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Eric Lam

Biz & Tech Editor

As the nerd community has already discovered (and spent nights shedding geeky tears for), the parent production companies of those two most venerable of sci-fi cash cows, Star Wars (20th Century Fox) and Star Trek (Paramount) have chosen opposing sides in the brewing Blu-Ray versus HD-DVD format war.

It’s a hard decision for the geeks out there, but the industry might have already decided for them. Warner Bros., which had kept up compatibility with both formats, announced last month it would drop its support of the HD-DVD format by June 2008.

Industry insiders expect this development to send HD-DVD to the same watery grave as Betamax. So Paramount will either start releasing Star Trek in Blu-Ray, or Trekkies will lose out on seeing the individual hairs on William Shatner’s toupee.

I’m not a big fan of either so I’m not losing any sleep, but frankly it isn’t fair forcing anybody — especially broke students — to commit to a format.

Considering that a hi-def DVD player can cost more than $400, and that’s a bigger investment than marriage.

Either way, big name movie producers and computer manufacturers are picking sides, and you just know someone is going to be crying by the end.

Both formats use blue lasers — a narrower beam than the normal red — allowing the players to read smaller data packets on the discs.

This means big upgrades in video and audio quality, as well as space for more extra features and other goodies.

Blu-Ray has a higher disc capacity (upwards of 100 GB) and backing from Sony as well as 20th Century Fox, MGM, Miramax, Walt Disney, New Line, and Warner.

HD-DVD is cheaper to produce, meaning consumers can buy their movies for less than the $40-a-pop Blu-Ray DVDs go for on the market.

It also has the support of Toshiba and film companies Dreamworks, Paramount and Universal. Even Steve Jobs and Bill Gates have gotten into the act, with Apple picking Blu-Ray and Microsoft choosing HD-DVD.

But if you insist on arguing about this, don’t turn it into a Mac versus Windows debate. Then nobody wins. What this really means is, you’re going to have to make some hard decisions about what to keep on your video shelf.

If you’re a fan of the James Bond, Rocky or Terminator series (all in Blu-Ray) then forget about American Pie or Jurassic Park (HD-DVD). Like Animal House? HD-DVD. What about Spaceballs? Blu-Ray.

Meanwhile, I’ll be cheering on the underdog, CH-DVD. It’s the unheralded Chinese equivalent to HD-DVD, and last time I checked there are many more people in China than in North America or Japan.

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