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Some studios opt against downconverting Blu-ray discs--for now

Some studios opt against downconverting Blu-ray discs--for now

Some studios are choosing not to downconvert their high-def HD-DVD and Blu-ray movies over analog outputs. The hardware for both formats enables an "image constraint" function--limiting the analog component-video output of high-def video to 960x540, or one quarter of the potential 1,920x1,080 resolution of true high-definition--that would make the new discs little better than standard DVDs for anybody with an older HDTV. But at least two studios, Sony Pictures and Fox, have indicated that their movies will not include the optional flag that engages the lower resolution.

Sound & Vision (as linked on digg.com) quotes Sony Pictures Home Entertainment senior vice president Don Eklund as saying that Sony has "no plan to implement the Image Constraint Token. All of Sony's titles will come out of the analog output at full definition." While Eklund goes on to point out that the policy could be reversed in the future if high-def analog piracy becomes an issue, it means that Sony's going on the record with a commitment to keep its Blu-ray titles--which includes movies from the MGM and Columbia libraries--available at full HD resolution for early adopters. Meanwhile, DVDfile.com is reporting that Fox Home Video is also planning to include full HD-resolution ouptut on its Blu-ray discs. The same entry goes on to say that Warner Home Video--which will be releasing movies on HD-DVD and Blu-ray--will be an enthusiastic proponent of image constraint. Toss in rumors that Paramount and Disney won't be engaging the image-constraint flag, and it's almost enough for early adopters to breathe a sigh of relief. Of course, the normal caveats apply; with the possible exception of S&V's article, which names the source at Sony Pictures, consider all of these policies to be unconfirmed until we start seeing actual discs that we can test ourselves later in the spring.

The bottom line--if Sony and Fox live up to these early claims--is that early HDTV adopters aren't going to get completely screwed by Blu-ray. (We'll have to see how the HD-DVD studios--Warner, Paramount, and Universal--officially come down on this issue as well.) But they will have to be pretty selective in their shopping, whether it's on a studio-by-studio or disc-by-disc basis--and let's hope the image-constrained discs are properly and clearly marked.

One final reminder: The image-constraint issue applies only to owners of HDTVs limited to component-video inputs. If you've got a newer HDTV equipped with HDCP-compliant DVI or HDMI digital inputs, you're in the clear--it'll show the digitized, copy-protected video stream from every HD-DVD and Blu-ray disc at its full resolution.

Related CNET stories:

  • Delay for Warner HD-DVDs?
  • Blu-ray and HD-DVD: crippled HD analog output option
  • Toshiba's HD-DVD players hit the shelves
  • LG announces support for HD-DVD