Which DVD Format Is the One for Me?

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Two new DVD formats are due out soon one from Sony and one from Toshiba. The two Japan-based corporations are battling for supremacy in the high-definition market — a battle some are comparing to the competition between the Betamax and VHS home video formats. But what does it mean for the consumer?


Two new DVD formats are due out soon; one from Sony and one from Toshiba. The companies are battling for supremacy in the high-definition market. But what does it mean for the consumer?

Is it time to replace that nice DVD collection you've been building? We put that question to commentator Kevin Murphy.

KEVIN MURPHY reporting:

The wizards at Sony are poised to introduce their high definition blue ray digital format in late May to us, here in the U.S. of A, a Neanderthal, unwittingly blue ray-starved populous, rooting around as we are in the dim glow of conventional DVD-based home theaters, wondering how in the name of all that is holy we ever made it this far as a civilization without 1080p upscaling, 50 gigabytes of dual layer capacity, and 3:2 pulldown compensation.

Not to be outdone, this month the wizards of Toshiba will roll out their own gift from the gods called HD DVD, with equally impressive technical specs, and of course 3:2 pulldown.

These two technologies, each with an army of media giants behind them, are about to engage in a struggle to become the One, the medium that will replace the now ubiquitous and perfectly adequate DVD format. You see, I don't get it. Regular DVD's are wonderful. They deliver a quality of sound and image better than we ever dreamed would make it into our homes. Its caused movie studios to radically shift the way they present their product and it simultaneously allowed a brand new market for home-movie makers who now can present the lavish imagery and nuanced editing of Brady's first poopies on the toi-toi in wide-screen splendor and Dolby sound.

But no, apparently DVD's are no longer good enough. Over the next few years we'll watch these new formats wage battle, and eventually we'll have to trash what we have and invest in the winner.

Right now, any of these players will set you back 500 to 1,000 bucks, and the movies will retail at 25 or more. Oh, and don't forget, you'll have to shell out another three grand or so to buy a TV that takes advantage of your high-def 1080p resolution and your 3:2 pulldown.

Why are they doing this? That's a silly question. Better to ask, what in the high-tech heck is 3:2 pulldown? I've been working in television for 25-years, I have no idea. But it doesn't matter, my friends. We must put away childish things and act like adults. Eventually we'll have no choice but to adapt, as those beloved copies of Lawrence of Arabia or Girls Gone Wild: Spring Break 3 begin to stall and seize on our antiquated, conventional DVD players, and only places like Goodwill might offer this quaint, last-century technology.

While our children's children, who eventually replace us, forget us and despise us for electing whomever we've elected, face the shining sunrise of a high-def future and reflect its brilliance.

Okay, that was a silly answer. But take heart, baby, it's not that bad. There have been delays and technical problems with both formats. You won't be able to buy a movie for your Toshiba until April, maybe later, and the scuttlebutt I've heard from my staunchest early adopter friends is that neither format is good enough to replace your trusty, old-school DVD players; not yet.

So hang on to your gear, save your money, be a good skeptical consumer, and let these two big-buck high-tech wizards duke it out for a year or two. To paraphrase the The Wizard of Oz, which by the way would look great in high-def, We may be good people, but we can be very bad wizards.

HANSEN: Kevin Murphy, a writer and producer of old fashioned DVDs, lives in Minnesota.

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