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New High-Definition Disc Contenders Emerge

The threat of another format war appeared on the horizon this month with word of two additional optical disc systems proposed for recording high-definition video content, rivaling the previously announced system proposed by the Blue-ray Disc coalition.

Warner Bros. was reportedly exploring a proposal for a high-capacity disc system based on red-laser technology to deliver a relatively inexpensive system for producing HDTV movies on the single side of a dual-layer (DVD-9) disc.

Meanwhile, Toshiba and NEC announced in Japan that they had joined forces in support of a new high-density blue laser DVD disc format.

The HD/DVD-9 system being explored by Warner Bros. and Warner Home Video would use today’s standard DVD-9 media, which is commonly used for most feature films on DVD today. Recordings are based on MPEG-4 compression at a 7 Mbps transfer rate.

The HD/DVD-9 discs would be compatible with next-generation blue and/or Blue-ray laser disc players if manufacturers, as expected, opt to build in support for standard (red laser) DVDs.

Such players could then be made to also play the HD-DVD-9 discs as a relatively inexpensive feature.

Proponents of the system see HD/DVD-9 as a more economically attractive complement to higher capacity blue laser discs in the early rollout stages of the blue laser technologies.

Warner reportedly is expected to be pursuing publication of the HD/DVD-9 specification.

Meanwhile, the Toshiba/NEC blue laser format is based on a 0.6mm disc substrate used in today’s DVDs. It is said to be capable of storing over four times the data of the current DVDs, or up to 25 hours of standard definition television broadcasts.

Disc capacity is increased to 15GB for a single-sided, single-layer disc and to 30GB for a single-sided dual-layer disc. In addition, Toshiba and NEC said they would shortly propose a 40GB single-sided, dual-layer read-and-write disc to the DVD Forum.

Toshiba and NEC are said to be planning to launch the first disc for computer data storage next year.

Last February, a group of nine companies announced support of the Blue-ray Disc format with up to 50GB of capacity.