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What is the Holographic Versatile Disc (HVD)? What Makes it Superior?

Holographic Versatile Disc

Last updated on April 4th, 2024 at 02:54 pm

A Holographic Versatile Disc (HVD) resembles a CD or DVD. What makes it stand out is its storage capacity on a single disc.

According to the book Light and Optics by Kyle Kirkland, the HVD would have the capacity to store 200 movies on a single disc.

In other words, the HVD would have 200 times the storage capacity of a DVD with 40 times the disc’s transfer speed.

It had all the makings of a versatile disc that could beat DVD, HD-DVD, and Blu-ray. But sadly, it didn’t see the light of the day.

The HVD format received the backings of Panasonic and Fuji Photo. Hollywood also expressed interest. Why not? If the HVD idea bore fruit, an entire Digital Cinema movie could be conveniently fitted into a single disc.

Also, the cost per gigabyte of storage is lower compared to other storage mediums.

Archival Life Shortcoming

There were misgivings, though. Some doubted the longevity of the HVD for archival purposes. The organic dye on the disc may not withstand the test of time and high temperatures.

InPhase, however, predicted an archival life of 50 years. This falls short of the M-Disc, estimated to last 1000 years.

Also, a holographic storage medium is highly tolerant to dust, scratches, and any surface defect.

The HVD Technology

The HVD technology was researched and developed by Optware, a Japanese company. The idea was to employ a 3D holographic structure to record a huge amount of data on an optical disc.

Optware was also behind the development of the Holographic Versatile Card (HVC) that never saw the light of the day.

Double Laser

The technology involves two laser colors.

One laser will record data as “holographic-style interference patterns”.

The second layer will store formatting information. This would be useful for data retrieval, The file formatting method is similar to that of DVDs, CDs, and computer hard disks.

The lasers come with different wavelengths. This is so that they can be easily separated.

As for the HVD drives, they were developed by a Colorado-based company, InPhase Technologies, Inc.

Superior Storage Capacity

It was predicted that the HVD technology would use only 10 HVDs to store the text of the 29 million books in the US Library of Congress back in 2007.

According to the NASA Technical Reports Server, HVD has a potential storage capacity of 3.9TB of data.

That is the equivalent of the storage space of 20 Blu-ray discs.

Holographic Versatile Disc Price

The initial price of an HVD drive was expected to cost around USD 15,000.

The Holographic Versatile Disc price was expected to cost from USD120 to USD180. However, prices were expected to fall over time.

Holographic Versatile Disc and Drive Released

The above specs were what the Holographic Versatile Disc was capable was.

However, when the first version of HVD was released by InPhase in 2007 it fell short of the specs.

The HVD released could store 300GB per HVD. That’s the equivalent of the storage capacity of 27 mini-DV tapes.

According to InPhase, a 300-R Tapestry disc (300GB) can hold

  • 147,000,000 printed pages
  • 300,000 photos (1MB)
  • 30,00 X-rays (10 MB)
  • 2,310 hours of audio (.29 Mbps)
  • 44 hours of SD video (15Mbps)
  • 21 hours of HD video (30 Mbps)

InPhase, however, said in the future that capacity would be increased to 1.6TB, promising data transfer rates of up to 120MBps.

A Holographic Versatile Disc price for a 300 GB disc was set at $180. The InPhase Tapestry HVD drive cost $18000.

HVD, DVD and Blu-ray Compared

Here’s a general comparison between the three disc formats:

FeatureHolographic Versatile Disc (HVD)DVDBlu-ray
Storage Capacity (Estimated)Up to 10 TB (theoretical)4.7 GB (Single Layer) / 8.5 GB (Double Layer)25 GB (Single Layer) / 50 GB (Double Layer)
Resolution (Estimated)Up to 8K and beyond (theoretical)Up to 480p (Standard Definition)Up to 1080p (High Definition), some discs support 4K (Ultra High Definition)
Audio QualityUnknown (theoretical), potentially surpassing current standardsDolby Digital, DTSDolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio
Media TypeHolographic data storageOptical discOptical disc
Data Transfer Rate (Estimated)Extremely High (theoretical)Up to 1.3 MbpsUp to 54 Mbps
AvailabilityNot commercially available Widely AvailableWidely Available
Interactive FeaturesPotentially highly advanced with 3D capabilities (theoretical)Menus, Bonus FeaturesBDMV (more advanced)

End of the Road

As innovative as the Holographic Versatile Disc technology was, it didn’t take off.

A bone of contention was the transfer speed. At 20MBps, you can transfer about 9GB per hour. To fill up a 300GB disc, you would need 30 hours. No thanks.

After spending 9 years and USD 1 billion developing the HVD technology, InPhase closed shop in 2010.

It didn’t ship even a single product.


Light and Optics – Kyle Kirkland

The Filmmaker’s Handbook, by Steven Ascher

NASA Technical Reports Server (NTRS) 20110014534: Improve Data Mining and Knowledge Discovery through the use of MatLab

Digit Magazine October 2007

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