Dvd Is A Digital Goliath
Thursday February 2, 1995
EIGHT of the world's leading consumer electronics software and entertainment companies this week proposed a new digital video disc that with the potential to deliver a totally new home-movie experience.
The proposed new system is called Digital Video Disc (DVD) and features a double-sided 12 centimetre diameter disc (the same size as existing CDs) with the capacity to store the pictures and soundtracks of two full-length feature films.
The announcement, by Nimbus Technology and Engineering (NTE), follows close on the heels of a separate proposal in December for a new single-sided ``super CD" format with potentially similar applications, by Philips and Sony, co-developers of the current compact disc (CD) digital audio system introduced just over a decade ago.
Although similar in appearance to a conventional single-sided CD, the proposed new double-sided DVD offers the largest digital storage capacity of any optical disc system.
Each digital video disc can store up to five Gigabytes (GB) of data (five billion characters) on each side, or a total of 10GB . . .
approximately 15 times the capacity of a standard CD.
In perhaps more down-to-earth terms, the capacity of one of these new digital video discs is about equal to that of 6900 high-density 3.5-inch floppy discs, or wait for it the amount of information printed on a stack of office paper twice as tall as the Empire State Building!
Nimbus Technology and Engineering (NTE) is a privately owned company formed out of the Nimbus Records organisation which has built and run CD manufacturing plants in the UK and US since 1984. NTE says it has been working with Toshiba and WEA Manufacturing Incorporated for seven months to develop the mastering systems needed for a new format. WEA is the manufacturing arm of Time Warner, which is a co-proposer with Toshiba in the Toshiba/Time Warner Digital Video Disc Standard.
NTE says its production mastering equipment is able to cut masters (the originals from which discs are moulded for distribution) with the proposed track pitch of 0.725 microns, or 1379 tracks per millimetre, while maintaining the high yield expected in normal production. In other words, the company is not talking about prototyping in laboratories. In fact, NTE says the first upgraded Laser Beam Recorder will be installed in the US next month. DVD will use red lasers, compared with the longer wavelength, infra-red lasers employed in the current CD system.
Test discs were also made by Toshiba-EMI, Matsushita and Pioneer and samples were played as part of the demonstration of the new format in Los Angeles on 24 January.
NTE says companies participating in the proposal include Toshiba Corporation, Time Warner Incorporated, Matsushita Electrical Industrial Co. Ltd, (Panasonic, Technics, Quasar), Thomson Consumer Electronics SA, Hitachi, Pioneer Electronic Corporation, MCA INC., and MGM/UA.
According to NTE, that group of companies will develop and market the proposed new Digital Video Disc format and pave the way for its introduction in 1996. The technology will be available to all interested hardware and software firms worldwide. NTE said additional support has been announced by Victor Company of Japan (JVC), Mitsubishi Electric Corporation, Nippon Columbia (Denon), and Turner Home Entertainment.
Perhaps topping the list of criteria for any new format is data storage capacity and cost. Software companies would almost certainly require the quality of picture reproduction to be equivalent to, or better than that currently available on laser video discs.
These demands require average data transfer rates close to five Megabits per second for the image and accompanying soundtrack of a 135-minute movie on one side of the disc, in the proposed DVD standard. A secondary use of broadcast programs includes average data transfer at rates around nine Megabits per second, with playing times of 74 minutes per side.
The eight companies involved in the historic announcement in Los Angeles are satisfied the proposed DVD format meets or exceeds all requirements proposed last September by the Hollywood Digital Video Disc Advisory Group, an ad hoc committee of major motion picture studios that recommended a voluntary, industry-wide feature set for digital video discs, NTE said.
MGM President Frank Mansuso said the movie industry sold 600 million video cassettes last year in the US, which gave some idea of the consumer appetite for collecting films. ``As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of cinema, it's fitting that the consumer electronics industry and Hollywood have joined forces to usher in a Golden Age of home movie viewing."