By Jo Twist
BBC News technology reporter, in Las Vegas
Blu-ray DVDs will hold much more data
The next-generation DVD format Blu-ray is winning more supporters than its rival, according to its backers.
Blu-ray, backed by 100 firms including Sony, is competing against Toshiba and NEC-backed HD-DVD to be the format of choice for future films and games.
The Blu-Ray Association said on Thursday that games giants Electronic Arts and Vivendi would both support its DVD format.
The next generation of DVDs will hold high-definition video and sound.
This offers incredible 3D-like quality of pictures
which major Hollywood studios and games publishers are extremely keen to exploit in the coming year.
In a separate press conference at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Toshiba announced that DVD players for its technology would be on the market by
the end of 2005.
"As we move from standard definition video images to high-definition images, we have a much greater need for storage," Richard Doherty, from Panasonic's Hollywood Laboratories, one of the pioneers of Blu-ray, told the BBC news website.
"So by utilising blue laser-based technology we can
make an optical laser disc that can hold six times as
much as today's DVD."
A Blu-ray disc will be able to store 50GB of
high-quality data, while Toshiba's HD-DVD will hold
Mr Doherty added that it was making sure the discs
could satisfy all high-definition needs, including the
ability to record onto the DVDs and smaller discs to
fit into camcorders.
Both Toshiba and Blu-ray are hopeful that the emerging
DVD format war, akin to the Betamax and VHS fight in
the 1980s, can be resolved over the next year when
next-generation DVD players start to come out.
When players do come out, they will be able to play
standard DVDs too, which is good news for those who
have huge libraries of current DVDs.
But the support from Vivendi and Electronics Arts is a
big boost to Blu-ray in the battle for supremacy.
Gaming is a $20 billion industry worldwide, so is as
crucial as the film industry in terms of money to be
"The technical requirement for game development today
demands more advanced optical-disc technologies," said
Michael Heilmann, chief technology officer for Vivendi Universal.
"Blu-ray offers the capacity, performance and high-speed internet connectivity to take us into the future of gaming."
EA, a leading games developer and publisher, added that the delivery of high-definition games of the future was vital and Blu-ray had the capacity, functionality and interactivity needed for the kinds of projects it was planning.
Sony recently announced it would be using the
technology in its next generation of PlayStations.
Mr Doherty said gamers were "ravenous" for
high-quality graphics and technology for the next
generation of titles.
"Gamers, especially those working on PCs, are always
focused on more capacity to deliver textures, deeper
levels, for delivering higher-resolution playback."
He added: "The focus for games moving forward is on
"Gaming companies really like to focus on creating a
world which involves creating complicated 3D models
and textures and increasing the resolution, increasing
the frame rate - all of these are part of getting a
more immersive experience."
Sony says its new PlayStation will support Blu-ray
Fitting these models on current DVD technologies means compressing the graphics so much that much of this quality is lost. As games move to more photo-real capability, the current technology is limiting.
"They are thrilled at the advanced capacity to start to build these immersive environments," said Mr Doherty.
Currently, graphics-intensive PC games also require multiple discs for installation. High-definition DVDs will cut down on that need.
Likewise, consoles rely on single discs, so DVDs that
can hold six times more data mean much better,
Blu-ray has already won backing from major Hollywood
studios, such as MGM Studios, Disney, and Buena Vista,
as well as top technology firms like Dell, LG, Samsung
and Phillips amongst others.
While Toshiba's HD-DVD technology has won backing from Paramount, Universal and Warner Bros.
"The real world benefits (of HD-DVD) are apparent and obvious," said Jim Cardwell, president of Warner Home Video.
Mr Cardwell added that rapid time to market and dependability were significant factors in choosing to go with HD-DVD.
Both formats are courting Microsoft to be the format of choice for the next generation Xbox, but discussions are still on-going.
Next generation DVDs will also be able to store images
and other data.
CES is the largest consumer electronics show in the
world, and runs from 6 to 9 January.