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CD & DVD Pirating Going to the Dogs

Containing CD and DVD piracy is a major priority for content producers of DVD films and music CD’s.  You can go to most any city all over the world and find someone with “bootleg” music and movies for sale, often before it’s even available legally.  The entertainment industry is constantly searching for a way to plug up the damn of loss revenue due to these illegal copies and the ever expanding “pirate” market.

Who can they turn to in these times of crisis, Superman, Batman, Jason Bourne?  Apparently they are all busy trying to right far more important wrongs in society.  So where else can we find a hero who would be loyal to the cause and not be tempted by the sway of bribes or a fast buck?  Who else but man’s best friend, our four legged friend that will never let us down, a DVD/CD sniffing dog!

In Malaysia, a 6 month test run has recently concluded with very positive results and accolades for two black Labradors named Lucky and Flo who helped discover over 1.6 million illegal DVD’s.  The dogs were trained to smell the chemicals used to make optical discs like DVD’s.  We’ve all heard of dogs used to detect drugs or bombs, but to find illegal copies of Spiderman 3?  Lucky and Flo have been far more successful than originally hoped for and even though they are the only members of this elite dog fraternity, watch for more countries and cities to adopt this new piracy prevention method.

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Picture of Lucky (right) and Flo as they receive medals for their work in sniffing our DVD piracy in Malaysia.  Photo taken from ABC news (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

Money Talks in the Battle Between Hi-Def Formats

Apparently HD DVD will not go away without a fight and recently two heavy weight Hollywood Studios, Paramount and DreamWorks Animation, have issued a press release stating that they will back HD DVD exclusively.  This means that major holiday offerings like Shrek the Third, which grossed over USD $300,000,000 theatrically in North America will be offered only in the HD DVD format.  This is a major boost for HD DVD which had lost ground to Blu-ray with the announcement that Blockbuster would only stock Blu-ray titles and retailers like Target would only stock Blu-ray players in their stores.

So what caused this major shift toward HD DVD for Paramount, which previously offered titles in both Blu-ray and HD DVD, and DreamWorks Animation, which had yet to release a title in either format?  According to the corporate spin, the official comment is that HD DVD players are cheaper and better price positioned for the consumer.  But many feel there’s an ulterior motive working here that may be rooted in a financial gain for the two Hollywood Studios.

As reported in the New York Time, (published 8/21/07), according to two Viacom executives (parent company of Paramount) under the condition of anonymity, “Paramount and DreamWorks Animation together will receive about $150 million in financial incentives for their commitment to HD DVD”.  These incentives apparently will be cash payments and promotional guarantees like using the HD DVD release of Shrek the Third in HD DVD player marketing campaigns.  Although none of the entities involved confirmed this transaction took place or played any part in their decision, it’s entirely possible that HD DVD is throwing out all the stops in a last ditch effort to make a huge impact during the lucrative holiday season.

Time will tell whether this gamble pays out, but it looks like the HD DVD contingency has already put their money where their mouth is and will not back down without a fight, but will Blu-ray take the beating or will the consumer ultimately pay the price?  I guess time will tell but one thing is for sure, Money TALKS!

From Humble Beginnings Part III

With the growing success of the SharkCopier line, Calvin realized he needed to complete his product mix with a robotic autoloader duplicator. Not fully aware of the immense undertaking an autoloader would be, the quest was started. Due to the intricate complexities that are not even a consideration in the manual tower, such as alignment and picking issues, it took over a year just to develop the first working model of the Vinpower Digital TITAN line of autoloaders.

The next step was putting it in the market and testing them under real world situations. We could have never expected the type of havoc small variations in humidity, atmosphere, and other unforeseen elements would have on the autoloader where the manual towers never had an issue. Luckily our engineers are located in our California corporate office and they were able to speak directly to the customers and on occasion visit them at their facility to see the issues first hand. We would work directly with the users to test our solutions allowing us to improve the units immediately instead of waiting to get feedback from a foreign manufacturer. The hiccups in the first production helped make each subsequent line and new design even better and more reliable. Today Vinpower Digital’s line of standalone duplication equipment is unrivaled in quality and performance.

It didn’t take long for others to recognize the quality, attention to detail and strong support that Vinpower Digital offered could benefit their business and customer base gaining more and more partners in the industry. The journey is still far from over and there’s a lot we learn everyday about our products and how to improve them, Vinpower Digital has come a long way from their humble beginning and that van. Hopefully with the support of our partners, we can continue to grow as a company and put out new and innovative products.

From Humble Beginnings Part II

Taking a chance that he could make a difference and a big impact on the optical disc duplication industry, Calvin assembled a team of engineers to develop his own products.  Finding qualified engineers that shared Calvin’s ideas and passion for, what at the time was a niche product, was not easy, but again perseverance paid off and the team came together.

At the same time, Calvin needed to find vendors that he could source materials from and fabrication plants that could create the principal products from his team’s designs and specs.  In order to reduce costs and stay competitive, Calvin frequently traveled and communicated with companies in Taiwan to find the right balance of quality and reliability.  Even though Calvin was from Taiwan and had many contacts in the area, this was no small task given the time difference and distance.  But the determination paid off resulting in Vinpower Digital’s first original offering the SharkCopier standalone CD/DVD manual tower duplicator.  The SharkCopier had many advance for the time like an aluminum frame, auto-counter, Partition Naming, Load and Copy, and more.

Innovation wasn’t enough to keep the company moving forward.  Calvin needed to get the Vinpower Digital products on to the market and increase sales if the dream was to come true.  In order to keep costs down and prices affordable, Calvin knew that he needed to move higher volume than he could manage on his own.  The only way to push up the volume was to work with established resellers to offer the Vinpower Digital or an OEM’d version under the companies own brand.  To attract the right resellers, Calvin knew he had to offer something unique that the established manufacturers did not provide beyond simply price alone.  So first, he needed to improve the visibility of Vinpower Digital.  He began by increasing the number of electronics and broadcasting trade shows Vinpower Digital participated in.  Then he began hiring a bigger staff of employees with broader sales and marketing experience.   Even though some companies saw Vinpower Digital’s marketing push and greater exposure as competition, they began to realize that Vinpower Digital could offer them opportunities beyond their current supply channel that would not only help them better compete with the existing competition, but grow in directions they were not able to develop on their own.

From Humble Beginnings Part I

As Vinpower Digital rises in the duplicator field to become the leading global manufacturer, it’s always inspiring to think back to where the company started from. History is the key to our future, and even though our company is relatively young in years, the electronics industry is a fast paced environment infused with young blood to develop newer and greater innovations.

Working part time selling computer parts online while still a graduate student, our CEO Calvin Chang, had a vision that duplicators and duplicator accessories would soon become standard office accessories like the fax machine and paper copier. With margins drying up in the computer parts industry, he set out to make a name in the growing duplication equipment market. Starting out with a van and a great deal of determination, Vinpower Digital was born.

First starting out as a system integrator, buying parts and assembling equipment for sale, the business grew, but Calvin was not satisfied with the existing components on the market used to build a duplicator. Attempting to work with the manufacturers to offer his input to improve the reliability and quality of the duplication process, he was further frustrated when his ideas were either rebuffed or offered across the board to all of their customers. Seeing the writing on the wall, Calvin decided to develop his own standalone duplication controller and specialized casing to offer the highest quality product and differentiate from the competition.

New Hitachi Blu-ray Camcorder to be Released Soon

Hitachi, a firm supporter of the Blu-ray format, recently announced that they plan to release a Blu-ray camcorder with a built-in Blu-ray burner within 1 to 2 years.  This new camcorder would use an 8cm Blu-ray disc, (not currently on the market), which they intend to be able to record up to 1 hour of Hi-Def video.  A standard single layer DVD holds 4.7GB of data.  Since the current single layer Blu-ray disc holds over 5 times more data at 25GB, it’s imagined that the 8cm Blu-ray disc will be comparable in its added data storage capability over the 8cm DVD which can hold 1.4GB.  If the price can be competitive, look for this camcorder to be a big hit with video enthusiast.

The HD-DVD/Blu-ray Battle Rages On

The format war battles on between HD-DVD and Blu-ray while each postures that they are the format of choice.  On one hand, Blu-ray seems to have the upper hand in content and availability whereas HD-DVD still holds the advantage in price.

Recently two major retail giants have announced that they will only carry the Blu-ray Disc players in their stores in the lead up to the Christmas rush.  The major retail conglomerates Target in the USA and Woolworths in the UK have agreed to carry only the BD players while not publicly siding with either format.  In fact Target will continue to offer the HD-DVD add-on for the Microsoft X-Box console and continue offering HD-DVD players on their online stores.  In addition, they plan to still offer HD-DVD software and content in their retail stores.  While Woolworths admitted the sales for either format is still slow, the release and sales of the Sony Playstation 3 (PS3) has given the Blu-ray format an edge.  In both cases, this gives the Blu-ray format a considerable edge in visibility and perceived superiority through greater presence.

However, the HD-DVD camp remains un-phased and still touts their lower price as an advantage over BD players.  At an average price of $200 ~ $400 lower than the BD players, the HD-DVD camp is banking that the consumer will be swayed by price over visibility.  With advances and greater confidence in online shopping, consumers are savvier bargain hunters for the products they want.

Another major force in the format war is the adult video (Porn) industry.  The porn industry is widely credited with helping the VHS format defeat the Sony Beta format in the early 80’s and they look to be a major player once again.  However, both sides are quietly garnering support in the industry as the topic of porn is still a social stigmatism in the general public consciousness.  However, within North America, HD-DVD appears to be the format of choice for the porn industry while Blu-ray has gained favor with the producers of porn in Japan.

So just as in tennis, HD-DVD and Blu-ray are hitting the ball in their opponents court waiting to see who will falter and who will eventually come out on top.  This holiday season should provide a lot of answers, but the consumer seems to be a bit timid to make the wrong decision and be stuck with the loosing format in the end.  Just as the consumer will ultimately decide the winner of the format war, the more they hesitate, the more likely a third choice will evolve leaving both HD-DVD and Blu-ray on the sidelines.

Is Blu-ray Getting in Bed with the Adult Porn Industry

Sony certainly has fresh in their memory their failure with the Beta Max player against the VHS format in the early 80’s. During the VHS vs. Beta competition, the adult film industry (Porn), was credited with turning the tide in favor of VHS. Sony is embattled in another format war and they most definitely do not want a repeat outcome in the Blu-ray vs. HD-DVD format. Once again, the adult industry looks to play a major role in the outcome.

Sony decided to focus on family programming and an alliance with the Disney Corporation over the adult industry. Disney will not allow any replication company they work with to do business with any porn content, thus protecting their family friendly image and preventing any accidental packaging of pornographic content with their family themed productions. Sony also has an anti-porn policy when it comes to replication at its facilities. So with that and the apparent lack of support for the adult filmmakers in filming and editing in the Blu-ray format, HD-DVD has become the format of choice amongst the adult industry.

HD-DVD replication is easier to convert from the standard DVD line, so it’s easier for the adult industry to find replication facilities willing to mass produce their titles. At the same time, the adult industry has received help from Microsoft and Toshiba (strong backers of the HD-DVD format) in production of films in the HD-DVD format. That has all lead to HD-DVD having a strong foothold in the adult market.

In Japan, the BD format is preferred over HD-DVD which was helped by the inclusion of a BD player in the PS3 gaming consoles. Because of this, the Japanese porn industry is leaning toward the BD format. Since Sony DADC, Sony’s disc replicating subsidiary, is not allowed to replicate porn, the Japanese adult industry may have been forced to use HD-DVD just like their American counterparts.

Sony, most likely trying not to make the same mistake twice, has found a loop hole in their moral stance against replicating pornographic material by allowing a Taiwanese company access to the BD replication equipment. The Taiwanese company, not constrained by rules of the BD replication plants in North America and Japan, is able to take orders for adult films to be produced on BD discs. In addition, Sony has also made technical assistance available to the Japanese adult video makers stating that they are happy to provide assistance to all film makers.

So despite any previous public stance against adult video, Sony seems to be condoning the production porn on BD discs which may help them greatly in the current format war. Since the American adult industry has not produced as many HD-DVD titles as once promised, it looks as though the door in open there as well for the BD format to step in and take over the market. With so much to gain and also so much to loose, both formats are finding that they have to play on both sides of the moral fence if they want to succeed in this business. In the end, the adult industry proved that if you want to succeed in the home video format, you’ll have to get in bed with them eventually.