The world’s first HD DVD player has finally gone on sale, in Japan. The long-awaited Toshiba HD-XA1 makes high definition disc playback a reality, upscaling the definition available from DVD and extending the audience experience with a range of playback options, including enhanced L-PCM 5.1ch audio, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD.
There’s nothing about its specification which will surprise long time observers of the format. The unit will up-convert standard DVD to a resolution of 1080i or 720p via the HDMI output, but does not offer 1080p output. The first HD DVD discs from Warner, however, will include a 1080p output option for second generation players.
The viewer experience is enhanced on HD DVD, courtesy of ‘pop-up’ menus for movie chapters; unlike DVD you don’t need to leave movie playback to access these menus.
Picture in Picture (PIP, above) with motion video functions give the ability to play supplementary video over the main program, allowing viewers to watch bonus content, such as a superimposed director’s commentary or a featurette about the making of the movie. The first shipment of the HD-AX1 comes bundled with two HD DVD movie discs, Resident Evil (yay, zombies!) and Japanese film Moonlight Jellyfish.
Toshiba has issued a data sheet covering the key features of the player:
Alongside playback of high-definition quality HD DVD content, the HD-XA1 also supports enhanced functionality via the player’s pop-up menus. For example, director’s and actor’s commentary can appear as motion video super-imposed concurrently when the movie continues to play, allowing them to literally point to the material they are discussing.
Next generation surround-sound
HD DVD supports Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD, next generation surround-sound formats, and also supports L-PCM 5.1ch. Analogue 5.1ch output integrated into the HD-AX1 allows consumers to enjoy surround sound simply by connecting the player to an AV amplifier with analogue inputs.
Digital high definition pictures
Through the HDMI interface, HD pictures stored in a disc can be displayed digitally in HD, on digital TVs and displays that incorporate HDCP capable HDMI input. Through the HDMI interface, standard definition DVDs can be up-converted to an output resolution of 720p or 1080i, to complement the performance of an HDTV.
In addition to pre-recorded DVD software, the HD-XA1 supports playback of DVD-R, DVD-RW and DVD-RAM discs. It is also compatible with music CDs and playback of CDs in WMA or MP3 file format.
About the HD DVD Format
HD DVD has been standardized by the DVD Forum, the international association of some 240 companies.
Specifications of HD DVD-ROM physical, file and application formats were approved by the Forum in August 2005.
HD DVD has the same disc structure as DVD, two 0.6mm-thick polycarbonate discs bonded back-to-back. This structure makes it easy for HD DVD to achieve backward compatibility with DVD hardware devices, and also assures a simple manufacturing process for discs and hardware devices, resulting in reasonable manufacturing costs.
The DVD Forum has approved HD DVD-ROM discs with a data capacity of 15GB with a single-layer disc and 30GB with a dual-layer disc. High data capacities are achieved by adopting a shorter wavelength blue-violet laser and advanced data processing technologies, assuring the ability to store large capacity data sources, including high-definition images.
HD DVD is protected by AACS (Advanced Access Content System).
HD DVD can exploit a twin format disc structure (single-sided dual-layer; DVD 4.7GB and HD DVD 15GB), therefore a single disc can store both HD DVD and DVD versions of a film, allowing users to watch a standard definition movie on today’s DVD players and to playback the same movie in HD on an HD DVD player at a later date. A combination disc (double-sided dual-layer; DVD 8.5GB and HD DVD 30GB) is under development.