
Today at the National Association of Broadcasters convention, NAB2006, Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT - News) and Universal Pictures announced their collaboration on the release of next-generation HD DVD discs using VC-1, the video compression standard recently approved by the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) and one of the mandatory codecs in the HD DVD specification. Universal will also use iHD for the interactive features of the new titles. The launch of HD DVD players and titles last week in the U.S. represents the first broad market availability of high-definition optical media for consumers.

As part of Universal's initiative to provide new digital entertainment experiences for consumers using the best solutions available, the studio is using VC-1 for its initial HD DVD titles, including "Serenity," "Doom," "Apollo 13," "The Bourne Supremacy," "U-571," "Van Helsing" and many more. Given the lower bitrate required with VC-1 to deliver pristine 1080p, high-definition movies, Universal will have room to spare within HD DVD's 30GB capacity for interactive features and other extras. With iHD, the studio is offering interactive menus that are overlaid on top of the movie and accessible without interrupting playback. Additional features, such as user-defined bookmarks that stay with the title, picture-in-picture commentaries, and network access to download new features and HD movies trailers, all access standard HD DVD features (secondary video decoder, network access and persistent storage).
The press release also mentions that all HD-DVD titles from other US studios are using the VC-1 codec as well. More information can be found here. Add a comment
If you thought the current Digital Millennium Copyright Act was bad, think again. A new bill being proposed would expand the DMCA's restrictions and give the feds more wiretapping and enforcement powers.
The draft legislation, created by the Bush administration and backed by Rep. Lamar Smith, already enjoys the support of large copyright holders such as the Recording Industry Association of America. Smith is the chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee that oversees intellectual-property law.

Smith's press secretary, Terry Shawn, said Friday that the Intellectual Property Protection Act of 2006 is expected to "be introduced in the near future."

"The bill as a whole does a lot of good things," said Keith Kupferschmid, vice president for intellectual property and enforcement at the Software and Information Industry Association in Washington, D.C. "It gives the (Justice Department) the ability to do things to combat IP crime that they now can't presently do."
It's easy to see where all the RIAA's and MPAA's money is going. It isn't cheap to buy off a congressman like Lamar, let alone an entire administration. Anyway, if you'd like to read more, the entire article can be found here. Add a comment
InterVideo and Ulead have announced two new versions of their VideoStudio software. According to their press release, VideoStudio 10 And VideoStudio 10 Plus offer enhanced ease of use, expanded creative options and full, and high-definition video support.
InterVideo, Inc. (NASDAQ:IVII - News) and its partner Ulead Systems, Inc. announced today VideoStudio 10 and VideoStudio 10 Plus, the newest versions of its consumer video editing and DVD authoring software. The new releases allow users of all levels to easily turn photos and video into high-quality productions for sharing on DVD, tape, the Internet or mobile devices.

"With version 10, VideoStudio adds some exciting new features," said Eldon C. M. Liu, president of Ulead. "Users new to video editing will find the software easier than ever. Advanced users can now take advantage of multiple overlay tracks, true 5.1 channel surround sound and complete support for high-definition video."

For the first time, VideoStudio will be offered in two versions. VideoStudio 10 gives entry-level users affordable and easy-to-use editing and authoring tools for great home movies. An advanced version, VideoStudio 10 Plus, delivers unique and powerful features for next-generation quality and creativity.
While boxed versions of VideoStudio 10 won't hit store shelves until May, it can be purchased now through Ulead's website. More information can be found here. Add a comment
Panasonic has announced that they will release their first Blu-ray disc drive, the LF-MB121JD, on June 10. Along 8x DVD±R, 8x DVD+RW, 6x DVD-RW, 4x DVD±R DL and 5x DVD-RAM writing speeds, the LF-MB121JD can write to both BD-R and BD-RE media at 2x.

Panasonic, the brand for which Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. is known, today announced that the company will introduce a half-height internal Blu-ray Disc (BD) drive for desktop computers* in Japan on June 10, 2006. The LF-MB121JD BD drive can read and write single- and dual-layer BDs as well as DVDs and CDs. Prior to the introduction of the BD drive, Panasonic releases 2x-speed 25 GB and 50 GB non-cartridge BD-R and BD-RE discs for PC drives on April 28.

Increasing data volume on personal computers and the rapid and continued growth of high definition (HD) television have accelerated consumer demand for an optical drive that can read and record massive PC data as well as HD content at home. The new BD drive and discs will meet this growing demand.

The LF-MB121JD, complied with Blu-ray Disc Association's BD-R, BD-RE and BD-ROM standards, can read and write single-layer 25 GB and single-sided, dual-layer 50 GB BDs. Supporting the three generations of optical discs, the 41.3-mm high internal BD drive is compatible with 11 different writable optical discs and 13 different readable optical disc formats**.
While Panasonic has not announced a price, its not going to be cheap, especially considering I-O DATA's LF-MB121JD based drive, the BRD-AM2B is going for 105,000 Yen ($899US). If you'd like to read more, Panasonic's entire press release can be found here. Add a comment
Earlier this week, Hitachi Maxell unveiled their new stacked volumetric optical discs (SVOD) technology. By stacking 100 ultra thin optical discs, they are able to fit 940GB of data in a cartridge only 6.5 cm thick.

Hitachi Maxell, Ltd. has developed an optical storage technology "stacked volumetric optical discs (SVOD)" that can boost per-volume capacity by using a film-type disc medium with a thickness of 92 μm. The prototyped disc is a recordable disc with a diameter of 12 cm which is equivalent to that of DVDs. It includes two 92 μm thick disc media that are bonded with each other, and the capacity on both sides totals 9.4 GB.

Based on the new technology, the company has succeeded in the development of a high-capacity optical storage system having 940 GB by accommodating 100 newly developed discs in a dedicated cartridge (thickness: 6.5 cm; width: 13.3 cm; depth: 16.1 cm). The system has an advantage that its size can be significantly reduced compared to the typical DVD library systems for the same capacity.
Hitachi Maxell plans to introduce SVOD as early as the beginning of 2007. The company also hopes to boost the capacity to as high as 5 TB by utilizing a blue-violet laser. More information can be found here. Add a comment
Intervideo and Ulead have announced that they will be demonstrating their HD DVD playback and disc authoring software at the upcoming HD DVD seminar in Shanghai, China.
InterVideo, Inc. (NASDAQ:IVII - News) and its partner Ulead Systems, Inc. (TSE:2487 - News), industry leaders in video, image and DVD software, members of the HD DVD Promotion Group, today announced that they will showcase their complete HD DVD solutions, from authoring and burning to playback, at the HD DVD seminar in Shanghai, China on April 22rd.

HD DVD has been selected by the DVD Forum to be the next-generation, post-DVD standard for high-capacity, high-definition HD DVD discs. In addition to DVD's MPEG-2, HD DVD also adopts core video formats such as H.264/AVC and VC-1 as well as advanced technologies for enhanced disc interaction.

The global HD DVD seminar is held for its members to exchange views and to share technological advances. It aims to encourage the broad acceptance of HD DVD on a world-wide basis among members of the group, related industries and the public. Attendees of the seminar include Toshiba, NEC, Sanyo, Memory-Tech, Ulead and InterVideo.
If you'd like to read more, InterVideo's entire press release can be found here. Add a comment
The high price of oil is hurting more than just car owners. According to DigiTimes, it may also drive up the price of polycarbonate in the 3Q of this year.
Global prices of optical-grade polycarbonate (PC), a key material for making optical discs, have fallen from above US$3 per kilogram at the end of last year to US$2.80 per kilogram this quarter, but the recent hikes in the price of crude oil to more than US$70 per barrel might push the price of PC to US$3 or even higher next quarter, according to local makers of optical discs.
If you'd like to read more, head on over to DigiTimes. Add a comment
While Blu-ray has yet to ship, ABI Research has already declared HD DVD the winner of the first round in the High Definition DVD format fight.
Toshiba's HD DVD player started shipping to US retailers this week, four months ahead of Sony's scheduled release of its Blu-ray format players. North America represents by far the most important market for the new high-definition formats, accounting for more than 60% of all HDTVs that ABI Research expects will be shipped during 2006.

What does this mean for the prospects of the rival formats? Will HD DVD's earlier entry to the market and substantially lower price tag give it the edge over Blu-ray? The answer is "yes" in the short term, but as time passes, complicating factors may shift the balance.
Studies like this make me laugh. It really isn't too hard to declare a winner when the competition hasn't even started to ship their products yet. Anyway, if you'd like to read more, ABI Research's entire press release can be found here. Add a comment
KMP Media has announced their new KODAK Preservation CD-R and DVD-R media. According to their press release, these 24-karat gold discs can store digital data for 80 to 300 years.
New 24-karat gold CD-Rs and DVDs that extend the storage life of data, music and images for many decades are being introduced by KMP Media, LLC of Rochester, NY. Operating under trademark license from Eastman Kodak Company, KMP Media is marketing them as the KODAK Preservation CD-R and the KODAK Preservation DVD (-R).

"The gold Preservation CD-R can safely store digital data for up to 300 years," said Steve Mizelle, President of KMP Media. "The gold Preservation DVD (-R) protects videos and other very large digital files for 80 to 100 years. This is especially important for consumers trying to save precious photos, critical data, music or movies."
KMP Media's KODAK Preservation CD-R and DVD-R media is available now in both jewel cases and spindles. More information can be found here. Add a comment
BCCHardware has put together a review of Plextor's new 18x DVD±RW, the PX-760A. Here's what they had to say about the world's first 18x DVD writer:
Plextor is a leader when it comes to optical drives. They haven't always been the first to adopt new technology or produced the fastest drives, but they are committed to quality. The PX-760A is an attempt in the right direction, but I believe it falls a little short as they reached too far. 18x writing offers very little performance advantage over a good clean 16x write, and the potential for errors is greater as the spindle speed must increase. That being said, the drive burns very quickly with a very low error count at 18x when using Verbatim 16x DVD+R media. However on other media, the drive produces more PI errors that I'd like to see - even at slower speeds.
If you'd like to read more, the entire review can be found here. Add a comment