Thereâ€™s no doubt that 2006 has been the year of high definition in the UK. No longer is the prospect of HD a pleasant daydream, itâ€™s finally here and making inroads into more and more households. In fact I expect high definition TVs to be the biggest â€œfamilyâ€ Christmas present this year, as consumers jump at the chance of having a flat TV at an ever more affordable price.
Of course HD televisions have been available for quite a while, but it wasnâ€™t until the end of 2005 that any content appeared, and even then that content came in the form of a gaming console. The Xbox 360 did a lot to aid the HDTV cause, since once a seasoned gamer had seen an X360 running in all its high definition glory, it was just a matter of time before they started saving for a new TV.
Next came the introduction of high definition broadcasts, with Sky kicking off its HD service in May â€“ just in time for the extremely disappointing World Cup. Although the initial cost of a Sky HD setup is high, the results are pretty damn impressive if youâ€™ve got a decent TV. If youâ€™re in any doubt about the benefits of HD, just take a look at a Premiership football match on Sky Sports HD, or an episode of Planet Earth on the BBC HD channel and youâ€™ll either be converted or booking an opticians appointment.
But even with an Xbox 360 and Sky HD box sitting in my living room, thereâ€™s still a distinct lack of high definition content available to me. You see, once you get used to watching HD, you really donâ€™t want to watch standard definition anymore. Of course this is a little unrealistic since weâ€™re going to be watching standard definition content for a very long time to come. But regardless of this somewhat depressing fact, I find myself constantly looking for HD content to watch, rather than just looking for something good to watch.
The biggest casualty in this situation is my DVD collection. I have around 400 DVDs sitting on shelves in my living room, but unfortunately I have no desire to watch them anymore. I have become such an HD snob that even watching a good DVD on a great player with progressive output just doesnâ€™t cut the mustard. I know that I could just hook up an upscaling DVD player and watch my movies in pseudo high definition, but itâ€™s just not the same. So the only solution is to start rebuilding my movie collection yet again â€“ not something that I relish after switching from VHS to LaserDisc to DVD already.
Unfortunately replacing my movie collection isnâ€™t that easy â€“ even if I take the excessive cost of the exercise out of the equation â€“ because once again there is an issue of competing formats to deal with. Now, I donâ€™t want to jump on the bandwagon of moaning about the Blu-ray versus HD DVD situation, but when Iâ€™m personally affected by it, I canâ€™t help but get involved. You see Iâ€™m well aware that being an early adopter, I generally have to pay a lot of money for hardware that will cost a fraction of the price a few months down the line. But what weâ€™re talking about here is the potential of buying into a format that could reach the end of the road far sooner than Iâ€™d like!
One of the most common questions that I get at the moment is â€œwhich high definition optical format will win?â€ â€“ and unfortunately I donâ€™t really have the answer. Taking the Japanese and US launches out of the equation and concentrating on Europe, both formats are very much in their infancy. Blu-ray broke cover in September, while HD DVD has recently joined the party. That said, there still arenâ€™t any consumer HD DVD players available, since Toshiba pushed back its scheduled November launch by a few weeks.