HD DVD camp backs dual format players

Like a game of billion dollar chess, prime proponents Toshiba and Sony seem intent on out-manoeuvering each other at every opportunity.

So is it any wonder that dual-format machines like those being championed by Samsung (the Duo HD BD-UP5000) and LG (the BH200) seem like a smart way go to for HD movie fans? Home Cinema Choice magazine put this question to Mark Knox, chief technology evangelist for the HD DVD promotional Group, at the recent CEDIA Expo in Denver.

"Personally speaking, I'm very comfortable with a dual format machine. I have no problems with it," Knox replied candidly, expressing some sympathy with the plight of the hardware industry.

"Maybe eight months ago if a hardware manufacturer was looking to produce a Blu-ray only player, it wouldn't have seemed too much of a risk. With the Paramount/DreamWorks HD DVD deal, the landscape is very different now."

Rise of the dual-format player

"Suddenly everyone in the industry is looking to see which company will be next to go with a dual format machine. There are plenty of rumours. I had talks with Denon a year ago, which seemed to be looking at a dual format approach. However, it clearly has not been able to source components to make such a machine possible."

When pushed on whether any of the bigger Japanese brands might back both HD horses, Knox has an intriguing proposition.

"In the US, Panasonic is very quiet about Blu-ray now. Back in the early day, Panasonic was part of the holy trinity with Sony and Philips, and was probably looking to make a lot of money from royalties. But its position has been diluted as more and more companies have joined the Blu-ray Disc Association. Now Panasonic is a make-money kind of company. I wouldn't be surprised if it was looking closely at producing a dual-format player!"

Despite an early assertion that Blu-ray was the more advanced of the two HD formats, BD supporters have appeared frustrated by an inability to match HD DVD's interactive extras.

"The Blu-ray-only studios are looking at [HD DVD's] interactive content and are wondering how they can produce something similar. But they're in a difficult position. If they produce a disc with advanced BD Java PIP, they can't be sure how many customers will be able to play those features. The lack of Profile 1.1 hardware (supposedly mandatory from November) has put them in a difficult position."

HD DVD remains bullish

Overall, it seems that the HD DVD camp is pleased with the position it finds itself in, and the calibre of releases that it has upcoming.

"I've been knocked out by the remastered Star Trek Season One box set,' enthuses Knox. "I think that the attraction of that HD DVD release, with the new HD FX and special features will make it a very powerful release for the format."

"And with cheaper players coming to market, like the Chinese-made Venturer, things can only get more interesting. That model has made headlines for its $200 price point, but that's just the beginning. When we get to the holiday season it'll fall in line with other well-specified DVD players."

This article is a shortened version of the interview that first appeared in Home Cinema Choice, issue 149. Mark Knox was talking to Steve May.