China’s Olympic HD-DVD

Shanghai United Optical Disc, with the support of the Chinese government, is set to launch its China High Definition DVD (CH-DVD or CBHD) disc format on 8th August 2008 in conjunction with the Beijing Olympics. This Chinese owned intellectual property originated from the high definition DVD (HD DVD) that was approved by the DVD Forum. The new discs will only be available for sale in China and will use AVS audio and video code technology owned by the Chinese government.

Past, present and future of optical storage - CD (top right), DVD (bottom right), Blu-ray (middle), Mempile 1TB disk (left)
Past, present and future of optical storage
– CD (top right), DVD (bottom right),
Blu-ray (middle), Mempile 1TB disk (left)

The major difference between CBHD and the β€œold” HD DVD is the number of modulation codes. HD DVD had eight to twelve Mod, whereas CBHD only has four to six Mod. The format also uses a codec named β€œAdvanced Audio Video Encoding Standard”, which is also owned by the Chinese government.

With the current rise of Blu-ray (BD) all over the world, skeptics believe that the future of CBHD in China seems bleak. The Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) has been quite active in the Chinese market. BDA said that eleven Chinese disc manufacturers, including TCL, Malata, and Desay, have been allowed by Blu-ray Disc Association to produce Blu-ray Discs and disc players in China next year.

Many of the manufacturers have joined the BD development in China since the withdrawal of Toshiba’s HD DVD venture in February. This was due to the increase in BDA’s Blu-ray development membership to 187, said Greg Zhao, who is in charge of Blu-ray Disc Association’s China Promotions Taskforce. Toshiba is rumoured to be aiming towards Blu-ray, but with better, more upscale DVD players.
The BDA also reports that it is set to launch a BD factory in China by the end of December. Leading Blu-ray Disc player manufacturers Sony, Panasonic, and Pioneer, each have had discouraging sales, particularly in China, but with the construction of a new factory they hope for a strong growth over the next few quarters. In Japan, it is stated that Blu-ray disc players have over 50 percent of market share among latest disc player sales.

Once Blu-ray players and discs are aggressively promoted in China CBHD will need to acknowledge a major price competition. In the US, a price of an entry level Blu-ray disc player has fallen to US$299 (and as low as $100 for computer based BD players) which is a fraction of their original cost, but the CBHD has one significant advantage, which is that a current DVD production line can be refitted to manufacture CBHD discs for just over quarter the expense which is around US$800,000 compared to building a BD disc production line for US$3 million.

The CBHD has another important advantage over Blu-ray – the new players come with a considerably lower royalty fee compared to the 55 Yuan (US$8.10) per licensed player for Blu-ray. Furthermore, for the Chinese market there is much to be saved when not counting on foreign intellectual property.

However, CBHD would still need to obtain backing from major Hollywood studios, a hurdle that Blu-ray has already overcome. In response to consumer demand, Warner Bros. Entertainment has released its high-definition DVD titles in Blu-ray disc format starting from the middle 2008. This was a big achievement for Blu-ray, strengthening its stand as the standard high-definition media. Interestingly, in trying to fight piracy, the Chinese Government has made it a point to add more copy protection features in the CBHD than Blu-ray discs.

The materialization of CH-DVD as a high definition format developed by Chinese-owned intellectual property evidently proves that the Chinese optical disc technology might be able to compete on a world-class plane. In the coming few years, all industries in China that are associated in this field are intended convert from standard definition DVD to high definition DVD. China will also start broadcasting high definition TV programs by next year.

TFOT has previously written about the bright future for home 3-D display technology where a current Blu-ray Disc movie can be watched in 3-D; the viewer can feel like he or she is actually part of a scene. You can also check out our article about mempile – terabyte on a CD that is a revolutionary future optical-storage technology currently under development which will allow the equivalent of 250,000 high-quality MP3s or more than 115 DVD-quality movies and about 40 HD movies on a single CD-size medium. InPhase Technologies was also covered by TFOT back in 2006, boasting capacities of up to 300 GB as well as ultra fast access time however since than the company ran into problems and the status of the technology is currently unclear.

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