Sony's Secret Weapon Against HD DVD: 20GB

By Marcus Yam for Daily Tech on April 3, 2007

Although the high definition optical format camps are divided into two, they both share many of the same characteristics. Both formats support nearly identical video and audio codecs and when all things being equal, should deliver identical experiences.

Aside from movie studio exclusives support, the main differentiating factor between the formats is storage space. In their current market iterations, Blu-ray Discs hold a 20GB advantage with its dual-layer 50GB media when compared to HD DVD’s dual-layer 30GB discs.

Sony realizes this distinct advantage, and is committing to rolling out 80 percent of all its forthcoming Blu-ray titles as 50GB discs, according to Video Business.

When transferring a film onto Blu-ray, compression engineers may utilize the extra 20GB to attain higher bit rate video and to accommodate lossless audio streams. While many dual-format releases of late, such as The Departed, feature identical video streams encoded with the same codec, engineers recognize that the added space afforded by Blu-ray can be spent to improve quality.

The encoders responsible for Nine Inch Nails: Beside You In Time, released on both HD DVD and Blu-ray acknowledges the difference. On the difference between the HD DVD and Blu-ray versions of the concert, a FAQ document on the NIN Web site reads, “Technically speaking, the video quality of the Blu-ray version has a slight edge over the HD DVD: It was encoded at a slightly higher bit rate due to the Blu-ray spec's higher bandwidth capabilities for encoded video streams. However, this difference is nominal and would only be noticeable by a pair of well-trained eyes on an extremely expensive professional 1080P monitor.”

No matter how indistinguishable the differences 20GB may make, Sony is keen on using every bit of that extra space to prove its superiority over HD DVD.

“It’s important, especially in this phase, that we make sure we are showing the absolute best quality in video and audio, and 50GB accomplishes that,” said Sony worldwide president David Bishop.

Transcribed by Lt. Randazzo

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