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Holographic Discs to Store 20 Times More Than Blu-Ray

Blu-ray technology out-does DVD for one reason only: the discs store more information, so you can fit a higher-resolution movie file in the same physical space. That's a great thing now everyone and their dog has an HDTV. But a new disc material will allow ridiculous amounts of information--perhaps 20 times as much--to be stored on a disc, holographically. Until now, the plastic materials available for holographic data storage haven't been particularly capable: when they're fused to form a data "spot" they structurally change, and shrink by around 0.23% when multiple holograms are encoded in a standard 0.5mm-deep disc material. That's a tiny fraction, but it's enough to affect the potential density of spots you can encode, since it changes the optical beahvior of the disc unpredictably.

Storing data holographically requires two light sources, and it works by altering the physical structure of the disc where the two laser beams meet: the transparent material's refractive index is altered. Essentially you raster one laser across the material, and one through its depth, flashing the lasers to fuse the material in specific spots. To recover the data, a different array of lasers illuminates the disc, and reads the variations in refractive index. In conventional discs like DVDs and Blu-ray disks, data is stored on the disc as a series of spots on a flat plate representing binary numbers--the disc is spun, a laser detects the string of spots, and the device converts the signals from a laser detector into data again. Using the depth of the disc to store 3D spots simply allows more data to be stored.

But Criag Hawker's team at the University of California in Santa Barbara has replaced the component monomer molecules of the optical plastic used for holographic discs with larger ones that are branched--dendritic macromonomers, specifically. These require fewer chemical bonds to create a "fused spot" under laser-heating, and thus shrink by less than 0.1%. In addition, the material demonstrates good photosensitivity, meaning it reacts sensitively to laser light, which may enable lower power lasers to be used to scan the disk.

And they say that should allow manufacturers to create a system that can store up to 1 terabyte of data in the same sized disc as a Blu-ray one, which can manage about 50 gigabytes. That 20 times storage boost won't be good for storing movies, at least not until Super-HiVision TV arrives, but more likely as data storage. Because holographic discs offer a significant advantage over conventional optical ones: If you slightly scratch the disc, the data shouldn't be compromised, since information about individual parts of the hologram are stored throughout the optical pattern. Don't expect this to appear in consumer products rapidly though: It's still very much in the experimental stage. But it looks like optical discs may still be around after Blu-ray goes the way that DVDs are slowly going.

The Q Scores Company Reports Viewer Commitment to Cable Series as Strong or Stronger than Broadcast TV

Today's television viewing environment is constantly changing with a never-ending array of viewing platforms. Americans can access their favorite TV shows from virtually anywhere, at any time, and with a variety of media devices. Consequently, traditional ratings do not reveal the true 'inherent appeal' of a show. A new metric from leading market research company Marketing Evaluations, Inc., The Q Scores Company, called Emotional Bonding Q, evaluates the strength of the emotional connection that viewers have with cable and broadcast series.

Recent Cable Q and TVQ studies reveal that viewer commitment for cable is as strong, or stronger, than for broadcast series. According to Emotional Bonding Q scores, the top 'scripted series' on cable among women 18-49 is Showtime's 'Dexter,' while the top rated broadcast series is ABC's 'Grey's Anatomy.'

'Scheduling and time period constraints are a thing of the past, as many viewers are their own programmers now,' says Henry Schafer, executive vice president of Marketing Evaluations, Inc., The Q Scores Company. He adds, 'This viewing flexibility has created more quality time for developing emotional connections with specific programs.'

British to Ban Plasma Televisions

Energy-guzzling flatscreen plasma televisions - dubbed "the 4x4s of the living room" - will soon be banned in Britain as part of the battle against climate change - but a similar proposal in New Zealand has been given the thumbs-down by Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee. The UK's Independent on Sunday newspaper reported British ministers expect to agree to Europe-wide minimum energy performance standards for televisions this year, in a move which should phase out the most inefficient TVs.

New Zealand already has minimum standards preventing the least efficient fridges, heat pumps, washing machines and dishwashers being sold here. The Energy Efficiency Conservation Authority (EECA) has been looking at whether similar rules should apply for televisions since October 2007. But Mr Brownlee yesterday told the Herald the Government did not favour banning energy-hungry TVs.

"Our view is the information about appliances should be given to consumers and consumers should then make their choice.

"Consumers should be given as much information as they possibly can about the energy efficiency of appliances ... but at the final point of purchase it's the consumer's decision."The Government last month overturned Labour's plan to phase out old incandescent lightbulbs and replace them with more efficient ones. A plan to save energy by encouraging more efficient shower heads also bit the dust two months earlier under Labour Minister Shane Jones.

In England, the Labour government withdrew 100W incandescent lightbulbs just over a week ago as part of a drive to slow the rapid growth of electricity consumption in homes. Green Party co-leader Russel Norman said New Zealand risked becoming a dumping ground for "garbage" inefficient televisions from the rest of the world. The European Union and the state of California were moving to ban inefficient models, meaning manufacturers would offload less efficient televisions here - costing households money.

Mr Norman said energy efficiency standards already introduced into New Zealand had saved tens of millions of dollars in electricity bills over the past decade. Without them people often bought the cheapest model without thinking about the cost over the long term. EECA estimates an inefficient 42-inch television operating for eight hours a day and otherwise left on standby costs around $145-$200 a year to run. An efficient 42-inch television would save on average between $25-$80 a year. The 25 per cent most efficient televisions in New Zealand are identified with an ENERGY STAR mark.

LG Bringing YouTube Videos to Its Blu-ray Players

LG Electronics on Tuesday announced it was bringing video-on-demand to its Blu-ray Disc players through streaming video deals it has inked with major Web sites. The company announced deals with CinemaNow and YouTube to stream video directly to its network-connected Blu-ray Disc players. The alliances should make it easier to whet consumers' increasing appetite for online content, LG said.

The announcement comes ahead of the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) where LG will display its new Internet-connected Blu-ray players with streaming content. CES will be held in Las Vegas between January 8 and 11. Users will be able to retrieve videos from YouTube through the players, including home and instructional content. From CinemaNow, users will be able to instantly rent a film from a library of 14,000 movies. The feature will be available in the first half of 2009, LG said.

Netflix is already offering access to streaming movies from its library to owners of an existing LG network-linked Blu-ray Disc player, the BD300, under a deal signed with LG in 2008. This feature adds versatility to the Blu-ray Disc player, which beat HD DVD in a media format battle but is seeing slow growth. Blu-ray is now seeing a threat from streaming media as the Internet shapes the way multimedia is delivered to home entertainment devices.
 

The Dark Knight may yet save Blu-ray from the lair of the PS3

Those bells you hear aren't all just about the holidays. They're signals that BetaNews is publishing a positive story about Blu-ray. Mark the date in your calendars. In an effort to restore consumers' enthusiasm in the high-definition disc format that, after all, won the format war, the Blu-ray Disc Association is emphasizing some positive statistics from recent weeks' sales worldwide: Some 462,500 BDs were sold in the UK during the month of November, which the Association claims is a 165% jump from just the previous month.

A huge chunk of those discs probably consist of just one movie: The Dark Knight, Warner Bros.' latest chapter in its Batman saga, featuring the final performance of the late Heath Ledger. According to Warner's figures, in the first week of sales alone, The Dark Knight posted sales of 13.5 million units worldwide, some 12.6% of which were Blu-ray -- some 1.7 million discs. In the UK, the British Video Association reports this morning, some 513,000 copies of this movie were sold in its first day, with 21% of those in Blu-ray format.

Those are very respectable numbers -- at long last -- for a format that has spent the entire year stuck in the takeoff position. It's conceivable that Blu-ray discs and consoles have found the "sweet spot" -- the prices that, in the collective consumer consciousness, render them effectively affordable.

The quarter did not start out strong for Blu-ray, with average console prices stuck at about $300 and second-run discs selling above $20 apiece. Heading into Black Friday, console price averages had declined to about $240, but sales may have actually dropped. Then the day after Thanksgiving saw prices on Samsung and Sony consoles drop below the $200 mark (and Wal-Mart offering discounted models as low as $128), along with sale prices for BDs at below $20. And then, there's the introduction of the element that PC analysts who remember Lotus 1-2-3 a quarter-century ago would call "the killer app:" the latest Batman movie.

That's when the sales spike happened. Two weeks ago, NPD DisplaySearch estimated total US-based Blu-ray console sales will eclipse the 900,000 mark and flirt with 2.2 million for the year. These are great numbers for the quarter, almost making up for Blu-ray not achieving its overall annual sales goal of 2.5 million consoles. In a quarter where revenues from HDTV sales may decline annually despite 29% unit sales growth, once the final numbers are tallied -- even with the DTV transition under way in the US -- this is an impressive comeback for a format that many analysts were preparing to write off after 2009.

It's important to note that the PlayStation 3 is barely participating in this rally. The device that was at one time supposed to have been the principal entry-level device for Blu-ray, is experiencing sales declining by almost 20% annually in the US, according to NPD's numbers for November, while being outsold by Nintendo's Wii by almost two-to-one -- with unit sales more than doubling the previous year. At a time when the sales prices for Blu-ray consoles descended below that of the PS3, consumers who want Blu-ray are buying dedicated consoles.

The magic ratio will probably be 1 in 5. In other words, when the final holiday numbers come in, maybe even in time for CES, if unit sales for both Blu-ray consoles and BDs constitute about 20% of disc-related sales volume overall, then the BDA and supporting manufacturers can claim victory. But now that the console discounts have expired, and many prices have crept back up to around $250, has consumers' window of opportunity already closed? The BDA's statement this morning may have been a spur for retailers to help pre-empt that possibility.

Blu-ray DRM update thwarts current cracks (for now)

Back in March this year SlySoft added support for Blu-ray discs to its AnyDVD software. The update signified that the BD+ disc protection had been cracked and it was a simple task to backup your Blu-ray movies.

But it looks like that situation has changed again because the BD+ protection was updated at the end of November. What that means is new films being released on Blu-ray can no longer be read with AnyDVD and is being seen as a win for the film industry.

SlySoft has acknowledged that AnyDVD may no longer work with all discs by posting a list of potential film incompatibilities. Further comments on that forum post and in another thread suggest that SlySoft believe they will have re-cracked BD+ by February. This is going to be a cat and mouse game for the entire life of Blu-ray. Slysoft’s main products are those which allow the backup of data from CD, DVD and Blu-ray. The company has to continue to crack the BD+ protection in order to keep their AnyDVD HD product relevant.

The same has happened with the firmware on devices such as the PSP. Sony continues to update and close the holes used to allow homebrew development and pirate games to be run on its system. The hackers continue to figure out new ways to re-crack the system.

Updating the protection costs money, but is necessary if the movie studios want to continue to make it difficult for Blu-ray discs to be copied. It certainly limits the options for those wanting to make a copy of a film, but companies like SlySoft will always offer a paid-for way of creating those backups.

Blu-ray Sales Called 'Very Strong' For Holiday

Americans purchased 147,000 standalone Blu-ray players in the week after Thanksgiving, according to an article by Home Media Magazine. Citing research from the NPD Group and DisplaySearch, the publication said that Blu-ray player sales netted a total of $30.3 million in revenue for that time period.

This is the first measurable evidence that Blu-ray players generated significant sales during the Black Friday sales period. News reports and analysts had speculated that the player had become one of the season's hottest items due to prices falling under $200.

A DisplaySearch official said the Black Friday week sales numbers were "very strong," adding that Blu-ray player had never sold more than 50,000 units in a week until now. Despite the sales boost, however, some Blu-ray company officials have already acknowledged that sales could slow during the month of December due to a slight increase in player prices. The sub-$200 Blu-ray players now cost slightly more than $200 in most stores.

“Sony was fairly active in bundling players with HDTVs,” said Paul Erickson, director of DVD market research at DisplaySearch. “But price aggression is proving to be the fundamental way to drive Blu-ray players into homes. This holiday, that’s probably going to continue.”

Home Media reports that DisplaySearch estimates that roughly four million standalone Blu-ray players will be sold in 2009.

Sony revolutionises LCD technology with next-generation Bravia X-series

Featuring the all-new Bravia Engine 2 PRO, RGB Dynamic LED (in select models), and Motionflow PRO technologies (in select models), the new Bravia X-series is made to provide the highest image quality for the ultimate viewing experience.

Powered by Bravia Engine 2 PRO, a high definition video processor that integrates picture enhancement technologies like the DRC-MF v3 (Digital Reality Creation), the X450 enables seamless quality viewing from both Standard Definition and Full HD sources. Additionally, the Bravia Engine 2 PRO technology improves detailed textures and dark scenes in imaging to produce crisp and clear images with more depth and increased sharpness. Watch nature documentaries come to life as it is presented in a wide range of rich, vibrant colors and higher image contrast produced by the newly developed RGB Dynamic LED backlighting technology present in the 46-inch and 55-inch models. Combining the unique arrangement of red, blue, and green LEDs with dynamic backlight control, the X450 generates sufficient light to produce rich dark tones that replicate the most natural images for viewing.

Delivering ultra smooth image performance for the sports lovers' benefit, the Bravia X- series is further equipped with Motionflow PRO and Motionflow 100Hz technologies to produce fast actions that appear clearer, sharper, and smoother. With 100Hz Motionflow technology available in the 40-inch and 70-inch models, the number of frames created is doubled to 100 frames per second, ensuring images remain sharp and stable, and ideal for action-packed programme viewing. Motionflow PRO technology, which is unique to the 46-inch and 55-inch models, feature backlight blinking within each frame to ensure smoother and sharper images without flickering that is gentler to the eyes.

Matching the high performance features is a host of user-friendly options such as the XrossMediaBar (XMBTM) and Bravia Sync for hassle-free entertainment on the X450. The XMBTM is Sony's original graphic user interface that allows for simple navigation of various media and content so consumers can sit back, enjoy the entertainment, and not fuss with the remote. On the other hand, simply use the Bravia Sync for an intuitive one-push play and shutdown while it synchronises with other entertainment devices connected to the X450's HDMI outlets. Additionally, the Bravia X-series is part of the Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) standards, designed to realise seamless interoperability of connected devices on the home network, enhancing the sharing of digital media content, mainly photos and music, easily. And specific to photo-sharing, the Bravia X-series incorporates USB Photo Viewer and PhotoTV HD functions for easy viewing with friends and family on the big screen.

Design-wise, the new X450 retains the stunning bezel color floating concept of the X-series that is undoubtedly the perfect centrepiece to any room. On top of the existing X-series colors, the elegant and slim design is available in a unique midnight blue tone for those who appreciate exclusivity. Taking interior décor to the next level, the X450 range is easily transformed into an art piece using the Picture Frame Mode which displays consumers' favorite images for all to see. The ultimate Bravia entertainment experience is completed by an innovative audio system comprising of uniquely designed built-in ultra-slim speaker (20mm-width). The 55-inch model features 6 main speakers and 2 woofer speakers and the 40-inch and 46-inch models feature 4 main and 2 woofer speakers. Surround effects can be optimised for sports, live music concerts or movies, or customized for maximum enjoyment of any type of programme

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