VIDEO DISC DEVELOPERS ‘TALKING’
war that promises to make the VHS Vs BETA battle look like a brief lover’s tiff
may yet be averted. The formats concerned are the two rival digital video disc
(DVD) systems, that we’re being threatened with next year. They’ve been
developed by two multi-national manufacturing and entertainment groups; on one
side there’s Philips and Sony with their MMCD (multi-media CD) system, on the
other is the SD Alliance, headed by Toshiba and Time-Warner with the SD (super
density) system. Last month, at the recent IFA consumer electronic show in
Berlin the Philips-Sony consortium announced for the first time in public that
they were having ‘discussions’ about standardisation with the SD Alliance.
was prompted by a press release, issued on August 14th, by the influential
Computer Industry Technical Working Group, which repeated countless press
commentaries and widespread feeling throughout the industry, pointing out the
folly of developing two incompatible systems, that basically do the same job.
This time it seems they’ve taken notice, though how far these discussions will
go remains to be seen.
particular appear intractable, they’ve gone ahead and developed LSI (large
scale integration) microchips for their systems, though their partners Sony,
seem to be taking a more flexible approach and have not, as yet, committed
themselves to costly chip production. This was clear from the technical
presentations at the IFA show, with Philips demonstrating complete pre-production
MMCD players. Sony on the other hand were clearly still at the prototype stage,
with a player connected to a ‘breadboard’ processor module, the size of a
couple of large suitcases.
machines performed well, though the key demonstration was the dual-layer disc
technology developed by 3M/Scotch, where two recordings can be stacked on top
of one another on the same disc; the laser pickup head can jump between the two
layers by changing focus. The switch-over is seamless, with no visible
disturbance on screen, making it possible to have continuous playback lasting
up to 270 minutes. Dual layer discs also have a number of other applications,
including two-format games, or a movie on one layer, with the soundtrack, or
accompanying computer game on the other. MMCD discs will also have the capacity
to handle 3-language stereo soundtracks and up to 32 subtitle tracks.
the SD Alliance also made a series of announcements at the IFA. They remain
bullish about the prospect of their system prevailing and repeated the
assertion that they would launch a product by 1996, whatever the outcome of the
discussions with the MMCD group. Time-Warner confirmed that at least 250 of
their titles would be available from day-one, and that discs pressed for the US
(NTSC) market would have Dolby AC-3 soundtracks. PAL standard disks would have
an as yet unspecified MPEG soundtrack solution, which could include AC-3
formatted recordings or matrix surround. They also cleared up a few technical
points; this included the proposition that all SD players would be able to
replay up to six different types of multi-layer discs in the SD family, and
that decks with recording facilities wouldn’t be a viable option for some time,
not for any technical reasons, but due to the difficulties with copyright
protection and spoiler systems, to prevent copying or ‘cloning’ digital
systems are now close to production and offer comparable near-broadcast quality
pictures and multi-channel digital audio from a 12cm CD-sized disc. They both
have sufficient capacity for two full-length movies; both systems promise
backwards compatibility with audio-only CDs, and recording facilities at some
unspecified point in the future. Over the past year or so they’ve drawn closer
together, to the point where it would be difficult for most consumers to tell
them apart. Clearly if it came to a head-to-head battle in the high street only
one system will survive, probably the one with the best software support,
though the buying public could just as easily give both of them the thumbs-down
as without a recording facility neither of them offer any tangible benefit over
and above what is already available from VHS. Will good sense prevail? Watch
LCD CAM FROM
are the latest manufacturer to introduce a camcorder with a built-in LCD
monitor screen, and it was shown for the first time at the IFA show in Berlin.
It’s the NV-V10, due to reach the UK in October, priced at £900. This smart-looking
VHS-C machine has a similar layout to Sony’s VX-series models, with the screen mounted
on the left side of the camera body. It folds out, to face the user, and can be
flipped through 180 degrees, so that the subject can see themselves, whilst
recording. The screen in question measures 4-inches across (diagonally) and has
a 112k pixel display. A newly-developed silicate coating helps reduce
reflections so playback can be viewed in daylight (it helps prevent a build-up
of ugly-looking finger marks as well), the machine also has a conventional black
and white viewfinder. The rest of the features include:
* 10x zoom/wide-angle
program AE (sports, portrait and twilight)
anti ground-shooting mode
* 1.4 lux
camcorder making its European debut at the IFA show was the NV-S99, a Super
VHS-C palmcorder with a colour LCD viewfinder. The S99 is based on the current S90
model, though there have been a number of changes, including new control layout
and a 20x zoom/wide-angle lens. At the time of writing it was unclear whether
or not this model would be sold in the UK, but it’s due to go on sale in Germany
this month, priced at around £2,000.
a new family of video cameras and recording systems at the IFA show in Berlin.
The most unusual one is the Digital Palm-Size Video Camera. It looks like a
sub-miniature version of their 8mm and Hi8 camcorders, but instead of tape it
records up to 30 minutes of moving video on a 400 megabyte ‘flash’ memory. It’s
not meant to compete with conventional tape-based recording systems, instead it’s
targeted at computer-based multi-media and commercial applications, where shorter
recording times and reduced image quality are not a problem, it weighs just 350 grams.
VM-H100L is a Hi8 combo with detachable camera module, which, like their ViewCam
camcorder features an electronic stabiliser, and the camera section is
waterproof to a depth of up to one metre. The deck portion, which can be slung
over the user’s shoulder, or worn on a belt, consists of a Hi8 deck with a
built-in 4-inch LCD colour monitor. The system can be used with an optional
modem, to send and receive images over normal telephone lines.
there’s the VK-C32E, a palm-sized video camera . It’s also styled to look like
a camcorder, but without a viewfinder. It’s powered by four alkaline batteries
and the main features include auto iris and white balance and macro focusing down
to 12cm. Applications include making video movies, when connected to a VCR, or
for the growing number of multi-media applications.
Video Camera is still in prototype form, so we can’t even begin to guess the
price or launch date. The memory module alone must cost a small fortune; based
on the current price of mass-produced RAM memory that part alone would come to
something like £12000, the flash memory used in this device is a lot dearer! The
other two products are a lot closer, and we hope more affordable, but Hitachi
are playing them close to their chest and won’t even speculate if we’ll ever
see them in Europe or not, let alone how much they’ll cost, so you’ll just have
to keep watching this space.
German-based AV and cellphone accessories company were on home ground when they
used the IFA show to launch a number of new products. Two of the most
interesting ones are the Video Centre 320, and the Easy Cut edit controller.
The 320 is based on the Videocut 22 edit controller, reviewed in the XXXX issue.
In addition to the editing facilities it has a powerful set of AV processing functions,
including a 3-channel stereo mixer, RGB colour adjustment, saturation,
brightness, and contrast controls, plus a range of scroll, wipe, mix and fade
transition effects. Like the 222 it also has a sophisticated titler, which can
be used with an optional keyboard. A
formidable looking piece of post production equipment, it should be coming to
the UK in the next couple of months; the projected selling price will be around
will be Hama’s entry-level edit controller. It’s a simple to use, no-nonsense
192-scene controller with additional video and audio functions. Easy Cut is
actually part of a family of simple mixers and processors. All they’ll say at
the moment though, is they they’ll be competitively priced, and available soon.
Ó R. Maybury 1995 2908