Why?

In a story from Yahoo, it looks like consumers will now have a third format to think about: HD-VMD (High Definition Versatile Multilayer Disc).

During the recent "Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association (CEDIA) trade show in Denver, a company promoting" this "new high-definition optical disc format demonstrated set-top players and high-definition movies that cost far less than ones that use the competing Blu-ray Disc or HD DVD formats."

In October, "New Medium Enterprises' 1080p set-top players, which use the HD-VMD format, will go on sale on Amazon.com and in stores such as Radio Shack and Costco for around $150--about half the cost of the least-expensive 1080p HD-DVD player, and perhaps a fourth the cost of the least-expensive Blu-ray player. The movies that work in them are similarly inexpensive."

Another big difference come is how this new format operates. It doesn't use blue-laser technology that HD-DVD and Blu-ray use, "the HD VMD format uses the red-laser technology already used to create DVDs, and as a result, keeps the cost of manufacturing discs and drives low," states Eugene Levich, director and chief technology officer of New Medium Enterprises.

These new HD-VMD discs "hold up to 30GB on a single side, are encoded with a maximum bit rate of 40 megabits per second; that's within spitting distance of Blu-ray's 48 mbps, and quite a bit more than 36 mbps for HD DVD. The format uses MPEG-2 and VC1 video formats to encode at 1080p resolution for the time being, and will possibly move to the H.264 format in the future."

In addition to this, "the HD VMD format supports up to 7.1-channel Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, and DTS audio output, though it will not offer the high-bit-rate Dolby TrueHD or DTS Master Audio surround-sound codecs."

Lets not forget the players...

The two players available at next month's launch, the ML622S and the ML775S, "have a single HDMI 1.3 connection and can play HD VMDs, DVDs, CDs, and MP3 CDs, as well as a few other formats. The ML622S costs about $150; the ML775S will cost slightly more. The ML775S adds USB ports and a media-card reader for displaying photos and playing video content from devices such as thumb drives and external hard drives. Both players have Ethernet ports designed for downloading firmware updates, not the interactive features supported by HD DVD and Blu-ray. They come in black, red, gray, and white."

Ultimately, this new format may not suffer from entering the format war late but rather it might be hurt by having few titles to play on the machines. According to Jim Cardwell who is advising the company, should the new players sell well that will make studios more eager to get on board with this new format.

Evan Jacobs