Ah, memories… This really takes me back. Back to the wild and woolly days of the high-def format war. When did that end, two years ago? It feels like an eternity. I’m reminded of this, strangely, as a direct result of my current home theater crisis. While my HT room is in disarray, having all of its water damage and mold patched up, I’ve needed to transfer files from my main computer that resides there to a laptop. So I went digging through some drawers for a USB stick, and this is what I found – a USB stick branded with the HD DVD logo. And that got me thinking back over the events of the last four years.
As I recall, I must have received this as part of a press kit from Universal. (It has that studio’s “Experience the Look and Sound of Perfect” motto.) It probably originally contained a PDF file with a press release, which has long since been deleted. But I kept the USB stick itself, because you just never know when you’ll need one. Like right now, in fact.
All through the DVD years, I simply could not wait for a decent high-def video disc format to finally get here. At one point, I was desperate enough to import a pair of disc players from two obscure Chinese 720p formats called EVD and HVD, just to whet my appetite for HD content. (They both basically stunk.) And then, what do you know, we saw not just one but two HD formats rolled out to the American market. As far as I was concerned, this was an embarrassment of riches for a home theater junkie.
Of course, not everyone saw it that way. Many people were bitter and resentful that the hardware manufacturers and Hollywood studios couldn’t come to terms on a single unified standard. This led to much animosity, accusations, and juvenile name-calling.
I covered the format war from Day One. I bought both the first HD DVD player (the Toshiba HD-A1) and the first Blu-ray player (Samsung’s BDP-1000), each on its first day of release. In my writings, initially at DVDTalk and later here at High-Def Digest, I always advocated format neutrality. I liked both formats, and saw each with its own strengths and weaknesses. The fact is that HD DVD had a stronger initial launch, and Blu-ray really dropped the ball in its first year. Their qualities eventually leveled out over time. But, unlike some other so-called editorialists, I never found one format decisively superior to the other.
For this, I was frequently labeled an HD DVD shill, and accused of taking payoffs from Toshiba. There was, obviously, no merit in either complaint. Mind you, I never even said that I wanted HD DVD to “win” the format war or Blu-ray to lose. I just believed that each should be judged on its own merits, and allowed to fulfill its potential. Here’s a typical hate mail that I received for something I wrote along those lines at DVDTalk:
I’ve been a supporter and user of digital formats for many, many years (way back to laser discs). Based on your comments in the column, I suspect I probably bought my first DVD when you were in grade school.
As most fans, I am extremely frustrated with the high-def wars and the competing hi-def formats (HD DVD & Blu-Ray).
So, I’m unbelievably offended by your asinine comments below:
“…We here at DVDTalk will continue to support both formats equally. As far as we’re concerned, the more High Definition the better…”
What the hell are you people thinking! It’s amazingly stupid comments like yours that got us, and keep us, in the predicament we’re in.
I’m tired of being manipulated. We need sites like yours to help us fight back against issues like this format war – not give silly, inane endorsements to keep the thing going.
Why doesn’t someone at DVDtalk grow a pair of balls and speak out loudly against this frigging format and help frustrate these manufacturers and manipulators.
Fun times, those were. These days, I’m more likely to get screamed at for having the audacity to dislike ‘Avatar‘. But I digress…
The format war has been over for a couple years now. Blu-ray has matured into a pretty strong product, give or take the occasional lapse in judgment. (Do you really think anyone wants a forced internet stream of advertisements over every disc menu, Universal? Because we don’t. At all. Ever. – And Fox, do you really think it’s a good idea to make most of your new releases incompatible with the majority of Blu-ray players on the market, thus forcing countless consumers to wait weeks to months for hardware manufacturers to issue firmware updates that will fix your pointlessly convoluted encryption protocols? Because that’s not a good idea either. It’s really not.)
I have no regrets about the positions I held during the conflict. My HD DVD player still works fine, and I still have a significant collection of 1080p high-def titles yet to see release on Blu-ray. Quite honestly, I don’t think that Blu-ray would be anywhere near as good as it is today if it had never needed to fend off the competition from HD DVD. The format war actually made both products stronger.
So, you know what I’m going to do? From now on, whenever I need to load a new firmware update into my Blu-ray player (You know, like I have to do practically every time Fox issues a new release), I’m going to use this HD DVD USB stick to do it. That will be one small little irony that’s sure to make me smile.