Japanese Adult Industry Adopts Blu-ray

TOKYO — While U.S. adult producers are leaning toward the HD DVD movie format, the Japanese adult industry is turning to Blu-ray.

Though it is too early to predict which will be the dominant format, the debate is similar to the VHS versus Beta videotapes battle of the early ‘80s. Ultimately, adult producers moved the videotape market to make VHS the winner.

Until recently there was reluctance by Sony , creator of Blu-ray, to make the technology available to adult producers. Now resources for producing Blu-ray discs have become more available to adult producers in Japan, according to filmmakers at the 2007 Adult Treasure Expo held in Chiba, Japan.

“I’m shooting hi-def because that’s what the people want, which I don’t understand why,” adult director Don Fernando told XBIZ. Fernando, who recently returned from Japan, shoots the “Asia18” series for Swank Digital and the “Tokyo Very Much” line for Woodman Entertainment.

According to Fernando, he didn’t hear much about Blu-ray while in Japan, but acknowledged it may be because he shoots for the American market and not the Japanese.

Fernando feels high-definition formats actually take away from the enjoyment of adult content by bringing the viewer more reality than bargained for, in terms of revealing wrinkles, skin imperfections and other flaws. He also said the content he shoots in high-definition requires special editing software.

Restrictions on Japanese adult content also require that no penetration can be shown in adult films. Hardcore imagery is “mosaic-ed,” or eliminated from view by superimposing a blurry filter over explicit visuals.

Fernando said that Japanese producers try to make up for the restrictions on hardcore by using lush backgrounds and hi-end cinematography in order to make their content stand out. He speculated that this might drive the Japanese market to be early adapters to Blu-ray’s high-def capabilities.

Another factor is recent availability of replication facilities for the Japanese market to be able to mass-produce movies on Blu-ray discs.

"In Japan, there are some problems. Companies cannot press Blu-ray discs because they cannot touch adult-related contracts," Assist Corp. Director of Administration Kiyotaka Konno said. Assist Corp. is a Japanese company that authors and replicates DVDs for the adult industry in Japan.

"So we asked some makers in Taiwan to do the work, and then we import the discs back to Japan. The Taiwanese company was able to obtain a pressing machine from Sony and will start mass production in August,” Konno said.

Vivid Entertainment Group became the first U.S. adult producer to use the Blu-ray format when it released “Debbie Does Dallas… Again” in March. The company refused to reveal who replicated the discs for the release. The title was also released in HD DVD.

Blu-ray discs have a larger content capacity at 25-GB for a single-sided disc, while HD DVDs max out at 15-GB. However, because Blu-ray discs are more costly to produce, that expense will trickle down to the consumer even as content on Blu Ray becomes more available.

Also, HD DVD players were introduced into the U.S. market more than a year before the first Blu-ray players, giving them a significant head start in terms of availability. Currently, Sony’s BDP S-1 Blu-ray disc player is priced at $799 retail, compared to Toshiba’s HD A-2 HD DVD disc player, priced at $299, making cost a factor for most consumers.

In attempt to boost the marketability of Blu-ray, Sony has integrated a Blu-ray player into PlayStation 3 units. Several models of the company’s VAIO computers also have the ability to burn discs onto Blu-ray.

The deciding factor for HD DVD versus Blu-ray may come down to cost and availability for the end consumer. Since the technologies for each format are noncompatible, audiences will eventually choose which disc will dominate.