What is Blu-Ray?
I've seen ads for movies on Blu-Ray discs but I'm not sure what that means. What is Blu-Ray and how is it different from a regular DVD disc? Do I need a special player to view a Blu-Ray disc?
Think about Blu-Ray as an advanced version of a DVD disc. Blu-Ray optical discs are used to store large amounts of data, which is suitable for high-definition video and high-density data. It's the next-generation optical disc format jointly developed by a group of computer and consumer electronics companies, called the Blu-Ray Disc Association (BDA).
Compared to a traditional DVD or HD DVD, a standard single-layer Blu-Ray disc can hold much more data -- 25 GB versus 5 GB for standard DVD or 8.5 GB on a dual-sided HD DVD. A dual layer Blu-Ray disc can hold up to 45 to 50 GB of data. This means a dual layer disc can play 8 hours of HD video. But wait… there's more! Researchers are also developing 100 GB and 200 GB Blu-Ray discs. (Sorry, no steak knives.)
A Blu-Ray disc gets its name from the blue-violet laser used to store data on the disc. This shorter wavelength of the ray (405 nm) and tighter track pitch facilitates more precise storage of data, and higher storage capacity. A conventional DVD reads and writes data using red and infrared lasers at 650 nm while a CD uses the same lasers at 780 nm. (How small is a nanometer? For reference, there are 25.4 million nanometers in an inch.) Read the Blu-Ray FAQ for more technical details about this next-generation optical disc format.
How Will The Consumer Benefit?Needless to say, the larger storage capacity of the Blu-Ray disc offers consumers a lot of benefits when it comes to storing data in their personal computers. You'd need a stack of about 32,000 floppy discs to equal the capacity of a single dual-sided Blu-Ray disc. We've come a long way in just a few years!
Also, Blu-Ray technology will change the way we see movies and high definition videos. Although the Blu-Ray disc players are costlier at the moment, they are expected to become less expensive as the production increases. Sony is using Blu-Ray drives in the popular PlayStation gaming systems, which could help to boost the Blu-Ray market.
Before switching to this new technology, you should make sure that the new Blu-Ray disc player plays your traditional DVDs too. Manufacturers and video content producers have yet to embrace this technology on a large scale and not all video content is available on Blu-Ray discs. If your new Blu-Ray disc does not play normal DVDs, it may be of limited value in the short run.
Blue-Ray Versus HD DVD
Another advantage of using a Blu-Ray enabled player is that it enables a 36Mbps data transfer rate and MPEG-2 Transport Stream. If all that techno-speak makes your eyes glaze over, translated into practical terms, this means HDTV owners can record their favorite broadcast without any quality loss.
When it comes to the future of video formats, Blu-Ray is not the only whale in the fish tank. Remember the days of VHS versus Betamax? Customers didn't know which type of machine to buy while that battle raged. In a similar scenario, backers of the Blu-Ray (Sony, Panasonic, Dell, Disney) and HD DVD (Toshiba, Hitachi, Sanyo, Universal/Vivendi) technology are each hoping to triumph in the marketplace.
Due to the conflict between both the two camps, content owners are divided as well. That means you have to be careful when you buy or rent a movie. Is it in DVD, Blu-Ray or HD DVD format? And which discs will work in your player?
Blu-Ray technology is poised to change the digital world. But Blu-Ray may flop in the marketplace, just like Betamax, even though it was regarded as technically superior. My advice is to stick with plain old DVDs for a while. Let the technology and entertainment behemoths duke it out, and hopefully we'll end up with a winner (or a compromise) in the next year or so.
Got comments or questions about Blu-Ray? Post your thoughts below…
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 30 Mar 2007
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- What is Blu-Ray? (Posted: 30 Mar 2007)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved