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CES: Latest Blu-ray and HD-DVD prototypes on show

Works in progress from the two high-def camps

The ongoing march towards high-definition video discs saw several new prototype players revealed last week at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

Sony showed three prototype Blu-ray Disc players that support the BD-ROM format that will be used for prerecorded HD video discs.

Of the three, each supported one of the three BD-ROM standard's video codecs. One model was showing a movie encoded at 26Mbps (bits per second) in Mpeg2, another showed content encoded in VC1 (the Microsoft Windows Media-based format) at a constant bit rate of 12Mbps and the final prototype played content encoded in Mpeg4 AVC format at a variable bit rate of between 10Mbps and 15Mbps.

Philips showed a consumer player and PC drive supporting BD-ROM. The company last unveiled a Blu-ray Disc prototype at the Ceatec show in Japan in 2002 and the devices at CES represented work the company has been doing over the last two years, said Ing Janssen, a research scientist for Philips Research.

Because of a lack of high-definition TV broadcasting in Europe few people have HDTV sets and so Philips is concentrating its development work on PC drives, he said. The drive on show at CES was compatible with CD-RW, DVD -/+ R/RW formats and dual layer discs in addition to 25GB and 50GB Blu-Ray Discs.

HD video disc players combined with hard-disk drive recorders were also demonstrated by Panasonic. Toshiba Panasonic's Blu-ray Disc prototype included a 400GBhard disk drive and was demonstrated connected to a flat-panel TV via a power-line networking system that Panasonic announced at CES.

Nearby, Toshiba was also demonstrating some of the interactive functions supported by HD-DVD. It was the first time the company has showed them publically, said Yuuichi Togashi, a software specialist in the company's digital media network division.

The prototype machine – work on which was only finished days before CES – was decoding a high-definition Mpeg4 AVC movie and overlaying onto it a standard definition director's commentary video that was also being decoded in real-time from a standard-definiton Mpeg2 file on the disc. The same player also supported interactive game play and the ability to purchase access to locked content stored on the disc, both of which were demonstrated.

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