What is Blu-ray ?

Blu-ray, also known as Blu-ray Disc (BD), is the name of a next-generation optical disc format jointly developed by the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA), a group of the world's leading consumer electronics, personal computer and media manufacturers (including Apple, Dell, Hitachi, HP, JVC, LG, Mitsubishi, Panasonic, Pioneer, Philips, Samsung, Sharp, Sony, TDK and Thomson). The format was developed to enable recording, rewriting and playback of high-definition video (HD), as well as storing large amounts of data. The format offers more than five times the storage capacity of traditional DVDs and can hold up to 25GB on a single-layer disc and 50GB on a dual-layer disc. This extra capacity combined with the use of advanced video and audio codecs will offer consumers an unprecedented HD experience.

While current optical disc technologies such as DVD, DVD±R, DVD±RW, and DVD-RAM rely on a red laser to read and write data, the new format uses a blue-violet laser instead, hence the name Blu-ray. Despite the different type of lasers used, Blu-ray products can easily be made backwards compatible with CDs and DVDs through the use of a BD/DVD/CD compatible optical pickup unit. The benefit of using a blue-violet laser (405nm) is that it has a shorter wavelength than a red laser (650nm), which makes it possible to focus the laser spot with even greater precision. This allows data to be packed more tightly and stored in less space, so it's possible to fit more data on the disc even though it's the same size as a CD/DVD. This together with the change of numerical aperture to 0.85 is what enables Blu-ray Discs to hold 25GB/50GB. Recent development by Pioneer has pushed the storage capacity to 500GB on a single disc by using 20 layers.

Blu-ray is currently supported by about 200 of the world's leading consumer electronics, personal computer, recording media, video game and music companies. The format also has support from all Hollywood studios and countless smaller studios as a successor to today's DVD format. Many studios have also announced that they will begin releasing new feature films on Blu-ray Disc day-and-date with DVD, as well as a continuous slate of catalog titles every month. For more information about Blu-ray movies, check out our Blu-ray movies and Blu-ray reviews section which offers information about new and upcoming Blu-ray releases, as well as what movies are currently available in the Blu-ray format.

Why the name Blu-ray?

The name Blu-ray is derived from the underlying technology, which utilizes a blue-violet laser to read and write data. The name is a combination of "Blue" (blue-violet laser) and "Ray" (optical ray). According to the Blu-ray Disc Association the spelling of "Blu-ray" is not a mistake, the character "e" was intentionally left out so the term could be registered as a trademark.

The correct full name is Blu-ray Disc, not Blu-ray Disk (incorrect spelling)
The correct shortened name is Blu-ray, not Blu-Ray (incorrect capitalization) or Blue-ray (incorrect spelling)
The correct abbreviation is BD, not BR or BRD (wrong abbreviation)

What Blu-ray formats are planned?

As with conventional CDs and DVDs, Blu-ray plans to provide a wide range of formats including ROM/R/RW. The following formats are part of the Blu-ray Disc specification:

BD-ROM - read-only format for distribution of HD movies, games, software, etc.
BD-R - recordable format for HD video recording and PC data storage.
BD-RE - rewritable format for HD video recording and PC data storage.

There's also plans for a BD/DVD hybrid format, which combines Blu-ray and DVD on the same disc so that it can be played in both Blu-ray players and DVD players.

What video codecs will Blu-ray support?

MPEG-2 - enhanced for HD, also used for playback of DVDs and HDTV recordings.
MPEG-4 AVC - part of the MPEG-4 standard also known as H.264 (High Profile and Main Profile).
SMPTE VC-1 - standard based on Microsoft's Windows Media Video (WMV) technology.

Please note that this simply means that all Blu-ray players and recorders will have to support playback of these video codecs, it will still be up to the movie studios to decide which video codec(s) they use for their releases.