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Blu-ray Charges Into Holidays With Full Promotional Effort

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Panasonic has introduced a next-generation Blu-ray player it said is the first with the format's Final Standard Profile feature capable of playing picture-in-picture running commentaries and audio mixing.

The DMP-BD30 ($499 suggested retail) Blu-ray player will ship the week of Nov. 12 as the company's third-generation model.

The Final Standard Profile adds advanced functions outlined in the version 1.1 BD specification mandated by the Blu-ray Disc Association for all future players.

Key features included in the player are: Deep Color compatibility, HDMI 1.3B input, an increase in step gradation from 8-bit 256 all up to 12-bit, 4,096 step gradation, Panasonic said.

Like rival HD DVD players, the spec allows for playback of new picture-in-picture overlays over the running feature, enabling such added content as streaming audio and video commentaries by key people involved with a title's production. The audio mixing feature allows the consumer to switch the sound between the main and sub windows.

Panasonic's DMP-BD30 includes an SD card slot for playback of high-definition content recorded in the AVCHD format. The SD slot also allows for viewing of digital still images recorded to an SD card.

Panasonic reduced the size of the player into a slimmer cabinet, in part through the use of a new processor that integrates four key functions into a single chip, said Alberto Reggiani, Panasonic's national marketing manager for DVD products.

A single UniPhier chip that integrates MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 decoding, AVCHD decoding, PHL color processing and P4HD pixel-by-pixel processing. The latter stands for pixel, precision, progressive processing, "which is really designed for high definition," Reggiani said.

The processor is said to be extremely fast, looking at up to 15 billion pixels per second and will look at 60 different pixels to generate one pixel for better color and better details, Reggiani said.

"The DMP-BD30 will contribute greatly to Blu-ray's mounting lead over the competing format," stated Gene Kelsey, VP, Panasonic entertainment group.

Kelsey explained that when Final Standard Profile features are combined with a Blu-ray movie, "that is authored to include the Profile the viewer has a myriad of entertainment options. One of the more intriguing aspects of the Final Standard Profile is the picture-in-picture feature that allows the movie fan to access a variety of entertainment enhancements, such as having the director or an actor pop up to discuss the scene you are watching, or when watching an animated movie, you can see the actor performing their character's voiceover, all while still watching the movie."

Other features the DMP-BD30 provides are 1080/24p playback, so the consumer can see the same 24 fps reproduction as the original movie. "This eliminates the need to utilize 3:2 pull down, a process to convert 24 fps images to 60 fps, resulting in a smoother picture," Panasonic said.

Panasonic has included a multifunction SD card slot to this Blu-ray player. Coupled with the AVCHD codec, the DMP-BD30 allows for images recorded on a high capacity HD SD card to be outputted directly from the player's HDMI terminal in their original 1080p form.

The DMP-BD30 provides an AVCHD Direct Navigator function that "makes it easy to search for particular scenes. The player can also play back JPEG still images on an SD card, such as those recorded with a Panasonic Lumix digital camera. The DMP-BD30 up-converts standard-definition DVD videos to a 1,920 by 1,080 resolution format for optimal playback over HDMI terminals on 1080p HD sets.

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