To be honest there seemed to be surprisingly little going on with Blu-ray at this year’s CEATEC. To some extent I guess this was inevitable, now that the format is finally, ahem, complete. But the dearth of demonstrations of BD-Live and Bonus View material was certainly striking.
In fact, the most interesting disc-based story from the show had nothing to do with Blu-ray at all, but rather concerned a potential successor to Blu-ray being shown off by Pioneer.
Pioneer’s new system remarkably allows you to record on up to 16 layers on a normal, DVD-sized disc, resulting in a potential storage capacity of 400GB. Compare this with Blu-ray’s 50GB maximum, and you can see what a big deal Pioneer’s technology could be.
Although the 16-layer disc is still very much at prototype stage, Pioneer still had a wonderfully clunky-looking demo unit running, along with a readout showing which layer of the disc was being played at any given time. The display also claimed that a 20-layer disc able to hold up to 500GB was close to reaching fruition.
I guess storage capacities of this magnitude arguably make Pioneer’s new format – if it becomes a commercial reality – more likely to find a business storage market than a consumer one. But with ‘higher definition’ video already being experimented with (see the next page), disc storage could one day become more important than you might think.
Getting back to Blu-ray, the most striking thing, as ever when I’m in Japan, was how many Blu-ray recorders – as opposed to mere players – there are.
So far, only Panasonic is talking convincingly about launching a Blu-ray recorder into the UK as part of its interest in the Freesat broadcasting platform. Sharp also mentioned UK Blu-ray recorders as a possibility, but with Sharp’s latest UK Blu-ray player, the upcoming BD-HP21 (revealed at CEATEC as not even having Blu-ray Profile 2.0 support), it’s hard to take Sharp’s comments with anything other than a big pinch of salt.
Sharp did have the single most intriguing Blu-ray machine at the show, though, in the shape of its BD-HDV22. This combines a Blu-ray recorder with a 250GB HDD and – wait for it – a VHS deck! Now that’s what I call a legacy product.
The thinking behind this seemingly mismatched combination is that it enables you to finally get rid of your old VHS tape collection by dubbing up to 12 VHS tapes to a single Blu-ray disc, courtesy of a new 5x extra long recording mode.
Personally, I’m now so spoilt by HD that I can no longer watch the picture quality of a VHS tape. But I guess there are people out there who just can’t bring themselves to ditch their beloved tape collection, especially if it’s got home movies on it. Pity, then, that the HDV22 is currently only expected to launch in Japan…
Elsewhere, Panasonic gave Blu-ray a nice kick up the design pants by showing off a neat, cream-finished, wall-mounted Blu-ray deck, while one final tidbit of Blu-ray news comes from Sony, which has developed a new picture processing system for its Blu-ray players.
Called CREAS, the new system should hopefully help Sony deliver a Blu-ray picture quality ‘story’ to rival that delivered by Panasonic’s P4 processing engine – though we don’t know when it will appear in the UK, as the first products to carry it will be a pair of BD recorders unlikely to find their way here.