This HD leopard changes his spots
As some of you may know, I made the jump to the HD formats a few months ago. I did so via Blu-Ray & HD-DVD drives for the PC. Lacking HDCP encryption support on both my HD monitor and my front projector, I was forced to turn to SlySoft’s AnyDVD HD application to be able to even watch the discs I legally purchase on equipment fully capable of playing them back, if not for the lack of HDCP encryption crap (HDCP is evil, and another reason for my dislike of Intel). From the beginning, the format war has been an annoyance to me. I’ve always been of the opinion that I didn’t really care which one won, as long as one of them did so sooner rather than later (which is looking highly unlikely). To choose a side, I had been a backer of Blu-Ray, due almost solely to the studio/industry backing of the format. HD-DVD has smacked of desperation from the start, and in a Darwinian way has always felt like the pending loser (then again, since when does a Sony format EVER win?). While I may like a few tidbits of tech spec better for Blu-Ray, the two formats are for the most part a wash. That was until I spent a few months learning all there is to know about the encryption and restrictions of the two formats first hand. And let me be clear about this after having experienced them these few months – from a consumer standpoint, Blu-Ray is downright evil in comparison to HD-DVD. Microsoft (of all people) weren’t kidding when they were touting the consumer friendliness of HD-DVD back during the launch. It’s absolutely true. Blu-Ray goes that extra mile to alienate the customer in almost every possible way in terms of policy and restriction. There’s nothing, and I mean NOTHING, about the format that was designed with the viewer in mind. That’s not to say HD-DVD is perfect (it has AACS/HDCP restrictions as well). While I know that the money from the industry is key to the design of these specs, Blu-Ray’s obvious design towards the paranoia of the studios is without doubt. Blu-Ray recently launched their highly-touted BD+ encryption protection system, which is something unique to the format above and beyond what HD-DVD can do to lock down content. The fine folks as SlySoft promised they’d nail BD+ within the year, and they have already done so. I kid you not. I can happily play back Fantastic Four 2 and other BD+ discs using AnyDVD HD. It’s a fantastic app (if a bit overpriced) made by developers who really know what they are doing. It goes to show that these guys will be able to hack their way around anything to enable consumers. But that doesn’t stop apps like CyberLink’s PowerDVD app (the ONLY current choice for good HD playback for computers, sadly) from putting in positively retarded restrictions into their newest builds recently, such as the fact that it will no longer play Blu-Ray discs that aren’t AACS encrypted (which is what AnyDVD unlocks to get around HDCP requirements) because AACS encryption is actually REQUIRED to be on every commercial Blu-Ray disc. Never mind BD+, region coding and the other aspects of Blu-Ray over HD-DVD. So, as of this moment, I’m changing my vote for who I wish to see win this war. I’m now an HD-DVD supporter. Given the choice on Warner Bros titles (the last of the major studios to support both formats), I will now start getting the HD-DVD version (unless it’s a DVD/HD-DVD combo disc – which is a topic I won’t rant on right now). Paramount annoyed me a little while ago when they changed from supporting both formats to just HD-DVD (after being bribed to do so), but I no longer care (BTW, I think Paramount does some of the nicest HD disc releases of any of the studios). Frankly, more exclusive support might finally put an end to this mess. It’ll be interesting to see if Warner choses a side after the Christmas season. I think it’s unfair to those with a player for just one of the formats as well, but since I can do either, that fact doesn’t really matter to me. I know a number of people that won’t touch the HD formats until there’s either a clear winner or all the players do either. And I don’t blame them one bit. I still think that HD-DVD will be the likely loser (all of Toshiba’s moves of pure desperation make it seem like a fire sale), but do to their far more consumer-minded spec, they officially have my support as of now. Actually, if you want some amusement on all this, read this change log for the most recent build of AnyDVD HD.