If you care about ecology and the careful and efficient use of our worlds resources you will be interested in reading read this article.
We have always viewed our general efficiency, in all aspects of our work as part of being an eco-friendly and responsible British Company. This includes the responsible choice and use of our own suppliers and supplies, careful budgeting and careful use of power (mainly electricity) and associated machinery. In addition to this we have internal policy regarding the recycling of any waste material.
This article is an informal piece about our most recent thoughts and practices.
From the start we use high quality casing for our Cds,Dvds and Blu-rays with the philosophy that in the long term these will provide the best protection for your discs and although some are plastic, will last a life-time so do not need to be replaced. This is slightly counter culture in what has become a throw away society in many walks of life, but there is common sense in choosing quality which will last; and despite this we still remain one of the cheapest, if not the cheapest for all of our products. There is a great deal of inferior quality, cheap packaging out there that is never use for any of our customers.
Over the 12 years that we have been in the duplication business we have noticed a large shift in the casing that our customers choose for their orders. From the days where nearly all CD’s were packed in a plastic standard jewel case and all DVDs packed in a Amaray plastic DVD cases, we now find that a much larger percentage of customers choose the more eco-friendly options of card wallets/digi-paks.
The card/paper we stock for all our printed parts is FSC Certified and sustainable. We feel this is a better option than recycled paper as research shows that due to the high volumes of bleach used to whiten the paper this is not as environmentally friendly…..which is not good. Responsible sourced and properly managed paper is a green industry, encouraging the growth of trees in the worlds forests. www.fsc-uk.org
In addition our, experience and the feedback our customers give us tells us that paper based products are less susceptible to damage in transit and less costly to courier, deliver and store compared to plastic cases.
Customer choice is highly important to us however and whilst there is a demand for the plastic standard jewell and standard DVD case and we continue to provide these on our web-site.
A large part of our recycling programme is to reuse all the incoming boxes and packaging to supply our out-going parcels.
Protecting orders is our top priority so this comes first however where possible we re-cycle all cardboard, jiffy/mailite bags and packaging, always removing any personal information on them first.
Good House-keeping in the production room means less waste, however on every order we do produce 1 or 2 over-runs of discs. This enables us to keep a control copy here of every order. We have researched widely the re-cycling of CD’s, DVD’s and Blu-Rays and have yet to find a highly sustainable channel for these.
We do however supply unburned discs to artists and students of design free of charge for sculpture or artistc projects.
There are also an increasing number of designers who use discs as the raw materials for projects like garden mosaics, lamps, dishes, picture frames, flower pots, mirrors, coasters and even a disco ball!! See www.zerowasteweek.co.uk for DIY ideas on how to recycle discs.
Another great use for discs is as bird scarers on allotments, they catch the sun if hung and will deter without harming birds who would eat delicate crops.
We minimise the use of paper by having an efficient invoice emailing and chasing system; although we will always send hard copy invoices if requested. We shred all paper that we can and this is re-used for animal bedding and then composted.
In short we view ourselves as a very eco-friendly company and we constantly update and re-visit our processes to see where we can improve and evolve in a productive and conscientious way.
Gained knowledge and know-how is the key here to keeping an efficient and eco-friendly approach in balance for our industry.
We live in an age where all things exist on the cloud, but this is only partly true for the text information’s we see when playing CD-Audio disc.
There are in fact two ways to add track text info to a disc:
In the beginning, not long after CDs were released in the 80s, an update was made so small amounts of text could be added to a CD. This text lives in sub channels of the disc so it won’t effect playback, but a CD-TEXT enabled player can read and display the information. Nowadays these players are less common, but still used in most car stereos unless you’re driving one of a few higher end vehicles.
A common assumption is that most computers read CD text, however this is not the case; iTunes, Windows Media Player etc. do not use CD-Text at all. They use a more modern system, the GraceNote – Compact Disc Data Base (CDDB). With this system none of the text used is actually stored on the disc, but all saved on the internet.
When you insert a CD and view through iTunes for example, the computer identifies the disc and then looks it up on the web. If it cannot find a match it will not display the text information, or may display a close match (from another artist!). So even if you have a CD which has CD text, but is not registered with the CDDB, its unlikely the text will show up on a computer at all.
We have customers who have experienced this problem and fortunately its very easy to correct.
We recommend using iTunes as it’s one of the easiest ways to upload your CD information.
The below link will show you how to do this in just a few minutes:
Getting started releasing my own music was a learning curve. Not only did I have to write all the music (which was fun!), but I had to look at everything that a record label traditionally does, and take figure out how to implement it myself. One aspect was figuring out how to ship a CD. I looked over the different options and figured out a solution that works for me.
I’ll give you a quick overview of those options and why I chose the method that I did.
Options for shipping a CD
There are three options available to you:
Third party fulfilment
I’ll quickly outline what these different options are:
Drop shipping is when a third party company creates and ships a product on a per order basis. For example, let’s say Fred buys your record. Your drop shipping company will print a record just for Fred, and ship it to him.
Drop Shipping Pros
You have to do almost nothing
Everything is automated
Low upfront costs
Drop Shipping Cons
Per unit cost is expensive, so you make less profit per sale
This is when you take care of every aspect of order fulfilment yourself. Your turn your office / bedroom / house into a warehouse to store and ship your records / merchandise. If you choose to do self-fulfilment, then you need to consider:
Online purchasing system / storefront
So as you can see, there is already a lot for you to consider.
Online purchasing system
How are your users going to buy your CD online? You could use third party solutions such as Bandcamp or Shopify; or you could use a solution which integrates with your own website, such as Woo Commerce. Both have advantages and disadvantages depending on your situation and what you want to achieve. I’ll write an article in the future about these options. I’ve tried Woo Commerce and Shopify myself, and personally, I prefer Shopify.
You need to find a company that will physically create a CD for you. When it comes to CDs, you have two options:
Duplication is for small jobs (usually up to 1000 copies). This is the same process as you would use to ‘burn’ a CD on your home computer, on a more industrial scale. Duplication also has a fast turn around time.
Replication is for bigger jobs (500 units upwards) and while it has a higher setup cost than duplication, at higher volume it is cheaper. Replication involves creating a glass ‘master’ disc and then physically stamping blank CD. It takes longer than duplication.Please see our sister company www.replicationcentre.co.uk for more information on this.
The best company I have found in the UK for duplication is The Duplication Centre. They usually ship my order within a couple of days and they give things a once over to make sure the order is ok. They also keep your order on file, making it really fast and easy to get a second printing done. If you sign up to their mailing list, they usually send out some special offers for free extra units every few months.
If you are in the UK, they are highly recommended and you can check them out here. Check them for yourselves – their policy or approach may have changed since writing this article.
How are you going to post your CD? You need some sort of packaging. You want to balance having something low cost, with having something that can protect your product – if your CD turns up smashed, scratched or damaged; even if it isn’t your fault, your fans will be pissed off.
The best packaging solution I found are card wallets from lil packaging. They are durable, protect from light impact, scratches and drops. They also ‘expand’, so you can put a thin card wallet promo CD in, and have a slim package; or you can put a full size jewel case in there and the card wallet will ‘expand’ a bit. Check out the photos.
Here are some photos of what the CD mailers look like (got a big box of 150 I think it was, to hit the price break and get a cheaper per unit price):
There are a few options for this. For most people getting started, taking a bag of packaged CDs down to the local post office is probably the best solution. Get yourself a sharpie and write the addresses on the front of your card wallets by hand. You will want to check postage rates so you don’t get any nasty surprises and set up your shipping on your website / online store appropriately.
A great way to check the weight of your item is to grab a cheap set of digital weight scales that are accurate to roughly 2g (and if you use imperial will switch to ounces). Then you can accurately measure the weight of your CD / merch and make sure you don’t get any surprises at the Post Office.
As you might have noticed, one aspect of self fulfilment is that, when compared to drop shipping, there are upfront costs to handle. Rather than having a CD made per order, you now have to buy 20-100 units at a time and the packaging to go with them… and your sharpie. So you start to need a bit of capital. However, you will find that your profit margin is much, much higher per unit, than drop shopping.
You should be able to get the CDs created and packaging for less than £3 per unit, so if you are selling your CD for £10-£15, that is a profit per unit of £7-£12.
Self fulfilment pros
More profit per unit – this is a LOT cheaper than drop shipping, so for a given product price, you will make much more money
You can customise the user experience more
Better control over data
Self fulfilment cons
Your house turns into a warehouse
You have to do more planning, to source your products and packaging.
You have to pay a lot more upfront
Self fulfilment conclusion
While it is a bit more work, this is probably the best way for most musicians getting started to go. The work involved is not really that much at all, and you make more money per sale.
Third party fulfilment
Third party fulfilment involves setting up your own supply chain. This is similar to taking self fulfilment, and taking it to the next level, turning it into a miniature business. You take your manufacturer and you connect them to a shipping company, or, you take self fulfilment and you pay someone to run it for you. Paying someone to run your self sfulfilment is pretty simple so I’ll give you a quick overview of third party fulfilment using an external company.
Orders come through from your website and are automatically sent to your shipping company. The manufacture(s) ship directly to your shipping company, who put your items into warehousing. Shipping company takes incoming website orders, takes the appropriate items from the warehouse and boxes them up (this is referred to as “pick and pack”) and ships to the consumer. They sometimes have in house packaging solutions, so you don’t have to worry about that either.
A third party fulfilment will typically charge you a warehousing fee and a ‘pick and pack’ fee.
Third party fulfilment pros
If you have the order volume, you can scale to huge levels
You still keep a high profit margin per item
Automated, so you have very little to do. Shipping 10,000 units per month with this method will be less work than shipping 100 units a month with self fulfilment.
Postage is cheaper. The shipping company gets preferential shipping rates that are much cheaper than you can get at a Post Office, due to the volume they do.
Third party fulfilment cons
You have to be highly organised with stock management
You have a lot of costs to organise and figure out
You have to organise two companies to work together
You have to integrate your order platform with the shipping company
You need to be shipping a high volume of products to make this worthwhile
I would have thought for most independent musicians (if you have a record label, all this is taken care of for you), starting with a self fulfilment model and then ‘graduating’ to a third party fulfilment model will work best for you. I’m still in the self fulfilment phase.
This is a quick round up of the companies I’ve used that offer a great service with a great price (that are UK based):
These guys offer solutions for all your packaging problems, not just CDs! They do boxes for shipping your merch, boxes for books, boxes for this and that. They got you covered. A vital company for any band (or individual, small business) shipping their own products. Check them out
Whether you want card wallet CDs, digipaks, jewel case CDs, these guys have you covered. Their website looks a little bit old school… but it works. You can get a fully customised quote in minutes. Price per unit decreases with order volume which is nice. Check them out
The Blu-ray Disc founder group was started in 2002 by MIT and nine leading Electronics Companies: Sony, Panasonic, Pioneer, Phillips, Thomson, LG Electronics, Hitachi, Sharp and Samsung Electronics.
The name is taken from the blue laser that is used to read from and record to a Blu ray disc, the blue laser allows for a much higher density and hence a larger storage capacity and so the Blu-Ray disc is a digital optical disc data storage format.
It was designed to supersede the DVD format, and is capable of storing several hours of video in high definition (HDTV 720p & 1080p) and Ultra High Definition Resolution (2160p).
Although the Blu-Ray disc looks exactly the same as a DVD in size and shape there are many differences between media including storage capacity,laser technologyand discconstruction,image resolution and player compatibility.
The Blu-Rays storage capacity is measured in gigabytes (GB), like computers and ipods.
DVD Single Layer: Can store about 4.7GB data which is about two hours worth of movie at Standard Definition…these are commonly referred to as DVD 5’s.
DVD Dual Layer: Can store twice the amount of data at 8.7 GB which equals about four hours of movie at Standard Definition ….these are commonly referred to as DVD 9 ‘s.
Blu-Ray Single layer: Can store approximately 25Gb data, this equals about 2 hours of High Definition Information or 13 hours of Standard Definition Information.
Dual Layer Blu-Ray :can store about 50GB data which is about 4 hours of High Definition Information or 26 hours of Standard Definition.
Lasers are used in both DVD and Blu-ray technology .As the disc spins the laser reads the information stored on the discs and transfers both the picture and the sound to the television.
DVD: DVD players use a red laser at 650nm wave length to read DVD discs
Blu-Ray : Blu-Ray players use a Blue laser to read the stored information; the wave lenghts are shorter than the red at 405nm and are smaller in diameter, this allows for a closer and more precise reading of the information on the disc.
Physically DVD and Blu-Ray discs are the same in appearance:both have circular tracks on their bottom layer that enables the laser to read information stored on the spinning disc.
The tracks on a DVD are much further apart than on the Blu-Ray; you will see that it follows from this that the amount of information that can be stored on each type of disc is different; the Blu-Ray having the far greater storage capacity.In short a Blu-ray can squeeze about 5 times as many tracks onto the same size disc as a DVD.
Both DVD and Blu-Ray have a protective layer designed to resist scratching; the Blu-Ray in addition has a hard coating that makes it more scratch resistant.
This is measured by the number of vertical lines times the number of horizontal lines of light in a picture.It is represented by the number of horizontal lines going across the screen like 480, 720 or 1080.The higher the number, the higher the resolution the more detailed the picture you see.
DVD: Almost all DVD’s have standard definition of 480 or enhanced definition of 520.This look ok on a standard television,utilising all the available pixels on the screen. If however this is blown up to a large HDTV the picture may look grainy.
Blu-Ray: The Blu-Ray was designed for the high definition 1080 display….since they can store 25 GB data you can fit a whole High Definition movie on a single layer. Blu-Ray currently has the best image resolution on the market and looks amazing on HDTV, they are one of the only sources that display in 1080.
Happily Blu-ray Players support DVD’s and the image will be decent but obviously not the high definition quality of a Blu-ray.
Due to the larger lasers used in DVD players they it cannot read the tiny grooves on a Blu-ray disc.
In short you can play a DVD in a Blu-ray player but you cannot play a Blu-ray in a DVD player.
Lastly and very importantly Blu-Ray can handle 4K (Ultra HD)...we don’t need an new type of disc for our new TV’s; you can have it all with the Blu-Ray !
Have you ever wondered how a full length feature movie plus bonus material fits onto a single DVD Disc? The answer is dual layer DVD technology and you may be surprised to know that this is not new technology we are talking about. Hollywood has been producing major motions pictures on stamped dual layer DVD Discs for years.
We are now witnessing the rise of recordable dual layer DVD technology on the consumer market. A look at the technology could explain this progression.
Dual layer or double layer DVD, also referred to as a DVD-9 disc, appears to be a natural progression of single layer 4.7GB recordable technology. For starters a DVD-9 disc offers up to four hours of high quality MPEG-2 video, or up to 8.5GB of data on a single-sided disc. This mean you can pack up to 12 CD’s worth of information on to one disc. Thanks to the additional layer of recordable space you can store approximately 2,000 songs in MP3 format or up to 17,000 high quality JPEG images.
In a dual layer DVD-9 disc, two individual recordable layers, like the one found on a standard single/ DVD-5 disc, are joined together with a transparent spacer and a thin metal reflector between the two. The bottom layer is written and read in exactly the same manner as a standard DVD-5. The difference with a DVD-9 is that the laser now focuses a fraction of a millimetre beyond the first recording layer, giving access to the second recordable layer. A downside to this is that the layer change can display a noticeable pause in some DVD players, up to several seconds.
Certainly business users will appreciate the increased storage capacity of a dual layer DVD recordable disc especially when distributing a large amount of data on a single disc is needed. It can even be used for desktop system backup and single server backup with time and cost savings over older traditional technologies. IT managers can even create their system “images” for configuring client PCs on a single disc for rapid deployment of new computers on corporate networks.
Independent filmmakers and studios alike will appreciate the ability to author a dual layer DVD video disc and try it out without resorting to expensive and time consuming replication. This set of users can now fine tune their works on cost effective dual layer DVD recordable discs before creating the master for replication.
Dual layer discs are not as common, as the single layer format as the 4.7GB capacity of the single layer discs is usually sufficient for most business uses and dual layer discs are also a lot more expensive. Also the question of compatible software arises. Typically only newer DVD recorder drives will be able to write to dual layer or double layer discs. Many current DVD recorders support dual-layer technology, and the price is now comparable to that of single-layer drives, though the discs remain more expensive. However, the recording speeds reached by dual-layer media are still well below those of single-layer media.
Solutions developed to battle piracy become obsolete quickly
Illegal downloading and counterfeit CDs and DVDs manufacturing, are threatening the entertainment industry which is extremely technology-oriented. On the other hand, piracy is also testing the industry’s creativity and ability to response rapidly.
It is estimated that one in three CDs sold worldwide is a counterfeit and 23.76% of worldwide internet traffic is generated by unauthorised content. In the USA, the commercial value of unlicensed software reached $51.4 billion, which was a 41% increase compared to previous years. But an exact loss figure is hard to calculate as there are many other factors, difficult to determine like whether someone would have purchased the content if it was impossible to obtain it illegally.
The UK, which is one of the leading digital music markets, with 67 legal services, also has to face the problem of illegal downloading. The first answer is education, which means making Internet users aware how physical and digital format piracy affects artists, songwriters and record producers.
But an informative and persuasive campaign is not enough to make users migrate to legal services. When there are no more carrots available, it’s high time to use the stick. Thus the UK, together with France, South Korea and Taiwan introduced legislation based on a gradual response. It was proved that 90% of P2P users would change their behaviour upon receipt of a second warning from their ISP, combined with a deterrent sanction if they continued their illegal activity.
Adopted in November 2009, the Anti Piracy Unit obliges the Internet service providers (ISP) to notify subscribers alleged to be infringing on copyright and produces a list of repeat infringers.
Piracy is like a multi-headed monster which continuosly transforms and forces people who deal with it to come up with one effective solution after another, as they become obsolete quickly. The next challenge is ‘cyberlocker’ sites with fast spreading illegal links, and no users to identify.
An interesting innovation was developed by Fortium. It’s a File Based Pin Play solution that secures the content at the moment of receipt. A special wrapper is attached to the file and the receiver has to enter a separately provided pin in order to open the content. It is aimed at protecting DVD’s from unauthorized duplication.
It seems that battling piracy can be effective if the efforts of all the parties involved: industry suppliers, assosiations and goverments, work together. But as always, there is also another side of the coin: what threatens the economic stability of a developed industry, boosts the rapidly growing markets like Brazil, India and China.
The best is either to deliver high quality 3D or not to deliver it at all
The arrival of 3D has definitely thrilled the market and lifted consumers’ expectations. 3D broadcast channels, TVs with built in ‘on the fly’ conversion ability and 3D cinemas pop up like mushrooms. Not a long time ago just four 3D movies generated 33% of total revenue of the box office.
At first glance, it may seem that auto conversion can save a lot of money and manual work, but it has to be remembered that the quality of auto-conversion is strongly linked with the source material. It is far easier to convert a movie that was made with 3D in mind than some old movies which used to be fully devoted to 2D. Auto – convertors do not like abrupt cuts and vertical motion since the convertors’ depth detectors prefer horizontal plane. However the idea of turning old movies into 3D reminds many of the colorisation era in the 80’s and leaves them similarly disappointed. And as the latest damaging reviews for The Clash of the Titans showed, the idea of turning into 3D the movie with no previous intention for extra dimension brings literally nothing to thewatching experience. We may also wonder if it will everbe possible to create a computer algorythm that can achieve the 3D perception equal to that of human brain, but so far the real quality conversion can only be done by skilled engineers.
The basic way to convert 2D to 3D is by ‘vertical location’. The image is cut into horizontal zones and the zones at the bottom of the screen seem to be closer than the others. Yet, many aren’t satisfied with the results. The more advanced method is to simply clone the movie. By doing so, you get two identical picture sequences. One – for the left eye – remain untouched and the other is transformed in the search for a deeper dimension. Individual objects are isolated with a use of two techniques: rotoscoping and matting. The former traces the contour of an object in every single frame of the movie and the latter constructs a mask(using color, motion or brightness) that follows it around. Finally, the relative depths are measured using parallax.
There is also a physical phenomenon called the Pulfrich effect, where a visual lag between the left and right eye creates depth from 2D. A variation on this theme, combined with objects moving at different speeds in successive fields can bring interesting results as well.
Anyway, only the luckiest half of humanity will be able to fully appreciate the result of quality conversion. Let’s hope you are among them!
Posted in New Technology | Comments Off on From 2D to 3D – a short course on brain deceiving
Adding realism to the viewing experience is good. Football is the best example.
Adding realism to the viewing experience is good. Football is the best example.
3D, a new feature of Blu Ray format will certainly be a revolution in home entertainment. It has already revolutionised the movie industry. Avatar proved it is no longer a gadget, but an integral part of story–telling and the movie texture. It gave a real boost to 3D. It is estimated that by 2015 almost 40% of TV sets will be 3D. 70% of Europeans are interested in having 3D at home. Similarly, as it was the case with the movie industry, the 3D impact will be holistic and will transform all forms and channels of content delivery – 3D cinema, home 3D, PC-based 3D gaming and 3D mobile phones. More exciting opportunities to exercise your right to entertainment!
However, there are some threads which may limit the scope of 3D and keep it still as something designed ‘for an occasion’. The first is that there might not be expected content to draw people’s attention. Consumers most frequently view wildlife footage and sport events in 3D, but are strongly attached to 2D when it comes to their favorite TV shows. So will it be mainly for hardcore game enthusiasts?
With growing consumer awareness, more information and education provided by retailers is needed. Especially concerning the necessary equipment and background in 3D experience, its impact on the keen young gamers’ eyesight etc. The 3D format is safe for children over 4 years of age, according to doctors, and it’s definitely better for human eye accommodation than traditional 2D.
Last but not least, there is the question of time-consuming conversion from 2D to 3D done by skilled engineers. This issue needs to be balanced as now many new TVs and BD players have built in circuitry that permits an auto- conversion by simply one press of a button. It’s also estimated that 55% of the population is unable to see 3D properly, so is there a point in dedicating time and effort for raising already sophisticated standards of good conversion if more than a half of all viewers are not able to spot the difference?
Will physical media be soon supplanted by digital?
Although digital delivery has been gaining more and more recognition and is estimated to generate nearly £6.5 billion of new revenue by 2013, it is still complementing, not displacing, physical media. And at least for the nearest decade media companies are to expect a period of synergy between physical and digital rather than ‘cannibalisation’. Why? Because basically people like to have what they own and be independent from the way publishers are ruling a game.
According to survey conducted by NPD, 75 % of game buyers prefer to have a boxed, retail copy of their game. Is it for collector’s sake? Out of nostalgia? Well, not only. 65% declare they would download the game if the title was 10% cheaper to download than buy at retail. There is also a ‘novelty factor’ which digital media seem to be taking for granted. While the price of a physical copy is more likely to drop down, the drive disc version may stay at the same price indefinitely, especially when there is no storage problem.
Another explanation for a preference to physical media is its independence from the publisher and licensing restrictions. Digital games do not belong fully to the user, they are only under license to use, so the publisher has complete control. There is also a trivial aspect, basically physical media are less harder to lose. There are no concerns about the servers going down or possible free or reduced price re-download. Many have pointed out that the trade off digital media should be of much lower price than the price of physical media, until that happens streaming and such is not all that viable.
Not only consumers share this view. Many retailers also perceive digital media as ‘ high investment low return business model’, as there are many problems in stock: mobile internet access and reliance on the speed of downloading, supply chain customization, lack of standards in the whole sector. Searching for effective content protection policies is one of the biggest challenge as pirated websites are more and more sophisticated. Ironically, in many regions of Europe and Asia it is still easier to find pirated movies than the legal DVDs.
In the era of cloud computing digital distribution is a natural part of the process and cannot be avoided. It is only the question of adopting infrastructure in order to provide a simplified and coherent method of data distribution.
Posted in New Technology | Comments Off on Why do consumers, especially gamers, love physical media?
The battle between the HD DVD and Blu-ray discs was hard-fought
As new technology is constantly brought onto the market, it stands to reason that sometimes you will get products which clash. Sometimes, these two variants on the same product can co-exist quite happily, but other times a vicious battle of merchandise ensues and one product will knock the other off the market!
This was the case with the fight between Blu-Ray and HD DVD, and the war goes back further than you’d think: All the way back to the year 2000! During this time, new blue lasers were being experimented with in optical disc systems. Companies found that by using these blue lasers, rather than the previous red ones, more information could be stored on a disc in less space. This is because the wavelength of a blue laser is smaller than a red one, therefore less space is needed to store the same piece of information.
But why were they experimenting with this new technology? What was wrong with the good old DVD? Well, as is often the case, advances in other areas were forcing disc technology forwards: High definition televisions and television services had come onto the market and the disc industry did not want to be left behind. They, too, wanted to provide high-definition products but found that there was simply not enough room on an ordinary DVD. Thus, new technology had to be found to cater for the changes in the market.
But here’s the catch: More than one company was making the same discoveries at the same time! The result: Two competing products were brought onto the market and began a battle that would last for almost a decade.
Sony and Pioneer seem to have been the main instigators of research, unveiling the DVR Blue at Japan’s Ceatec show on October 5th 2000. It was this disc which would form the basis for Blu-ray, which was proposed some two years later, on February 19th 2002. The plans for the disc were put forward by nine very successful electronics companies, headed by Sony. However, only a few months later, NEC and Toshiba put forward plans for a competing product, the high-definition disc which was to become HD DVD.
That year, at the 2002 Ceatec show in Japan, both discs were unveiled. The Blu-ray was shown by Sony, Sharp, Panasonic, JVC and Pioneer whilst the HD DVD, at this time called the Advanced Optical Disc (AOD), was shown by Toshiba. I can almost imagines the competitors scowling at each other across the room: This meant merchandise war!
At first, things were slow. New technology is very expensive and the licensing for Blu-ray was extortionate (and necessarily so considering all the money that had been sunk into the disc’s invention!) Perhaps due to this, or perhaps simply in a clever marketing move, Sony created a disc which would allow data storage, not only in terms of film, but in terms of business: Companies could now store documents, presentations – whatever they wanted – on these discs, like memory-massive versions of the CD.
The technology to be able to write information on discs at home and in the workplace was then used to create the first home BD recorder. It was based upon the BD-RE disc and cost almost $4000! It was a mistake, however, as the machine did not support pre-recorded films and simply served as an extra expense for the companies involved. Despite this mistake, the BD was obviously making headway, however, as Mitsubishi joined the group in May of that year.
But what of the HD DVD during this time? Well, truth be told very little happened with the HD DVD of note until early 2004, when Toshiba unveiled the first prototype HD DVD player. The player was well though out as it was backwards compatible with DVD, a customer pleasing feature which brought it attention. However the success was not to last, as only five days later, on january 12th, Dell and Hewlett-Packard, major electronics companies, made public their decision to back the Blu-ray disc.
Then, on September 21st, Sony announced that their PlayStation 3 would support Blu-ray discs. This was a canny business move on Sony’s part, as they knew that many of the people who play PlayStation games are also a major section of the film-buying market. Therefore, by cornering the gamers into watching Blu-rays simply because they already had the player, they sectured an enormous amount of business in one fell swoop.
But in late November, several world-famous film studios came together to give their support for the HD DVD. This was a massive boon for the HD DVD; getting the backing of Warner Bros. Pictures, New Line Cinema, HBO, Universal Pictures AND Paramount Pictures secured for them a massive portion of the film-making industry. However, they had missed off one of the most influential giants of movie-making: Disney. And ten days later, this titan of business gave its support, not to the HD DVD, but to Blu-ray.
In mid-2005, Sony’s president made a show of wishing to compromise or integrate with HD DVD, knowing as he did that consumers were becoming tired of having choose between the two rival formats. But still the war dragged on, though talks were indulged in for several months between Toshiba and Sony. Companies kept siding with one of the other format until, late in 2005, Paramount Home Entertainment decided to offer their films on both HD DVD and Blu-ray. Some other companies followed suit but there was still an air of stagnation and irritation on the market.
So we come to March 2006, when Toshiba put their new HD DVD player on the market. It had been in development for some moths by LG Electronics, no doubt also backed in part by Microsoft, who had decided to rival the PLayStation 3 and provide an HD DVD drive add-on for their Xbox 360. The disc player was much more of a success than the initial Blu-ray model, as it was cheaper (by about $2000!) and also played all pre-recorded data.
2007 saw the HD DVD take over the market, stealing support from companies who had previously backed Blu-ray as their HD DVD-player sales rocketed to 100,000 in north America alone. This was despite the fact that LG had put together a dual-format player and Warner Bros. had developed a disc which had two layers: One HD DVD and the other Blu-ray, so that it was compatible with all players. HD DVD player prices dropped dramatically and Sony were forced to follow suit, reducing the price of the PlayStation 3 in early November – just in time for Christmas!
So, things were looking up for HD DVD, but Warner Bros. had a bombshell to drop in the new year. On January 4th 2008, the dropped their support of HD DVD and went over to Blu-ray. “All of us at Sony are feeling Blu today!” Said Sony CEO Howard Stringer later that week, smiling broadly. It was a major blow to HD DVD’s confidence and success. Though they cut the prices of HD DVD players, the market was simply not interested anymore and consumers began to side more and more with Blu-ray.
Companies NetFlix and BestBuy had said they would phase out HD DVD by June only a month after Warner Bros. announcement and five days later, Toshiba halted the production of their HD DVD players. Blu-ray had won the war, and just when it looked as if they were about to lose!