Forget hitting the pause button on choosing from among the next generation of video disk recorders available in two competing formats.

Just fast forward to a machine that can handle the technology of both Blu-Ray and HD-DVD as well as today's current DVDs (digital video or versatile discs).

Weeks ago, three Warner Bros. engineers filed a patent for a "multilayer dual optical disk" that would play Blu-Ray, HD-DVD and DVD formats. This week, Britain-based New Medium Enterprises said it resolved a technical problem enabling production of cheaper multiple-layer DVD disks for an application like Warner Bros suggests.

Rival formats Sony-backed Blu-Ray and Toshiba-backed HD-DVD both work using an indigo laser beam, but are not compatible with each other and few movie studios support both.

Consumer Reports recently advised consumer buying caution because the format bout could go the way of the VHS vs. Betamax and LaserDisc vs. DVD scuffles and leave one technology standing and the other down for the count and obsolete.

That was before the technological wizards decided to referee.

A multilayer dual optical disk would have three layers, one in today's DVD or CD (compact disc, a music and sound format), a second layer able to play one high-capacity format and a third layer for the other high-capacity format.

For those who like to look under the technological hood: Movies on a DVD are stored at different depths depending on the technology. Blu-Ray discs store information only 0.1 millimeter from the surface while HD-DVD discs store it at 0.6 millimeters.

The use of reflective films would allow lasers to read the top layer and "see through" to the lower layers. Additional information also could be stored on the other side of the disc.

New Medium says the problem with disc layering is "low yields" -- for every one that comes off the assembly line in pristine condition, another one is tossed into the recycling bin as defective.

"Current technologies to create multiple layer disks mostly don't work. We've created a technology for mass production of multiple layers that does not suffer from the well known problem of low yields," New Medium's chief technology officer Eugene Levich told the Reuters News Service.

New Medium also told Reuters there's no conflict between Warner Bros. patent and its technology, quite the contrary.

Said Levich to Reuters, "They patent the application, we are patenting the technology. These are complementary patents. I'm glad it's happened. Warner opened our eyes, because it shows they really want to do this and create multi-format, multi-layer disks," Levich said.

To learn more about the new age of entertainment technology for your home, visit Consumer Electronics Association's (CEA) Consumer Resource Guides; TWICE.com (This Week In Consumer Electronics); and the Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association, along with Consumer Reports' electronics and computers section.

Log in to comment