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Observations from the Dark Side of the DVD Industry

DVD industry insider tells all By Miles Weston
In this first column of a weekly series, storage industry veteran Miles Weston fills you in on the latest technology and behind-the-scenes wrangling in the DVD and removable storage arena. This week, Miles gives us a concise overview of the DVD landscape, leaving no ?R or ?RW unturned.

Lets get this out of the way quickly few burner manufacturers are making a lot of money even as the number of manufacturers and volumes swell. They all have dual formats. Cheap no-name and brand name manufacturers are moving rapidly to deliver higher speed products. The burners are cheap?getting cheaper. Your challenge is to always buy intelligently, taking into consideration manufacturers reputation, software bundles and commitment to customer support. Then focus on only using quality media, not the stuff that saves you a few cents.

And so the story ends?

Nope. Just when you thought life would settle down and you could focus on mastering your video software, the burner and media camps have set out to meet your insatiable appetite for capacity.

The great thing about going to CEATEC (a trade show held in Japan) is that you get to see all the newest and greatest fun techie toys. It took a lot of willpower to stay away from the do-everything cell phones that will be available in the Pacific Basin and Europe but we were on a mission: To focus on the future of DVD storage and video production.

The good news for readers is that within 12 months:
1. the burner and media manufacturers will be able to double the capacity of the recordable DVD discs giving us 8.5GB of capacity on a single side (currently to get more than 4.7GB on a disc double-sided media was used)

2. the new media will store four hours of DVD-quality video or 16 hours of VHS quality

3. the discs can be played by the majority of the players in use today

The bad news is:
1. it will require new DVD Burners

2. we will still have two formats (+/-) to contend with

3. neither side seems willing to compromise

For the sake of space we are going to divide the dual layer discussion into two parts burners and media.

Quick Background
After a lifespan of ten years, the CD-ROM finally got the facelift it required to take it into the next century when the standard for DVD was finally agreed upon in 1996.

The movie companies immediately saw a big CD as a way of stimulating the video market, producing better quality sound and pictures on a disc that costs considerably less to produce than a VHS tape. Using MPEG-2 video compression, the same system that is used for digital TV, satellite and cable transmissions, its quite possible to fit a full-length movie onto one side of a DVD. The picture quality is as good as live TV and the DVD-Video disc can carry multi-channel digital sound.

All writable DVD formats include a set of specifications that define a medias physical layer that enables the media to be read. The application layer specification deals with the content. Motion pictures are typically released on replicated ROM media (the physical layer) and authored using the DVD-Video format (the application layer).

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