Hi-Def DVD Formats Duel It Out – The battle over the next generation of DVD discs escalated at the Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show, which opened yesterday. Pioneer introduced its $1800 Blu-ray DVD player which they plan to market by June and Samsung plans a similar player in the spring for about $1000. Toshiba – the leader of the alternate HD-DVD format – promised to have two players out for their format by March, priced at $500 and $800. The various Hollywood studios are backing different formats, and some – such as Paramount and Warners – are hedging by backing both. Studios behind Blu-ray are (of course) Sony, 20th-Century Fox and Lions Gate. Universal is supporting HD-DVD. Other manufacturers in the Blu-ray camp: Philips and Panasonic. Behind HD-DVD: Sanyo, NEC, Microsoft, Intel. Some of the first Blu-ray titles announced: House of Flying Daggers, The Bridge on the River Kwai, The Last Waltz, Sense and Sensibility, Kung Fu Hustle, T2: Judgment Day, Total Recall, Dune, Rambo.
Dolby Busy at CES – Dolby Laboratories is sneak-previewing their TrueHD Technology, which offers up to 7.1 discrete lossless audio channels for next-generation optical media. The quality is said to be bit-for-bit identical to the original studio masters. The technology has a theoretical limit of 14 channels of surround sound, and also has enhanced downmix, dynamic range control and metadata capabilities. It will be the standard audio format for both of the new hi-def DVD formats (with DTS’ alternative as an option). Consumers with the latest AV receivers and preamps having HDMI inputs will be able to experience lossless 7.1 playback via a purely digital connection.
Dolby also announced the first products from a new subsidiary, and from a connection with Sharp Electronics. Audistry is both the new firm and the name of the Dolby “personal sound technology.” Audistry has collaborations with six leaders in DSP development and silicon technology, including Analog Devices and Texas Instruments. The Sharp product launch includes 2.1-channel systems, part of “delivering a new way for people to personalize the way they listen to sound and music.” However, the announcement fails to say exactly what Audistry technology is, except observing that it has enabled mobile phone makers to integrate it into their handsets “to deliver enhanced audio features to consumers.” [Oh, boy – now that we’ve got digital cameras and video in cell phones, we’re also going to enjoy their high-end surround sound audio, right? Gimme a break…Ed.]