Is this similar to how some DVDs look better than others, even though they're all encoded with MPEG-2?
Absolutely. We're going to initially use a number of different kinds of encoding due to various circumstances that require or allow for that. But no matter what, at the end of the day, we still have a certain benchmark that says, "Either this product is acceptable to put out in the marketplace or it's not." And that's what's most important - what the consumer sees, and not necessarily how they see it.
Does it take a while for the creative people to understand how to optimize software for a new format and take full advantage of its capabilities?
There's no question there's a learning period for the studio community as a whole - and that includes us in the home-video division, as well as the people involved in the making of the film. That happened with DVD as well. But there are certain things that go be- yond the picture and the sound that we'll do from the beginning with all of our titles. For instance, the new formats allow for much simpler menus than you have with DVD, but they provide a much greater experience. No matter where you are on the disc, you can access the menu - for Warner titles, it will be a menu bar across the bottom of the screen - as well as submenus, all while the main feature is playing. [The menu from the Batman Begins HD DVD is shown above, right.] It's just such an improved experience that people will quickly ask, "Why wasn't it like this all along?"
What else can you tell me about HD DVD's interactivity?
We divide the interactivity into three buckets, if you will. The first is the ability to interact with the main content on the disc, which you access through the menus. That interactivity with the main content will include all the things we'll be able to do that we couldn't with standard-def DVDs. Along with doing commentaries where you can see the talent talk about the project while the movie is playing, we can do things similar to the telestrator drawings you see on TV during a football game. So while a director is talking about a certain part of the film in the commentary, he can suddenly highlight the portion of the screen that he's talking about. The second area is the new interactive things, such as more sophisticated games, we can put on the disc along with the movie. People won't be able to see that with the early releases, but it's something that will be available on future discs. And the third area of interactivity, for both HD DVD and Blu-ray, is the ability to use the player to hook up to the Internet and engage in content that's not on the disc.
So I take it you're looking forward to the launch?
This is a very exciting time. Just think about the 25 to 30 million homes that will have high-def sets by the end of this year. As an owner of an HDTV, you will now be able to go out and buy a player that will help maximize your use of that set in a way you've never experienced before. It's incredible, and it's something we think will quickly raise the standard of how people view entertainment in their homes.
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