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Warner to embrace UMD format

Written by James Delahunty (Google+) @ 09 Oct 2005 15:29 User comments (4)

Warner to embrace UMD format One of the only major studio labels left to release movies on the Universal Media Disc (UMD) format is Warner Bros. Warner and Dreamworks Home Entertainment seemed reluctant to follow suit after other major studios began releasing their movies using the UMD format. Now Warner has changed its mind and seems to be eager to catch up with other studios. Over the coming weeks, the company will release a slew of big titles.
The Harry Potter films, the Matrix trilogy, Batman Begins, The Island, Polar Express and Constantine will all be released on UMD by Warner very soon. No details have yet emerged whether there will be any extra features on the discs for consumers who decided to buy or rent the movies besides the standard subtitles and audio. The studio will probably now start transferring a backlog of DVD releases over to UMD.

UMD is the format used by the PlayStation Portable (PSP) console. Sony markets the PSP not just as a gaming device but also as an general entertainment device due to its music, video and photo viewing capabilities. The company hopes to see the UMD format taken up by more content providers as time goes on. However as Memory Sticks are released with higher capacity and hard drive storage becomes available for the PSP, many users will turn to the Internet to learn how to convert their own DVD movies to watch on a PSP instead of buying movies on UMD discs.


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4 user comments

110.10.2005 0:13

Really..... how important will UMD-formatted discs BE in the overall scheme of things? Assuming Blu-Ray becomes the future format of choice, won't that render the UMD as sort of....obsolete? The soon-to-be Sony PlayStation 3 supports "standard" High-Definition movies. UMD is not Hi-Def. If the same Warner Brother's movie were available in both UMD and High-Definition formats for approximately the same price, why would anyone opt for the inferior UMD version? I admit that I know very very little about any of Sony's playstations but, aren't the very very very very few available UMDs, recorded on those little 8 cm mini-discs? That might be a _small_ advantage. (Takes up less space than a full-sized regular 12 cm disc.) On a playstation's built-in viewing screen, however, the difference in video-quality between a UMD and it's full-sized blu-ray-hi-def counterpart is probably not even visible. So .... since the PlayStation 3 will be supporting both formats, why not just go for the full-bore 12 cm high-definition version and be done with it? In other words, I just don't see what all the hoopla is about, regarding these UMD discs. It's a very narrow, proprietary Sony format. And I don't think they'd look all that good anyway, if played back on a huge home-theater screen. Comments?

210.10.2005 1:25

Mike, UMDs are used solely on PSP, I don't think there's any plans or need to launch a UMD player that would support TV, as the picture resolution is actually lower than with regular DVDs. So, if the future happens and blue-laser HD formats will take over, IMO, UMD will still have its place. It has worse picture resolution than DVD, but its aimed for devices with max 4" screen and with such screen, you need to be optician to even see difference between UMD resolution and 1080i resolution :-) UMD discs are appx. 3cm sized, not 8cm (damn easy to get them lost, seriously.. :-). Thus, there's market for it, IMO. Its bit like laptop market nowadays -- the run-of-the-mill 15", "quite powerful, but not quite 'there' laptop with 'alright' battery power, but nothing exceptional" laptops seem to be dying breed or the ones that they sell on your local Wal-Mart. Whereas the market is now offering you full-blown desktop replacements that can be described as "movable" and at the same time, ultra-portables that weight less than 1kg and have 8h+ battery life. Similar thing with formats -- Blu-Ray/HD-DVD is the "big mofo" and UMD seems to be the "ultra-portable" that you can use to stack 15 movies in your wallet. IMO, only threat for format like UMD is the continuing price drop of flash memory cards. When you can buy 2 gig SD/CF/miniSD/MMC/microSD/etc card for $10, UMD has real competition. Only real question is whether the world is seriously ready for portable movies or not. Its been possible for years, using PocketPC/WinMobile devices and DivX as the encoding method, but it never seriously took off. Sure, its been always nice feature to brag about to your friends and colleagues, but despite working in a company full of tech maniacs, I still don't know anyone who has actually watched more than 2 movies on a handheld/portable device (by that I don't mean laptops).

This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 10 Oct 2005 @ 1:31

313.10.2005 22:29

Thank you for that update, dRD ! Good Lord ..... 3 cm ??? That's barely larger than the center hole of a regular cd/dvd !! Miniturization can get a little silly sometimes despite the advantages. Great! Now I have the necessary scoop on UMDs. At my age, Petteri, a 4" portable screen bites wazoo. (sucks). Can you imagine trying to squint at a serious movie on, say, a local transit bus? Or walking along a sidewalk bumping into everything/everyone? If you weren't wearing headphones (hopefully something better than those cheap $10 "bud" types), then I can just imagine how crummy the PSP's built-in tinny speaker will sound. No 5.1 DD surround sound here! I've heard the built-in speakers of several *regular* portable dvd players, and could barely make out what was being said. And although you might be able to fit a $40 UMD onto a $10 flash card, I imagine Sony will effectively copy-protect that idea right out the window. I bet there's more DRM data on a UMD than there is video content! :) But yes, the UMD is aimed at a different market. Steve Jobs (Apple Inc) - the iTunes guy - just released his video iPod. (Big deal). Bet the files won't look any better than a UMD even IF a standard TV show will be downloadable for about $1.99 US. (With scads and scads of built-in DRM of course). We're getting closer and closer to Total Content Control and pay-per-play by the day. Another question for you (or anyone) - is the new PSP3 going to accept *standard* size <12 cm> blu-ray discs? I don't know _why_ I keep thinking that they are. A 12 cm disc would (kinda) defeat the whole purpose of miniturization I think. Or is Sony's committment to the blu-ray format on the PSP3 strictly limited to UMDs? I'm just curious about all the hoopla, that's all - frankly, I wouldn't cough up the $$$ for a PSP3 anyway. BTW, *Terrific* to see you popping in from time to time! Reminds me of the "old days" when your were a new, rambunctious "hungry" webmaster instead of the rich and famous one you are now. (Ahem) Let me know when A/D's shares go public on the European Stock Market!!

This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 13 Oct 2005 @ 22:37

414.10.2005 0:54

Mike, To quickly answer to the PS3 thing, I'm not sure whether PS3 will support UMD at all. For what I know, it will support standard 12cm discs, whether CD, DVD or Blu-Ray, but as Sony for some goddamn reason hasn't sent us one preview model to play with, I can't say for sure, this is just based on my understanding of things :-) And yes, portable video as an idea is somewhat weird concept, although it might have its use -- Nokia ran recently a public test in Helsinki for DVB-H content, meaning that they provided cell phones capable of receiving digital TV to about 300 users across Helsinki and about half the people said after the trial that they'd be willing to pay a nominal monthly fee in order to access stuff like news, weather and sports in form of TV broadcast to their cell phones. But to watch a full movie on portable device -- on an airplane, why not. But on a subway? What are the odds to get yourself robbed in places like London Underground or NYC Subway if you watch movies with $300+ device :-)

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