Blu-ray victory spells the end of tape.

beta2blu.pngData DVD’s have already been used to distribute all sorts of media, as the replacement for the formerly ubiquitous floppy. From short raw DV files, to completed commercial spots, 4.7 GB of space is pretty good. But for completed TV shows in a HD codec, a DVD is very small.

Blu-ray’s recent vistory bodes well for the independent producer because economies of scale will bring down the cost of both the 27 GB and the new 50 GB Blu-ray disks. The optical media that is at the heart of Sony’s Professional Disk system.

In addition to the 50G Blu-ray discs, you can be certain that larger sizes are (were) in the works. At that point, the cost effectiveness of tape diminishes to a point to be offset by the value of random access. Both are easily “shelvable” so your camera masters are your archive media. But they can also be used to easily shuffle finished programs around. A key reason Blu-ray will quickly be adopted by the mid-level market is because the previous HD solutions were far more costly.

Consider, professional HD systems. The Sony HDW-F500 HDCAM deck goes for $40,000 used. pdw-f75deck.gifThe Panasonic AJ-HD130DC DVCPROHD deck originally listed for $27,000. Even the new Sony PDW-F70 XDCAM HD optical deck starts at $16,000. Even one-day rentals of these decks are pretty pricey and quite a hassle to try and dump numerous shows in just a few hours. What about a HDV deck for $3,200. Sounds like a bargain! However, despite many notable shows using DV and HDV for production, networks don’t seem to be too keen on accepting HDV tapes as “program masters” just yet.

bdburn.jpgBut what about Blu-ray disks? It’s about $40 for a blank dual layer Blu-ray disk. Laying out to a “deck” seems to be an unnecessary step because the video is edited on a computer. In many cases, it’ll play back from a server. Why not just use a computer “drive” to export the finished program as a data file? Then you can use a Blu-ray burner, like this $400 Philips model to lay out your finished program.

I believe that, by the end of 2008, Blu-ray disks are going to be playable in a lot more places than Digital Betacam. bdhr1000.gifEvery serious computer is going to come with, or retrofit a blue drive now that the war is over. Are they gearing up huge factories in the third world to crank out hundreds of thousands of new DigiBeta machines in cargo containers for Walmart? No. They are not.  This certainly looks like the future right now.

The 27 GB disks are space aplenty for 30-second spots and maybe for 30-minute, 720P talk shows where you can use a bit more compression. u-matic-tape.gifFor the most part, we’ll be feeding limited shelf life programming to broadcast stations that currently have a huge variation across the board in what they can handle.

Stations that were polled indicated that, over the past couple years, they were dropping all their analog tape formats and accepting SD programming submissions on regular DVD as a matter of course now. That was easy for them to decide: spend tens of thousands on a BetaSP rig no longer being made new, or a 90-dollar DVD player? The jump from that to Blu to meet the rising need for HD content is really a small upgrade because the operational process will remain a file-based transfer & conversion of data to the station’s servers.

When you come to realize that exporting to DVCPRO HD, XDCAM, HDV or H.264 are all just a different way of compressing the bits, and that those bits don’t actually care what media they’re carried on, then the need to play out to an expensive tape deck – in real time – will pass and those Blu-ray disks will become our new media of choice.

4 thoughts on “Blu-ray victory spells the end of tape.

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  1. “Blu-ray’s recent vistory bodes well for the independent producer…”

    If you consider the very high mandatory Blu Ray DMR dup/rep licensing fees, Blu Ray does NOT bode well for independents. Only major production companies can afford it.

    Yes, the hardware is “cheaper”, you got that part right. But the hardware is still much more expensive than DVD-R is.

    Check the standards for HD networks such as Discovery HD, Nat’l Geo, they don’t take HDV masters at all. But your local station may, but larger broadcasters don’t.

    Do you think it will catch on faster than DVD-R? Look how long DVD-R has been out, and the majority of broadcast stations still don’t accept them as a delivery method. Only now, after several years, is it catching on. So historically, what you state is not supported.

    But all that aside, your point is totally ignorant of the Blu Ray DRM distribution license fee legalities. ALL distributed Blu Ray content must had DRM licenses, period. And that starts at $2025.00! Where does that come into play here?

  2. The biggest immediate hurdle for independent producers like me who want to do Blu Ray one-offs for clients, is that there are few or no Blu Ray disc authoring programs out there for the Macs, other than Adobe Encore. Apple refuses
    to acknowledge their lack of Blu Ray support in their current version of DVD Studio Pro. And a second hurdle is showing up – the newer Blu Ray players are quietly showing up without the capacity to player BD-R / RE discs!

  3. Ben,

    If I get a BD-r burner, and a BD-r disk and burn data to the disk and then send out that disk, please explain where the Digital Rights Management DRM comes into play.

    I understand your point that Discovery won’t take HDV tape. In fact that was my point. I even included a link to Discovery’s “Producer Resources” page to prove it. So you’re telling me what I already explained and referenced for you.

    Since Betacam SP was not a public distribution medium, and I’m clearly suggesting Blu-ray replaces Betacam SP, I’m then not saying that independent producers are going to burn 100,000 copies of their own program for public distribution. They wouldn’t do that with any of the other formats I mentioned here.

    The article is “ignorant” of DRM licensing fees because they are not relevant to the point. As I said in the article, this is for content distribution to stations and networks, in comparison to other professional distribution media and hardware, not authoring for public distribution with Digital Rights Management (DRM) licensing.

    I agree that the software manufacturers have deliberately held back on Blu-ray authoring as we have come to know it for DVD. And yes, DVD hardware and software is cheaper- today. But BR hardware costs have dropped at a faster rate than DVD… remember when DVD recorders were $3000 and that was for the “authoring” burners, not the “general” burners, which were first sold at $1000 and initially were not accepted for duplication. That went on for years. You needed to offload your project to DLT tape… how quickly we forget that DVD had a long and arduous path before authoring was readily available.

    Now that Blu-ray has beat HD DVD, all the industry momentum can be put behind one format, instead of the great hesitation that had the majority of people waiting for a clear direction to go.

    The authoring software will come.
    Till then, Blu-ray disks and burners work right out of the box as ways to move your programming to the client. Just like tape, they are not authored, but just like tape, they get the job done.



  4. Although Blu-ray is indeed a better format, tape isn’t quite dead yet–many producers are still using DVCPRO and MiniDV, some are going tapeless. It will take time until Blu-ray is a widely accepted format; DVD-R has been around for 11 years, is still a much-preferred delivery format as tape is.

    It seems that such predictions fail to come true–in a book published in 1990, they predicted that we would see HDTV by 1998…didn’t happen. Blu-ray/HD-DVD was going to eventually replace standard-def DVD…hasn’t happened yet, and by the looks of things, seems almost a guaranteed certainty.

    Yes, being able to deliver projects on Blu-ray is great, but let’s not forget…not everyone has a player, not everyone can afford the media, and there may be some even better formats on the horizon. Forget the hype, let’s concentrate on what’s out there and use what we have…the predictions are just those…predictions.

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