HD-DVD vs. Blu-ray Evaluation – Part 1

As you may have read before, I had come into some found money from the TV debacle/awesomeness. After re-buying a newer, better model of my TV, I threw some cash at both a PS3 and a HD-DVD drive for the Xbox 360 to bring me into the modern age. What’s cool is that both allow me to get 5 free high-def discs (though I have to pick between titles like The Perfect Storm and Troy), but the Xbox 360 HD-DVD drive deal also netted me HD versions of King Kong and Heroes: Season 1. Both systems are on the way, so now I’m re-evaluating my DVD collection in light of that upgrade. Some I’ll replace, some I’ll leave as is, and there are a few I’ll buy new, but what I want to do now before I fully inventory my discs is understand what’s available to me. Both Blu-ray and HD-DVD have exclusive partnerships, so I took to the streets… err, internet, and took a snapshot at released and upcoming discs.

Note: I cross-checked the listings from Amazon (one of my favorite e-tailers), and review/releases from DVDTalk (one of the best DVD sites) to fuel this rant. In writing this, I uncovered some mistakes, but tried to rectify as much as I could. I also was unable to track all of the international versions (for example, there is a Terminator 2 HD-DVD release in Europe, but none States-side yet), so some exclusives may be erroneous. If you just want to see the list I’ve drawn my conclusions from, click here.

HIGH-DEF DVD BACKGROUND


Before the HD-DVD/Blu-ray face off, we should review the information we know to date about the format war. Blu-ray has support from Sony, Fox, Disney, MGM, Lions Gate Entertainment and Warner Bros., and is heavily backed by PS3 (which doubles as a player). Despite well-publicized reports about Target selling Blu-ray players in store only or that Blockbuster is renting Blu-ray discs exclusively, I couldn’t find the evidence to support that (one quick click of their websites, and you can find HD-DVD products). In HD-DVD’s camp is Universal Studios, Warner Bros., and Paramount/Dreamworks Animation (though Spielberg flicks are not exclusive to HD-DVD), as well as Microsoft but only as an add-on to its Xbox 360 game system. It’s worth noting that HD-DVD players may get a big boost for the holidays as reasonably priced alternatives are becoming more available.

Back to the task at hand. First, I didn’t track down every disc. I have no interest in picking up the high-def versions of Little Man, Crank or Chicago. So I limited my list to discs I own already or discs I want to own, which is dominated more by special effect flicks than comedies or human interest stories or bad Pixar joints. There didn’t seem to be many TV titles released, and just so you know, I can’t stand LOST, so that’s not on the list (but if it were, it’d Season 3 only on Blu-ray). In all, both HD-DVD and Blu-ray seem to have over 400 titles available per format. So far, so even.

Second, let’s get the dual-format discs out of the way. Again, I can only inform as to availability; once I get the players, my future foray will be to evaluate them against one another. Off the cuff, here are the titles I’m interested in that are available on both HD-DVD and Blu-ray: 300, Blade Runner, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Coming to America, Harry Potter 1-5, Lethal Weapon 1-2, Mission Impossible 1-3, Planet Earth, Superman The Movie, Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut, Superman Returns, Terminator 3 (just to be a completionist!), The Departed, The Road Warrior, Trading Places, and Twilight Zone The Movie. There’s also a vague listing about the Lord of the Rings trilogy for both, but I couldn’t confirm anything more specific here. I’m not so sure I’ll be upgrading my regular Coming to America DVD for the HD-DVD or Blu-ray version, but just wanted to know I have the choice. So to start, there are 26 movies I’m interested in.

HD-DVD


Here’s the HD-DVD titles of interest: Army of Darkness, Batman Begins, Battlestar Galactica – Season 1, Caddyshack, Children of Men, Dawn of the Dead (the Zach Snyder version), Dragonheart, Dune (the David Lynch version), Face Off, Friday Night Lights, Gladiator, Land of the Dead (though the original Dawn and Day are Blu-ray only), Midnight Run, Pitch Black, The Game, The Goonies, The Last Starfighter, The Mummy, The Mummy Returns, The Rundown, The Scorpion King, The Thing, The Wild Bunch, Titanic, Top Gun, Tremors, and the Ultimate Matrix Collection (1-3, plus more).

In the HD-DVD works, though unconfirmed or with little detail, are: Braveheart, Days of Thunder, Forrest Gump, Minority Report, Saving Private Ryan, Seven, War of the Worlds.

So all said and done: 36 exclusive HD-DVD movies available that I’m interested in between now and early next year. I would have listed King Kong, if I wasn’t getting it for free, but I probably would not have included Heroes: Season 1. So technically, 37, but let’s stick with 36 cause it’s even. Onto Blu-ray.

BLU-RAY


Kicking of the Blu-ray list is: Apocalypto, AVP, Blazing Saddles, Casino Royale, Dawn of the Dead (the original), Day of the Dead, Desperado, Die Hard Collection (includes Live Free or Die Hard), Evil Dead 2, Hollow Man, Independence Day, Pirates of the Caribbean 1-3, Reign of Fire, Resident Evil, Robocop, Silent Hill, Species, Speed, Spider-Man 1-3, Stargate, Superbad, Terminator 2, The Descent, The Devil’s Rejects, The Fifth Element, The Fly, The Princess Bride, The Rock, The Terminator, Total Recall, Transporter 2, X-Men – The Last Stand. I haven’t really seen this announced anywhere, so I’m not sure how much stock I put into it, but Amazon has both the Original and New Star Wars trilogies listed for Blu-ray. A Star Wars exclusive could certainly look to put the hurt on the rival format; I’ll be watching that one.

Yes, I’m opting for discs like Hollow Man and The Fifth Element, but in the end, I’ve got 45 exclusive Blu-ray movies between now and the middle of next year.

IN CLOSING

All told: 107 High-def movies await me (26 cross-formats, 36 HD-DVD, 45 Blu-ray) but I’m happy to see that there aren’t too many titles available on both formats to review. What’s interesting is looking at the list, I see more worthwhile Blu-ray titles than HD-DVD ones. I’m not declaring any winners yet, but Blu-ray does seem to be the stronger player with a better line-up of movies, courtesy of Disney, Sony, and Fox, but it still needs a lot of juice. For example, the current Pixar line-up of Cars (which I didn’t like) and Ratatouille (which I didn’t see) is weak to me, but all they need is to unleash the Toy Story saga and everything changes. And yes, a lot of this is subject to taste. Case in point: I didn’t include Transformers in my HD-DVD list, but if I could snag a free copy, I’m sure I’d be happy to watch VERY SELECT scenes again.

To be clear, I’m not buying all of these; they’ll need to look good or otherwise impress, but it’s the starter wish list. If you have discs or info you recommend, please share, and I’ll chime in again in a few weeks after I get my hands on some of these bad boys and girls. For those worried about what to adopt, just hang in there. Soon, there won’t be a format war anymore.

Special note: This was written while watching Beverly Hills Cop 3, which I fucking hate, with the big band Axel F theme enraging me. John “Coming to America” Landis, and Steven E. “Die Hard” de Souza – how dare you!

Allow me to print the full list of titles again:

THE LIST

HD-DVD
300
Army of Darkness
Batman Begins
Battlestar Galactica – Season 1
Blade Runner
Braveheart
Caddyshack
Children of Men
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
Coming to America
Dawn of the Dead (remake)
Days of Thunder
Dragonheart
Dune
Face Off
Forrest Gump
Friday Night Lights
Gladiator
Harry Potter 1-5
Land of the Dead
Lethal Weapon 1-2
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
Midnight Run
Minority Report
Mission Impossible Collection (1-3)
Pitch Black
Planet Earth
Saving Private Ryan
Seven
Superman
Superman 2 – Richard Donner
Superman Returns
Terminator 3
The Departed
The Game
The Goonies
The Last Starfighter
The Mummy
The Mummy Returns
The Road Warrior
The Rundown
The Scorpion King
The Thing
The Wild Bunch
Titanic
Top Gun
Trading Places
Tremors
Twilight Zone – The Movie
Ultimate Matrix (1-3, and more)
War of the Worlds

BLU-RAY
300
Apocalypto
AVP
Blade Runner
Blazing Saddles
Casino Royale
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
Coming to America
Dawn of the Dead (original)
Day of the Dead
Desperado
Die Hard Collection (1-4)
Evil Dead 2
Harry Potter 1-5
Hollow Man
Independence Day
Lethal Weapon 1-2
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
Mission Impossible Collection (1-3)
Pirates of the Caribbean – Curse of Black Pearl
Pirates of the Caribbean – Dead Man’s Chest
Pirates of the Caribbean – At World’s End
Planet Earth
Reign of Fire
Resident Evil
Robocop
Silent Hill
Species
Speed
Spider-Man 1-3
Star Wars New Trilogy
Star Wars Original Trilogy
Stargate
Superbad
Superman
Superman 2 – Richard Donner
Superman Returns
Terminator 2
Terminator 3
The Departed
The Descent
The Devil’s Rejects
The Fifth Element
The Fly
The Princess Bride
The Road Warrior
The Rock
The Terminator
Total Recall
Trading Places
Transporter 2
Twilight Zone – The Movie
X-Men – The Last Stand

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No Responses to “HD-DVD vs. Blu-ray Evaluation – Part 1”

  1. junky says:

    So glad you are doing this.  From what I was told, HD-DVD is the superior format because it is easier for developers to use, has better quality MPEG encoding, and is more easily programmed for the interactive stuff.  I also hear a lot of the studios backing blu-ray are not going to pick up those contracts when they expire. 

    All hearsay.

    For my money, the blu-ray disc that came with my ps3, which is hooked to my set (same as yours was basically, eros) by HDMI, was largely underwhelming.  This was a copy of Talladega Nights, and it did not look NEARLY as good as the HD output from my Direct TV.  Edges were soft, overall.

    I have not viewed any other discs.  I have ordered the Blade Runner special edition and chose to get Blu-Ray.  (I wanted HD, but can’t afford a player right now – I’m on strike.)

    I’d love to hear from Phil – because he bought an HD-DVD player over a YEAR ago, and he got what is supposed to be the best kind of model – the one with the chip which upgrades REGULAR DVDs into higher (1080) resolution.

    From what I hear, this is one of the best features of HD-DVD, allowing even your regular discs to look nearly twice as good, but is exclusive only to certain (more expensive) machines. 

    The Xbox player does NOT contain one of these chips.

    More thoughts, please add!!!

  2. Eros Welker says:

    Right now, I’m not waist deep in the tech specs; more from a movie fans perspective.  Otherwise, it’s a pissing match between “Blu-ray has more capacity” and “HD-DVD is cheaper to produce” and I don’t know enough about the tech to really understand.  I just want quality looking movies with lots of cool features.  From what I’m reading, the HD-DVD version of 300 is better than the Blu-ray version in terms of features, but I’ll judge that once I get both players.

    Are you sure the Xbox 360 HD-DVD drive doesn’t upscale?  I’m pretty sure it should.  Either way, I’ll be covered, but I thought that was one of the features.  I’ll also look to test these out at Casa de Rommel, as he’s sporting a plasma and I’m still running on a 1080i DLP TV for final comments.

    What discs do you have other than Talladega?

  3. HD Phil says:

    Let me tell ya…

    After much research, I bought thebought the HD-DVD A1 first day it came out – April 17, 2006 – a friggin’ tank of a HD DVD player.  BUT, it had 5.1 analog audio out – which meant I can take advantage of the Dolby HD audios coming out without having to buy a new amplifier.  I dunno if the newer models have that feature…

    Anyway, I LOVE HD-DVD.  I did notice the better picture quality right away.  Even people who came over to watch a flick noticed a difference.

    Even on my 65” rear projection 1080i monster.  I can only imagine that the LCD and plasmas look even sweeter.

    And the sepecial features on HD-DVD are great – with picture-in-picture commentary, internet-based features and interactivity that’s pretty neat (like changing the color of a car in “The Fast and the Furious Tokyo” movie).

    The problem with Blu-Ray is that these features are PROMISED to be on their future disks…but HD-DVD has these features now.

    The reason, to be technical, is that Blu-Ray is using “BD-Java” which has only recently been put to the market.  In fact, some older Blu Ray players may not be able to play “BD-Java” because of firmware compatability.  The playstation 3s and other players will need the firmware update in order to use “BD-Java.”

    HD-DVD used a Microsoft codec for interactivity – called HDi.  HDi has been included in players right from the start – so any interactivity that evolves will work in any player you have.

    As far as upscaling DVD goes, the HD-DVD Xbox 360 add-on cannot do this.  I think it has something to do with copyright protection – HD-DVD can only play DVD up-conversion with an HDMI connection which had added piracy protection.

    The good thing about this “format-war” is that it has been driving prices on players down dramatically.  When I bought my A1, it cost $500.  At Wal-Mart the other day, as a secret sale, they sold the Toshiba A2 for $98!!!

    Now I also own a PS3 as well – because I am a BIG fan of HD.  But if someone was willing to dab in the High Defintion DVD waters, I would reccomend trying out the HD-DVD because of the price-point (which will go down after Thanksgiving) and the stand-alone player will make your current collection look great.

  4. cybergosh says:

    I heard about that Secret Sale – i thought that $98 price was amazing – but i am still holding out on all this.  I should get a great TV first.

  5. Eros Welker says:

    Phil, that’s amazing!!  I’m so glad you shared your insight too.  Yeah, everything you wrote is what I uncovered too, and then some.  I will be using HDMI on the HD-DVD X360 so I should be covered there.

    My understanding of the problem is that whomever’s behind HD-DVD approached the community, gathered information and created a forward-looking standard (like requiring internet connectivity) that met their needs and insured that a HD-DVD created in 3 years would work just fine.  On the Sony side, they created different SKUs (some with internet, some without) and now as they upgrade, some players will get left in the cold but there wasn’t a clear standard set from the on-set.  That’s bad.

    I’m very excited to see things like 300’s Picture in Picture, and that Fast and the Furious example sounds awesome (will have to rent that!).  What are some other HD-DVDs or Blu-ray discs worth checking out?

  6. Phil HD says:

    Eros, let me know if the XBOX upconverts with the HDMI connection. Real curious about that…

    I’m glad Toshiba mandtated certain criteria out of the box.  That was the reason I first went HD-DVD, knowing it was “future-proof” to a certain extent.  I got the PS3 as a Blu Ray machine – thinking it would be easier for Sony to update the firmware since it is a mini-computer.

    300 is a GREAT HD-DVD.  My favorite is the “Blue-Screen Picture in Picture” – whole movie sans effects playing along with the feature.  Neat stuff.

    A lot of the Universal HD-DVDs have some cool stuff – like “Heros – Season 1.” A ton of interactive special features.  Also “Knocked Up” has some fun stuff on it.

    Blu-Ray….meh.  Die Hard 4.0 is supposed to have some cool stuff – with Fox pimpin’ “BD-Java” interactivity on all their new disks.  Disney’s “Pirates” I and II have some really cool HD menus – and that Disney Rat movie coming out should have some cool “BD-Java” interactivity.

    But the Blu has really just been glorified DVDs so far.

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