Three-Layer 51 GB HD DVD Apparently Approved by DVD Forum

News is only now leaking out that the three-layer, single sided format for HD DVD engineered by Toshiba was given the green light by the DVD Forum, official backer of HD DVD, on August 31. Though no statements were released by either party (the DVD Forum rarely makes public pronouncements), journalists including DVDTown's Henning Molbaek - who originally broke the news of 51 GB last January - had at least enough information yesterday to declare the format ready for production.

BetaNews has asked Toshiba for comment and verification on this matter, though we have not yet heard back.

The 51 GB derivative enables three layers to be bonded together within the same 0.6 mm substrate limitations as standard discs, with varying reflectivity for each layer that enables contents from buried layers to be revealed, even through the bonding material. Multi-layer bonding is not a novel process, though the reflectivity formula is. Engineers from Warner Bros. have filed patents for similar multi-layer bonding concepts including, according to patents, a four-layer process, though recent events lead to the conclusion that Warner isn't interested in exploiting its own intellectual property, at least presently.

What we're attempting to learn now, though, is what DVD Forum certification for 51 GB actually means - for instance, whether manufacturers whose devices bear the HD DVD logo must now produce players capable of reading this derivative format. When Toshiba's original specifications were released exactly one year ago today, they came with a warning that a disc produced to those specifications may not be playable in some HD DVD components.

At CES last January, Toshiba representatives passed out 51 GB disc samples to spectators, including several who didn't actually ask for them and didn't know what they were. In fact, some of the on-site reps themselves didn't actually know what they were. When reporters on the scene probed for answers as to whether 51 GB was playable in existing components, higher-level reps eventually had to concede that they could make no guarantees.

Another interesting bit of data that has yet to be confirmed is the actual marketing name of the 51 GB format, which would presumably be disclosed along with an official statement.

This news has been trickling down while yesterday the Los Angeles Times and Newsday reported that Warner Bros. was offered a cash amount by Toshiba to switch its format stance to neutral to HD DVD only. A report on the digital media blog Digital Bits cites inside sources as saying that report wasn't exactly clear: that Toshiba had made the offer to both Paramount and Warner Bros., and that Paramount was the only one that bit. Neither Paramount nor its parent company, Viacom, have ever confirmed receiving such a cash offer.

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