Studios Plan D-VHS 
Home Theater News DVD Hardware-Software News
Written by Jerry Del Colliano   
Thursday, 31 January 2002

Four Hollywood film studios have just announced their intention to release feature films on the high definition D-VHS platform. The studios have opted to release their films on an optional system within the D-VHS format, called D-Theater.

Created by JVC specifically for copyrighted, prerecorded content, D-Theater provides a state-of-the-art level of security demanded by content producers in the digital era. Artisan Entertainment, DreamWorks SKG, Twentieth Century Fox and Universal Studios are expected to release the first D-Theater titles in 2002. The support of these major content providers marks the next phase in the acceptance of high definition as the new standard for home entertainment and television viewing.

The big question is why the studios aren’t supporting the proposed HD-DVD format which would be backwards compatible with the 150,000,000 480i DVD players currently powering the home video market. Joe Kane, author of the Video Essentials video setup tool says “I have owned D-VHS for two years now and it can look fantastic but linear video sources are archaic at this point. HD-DVD formats could have been used instead of high def VHS with 720p HD video for those with HDTV systems as well as 480p for those with more traditional video systems.” When asked why the studios would lean towards a linear format like tape Kane suggested that they may have made the decision based on security however DVD offers far more options for copy protecting the material at any resolution.

D-VHS D-Theater software will be recorded in the HS mode at a 28 Mbps data rate, surpassing even the 19 Mbps ATSC standard for HDTV broadcasts. D-VHS’s 44 Gigabyte capacity per cassette makes it possible for software content providers to fit an entire feature-length HDTV movie on a single cassette. In addition, the D-Theater system ensures the protection of copyrighted digital content through a proprietary security system designed by JVC.

Technically, a D-VHS cassette has the maximum capacity to record and playback 4 hours of high definition television or more than 50 hours of standard definition television. JVC’s high definition recorder also gives consumers the flexibility to record and play back in analog VHS, Super VHS, Super VHS ET and digital D-VHS formats (HS, STD and LS3).

“It has always been our goal to provide consumers with the option to obtain the best picture quality in which to view our products, and the D-VHS D-Theater platform offers just that," said Steve Beeks, President, Artisan Entertainment. "This idea, combined with the ability to record hi-definition television and the option to view standard cassettes from a consumer's existing home library, makes this product very attractive.”

It is hard to say what Mr. Beeks is planning on recording in high def with a D-VHS machine because all but one DSS receiver we have encountered precludes you from recording DSS or terrestrial HDTV signals on a D-VHS machine.

“D-VHS is in a unique class different from DVD. This meets the videophiles highest quality expectations for an in-home experience," said Craig Kornblau, President, Universal Studios Home Video. "JVC's D-VHS D-Theater video recorder will allow consumers to play hi-def content which clearly differentiates it from a DVD player. It is the only hi-def option.”

Clearly, D-VHS isn’t a brand new format but its Hollywood support is certainly new. Its backwards compatibility to VHS could make sense for middle America but Home Theater enthusiasts have already adopted the DVD as their video standard. With viable options for both HD-DVD and DVD-R (heck I’ve got DVD-R in my Macintosh G4) you have to wonder what the real motivation for support of this format really is.







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