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Media Blu ray is the recordable specification for the future, but it was not always undisputed. At one time, a contender format called HD-DVD was being seriously considered instead. But given all the recent articles about Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD, it should be helpful to discuss some technical matters which may offer a contextual backdrop. Number eight in our series of DVD articles will touch on some of the possible forthcoming advances in the Blu-ray format.

No stranger to format wars, having been victorious in its battles with Panasonic during the late ’70s and early ’80s concerning Betamax and VHS, Sony lead an industry alliance against HD-DVD that proved successful, overcoming initial obstacles to establish the successor format to today’s standard DVD. The initial hurdle had been an expensive caddy that was needed to house a Blu-ray Disc, but with technological improvements Blu-ray came to surpass its rival, HD-DVD, in many technical respects. But though specifications are now finalized, ongoing research promises even more exciting developments. For example, quad-layered discs capable of 100GB each have been engineered to work on standard players without any modification. This translates as seven hours of 32-Mbit video or three and a half at 64Mbits. There have been experimental Blu-ray Discs holding 200GB on only one side from TDK using six layers. The main technical obstacle preventing the introduction of such discs, however, is that currently available consumer technologies cannot read from or write to the additional disc layers. However, Hitachi has introduced a 100GB four-layered Blu-ray Disc capable of playback on today’s Blu-ray machines, while Pioneer announced that its 400GB Blu-ray Disc is compatible with current Blu-ray players after a firmware update.

There’s even a hybrid disc that combines standard-definition DVD data with high-definition Blu-ray Disc data on one single three-layered disc, allowing standard playback on regular DVD players while providing for high-definition content when used in Blu-ray capable machines. And portable Blu-ray Disc players are in the works, as well as Blu-ray recorders integrated into LCD HDTV sets. Now that Blu-ray Disc is universally recognized as the successor format to today’s standard DVD, voluminous research will soon flood the market with such gadgets and gizmos as Mini Blu-ray Discs, with recordable and rewritable versions for use with compact recording devices like digital handicams.

Blu-ray Disc has come a long way from the format war that almost doomed it, and it is maturing very fast towards a future of increased data capacities and increased signal processing. Sales have been picking up, though it will be a while before standard DVDs are dethroned. Nevertheless, with its future assured, the incentives for Blu-ray research and development only get bigger and bigger, with a wave of “wonderware” just around the corner!