HD-DVD: A Eulogy

So it is official, Toshiba are no longer making HD-DVD players and the three main HD-DVD affiliated studios have jumped ship. Despite electronic manufacturer LG announcing that they have no plans to stop building HD-DVDs the format is all but dead, only being in existence in the US since April 2006. Expect US HD-DVD releases to cease this summer and prices of discs, and players, to fall drastically. The third generation HDEP30 can be found online for around ??69.99 and if some rumours are to be believed, can be found in stores for ??39.99. Australia is the place for those still wanting to bolster their collections. EzyDVD and DVD Crave are listing a number od discs for between ??2.50 and ??4.30, excluding shipping of course. Second hand HD-DVD disc prices are dropping slowly but some good bargains can be found at Amazon Marketplace, eBay and Wherehouse.com (my new favourite cheap retailer for quality second hand discs!). Perhaps HD-DVD can stay alive for longer in Europe? There are a number of attractive releases still on the horizon in Germany.

So why did HD-DVD fail? I don’t think that it ever had a chance. With all the fuss about downloads and digital rights management, Blu-Ray clearly offered the studios a potentially more economically safe medium. My first HD format player was a Blu-Ray player. I believed that it was the superior format because of its high bitrate and studio support. But I was seduced by HD-DVD. Releases such as Casablanca and The Thing persuaded me to purchase a HD-DVD player. After a year of owning the format I have over 50 titles and the collection is still growing. My Blu-Ray collection pales in comparison with only 17. Why the difference? I always felt that there were more classics available on HD-DVD with only meagre blockbuster titles on Blu-Ray , catering towards the gaming audience who owned a PS3. At least the death of HD-DVD will now change this.

So to finish this post I thought that I would identify my favourite HD-DVD discs and also the worst. Let’s start with the favourites:

Zodiac

This two-disc director’s cut is about as good as HD-DVD gets. The transfer of the film is faultless and the extras, which are also presented in HD, are first rate. Even the packaging is top notch.

The Thing

The release that persuaded me to purchase a HD-DVD player. A solid transfer of a classic horror film with all the extras from the DVD release. This is now available for around ??4 at EzyDVD.

Casblanca

Can older black and white films look good in HD? This answers the question, looking like it was made recently. You will be amazed at the level of detail present in this transfer. Still not available on Blu-Ray.

The Warriors

Okay, this might be the new director’s cut that incorporates the comic book-esque transitions but it is still great to see this classic cult film given such great attention. This features another high quality transfer from Paramount.

Blade Runner

The five disc US HD-DVD release surely must be the final word on Ridely Scott’s oft revisited film. Has anyone managed to watch everything contained on each of the five discs yet?

Other notable mentions are Training Day (which has a far superior transfer to the Blu-Ray discs), First Blood, Bug and King Kong.

We’ve had the good so how about the bad?

Basic Instinct

A guilty pleasure (and not because I wanted to see Sharon Stone’s crotch is HD) but this contains one of the worst HD-DVD transfers I have seen. Pixellation is noticeable especially during scenecs containing a lot of red. The US Blu-Ray release has to be much better than this poor Studio-Canal disc.

Pan’s Labyrinth

I have been patiently waiting to see the film on HD-DVD but the picture quality of the US HD-DVD release is very poor. Being New Line’s only HD-DVD release it was believed that this would become a future collector’s item. I am not sure if that is enough to persuade me to keep this one.

The Fugitive

The level of edge enhancement on this transfer is awful making it possibly the worst quality HD-DVD I have seen. Stick to your SD-DVD!

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