Laserscans/DVD News

Rick Provine (
Thu, 15 Aug 1996 09:21:24 -0500

I recently discivered the online -email version of "Laserscans," formerly
of Billboard magazine. It offers articles and news on laserdisc, dvd and
related technologies. I have included an article on DVD below as an
example, and I recommend this publication to anyone with an interest in

>The biweekly "Laser Scans" column ran in "Billboard" magazine from 1989-1996
>and is now distributed online and through syndication. Email subscriptions
>are free. To subscribe or to inquire about advertising or syndication rights,
>email us at Permission is granted to retailers or
>individuals to reprint this newletter in its entirety and distribute it free
>of charge. DVD and Video CD news is in the second half of the issue; letters
>to the editor and classifieds are at the end.

>DVD News
>DVD VIDEO RECORDERS? MAYBE NEXT CENTURY...Over the next few years, as
>hardware manufacturers and movie studios attempt to establish DVD Video as a
>viable format, they will have to do so without the "recordable" feature so
>dear to the VCR owner's heart. Although there have been hints from many
>companies that recordable DVD (DVD-R) is coming soon, it will only be viable
>-- once the price comes down -- in terms of DVD-ROM for the personal computer
> As for DVD Video Recorders that can record movies or TV shows,
>will have to wait until well into the next decade. The problem? Recording a
>movie onto DVD is not the simple process it is with videotape. To fit a
>feature film onto one or two of the five-inch optical discs, MPEG-2 video
>compression is necessary, and that's not something that will be done at home
>in the near future (if ever).
> In the opinion of Jim Taylor, Videodiscovery's Director of Information
>Technology, "Recordable write-once DVD (DVD-R) will be available soon, will
>probably start out with recorders in the $4,000 range, and will drop in price
>quickly like CD-R did. These recorders will NOT be for use in the home as
>they will only record existing digital DVD data streams. They won't do MPEG-2
>compression, Dolby AC-3 encoding, and data premastering. 'Erasable'
>write-many DVD (DVD-RAM) will take a few years longer to show up. Until
>real-time MPEG-2 compression is available and drops a few orders of magnitude
>in price, recordable DVD for the home will not be practical or affordable for
>the average consumer. This most likely will not happen for at least five
>years." Videodiscovery, Inc. is a Seattle-based firm that develops multimedia
>education materials for science and math.
> Many potential DVD consumers may be erroneously expecting that
>they will
>soon "be able to plug a video source into a DVD recorder and create a
>recording with the same quality as the DVD Video discs they will be able to
>buy at retail and with the expectation of recording 133 minutes of a
>program," comments Geoff Tully, Technical Committe chairman for the OVDA
>(Optical Video Disc Assn.). That is an unlikely scenario. Tully observes that
>Pioneer has demonstrated a prototype DVD-R already, "but it is a bit-stream
>recorder with no video encoding."
> He adds that "a DVD Video Recorder capable of producing movie quality
>recordings would have to accomplish in a desktop box what now takes a few
>racks of equipment, at up to $2 million, to do. The final 'gotcha' is that
>making a VBR (Variable Bit Rate) MPEG-2 recording is currently a multi-pass
>process. The source material is run through the compression system at least
>twice, and in some systems not in real time per pass. And then there is the
>'authoring' pass to multiplex [combine] the audio and video bit streams and
>add the DVD control data. That's a lot of cost reduction, repackaging and
>process redesign before anything that I would call a DVD-Video Recorder sees
>the light of day."
> He adds, "Maybe there will be a product that we could refer to as
>a 'Video
>DVD Recorder' that uses a fixed bit-rate MPEG-1 or 2 compression and very
>little control coding, but even that will be quite a challenge" [variable
>rate (VBR) MPEG-2 is necessary for DVD Video's projected quality].
> Another factor is that, as Taylor noted above, most of the current
>speculation concerns write-once DVD-R. Comments Tully, "All of my VCRs have
>been erasable, and a DVD-Erasable format, while in the planning stages, is
>rather far away from being a product."
> Some consumers may have been fantasizing about making write-once
>DVD copies
>of existing DVD Video titles: in other words, copying already encoded movies
>straight from one DVD player to another. But that's also extremely unlikely,
>given the high probability that DVD players will carry some type of
>copy-protection chip. In addition, speculates Tully, "it [movie copying]
>might be prevented simply by not having a bit stream output jack on the
>DVD-Video player -- what purpose would having such an output jack serve? And,
>as a practical matter, why would this mythical consumer be doing that? The
>blank DVD-R is likely to be fairly expensive."
> He concludes, "Recordable DVD as a replacement for VHS and VCRs
>is, to my
>way of thinking, mostly a marketing sound bite. It may seem to imply a
>product strategy, but in fact does not demonstrate much depth of thinking."
>[Editor's note: In the last issue, we answered a reader's letter by saying
>that DVD "will be recordable soon, but we don't yet know what it will cost
>(ask again next year)." Geoff Tully and Jim Taylor immediately emailed us and
>clarified the situation. We appreciate their input.]

Rick E. Provine VOICE 804.924.7324
Media Librarian FAX 804.924.7468
Clemons Library University of Virginia