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Blu Ray Disc - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

When was Blu-ray Disc Introduced?Blu-ray Disc

The Blu-ray Disc specification was officially announced in February 2002. Blu-ray Disc recorders were first launched in Japan in 2003.

What does the name Blu-ray Disc mean?

The name Blu-ray Disc refers to the blue laser that is used to read from and record to a Blu-ray Disc. In comparison to a red laser, as used in DVD and CD, a blue laser allows for a much higher density and hence larger storage capacity. "Blu" is intentionally spelled without an "e", to allow for a distinctive registration of the trademark name.

What is the correct abbreviation of Blu-ray Disc?

Blu-ray Disc can be shortened down to "BD".

When was the Blu-ray Disc Association established?

The group of companies that develops the Blu-ray Disc format was initially called Blu-ray Disc Founders, and it was established in early 2002. In June 2004, the group was renamed to Blu-ray Disc Association to underline its intentions to welcome other companies to join the association.

What companies support Blu-ray Disc?

Virtually all major consumer electronics companies plus the world's leading PC and blank media manufacturers support the Blu-ray Disc format. Currently, there are over 70 member companies. The members of the boards include Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Hitachi, LG Electronics, Matsushita (Panasonic), Mitsubishi, Pioneer, Philips, Samsung, Sharp, Sony, TD, Thomson and Twentieth Century Fox.

What Blu-ray Disc variants are available?

As with CD and DVD, Blu-ray Disc media comes in pre-recorded, recordable and rewritable variants. The pre-recorded disc is called BD ROM, and usually contains movies or re-issued TV shows in High Definition format. The recordable disc is called BD R, and can be used for archival of huge amounts of data or video. The rewritable disc is called BD RE, and offers the same large capacity in a disc format that allows for repetitive usage.

What is the capacity of a Blu-ray Disc?

All three Blu-ray Disc types come in two versions: single layer and double layer. A double layer disc may hold up to twice the amount of data or video compared to a single layer disc, and uses two independent layers placed on one side of the disc to store its information (refer to "Technical Info" on this web site for more information). A single layer disc holds up to 25 gigabytes, while a double layer disc holds up to 50 gigabytes of data, without the need to flip the disc.

Can Blu-ray Disc products play DVD and CD?

Although this is not a requirement of the Blu-ray Disc format, it is very likely that all Blu-ray Disc products will play their DVD and CD counterpart formats. Compare this to the ability of today's DVD players to play CDs. Most companies have developed laser components and pickup units being able to read CD, DVD and BD.

Can Blu-ray Disc products record DVD and CD?

Implementation of DVD or CD recording capability is a manufacturers option. Currently, some Blu-ray Disc video products allow you to record DVDs as well. It is expected that most Blu-ray Disc PC drives will support the recording of CD, DVD and BD.

Can I play a Blu-ray Disc on my DVD player?

No. As DVD players use a red laser to read the information from a disc, they are not capable of reading the very fine pits of a Blu-ray Disc, which requires a blue laser. Furthermore, DVD-Video players lack the advanced technology to decode the High Definition picture from a Blu-ray Disc.

What Blu-ray formats are planned?

As with conventional CDs and DVDs, Blu-ray plans to provide a wide range of formats including ROM/R/RW. The following formats are part of the Blu-ray Disc specification:

BD-ROM - read-only format for software, games and movie distribution.
BD-R - recordable format for HDTV recording and PC data storage.
BD-RE - rewritable format for HDTV recording and PC data storage.

How much data can you fit on a Blu-ray Disc?

A single-layer disc can fit 23.3GB, 25GB or 27GB.
A dual-layer disc can fit 46.6GB, 50GB or 54GB.

To ensure that the Blu-ray Disc format is easily extendable (future-proof) it also includes support for multi-layer discs, which should allow the storage capacity to be increased to 100GB-200GB (25GB per layer) in the future simply by adding more layers to the discs.

How much video can you record on a Blu-ray Disc?

Over 2 hours of high-definition television (HDTV) on a 25GB disc.
About 13 hours of standard-definition television (SDTV) on a 25GB disc.

How fast can you record a Blu-ray Disc?

According to the Blu-ray Disc v1.0 specification, 1x speed will require a 36Mbps data transfer rate, which means it will take about 1 hour and 33 minutes to record 25GB. The Blu-ray Disc Association are currently working on the v2.0 specification, which will support 2x speed to cut the time it takes to copy content from one disc to another in half. In the future, the data transfer rate is expected to be raised to 8x or more.

What video codecs will Blu-ray support?

The Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) is still in the process of finalizing the BD-ROM specification, but they have stated that MPEG-4 AVC High Profile (previously called FRExt) and Microsoft's VC-1 video codec (the proposed SMPTE standard based on WMV9) will be mandatory. They will also include MPEG-2 support for playback of HDTV recordings and DVDs. Please note that this simply means that all Blu-ray players and recorders will have to support playback of these video codecs, it will still be up to the movie studios to decide which video codec(s) they use for their releases. The BDA expects the BD-ROM specification to be finished some time in the beginning of 2005.

What audio codecs will Blu-ray support?

The Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) still hasn't made a final decision about what audio codecs will be included in the BD-ROM specification, but according to the BDF technical spokesman Richard Doherty, the included audio codecs should offer a significant improvement over the audio formats supported by the current DVD spec. They are currently looking into advanced audio codecs, including lossless codecs.

Will Blu-ray Discs require a cartridge?

No, the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) and TDK have successfully developed a new hard-coating technology dubbed "Durabis" that makes the discs even more resistant to scratches and fingerprints than existing DVDs, without requiring a cartridge to protect the discs. This development will enable manufacturers to downsize PC drives and lower their overall media production costs.

When will I be able to buy a Blu-ray Disc recorder?

You'll probably have to wait until 2006-2007 for Blu-ray recorders to become commonly available. The driving force behind the development of Blu-ray Disc recorders is the need to record HDTV programming and currently the only country where HDTV is well established is Japan. There's still only a few different Blu-ray Disc recorders available to consumers in Japan, but as you can see in our Blu-ray Recorders section, most well-known consumer electronics companies have their own prototype Blu-ray Disc recorder in development, so we expect to see more Blu-ray recorders on the Japanese market during 2005.

According to Sony of America's senior vice president Mike Fidler, products based on the Blu-ray Disc format are not likely to be available in the United States until late 2005 or early 2006.

What will a Blu-ray Disc recorder cost?

As with any new technology, the first generation of Blu-ray Disc recorders will be very expensive, but the prices have already begun falling. The Sony BDZ-S77 is currently priced at 222,000 yen ($2,150), while the Panasonic DMR-E700BD is priced at 189,000 yen ($1,830). The discs required to record high-definition video are priced at about 2,700 yen ($26) per disc. The explanation for the high retail prices is that the recorders are targetted for businesses and enthusiasts rather than regular consumers.

According to the Blu-ray Disc Association, the overall cost of manufacturing a Blu-ray Disc will in the end be no more expensive than producing a DVD. The reduced injection molding costs offset the additional cost of applying the cover layer and hard coat, while the techniques used for applying the recording layer remain the same. As soon as manufacturers start mass production of blue-laser components, which is expected to begin in 2005, the production costs should fall and eventually be within 10% of DVDs.

Will Blu-ray replace VHS?

Yes, that's the expectation. The Blu-ray Disc recorder represents a major leap forward in video recording technology as it enables recording of high-definition television (HDTV). It also offers a lot of new innovative features not possible with a traditional VCR:

  • Random access, instantly jump to any spot on the disc
  • Searching, quickly browse and preview recorded programs in real-time
  • Create playlists, change the order of recorded programs and edit recorded video
  • Automatically find an empty space to avoid recording over programs
  • Simultaneous recording and playback of video (enables Time slip/Chasing playback)
  • Enhanced interactivity, enables more advanced programs and games
  • Broadband enabled, access web content, download subtitles and extras
  • Improved picture, ability to record high-definition television (HDTV)
  • Improved sound, ability to record surround sound (Dolby Digital, DTS, etc)

Will Blu-ray support playback of DVDs?

Yes, this is often incorrectly stated as an advantage of HD-DVD, but all that is required is a BD/DVD/CD compatible optical head. Several leading consumer electronics companies (including Sony, Panasonic, Philips, Samsung and LG) have already demonstrated products that can read and write DVDs and Blu-ray Discs, so you don't have to worry about your existing DVD collection becoming obsolete. Although it's up to each manufacturer to decide if they make their products backwards compatible with DVD, the format is far too popular to not be supported. With the vast amount of Blu-ray products that will be coming out, this will be an important feature for consumers.

What about Blu-ray for PCs?

There are plans for BD-ROM (read-only), BD-R (recordable) and BD-RE (rewritable) drives for PCs, and with the support of the worlds two largest PC manufacturers, HP and Dell, it's very likely that the technology will be adopted as the next-generation optical disc format for PC data storage and replace technologies such as DVD±R, DVD±RW, and DVD-RAM.

Is Blu-ray the same thing as HD-DVD?

No, HD-DVD (previously known as AOD) is the name of a competing next-generation optical disc format developed by Toshiba and NEC. The format is quite different from Blu-ray, but also relies heavily on blue-laser technology to achieve a higher storage capacity. The read-only discs (HD DVD-ROM) will hold 15GB and 30GB, the rewritable discs (HD DVD-RW) will hold 20GB and 32GB, while the recordable discs (HD DVD-R) won't support dual-layer discs, so they will be limited to 15GB. The format is being developed within the DVD Forum as a possible successor to the current DVD technology.

What's the difference between Blu-ray and HD-DVD?

Storage capacity 25GB 50GB 15GB 30GB
Number of layers single-layer dual-layer single-layer dual-layer
Laser wavelength 405nm 405nm 405nm 405nm
Numerical aperture (NA) 0.85 0.85 0.65 0.65
Protection layer 0.1mm 0.1mm 0.6mm 0.6mm
Data transfer rate 36Mbps 36Mbps 36Mbps 36Mbps
Video compression MPEG-2



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