Microsoft Looks to Grow HD DVD Title Catalog

Microsoft is beginning to throw its weight around in the HD DVD/Blu-ray battle, announcing Monday it had teamed with Amazon.com to bring independent films to the format.

The two companies provide the filmmakers of up to 1,000 titles free authoring and setup services to allow their movies to be distributed in HD DVD. The service will be spearheaded by CustomFlix, an Amazon company.

CustomFlix's technology allows for the production of discs only as they are ordered. This offers significant benefits to low-budget filmmakers, as they do not need to invest a large amount of initial money to have discs produced.

Typically, setup and authoring for HD DVD discs costs $499 USD. Being accepted into the Microsoft program covers that cost, although the company said any required artwork results in additional fees that the filmmaker is responsible for.

HD DVD benefits from this because it can scale its catalog quickly without much effort on its own part. Currently the format suffers from a lack of studio support, and adding independents to the mix could potentially solve that problem.

One of the first to use the program is the Sundance Channel, which said it plans to offer its Big Ideas for a Small Planet eco-series.

"Programs like this one from Amazon lower barriers to entry for independent artists and provide audiences with increased access to high-quality, high-definition content," Sundance Channel programming head Christian Vesper said in prepared remarks.

Other filmmakers may submit their work through the CustomFlix Web site, from which both companies will select the 1,000 best works for distribution. From there, the discs will be sold on Amazon.com.

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