by Robert Estel

While we tend to focus on Japan in this magazine, there are times when we look across the Sea of Japan to see how our neighbors are doing. While Japanese technology is generally thought to be the best around, other countries, such as today’s focus, China, aren’t ones to be left behind in the dust. Today we’re going to look at an area where China is striking out on its own.

First off, for any couch potato movie buff worth their popcorn, you’re aware that the big catch words (acronyms?) these days are HD- DVD and Blu-Ray. While the format war is slowing starting to heat up as adopters start picking sides here in Japan and the rest of the West, things are slightly different in China. The next big thing after DVD you ask? Let’s jump a letter and go up to EVD, China’s low-cost answer to HD-DVD and Blu-Ray. Originally announced in 2003,  this Chinese technology takes already existing red-ray laser technology which is found in everyone’s DVD player and combines it with advanced video compression. The result? High Definition Movies that are able to fit on current sized DVD discs. Currently high definition movies that output up to 1080p (another new catch word, or number in this case) are being restricted in general to the new HD-DVD and Blu-Ray format in the West. Unfortunately, new adopters of Blu-Ray and HD-DVD are also stuck with high cost players, or going the video game system route (Playstation 3 for your Blu-Ray, Xbox 360 for your HD-DVD).

While EVD was announced in 2003, this locally produced format hasn’t seen much growth until the end of last year, as 97 percent of Chinese DVD manufacturers came together to announce that they would be making the move from DVD to EVD by the year 2008. By being able to use current technology with this Red-Ray HD method, manufacturers can stop having to pay licensing fees to outside firms. This means the average cost of an EVD player clocks out at lower than ¥10,000. Not stopping there, the EDV forum makers have also made plans to introduce Net enabled kiosks. These Net-enabled kiosks are planned to let you download and back up that movie straight to DVD without a hint of protection to be found.

For the time being, for those who do not read Chinese, there hasn’t been much in the way of pictures or information in the past few months. Unfortunately, it’s doubtful if this will catch on anywhere else in the world, due to China’s current desire to not depend on licensing outside of the country, and the fact that a lot of Western studios are leery of non-protected file formats. Which sums this up as one possible “made in China” item that stays in China.