updated 09:30 am EDT, Thu October 2, 2008
VUDU 1080p and HDX
VUDU upped its stakes in the online movie rental arena today by confirming a rumor and introducing some of the first 1080p online movie rentals. Labeled as HDX, the format is roughly twice as sharp as the 720p offered for most VUDU and Apple TV movies but attempts to avoid some of the compression artifacts that often crop up in attempting to shrink HD video to download-friendly sizes. A new algorithm known as TruFilm focuses the available bandwidth on rendering complex portions of the scene while reducing the data for simpler areas, producing what the company believes is a small video file without introducing visible color or resolution drops.
These movies will also keep full-quality 5.1-channel surround sound where available, VUDU adds.
HDX launches first with 65 movies that showcase the extra resolution of the new files, including The Chronicles of Riddick and Speed Racer. The company plans to keep 720p-level video for quicker downloads and will charge its existing rates of $4 and $6 per movie depending on their age. New movies added to the company's catalog will receive HDX as a matter of course and will be supplemented by back catalog upgrades over time.
In addition to its visual upgrade, the company also hopes to spur its business by applying a $200 movie credit to every new $300 VUDU Box purchased before the end of the year. Customers have to use all the credit before 2009 but effectively receive dozens of free rentals and TV shows before the end of the year.
VUDU to date has been one of the most recognized competitors in the media hub industry but has also had to struggle against either less expensive or all-in-one devices, including the lower-capacity but $80 less expensive Apple TV as well as standard-definition Netflix integration with devices from LG and Roku. Microsoft and Sony have also recently upgraded or planned to upgrade their video services with an upcoming Xbox 360 Netflix feature as well as Sony's already-running PS3 video store.