While the adult industry often is credited with the dominance of VHS over Beta, porn producers wield less influence in the HD DVD vs. Blu-ray tug of war.
That drama all but ended with Warner Bros. announced last month that it would be releasing high definition DVDs exclusively in the Blu-ray format. Warner joined 20th Century Fox, Disney, Sony and MGM, all of which had already signed on as Blu-ray exclusives. Retail sales of Blu-ray DVDs already had been higher than those on HD DVD, but after Warner’s announcement Blu-ray blew up a 2-1 margin to take a dominating 85 percent share of the sales.
Adult producers took note. While many companies have been shooting in high-def, releases were exclusively on the HD DVD format until “Pirates,” the monster co-production between Digital Playground and Adam & Eve, which was released on Blu-ray last month. That was less a vote for the HD DVD format than a reflection of the extreme difficulty companies had finding a replicator for Blu-ray discs because contracts with Disney reportedly forbid replicating adult product.
“We have eight Blu-ray titles coming out in the next few weeks, and then we’re doing eight a month and we’re going to be really aggressive as far as the number of HD titles that we’ll be coming out with,” Digital Playground co-founder Joone said.
He said that the company’s experience with HD DVD releases — at press time Digital Playground was responsible for 28 of the 42 HD releases listed for sale on the Adult DVD Empire website — has been that features dramatically outsell gonzo product. Joone suggested that eventually DVD will be reserved for high-end features, while gonzo would be relegated to the Internet.
The number of companies that had ventured into HD DVD hit double digits by the end of 2007.
Jackie Ramos, Wicked’s director of DVD production, said that the company had tried to work with Blu-ray, but had been shut out by replicators. He said that the on-screen quality of both formats are the same, though Blu-ray is significantly more expensive. Still, dual layer Blu-ray discs can hold about 50 gigs of information, where the HD DVD equivalent holds only 30GB.
“The fact that the disc can hold more data allows you to have a better end product as far as what you’re going to see on the screen,” he said. “It certainly looks like Blu-ray has given quite a knockout punch. In a way, it’s a relief and I think it’s going to clear up some confusion.”
Ramos said that Wicked would have five HD DVDs available by the end of January and that the company will be “aggressively moving forward” into releasing Blu-ray.
Bruce Whitney, who works in Adam & Eve’s product development department, said that while Blu-ray is the better format, it is also the least practical.
“HD was perfect for our industry, because it’s fairly economical to produce and had just enough features for us to deliver high definition video to the commercial product,” he said. “Blu-ray requires a much stiffer investment.”
Like Joone, Whitney expects the big features to rule the high-definition market.
“The first victim of packaged media is going to be the gonzo market,” he said. “The high-definition and the packaged DVD market will last longer as long as it’s still the best way to view a feature.”
Whitney, who worked on the first adult DVD, Michael Ninn’s classic “Shock,” which was released in 1998, said in time DVDs will be limited to collectors.
“It is a premium product for the guys who want to own this thing,” he said. “DVD will eventually be a collector’s item.”
While the Blu-ray edition of “Pirates,” which boasts the two-plus hour feature and more than four hours of supplemental features in high-def, lists for $49.95, future titles are expected to sell for between $20 and $30.
Addressing the concern that hi-def resolution is too high for adult content, Joone said that if Hollywood stars can handle film, which is higher resolution than high-def and is shown on screens three-stories high, it will do just fine for pornography.
“There are techniques that you can use to get the most amazing image possible,” Joone said. “If you’re just turning on the camera and throwing a girl in and doing poor lighting, you’re going to get what you put into it. With high-def there is a lot more craftsmanship. It’s a win for the consumer. They just want a better product.”