Monday, October 01, 2007

HD DVD: The Advanced Home Entertainment Experience

Before I go straight into introducing the advanced features and interactivity available now, only on the HD DVD Format. There are some questions for you to ponder.

  • Why are there some major titles from Warner Bros only available on HD DVD?
  • What is true Picture-in-Picture and why is it almost always mentioned with HD DVD?

  • What is In-Movie Experience or U-Control feature on HD DVDs all about?


Since the day the first standalone HD DVD players stepped into retail stores March/April 2006, they were (and still are for the current models) all equipped with the hardware and software capabilities to handle the advanced viewing features and interactivity that studios will put out on their HD DVD releases. And only HD DVD has its specs finalised before the HD DVD players were introduced to retail.

Most of the HD DVD titles put out today includes most if not all these advanced viewing features such as interactive on-the-fly menus, bookmarks that stay with the title, time progress meters and zoom.

Other than these features, true picture-in-picture functionality and mandatory network connection are major ones which HD DVD Format embraces to further enhance the home entertainment experience.

General explanation of each feature is available on Microsoft's HDi website, so I will not elaborate too much on them here.


The best way to introduce the advanced viewing features and interactivity available now is by looking at a few examples/cases.

  • A video preview of what Picture-In-Picture feature (or as Warner Home Video calls it, HD DVD In-Movie Experience) is on The Matrix HD DVD. The picture-in-picture functionality can have a wide variety of applications. For instance, it can be the future replacement of bonus materials like audio commentaries or storyboard/previz-to-film comparisons available on DVD today.
  • Imagion AG, a European high-definition media authoring/encoding house has been one of the first in exploring the various possibilities that HD DVD Format offers in terms of advanced viewing features and interactivity. The company has scored a few awards at DVDA Excellence Award ceremony in June 2007 for their effort behind this HD DVD title.

    A video preview of the advanced features they have added to the Elephants Dream HD DVD can be downloaded here.

  • Did you know that CSI: Crime Scene Investigation was available on HD DVD?

    At least one episode of it was on HD DVD in Germany last December. A complimentary copy of the demo HD DVD disc (1080p High-Def with DTS-HD Hi-Res audio) was available with every copy of the magazine, titled "Heimkino", purchased.

    On that disc, Imagion AG has provided the HD DVD with interactive features, that mostly haven't been realized on HD DVD before. Users can choose between four different menu designs. The CSI "Investigation Mode" provides forensic and other information and scaleable picture-in-picture interviews with cast & crew during feature playback. Using a map of Manhattan, the "GPS Info" shows the places where the CSI team investigates.
  • Another significant example is the upcoming Freedom Volume 1 HD DVD. This HD DVD title boasts web-enabled extras - a first for the HD DVD Format or any high-definition release in addition to the advanced viewing features offered. What it entails is that you can download bonus content from the Internet using the network functionality (ethernet port) available with every HD DVD player. Preview images available below.

For more video previews, you may want to check out The Look and Sound of Perfect website. They have all the video previews of other HD DVD titles on the main page.


Other significant releases in HD DVD's history... All of these releases and Mission: Impossible III remain exclusively on HD DVD even today... Yes, today. Even for Mission: Impossible III, only the HD DVD release contains the picture-in-picture video commentary with director J.J Abrams and Tom Cruise.

  • The Bourne Supremacy HD DVD (Universal Studios / 23 May 2006) is the first HD DVD with Picture-in-Picture bonus feature. Named "Presented by Toshiba: Bourne Instant Access", it is a real-time video commentary that runs while the main feature is playing, as a small video window at one corner of your screen.

  • Constantine HD DVD (Warner Home Video / 6 June 2006) was next to take advantage of HD DVD's Picture-in-Picture (Pic-in-Pic) feature. As you view the movie, director Francis Lawrence leads an interactive exploration of the story, characters, stunts and filmmaking process.

  • Paramount Pictures' Mission: Impossible III HD DVD was the studio's first and only high definition release that contains a video commentary taking advantage of the Pic-in-Pic feature on HD DVD.

  • Universal Studios' HD DVD U-Control interactive entertainment experience is a one-stop virtual remote where you can access various HD DVD exclusive bonus materials like Pic-in-Pic access to video commentaries/interviews, or other title specific extras while watching the movie. Miami Vice (U-Control Tutorial Video here) and The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift (U-Control Tutorial Video here) are 2 good examples on how Universal's U-Control is used to its fullest today.


The full list of HD DVD titles offering HD DVD-exclusive bonus materials. What's interesting is that almost 90% of the below-mentioned high-definition titles still remained HD DVD-exclusive even today, because only HD DVD is capable of delivering exclusive bonus materials that accompany these titles for your enjoyment, leaving nothing out of today's complete home entertainment experience.

You may want to check out our HD DVD Release List for future titles with HD DVD-exclusive bonus materials. They are indicated with a ^ for containing web-enabled extras

This blogpost was made possible with the references and materials provided by Bandai Visual, Imagion AG, Microsoft, Toshiba, Warner Home Video, Universal Studios Home Entertainment and the North American HD DVD Promotional Group on their respective websites.



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