Europe's online source of news, data & analysis for professionals involved in packaged media and new delivery technologies

News in Brief - august 2008


THE EUROPEAN Union announced plans to extend the copyright terms on musical recordings for another 45 years. Currently musicians can only collect royalties on recordings they made 50 years ago. That was probably OK when popular beat combo artists were not expected to live beyond 30 years, but these days they are living well into their 70s. It will not mean an increase in music prices as few fifty-year-old recordings sell in any real volume, and most of these performers' pay comes from radio performance payments now. It looks like the change will only net an average old timer €150 to €2,000 per year.

AUDIODEV has selected Lastek Pty as its agent in Australia and New Zealand, thus strengthening the Swedish test equipment maker’s international presence. Lastek supplies and supports advanced laser and optical equipment, design and manufacture optical instruments, as well as provides custom design and optical project management for a wide range of customers and applications. Lastek is also the long-standing agent of Toptica Photonics in the region. Toptica Photonics develops and manufactures the optical drive used in AudioDev's electrical signal testers for Blu-ray Disc and high-speed DVD.

SHIPMENTS of Blu-ray recorders have increased in Japan to 122,000 units in June, up from 82,000 units shipped in May. The jump in units is attributed to the rush to buy the machine before the just-imposed royalty fees start applying, the anticipated payout of Japanese mid-year bonuses and increased demand due to the Olympic games occurring in August. Prices start at $420. Blu-ray recorders are the only option for Japanese consumers that are looking for a standalone unit, as read-only Blu-ray players are not generally available.

UK MUSIC andd video chain HMV is planning to put kiosks into some of its stores to allow customers to order out-of-stock CDs and DVDs which will be fulfilled VAT-free from the Channel Islands. Many online and mail order music services including Tesco and Amazon.co.uk already have warehouses in Jersey and Guernsey because EU law allows items with a value of less than £18 to be imported to the UK mainland without paying VAT. The European Union debated changing VAT regulations to make them more suitable for the age of the internet in 2006 but no agreement was reached.

FRENCH independent optical disc manufacturer MPO received its first Blu-ray pressing line late last month. Loïc de Poix, the company president, says MPO is Europe’s only independent replicator to offer the complete BD production chain including mastering, replication, AACS protection and fulfillment. Singulus is supplying its CrystalLine mastering system with the BLU-LINE II. MPO already managed the production of 50 BD titles.

BT has confirmed it plans to spend £1.5 billion (E1.83bn) building a super-fast broadband network across the UK over the next four years. The plan would connect 10 million homes, around 40 per cent of the UK, to a new fibre-optic based network. The upgrade will provide speeds up to 60MB an those on a fibre-to-the-premises network will see speeds of up to 100 MB.

MEADWESTVACO’s AGI Media packaging plant in Slough, Berkshire, recently earned its fourth International Safety Award from the British Safety Council in recognition of its outstanding safety procedures and working practices. In addition to winning the 2007 International Safety Award, AGI Slough received the award in 2003, 2004 and 2005. AGI Media Slough is a 30,000 sq. ft. facility producing a wide range of cartons and specialty packaging for the entertainment industry, including Digipak® and Digistak® disc packages, rigid boxes and slipcases.

THE once familiar cry of peddlers selling pirate DVDs on the streets of Beijing is disappearing as the government finally acts on pledges to end the practice – at least until after the Olympics. The authorities have just ordered a "100-day drive against pirate copies", with officials on call 24 hours to act on reports of illegal CDs and DVDs going on sale."Strike hard against all kinds of pirate copies violating rights and against illegal publishing activities," their notice said. "Go all out to create a healthy cultural market environment for the Beijing Olympic Games."

INFODISC, German independent replicator and Europe’s Blu-ray pioneer, received the official approval from the Blu-ray Disc Association for the Blu-ray Dual Layer production (BD50). “We continuously work on meeting and exceeding our customer’s expectations, especially in regards to their Blu-ray requirements!” says Michael Gutowski, CEO Infodisc Group. “We have achieved the BDA approval completely in-house using real order assets.” The group also offer SD and BD authoring services through its Infomedia subsidiary.

WITH the aim of making Blu-ray accessible for smaller studios, Sony Creative Software has released the professional BAE-VX1000 encoder for disc authoring. At a price of $55,000 the system is capable of analyzing a film automatically and offering multiple bit rate versions to be compared later, or frame by frame encoding. The finished product comes out in either h.264 or MPEG-2 form (but apparently not VC-1) and it works on varying setups from one to many PCs or servers depending on what a studio can afford.

PRICES of Blu-ray players are dropping in the US now Sony, Sharp, Pioneer, Samsung and LG have reduced the retail prices for their entry-level Blu-ray players in the United States. The average price has dropped about 25% to less than $300. Amazon, Wal-mart, Best Buy and other large electronic chains have lowered the price of the Samsung BD-P1400 to $298. The lower prices are, according to industry sources in Taiwan, to clear inventories, which could mean a new line up of Blu-ray players is waiting to enter the market.

BUFFALO has announced an external USB 2.0 upscaling Super-Multi DVD Drive. The model which goes by the name DSM-SL20U2 is able to upscale DVD movies (480p) to High Definition (HD) at 1080p. Besides playback of DVD movies it has LabelFlash support and is also able to write to recordable discs: it can burn DVD-R/+R discs at 20x, DVD-RW at 6x, DVD+RW at 8x and DVD-RAM at 12x. The DSM-SL20U2 will be available at the end of August for about 85€ in Japan.

RITEK, due to increasing demand from existing clients, is in the process of doubling its monthly production capacity for Blu-ray recordable discs. Existing DVD production lines will be upgraded to Blu-ray manufacturing in order to support the expansion. At the end of 2008, Ritek also plans to add yet another Blu-ray line, tripling their current monthly manufacturing capacity to 750,000 units, for BD-R and BD-RE discs combined.

PRODISC has announced that it will continue to produce and sell optical media, contrary to earlier reports, which stated that Prodisc would be exiting the market due to financial troubles.Prodisc has invested more than NT$10 billion ($300 million) in production equipment of blank CD-R, DVD+/-R discs and has maintained a steady client base consisting of international vendors and overseas retail channels, the reason for not quitting production, the company says.

FOLLOWING recent claims that it had discovered the means to burn 400GB of data onto a single optical disc with 16 layers, Pioneer has now announced that it is feasible to produce a Blu-ray-compatible disc with 20 layers – which at 25GB per layer, amounts to a 500GB disc. The company said that it was able to achieve more layers by stacking alternating layers of two different thicknesses. The disc is still in the research phase, but Pioneer says its goal is to produce an actual product between 2010 and 2012.

BLOCKBUSTER said it will test 50 automated kiosks. If successful, the video-rental giant may be rolling out 10,000 kiosks in the next 18 months. Industry analysts expect that the DVD kiosk industry will grow substantially from $197 million last year to $760 million in 2010. Market leaderRedbox already operates 6,000 kiosks, each containing more than 500 DVDs representing as many as 150 new-release titles. Redbox rents the DVDs for $1 a night, and rentals can be returned at any kiosk. The company splits the revenue with the venues that house the kiosks.

THE BDA European Promotions Committee received Hollywood-style red carpet treatment at the recent Home Entertainment Week Awards in London. One of Europe’s premier home entertainment industry publications, the magazine presented the BDA with its Special Recognition Award. According to Andy Clough, publisher of HEW, the award reflects the BDA’s efforts in securing Blu-ray Disc as the single HD format moving forwards. By successfully avoiding a prolonged format war, HEW recognizes the BDA’s marketing effort – in particular moving the focus onto the format’s new and unique capabilities such as BD-Live.

LONDON’s optical disc authoring and duplication facility 24-7dvd has invested €250,000 in a Tapematic 2Print digital DVD/Blu-ray disc printer capable of printing 1,500 discs an hour. It is the first 6-colour digital print machine in the UK and prints directly on to the disc with no need for plates, screens, film or a pre-print process. The new machine brigs in-house disc print capacity from 3,000 a day to 35,000.

MITSUBISHI Chemical Corporation has announced that, in view of global short supply of Blu-ray Disc pick-up heads, it is planning to step into production of high-power laser diodes, the key component of PUHs for BD burners. Currently, there are only a few producers of high-power LDs, including Sony, Nichia and Sharp, the sources indicated. Sony's production of high-power LDs is mostly for in-house use, and the output of Nichia and Sharp is mainly for supply to Japan-based BD drive makers, resulting in tight supply for non-Japanese makers.

BLU-RAY Disc sales in the UK have now passed the 2 million sales mark, according to figures released from the British Video Association. In 2008 alone, the format has sold 1.2 million copies and volume sales are 458% up year to date on 2007. I Am Legend from Warner Home Video is this year's best-selling title with over 55,000 copies sold to date; however, Casino Royale from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has remained in the overall top spot since its release in March last year, selling almost 100,000 copies on Blu-ray alone.

YAMAHA is reported to introduce its first Blu-ray player, the BD-S2900 model, expected to use BonusviewView, Profile v1.1, with 1080p/24fps-compatible HDMI video output, 12-bit deep color, on-screen display with fully enhanced GUI, and will support Blu-ray, DVDs, burned DVDs and CDs. There are unconfirmed release dates ranging from October 2008 to January 2009. The Yamaha BD-S2900 Blu-ray player comes with a hefty price tag, with industry insiders expecting it to retail for $1,199.95.