One of the best things about HDBeat (if I do say so myself) is the great contributions by our readers and the listeners of  the Podcast. It really does go to show that one of the best aspects of the Internet as a medium is two way communication. After reading about the HD-DVD roadshow and my impressions, Erik Hanson went to check it out for himself and he was nice enough to send us his notes. They were so insightful that I wanted to share them with everyone.

So I went and checked out Toshiba's HD-DVD roadshow here in Dallas yesterday to see the new next-gen format, and got to ask the rep some questions that had been unanswered by your fine Podcast and the media in general. A few interesting things:
 

  • HD-DVD's native output is 1080i, and as far as I understood it won't (ever?) do 1080p, which was a shame; although the rep tried to explain I wouldn't even see the difference unless I had a 65" set, I was disappointed they didn't future-proof it by including 1080p support, for those sets built in the (near) future that support 1080p and HDMI 1.3 (these are 1.1 only, so I assume the bandwidth isn't quite high enough for true 1080p anyway, 1.3 will require 1080p support). He even demoed the unit on a new Toshiba 52-ish inch 1080p DLP, which did the progressive deinterlace conversion on the set, so I assume most 1080p sets will do the same with interlaced content.
 
  • Managed copy is NOT included in the first-gen hardware (and according to this article Blu-Ray won't have it either due to AACS standards not being finalized before launch). The Toshiba rep claimed it was Microsoft's fault as they needed to have the corresponding standards built into Vista, which if true implies managed copy will ONLY be available using Vista? VC-1- and DRM-encoded WMV files only perhaps? Hopefully we'll find out more on that.
 
  • The only real differences between the $500 basic and the $800 deluxe model are a motion-sensitive backlit remote, a motorized faceplate, and RS-232 support for automation. So; basic model for pretty much everyone then.
 
  • Demos were only movie trailers and a "simulated" side-by-side HD/SD comparison. The SD side looked overly artificially blurred to me, so it would have been way better to just throw in a SD DVD copy of the same material to compare different formats, but oh well. I asked, but there were no menus or any interactive content on the demo, so we just have to imagine what those features look like.
 
  • Anyone who sells the hardware can sell the movies with them, so I guess that means you can pick up Million Dollar Baby or Dukes of Hazard with your player at retailers that don't normally carry movies already (probably those smaller boutique stores, Tweeter, rental places, who knows)
 
  • While OTA ATSC broadcast HD tops out at 19Mb/s, HD-DVD is capable of 34Mbit/s (if I remember the rep correctly), meaning no Moviebeam-like compression artifacts! (unless the studios can't compress properly)
 
  • I asked about the new audio formats (Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD) and the only thing the rep knew was that they supported higher bit rates, up to uncompressed (bit-for-bit copies of the master) so nothing new, but it was at least good to get it confirmed. Some more info on HDMI 1.3 and the new audio formats in an old article from February.
 
Of course the rep passed the buck when it came to Image Constraint Token analog down-converting, claiming it was all up to the studios to implement (although I did mention I was apprehensive about buying a $500 player and a couple hundred bucks' worth of movies and then the studios turning on the flag 6 months from now). I know you always mention on the Podcast how we shouldn't be worried because no one will notice, but I guarantee you, if you didn't have HDCP-enabled equipment already, you'd be right along side those of us who are pissed off about it. Also, I wonder if you understand that 960x540 is one quarter of the resolution of 1920x1080, not just half. So I think it Will be a lot more noticeable than you give it credit for. Oh well, hopefully someone will eventually crack it in hardware so that us "analog losers" can buy ICT-enabled discs and play them anyway.

Wow Thanks for the great insight Erik!
Erick is going to be on the HDBeat Podcast this week to referee me and Kevin as we both proclaim the next winner in the HD format war.

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HD-DVD Roadshow: a readers impressions