HD on the cheap: why HD-DVDs are a great way to boost your film collection


Back when I started buying movies on Blu-ray I purchased an internal drive to be able to rip them to my hard drive. The one that I purchased, the LG GGC-H20L, is not only capable of reading Blu-ray but also HD-DVD discs.

For those unaware HD-DVD lost out to Blu-ray and was quickly phased out. Stores heavily discounted players and titles to make more space for the winning format, they were practically given away. People who amassed large collections of HD-DVDs were stuck with a dead format that was next to worthless. Nowadays you can pick up titles for a fraction of what they would cost on Blu-ray, even though most of the time they look and sound near identical. But because nobody wants them anymore they can be had for dirt cheap and are a great way of boosting your film collection.

As a huge lover of physical media I decided to purchase a number of titles with the plan on ripping them to my media server. I bought 16 films from CeX’s online store, most of them being around 50 pence each. The big positives of ripping them from their original discs is so that I won’t need to hook up the drive every time I want to watch a HD-DVD. One quick thing to note about HD-DVDs is that some suffer from disc rot. Making them either totally unreadable or freeze at certain points of the film. This mainly affects titles produced by Warner Bros. and commonly on discs that have both a DVD and HD-DVD side. Around 1/2 of the ones I had from Warner Bros. were unreadable at certain parts. Luckily I was able to send them back to a local CeX and get replacements. One other difference between this format and Blu-ray is that HD-DVDs do not have the protective layer found in Blu-ray discs. I’m sure many of you have had DVDs that have failed to read due to deep scratches and sadly this is also a problem with this disc format. So while HD-DVDs are extremely on the affordable size you do need to take that small risk of some of them not working.

No hablo español... ou français.

No hablo español… ou français.

For people with experience of ripping Blu-ray discs the process for HD-DVDs is nearly identical. The most popular program to use is MakeMKV, which is free while it is in it’s beta phase. After selecting what audio tracks and subtitles you want you can hit save and the movie will, after around 30 minutes, be ripped to your hard drive. With this you can play it on most media players, VLC and Plex being two examples. A typical file size of a movie can reach around 20GB or more, so make sure to have lots of free space available. It is also possible to then encode the MKV file into an MP4 or other format for compatibility with media devices such as the Apple TV or Roku. I play all of my media on my HTPC, which had no trouble with these rips.

Blade Runner looks stunning in HD, click for full size.

Blade Runner looks stunning in HD, click for full size.

I highly recommend looking into getting some HD-DVDs if you are curious about the dead format and have a drive capable of playing them. Around 500 titles were released giving yourself a wide variety to choose from and their cheap price makes them an attractive alternative to Blu-ray. Look forward to a more in-depth look at HD-DVD in a future article.