Up until 2008, the Blu-Ray format was in competition with another high definition DVD format called HD-DVD.
Blu-Ray was adopted as the industry standard for high-density optical discs following a very successful marketing campaign by Sony and the format's acceptance by the major Hollywood movie studios.
Blu-Ray discs are used to store HD (high definition) (1080p) video data and are also used in the distribution of games for the Sony PlayStation 3 and 4 and the Microsoft Xbox One gaming consoles.
This is due to their greatly increased storage capacity over a standard DVD disc.
Blu-Ray discs are associated with a set of multimedia formats which allow video and audio data to be stored with far superior definition than on a standard DVD disc.
The most commonly used type of standard DVD disc, single sided, single layer, can contain up to 4.
7 GB of data with the more rarely used double sided, dual layer disc capable of holding up to 17.
08 GB of data.
The storage capacity of a Blu-Ray DVD, however, is far larger with single layer discs capable of holding up to 25 GB of data and dual layer discs supporting up to 50 GB of data.
There are also 16 layer discs available that can store 400GB of data, but which are much more rarely used.
Development is also currently underway to bring a disc capable of storing 1TB of data to the marketplace.
How does Blu-Ray DVD duplication work? Optical drives used to burn standard DVDs are found in almost all laptops and desktop PCs produced within the last 7 or 8 years.
They use a red laser diode to burn information into the recordable surface of the DVD disc in the form of tiny "pits".
Blu-Ray optical drives use a blue laser diode which can be focused to a much higher degree when burning information and as a result, the "pits" burnt into the recordable surface of a disc can be positioned closer together.
This enables a Blu-Ray DVD to hold more than 5 times as much data as a standard DVD.
Duplication on an industrial scale is carried out in specialist duplication suites.
Optical drive units are loaded into "towers" which can contain as many as 14 drives.
Depending upon the batch size to be copied a number of towers may then be linked together.
All the towers are centrally controlled by a master unit.
The mastered disc is loaded into the master unit; the information contained is then transferred to all the connected optical drives which are loaded with BDR discs (Blu-Ray DVD Recordable discs).
The loading and unloading of BDR discs is usually automated.
Robotic arms load and remove discs from each separate optical drive unit using soft rubber vacuum cups to eliminate the possibility of damage to the printed disc surface.
Duplication tends to be a slower process than standard DVD duplication due to the large file size of high definition data files compared to standard format video files.
This can be compensated for, to an extent, by using a greater number of duplication towers.
Why use the Blu-Ray DVD format? As video technology advances so does the demand for the very latest movie theatre and home viewing experience.
This format enables large high definition movie files to be stored for viewing in the customers home.
There is a marked video quality difference between a standard DVD movie and a Blu-Ray DVD movie and also a much improved audio experience which takes full advantage of the display and sound capabilities of the latest plasma, led and lcd screens.
The format allows movie production companies to exploit the latest live filming techniques and to take full advantage of high tech CGI (computer generated images) without the concern that the editing process will mean that home viewing pleasure compromises need to be made in order to fit the movie file onto a standard DVD due to the larger file storage capacity of the Blu-Ray DVD.
This larger storage capacity also makes the distribution of large data files possible which has meant that console video games developers have been able to take advantage of the same high definition video, audio and CGI effects as the film industry, resulting in games with a large amount of cinematic content to support gameplay.
This in turn, has resulted in a large increase in sales of consoles and games creating a multi-billion dollar industry as console owners have been introduced to an increasingly immersive gaming experience.
Since 2009, the Blu-Ray 3D format has been available to take full advantage of the capabilities of 3D televisions and also of 3D capable games consoles using 3D glasses.
A BDR Disc is less expensive than a USB memory stick and has an added advantage in that accompanying instructions for use or additional reading material can be included in the packaging, whether it's a standard Blu-Ray DVD case or a slimmer and lighter option such as a slim-line jewel case.
Also, whilst a BDR disc can only have data written to it once, there are also slightly more expensive BDRE discs available which can have data written to them and erased as many times as is required, just like a USB memory stick.
Blu-Ray DVDs in a retail environment are normally distributed in a distinctive semi-transparent, blue DVD case.
These cases are readily available for purchase online and in many stores and variants exist as standard which can hold as many as 6 discs for the distribution of movie series sets or multi-season TV series.
How are Blu-Ray DVDs protected against piracy? Firstly, there is a particular standard for content distribution and digital rights management of Blu-Ray DVDs which is the Advanced Access Content System (AACS).
The AACS encrypts disc content under one or more title keys using the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES).
These title keys are subsequently decrypted using a media key (encoded in a Media Key Block) and the Volume ID of the disc which is a physical serial number embedded on a pre-recorded disc.
Since 2007 there has been another copy protection system in use known as BD+.
The BD+ system uses a concept of Self-Protecting Digital Content which is a virtual machine built into Blu-Ray DVD players allowing content providers to load executable programs onto their discs.
These programs scramble part of the audio and video content of the disc and can also check to see if the disc player has been tampered with or altered from its manufacturer specification in any way.
Is the Blu-Ray DVD format purely for movie enthusiasts or console gamers? Sales figures for the U.
and Canada would certainly suggest that this is not the case.
In their launch year, 2006, around 1.
2 million units were sold.
By 2010, this number had increased to 350 million units.
Sales have continued to increase as the price of high definition TVs and next generation consoles has fallen along with the price of the discs themselves.
These figures show that the format is being adopted at a much greater rate than the original DVD format, probably due to the similarity of the formats and dual compatibility of playback devices.
Also, the commercial availability of hybrid discs containing both Blu-Ray and standard DVD files is assisting in the rapid growth in popularity of the format.