Tagged: optical

Ultra Density Optical (UDO) (2003 – )

Ultra Density Optical (UDO) is an optical disc data storage format that uses phase-change, and blue laser technology (similar to Blu-ray) to store substantial amounts of data on a disc in a cartridge very similar to the older 5.25-inch magneto-optical disc format that it was developed to replace.

UDO discs were first announced by Sony in 2000, and launched by Sony and Plasmon in 2003 with a capacity of 30 GB. UDO 2 was launched in 2007 with a capacity of 60 GB.

UDO discs are available in rewritable format, or as write once in which case the phase change method used means the data cannot altered once written (True WORM) making it very stable for long-term storage. A third format became available in 2005, Compliant WORM, that allows specific data on the disc to be destroyed while leaving other files intact.

As of 2017, UDO drives and discs are still available but since 2008 all brands of UDO disc have been manufactured by Mitsubishi in Japan.

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Interactive DVD (1998 – )

Interactive DVDs (sometimes also known as DVD games, DVD Interactive or DVDi) allow the playing of games on DVD-Video players without the need for a computer or video game console, or any additional hardware (though some titles come with additional hardware such as buzzers).

The interactive DVD make use of the rudimentary interactivity features built-in to DVD-Video players that allow, for example, navigation through menus. The ability to skip to any point on the DVD instead of having to move through the video in a linear fashion as on VHS video recorders is also a major factor in making interactive DVDs practical.

The first interactive DVD game was Dragon’s Lair released in 1998, and a development of an older LaserDisc based game.

From 2001, DVD versions of board games and television quiz shows began to be released.

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Copy-protected Compact Disc (2000 – 2006)

The original specification for Compact Disc Digital Audio, known as the Red Book, did not make any provision for copy protection, and by the late 1990s millions of ripped audio tracks from Compact Discs were compressed as MP3s and shared over the internet.

The music industry did several things to try and rectify the situation, including setting up online music stores selling music through a subscription model, and the Recording Industry Association of America also prosecuted over 20,000 individuals they accused of sharing pirated MP3s.

Starting around 2000, the music industry also began to put copy-protection onto audio Compact Discs. Companies such as EMI, Sony, BMG, and for a time Warner used copy protection as a means to prevent ripping of audio tracks onto a computer.

Since the discs were non-compliant with the Red Book standard, they were not supposed to display the Compact Disc Digital Audio logo on either the disc or inside the jewel case. There was also a consumer outcry against the disks as they prevented tracks from being copied to the purchaser’s personal audio devices, and some CD players such as those in cars would not play the disks (since these sometimes used some CD-ROM components, especially if they were intended to play disks containing MP3 or other types of compressed files).

In 2005, it was discovered that Sony BMG were using a type of copy protection called Extended Copy Protection (XCP) which installed a rootkit on a user’s computer. This sparked a scandal as it could be used by malware, and Sony announced a recall of disks using XCP and suspended its use.

EMI was the last major label to abandon copy protection in 2006.

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LightScribe (2004 – 2013)

LightScribe was not a format as such, but a technology introduced by Hewlett-Packard in 2004 that allowed optical drives to laser-etch labels onto compatible media.

As well as a compatible LightScribe enabled drive, LightScribe drivers and suitable disc-burning software that supported LightScribe was required. Finally, a LightScribe compatible disc was needed. After burning data to the disc, the disc is turned over so the label side is face down, and the same laser that burnt data is used to etch the reactive dye coating of the disc.

LightScribe-compatible discs came in the form of CD-R, CD-RW, DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R and DVD+RW. No Blu-ray discs were LightScribe compatible.

The LightScribe technology could only etch in monochrome, and it was possible for the design to fade over time, especially if the disk was exposed to direct sunlight. Etching a disc took a considerable amount of time; up to 30 minutes for a high-contrast image.

As of 2013, the technology was no longer promoted by Hewlett-Packard, but it is possible to obtain the software from elsewhere. Drive manufactures have now ceased making LightScribe enabled optical drives (optical drives in computers are under threat in general).

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Enhanced CD (1994 – )

An enhanced CD (or ECD) is a Compact Disc that contains both audio content playable on a standard CD audio player, and multimedia content playable on a computer CD-ROM.

Introduced in 1994, the idea behind enhanced CDs was to offer the music buyer some extra bonus features using space on the disc that was unfilled by the music. This might take the form of music videos (similar to the earlier idea of CD Video), interviews, wallpapers, pictures, lyrics, or links to an artists website.

Rather confusingly, there were three different ways on combining the different content on the disc. Prior to 1996, enhanced CDs were created in one of two ways. One was to have the multimedia content in the first track, but this meant that track 1 needed to be skipped when played in a standard CD audio player or else the multimedia track could cause an unpleasant noise to be heard. A subsequent solution was to have the multimedia content in the pre-gap before track 1 (rather like the way a CD-i Ready disc worked). Both of these methods were known as ‘mixed-mode’, combining Red Book Digital Audio and Yellow Book CD-ROM information in a single ‘session’ on the same disc.

To get around the problems of mixed-mode discs, Philips and Sony released the Blue Book standards in 1995, and worked with Apple, Microsoft and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) to develop them. This new standard specified multisession technology that used two sessions on the disc, the first one containing audio tracks, and the second one containing data that is invisible to CD audio players. In 1996, most enhanced CDs used mixed-mode with the multimedia in the pre-gap, but by 1997 most were using Blue Book standards. The only downside to the newer multisession technology was that CD-ROM drives made before 1996 might not recognise them if they were not multisession capable.

Enhanced CDs can usually be recognised the official ‘Enhanced CD’ logo recommended by the RIAA. They may also have the CD EXTRA logo (previously known as CD Plus), which was trademarked by Sony for use on Blue Book discs.

Later technologies like DVD-Audio or DualDisc tried to perform the same function of offering the music album with bonus material such as videos, but later albums often came instead with the videos on a separate DVD-Video.

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DVD-10 / double-sided DVD (1998 – )

DVD-10 discs are double-sided, single-layer DVD-Video discs and are sometimes referred to as ‘flippers’ since they need to be turned over to access the content on the second side. The DVD-10 format is much less common than DVD-9 (single-sided, double-layered discs) but were used more in the early days of DVD-Video, before dual-layer disc production was widely supported. DVD-10 has a storage capacity for video of 9.4 GB (4.7 GB per side). Single-sided, dual-layer discs (DVD-9s) were a feature of the DVD standard from the start, but some early players did have problems with them or needed a firmware upgrade.

DVD-10s don’t feature any artwork on the disc apart from a small area near the spindle hole to indicate which side is which. This is a criticism of the format, along with the difficulty of avoiding finger marks and scratches on the playing surfaces of the disc.

Some DVD-10s contained the movie on one side and bonus material on the other, or a widescreen version on one side and a fullscreen version on the other but some discs did split the film into two parts so the disc needed to be turned during the film, rather like a LaserDisc. Some people reserve the term ‘flipper’ for DVD-10s where the main feature is split over the two sides.

It is possible to find double-sided, dual-layer DVDs (DVD-18s), but these are uncommon, and reportedly more liable to playback problems.

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Nintendo Wii U Optical Disc (2012 -2017)

The Wii U was a video game console introduced by Nintendo in 2012 as the successor to the Nintendo Wii. On release, it was the first eighth-generation video game console, and supported high-definition graphics.  It later competed with other eighth-generation consoles such as the Sony PlayStation 4 and the Microsoft Xbox One.

The controller contained its own screen and could either supplement the main display, or in some games could be used independently of the television.

The Wii U could play discs from the previous Wii system, but no longer supported Nintendo GameCube discs. Games for the Wii U could be downloaded from the Nintendo eShop or bought on the proprietary Wii U Optical Disc. The discs themselves stored up to 25GB (only single-layer discs were used) and were similar to Blu-ray discs having been developed for Nintendo by Panasonic. However, the Wii U could not play Blu-ray discs.

Like the previous Nintendo Wii Optical Disc, the discs for the Wii U have rounded edges both on the outside of the disc and inside the spindle hole.

By the end of 2016, over 13 million Wii U consoles had been sold, but the Wii U was discontinued in January 2017.

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CD-i Ready (1991 – 1998)

CD-i Ready was a hybrid optical disc format, combining audio tracks readable by any Compact Disc audio player, and multimedia or interactive elements readable on a CD-i (Compact Disc Interactive) player. It was introduced by Philips in 1991.

The audio tracks conform to Red Book Compact Disc Digital Audio standards, while the CD-i part conforms to Green Book standards, and could contain interviews, photos, biographies, games and more. The CD-i component is located in the ‘pre-gap’ area before track 1, which is skipped over by Compact Disc audio players.

The idea, like CD-i generally, was not a commercial success, and there appear to be fewer than 20 titles released as CD-i Ready discs.

The ideas behind the hybrid CD-i Ready discs were used in later types of hybrid audio/data discs such as the Enhanced CD that contained content which could be read on a standard computer CD-ROM drive rather than requiring a dedicated CD-i player.

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Superbit (2001 – 2007)

Superbit was a variant on standard DVD-Video introduced in 2001 by the Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment division of Sony.

Superbit DVDs used a higher bit rate transfer process to optimise video quality, and always contained both a 5.1 Dolby Digital and DTS soundtrack. The actual increase in bit rate varied according to the space available on the disc, and the bit rate of the standard DVD version (which itself could vary). They were compatible with standard DVD players and so could carry the DVD logo. Due to the extra space required for video and audio data, bonus material is kept to a minimum or not included at all, though there were a handful of ‘Superbit Deluxe’ releases which carried the bonus material on a second disk. The menus were different to those on the standard DVD release, and were kept simple to save space.

Fewer than 60 titles were released in Superbit format, and Superbit releases typically only sold 2% of the amount of the standard DVD version.

By 2007, Sony was promoting Blu-ray and the Superbit line was dropped.

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Compact LaserDisc (1986)

Compact LaserDiscs were 12-inch LaserDiscs that combined a complete music album (as would be found on the equivalent Compact Disc) in digital audio, along with music videos for some of the tracks. When played as an audio album, the screen would show a picture of the sleeve and the name of the track.

Around just seven titles were released by Pioneer Artists in 1986, for distribution in the US.

The name is a bit of a misnomer as they were anything but compact, but it was meant to emphasise that these were essentially a Compact Disc album with added videos. They are very similar in concept to CD Video, except able to hold an entire music album.

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