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HD DVD Coming Very Soon 594

x mani x writes "While the DVD Forum continues quibbling over a new blue-laser based HD-DVD standard, it looks like Microsoft has been busy developing a new video compression method that can show high quality HD video at bitrates similar to current DVD's (between 5-8mbps). Proof, you say? Check out some stunning samples of this cutting edge technology. Myself and many others have watched it and most of us feel this is significantly better looking than MPEG-4/DivX HD video of the same bitrate. This technology is causing some excitement, as the T2: Extreme Edition DVD package will include a DVD containing T2 in HD, compressed with this technology. Anyone with a fast PC will be able to watch T2 in high def, no pricey blue laser player required."
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HD DVD Coming Very Soon

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  • by repetty ( 260322 ) on Friday April 11, 2003 @05:21AM (#5708982) Homepage
    "We're sorry. This Windows Media 9 Series content is only available to be viewed using Internet Explorer." ...but I guess I won't.

  • Obviously (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JanusFury ( 452699 ) <kevin,gadd&gmail,com> on Friday April 11, 2003 @05:23AM (#5708984) Homepage Journal
    Obviously this is a reason for them to port their codecs to linux; for use in HD-DVD players and set top boxes. I like the idea of being able to play HD content with the same DVD drive I have now, and just needing new software.
  • Patent issues (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Alain Williams ( 2972 ) <addw@phcomp.co.uk> on Friday April 11, 2003 @05:24AM (#5708986) Homepage
    What sort of patents will be on the technology I wonder, just to stop me being able to use it on my non M$ box ?
  • Format mania (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 6hill ( 535468 ) on Friday April 11, 2003 @05:37AM (#5709020)
    So now there are two proposals for new blue-laser formats and one for an enhanced version of the current red-laser DVD, and then Microsoft adds its fingers to the pie with this new thing. I had hoped HD-DVD would not be another format debacle (Betamax/VHS, DVD-/+RW, etc.) but it seems it's going to be even worse than usual

    My other worry is that the proposed HD-DVD standards are baby steps, too small to make upgrading for me cost-effective. Why add to the storage capacity of DVDs one magnitude, when you could wait two years and possibly (probably?) get a media format that will increase your storage capacity a thousandfold. Or as a pipe dream, eliminate overlapping media formats -- I'd have no need for DVDs if I could buy digital copies of what is now put on separate DVD disks, and store that content on my hard drive. Same for music CDs. It would save an awful lot of shelf space and eliminate the need to buy n separate players for n separate storage media. But of course, these things have always been geared to maximise company profits and not consumer satisfaction. Shame.

  • Re:What's the point? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 11, 2003 @05:39AM (#5709026)
    BTW.. No, you don't. You are *allowed* to make a backup, if you can. If you can't, you can't complain to anyone that this deprives you of a backup copy. The recent changes to copyright law further limit "being able to create a copy" to cases where you don't have to circumvent copy protection mechanisms to create a copy.
  • by Max Romantschuk ( 132276 ) <max@romantschuk.fi> on Friday April 11, 2003 @05:53AM (#5709073) Homepage
    That's great and all, but how are they getting this quality? Was T2 filmed in digital?

    Nope, I doubt it was. What they prabably are saying is that the analog masters have been retransferred into a digital format. Analog masters can have great quality and (in theory) infinite dynamic range. The resulting quality of the digital version is all about the conversion. With a better conversion a better digital version can be produced.

    My guess, anyway.
  • by Samir Gupta ( 623651 ) on Friday April 11, 2003 @05:53AM (#5709075) Homepage
    There needs to be a standard for uncompressed digital video, so devices such as video game consoles, or DVD players that play new compressed formats like this MS thing can output a direct digital stream to the TV, without having to convert to analog first. In other words, a consumer electronics version of DVI, or (HD) SDI.

    Currently, all consumer digital video standards involve compression, which is the natural choice, if your source is already compressed, such as a DVD or satellite stream. BUT, if you're generating video/graphics on the fly -- OR as in the HD-DVD scenario, if you've already decompressed your video from some proprietary codec, it's senseless to (re)compress on the fly (introducing lossiness) and then decompress it again in the set.

    Until such a AV interconnect standard is finalized, this MS DVD initiative will remain the province of PCs only, and those with non-PC based home theatre setups (read: the vast majority) will be left out.
  • Re:What's the point? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by oliverthered ( 187439 ) <oliverthered@h[ ]ail.com ['otm' in gap]> on Friday April 11, 2003 @05:54AM (#5709080) Journal
    and DVDs?
    2 films on vhs = £5-£10,
    2 films on DVD = £15-£60
  • by dalangalma ( 514344 ) <dalangalma&numbera,com> on Friday April 11, 2003 @05:57AM (#5709091) Homepage
    They're porting WMP9 to linux and MacOS. Nice try.
  • Re:screw them (Score:2, Interesting)

    by anarxia ( 651289 ) on Friday April 11, 2003 @06:12AM (#5709141)
    This new format is not such a great idea now and it wont replace DVDs any time soon. The hardware players will be very expensive, judging from the processing power this new format requires. As for playing the videos on a PC (with Windows), 2GHz+ computers are the minority right now, so I doubt this format will become popular even as a computer-only video format in the next couple of years.
  • Re:screw them (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nbrazil ( 573177 ) on Friday April 11, 2003 @06:21AM (#5709157)
    Completely wrong. The CPU requirements here are for GENERAL PURPOSE processors. This is a far cry from the efficiency of a dedicated hardware codec. The first generation of x86 systems that could do good DVD playback in software were vastly more powerful in most ways than the chips in DVD players. Much more memory hungry, too, in that they had to run an application on a full feature OS rather than a tiny kernal pared down to just what was required for the intended task. A dedicated codec for playback of WM9 or comparable codec is going to be vastly cheaper in volume than the general purpose CPU needed to achieve the same playback in software. As it only needs to perform a very limited set of functions compared to a CPU for a desktop the requirements for transistor count and speed are immemnsely lower. There is no reason an entry level WM9 capable video player should retail for more than $250, barring features for the high home theater options. That price would drop rapidly if the sales reached any great volume.
  • by evilviper ( 135110 ) on Friday April 11, 2003 @06:40AM (#5709209) Journal
    Is anyone surprised? MPEG4 provides the same quality as DVDs (MPEG2)in a tiny fraction of the space. It's very surprising that the MPAA chose to come out with DVD using MPEG2 instead of MPEG4, since MPEG4 was already established. The same disbelief goes for the HDTV standard. They broadcast MPEG2, when they could broadcast MPEG4 and do many times more with a fraction of the bandwidth.

    In addition, I would suggest people take a good long look at VP3/Theora+Ogg Vorbis before accepting the Microsoft solution. VP3 provides better quality than MPEG4, and (like Vorbis) is completely free of patents, and the necessary software is already available under a BSD license.
  • by double_u_b ( 649587 ) on Friday April 11, 2003 @06:53AM (#5709238)
    Then, how do you transfer your CD to MP3 player???
  • Even the Mac... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Midnight Thunder ( 17205 ) on Friday April 11, 2003 @07:05AM (#5709277) Homepage Journal
    We have Internet Explorer here on the Mac, but that too is refused :( Maybe they should have said Windows Internet Explorer?
  • The Next Big Thing (Score:3, Interesting)

    by D.A. Zollinger ( 549301 ) on Friday April 11, 2003 @07:26AM (#5709343) Homepage Journal
    I can't help but think this might be the next big thing. Although it took about 10 minutes to download the 2 minute "liquid" trailer, and my computer stuttered a little bit, it reminds me alot of the days when MP3s where first introduced, and the majority of the computers of the day were just barely able to play them (today they can be played in the background, and don't take up much comparable processing power at all).

    Imagine if you will, when this becomes mainstream in the next year or two, and we are given a delivery medium that can offer this to us at "live viewing" delivery rates. With all of the media enhancements that modern computers and operating systems are focusing on, people may demand a lot more high quality content to be available to them. As well, with the FCC, broadcasters, content providers, and high definition television manufacturers all dragging their feet, they may find themselves missing out on a market that they once monopolized.
  • Re:What's the point? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by James_Duncan8181 ( 588316 ) on Friday April 11, 2003 @07:35AM (#5709378) Homepage
    As you and I live in the UK, we unfortunately have no fair rights. In fact the EUCD that is currently passing through Europe is actually harsher then the DMCA in some respects.

    The EUCD prevents all copying of encrypted material, and the posession of hard/software that enables you to do so. It does allow national governemts a list of exceptions that they can sign up for, but the choice of which of these to implement is entirely up to that goverment (this kept Denmark and other more civilized countries on board). However the UK government has only signed up to two of these, and so we currently have a situation where not only DeCSS is illegal, but also general security research into CSS!

    Just once, I really wish that the UK would avoid copying every infringement of civil libeties that happens across the pond...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 11, 2003 @08:00AM (#5709447)
    By installing the VCM (video compression manager)
    http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windows media/9ser ies/codecs/vcm.aspx

    I can play those demo videos in other players like BSplayer http://www.bsplayer.org/

    (I don't even have media player 9 (or 7 or 8) installed, only 6.4)

    Since the VCM codec is like 1k in size, it won't take long to reverse engineer (ahem! emulate), at least for playback.

  • Re:Not supported... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nutshell42 ( 557890 ) on Friday April 11, 2003 @08:07AM (#5709465) Journal
    AFAIS it is Windows Media 9 - of course it is supported by MPlayer:

    Selected video codec: [wmv9dmo] vfm:dmo (Windows Media Video 9 DMO)


  • by telecaster ( 468063 ) on Friday April 11, 2003 @08:29AM (#5709571)
    I'm so sick of Microsoft...

    I've had it.

    I did the same thing I went to the link and "blammo", no can view. I'm using Mozilla 1.3b.

    Here's my main issue with Microsoft, and my opinion comes from someone who's made a lot of money writing Windows code and who up until 2000, was someone who had mainly done ALL development on Microsoft platforms.

    My main issue simply this: Microsoft is not the best anymore. Thier products are at best "mediocre". There was once a time where I felt that IE was a supperior browser, Outlook was the only mail client to use and that ASP/COM and ATL were the only solution for the server.

    Those days are long gone.

    The playing field has all changed because things have clearly gotten better in the open source realm.

    Mozilla, in my opinion, is now a browser that is faster and more reliable than IE, and PHP with Apache is clearly a more secure and cost effective solution than ASP and IIS.

    Microsoft has to wake-up, they are trying to "AOL everyone" into their little world on the desktop by restricting the user and making life difficult for the user who wants "choice" or is on the "fringe" and not running 100% microsoft products.

    I don't really like to get into the MS vs. Linux thing because I like to solve problems by using the best solution available. But lately, I'm realizing that Microsoft is becoming a choice that I can't recommend. It's really now down to one single application that is holding people back from running another desktop: Office.
    Once there is a viable mainstream office solution that "works" and is free. It's lights out in Redmond. I really can't think of anything else on the Desktop that is holding people back from using the Mac (which actually has Office but its like $500 dollars) or choosing Linux -- there is really nothing compelling about Windows anymore.

  • by Chuck_McDevitt ( 665265 ) on Friday April 11, 2003 @08:38AM (#5709614) Homepage
    Microsoft has done a great job on this compression algorithm, it definitely works better than MPEG4. But I really don't want to see red laser disks become the standard HD DVD, and I don't want to see format wars. Even with the best compression, red laser disks just don't have enough bandwidth. Sure, you can do 720p, and it looks pretty good, but it has far more artifacts than HDTV. Do we really want an HD DVD format that isn't as good a picture as TV? Blue laser disks have plenty of space. It's easy to put an MPEG2 compresses 720p or 1080p24 movie on a disk, without overdoing the compression. Right now, Sony's Blue-Ray seems like the most likely to be a standard for this. And it records as well as plays. And with better compression algorithms, you could fit even higher res movies on a blue laser disk (1080p60? 2160p24?) in the future. Format wars are a bad thing. Support one and only one HD DVD format. And if you want that to be the best, it needs to be blue laser.
  • Re:Obviously (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rjw57 ( 532004 ) <richwareham.users@sourceforge@net> on Friday April 11, 2003 @08:47AM (#5709645) Homepage Journal
    Well xine [sf.net] plays these files just fine using native ffmpeg codecs... no porting required it seems.
  • As a MS employee from the WM9 team stated, MS holds many MPEG-4 patents and played a large role in developing the technology several years ago. In fact they built on the knowledge from MPEG-4 to develop this new codec. They feel this new codec is demonstrably better than MPEG-4, and encourage people to do their own tests and make qualitative and quantitative comparisons, as of course they are biased having developed the codec.

    Reading AVSForum posts, some of the authorities on that site have done their own tests and seem to agree with the MS guys. Looks to me like the WM9 codec is almost a big a step over MPEG-4 as MPEG-2 was to MPEG-4.

    Instead of posting assertions, why dont you do your own tests and make your own conclusion. This is Slashdot right? I'm sure you, and nearly everyone else here, have the know-how to encode video with competing codecs and make your own comparisons. Just a thought, before everyone gets on their anti-MS high horse.
  • by JWW ( 79176 ) on Friday April 11, 2003 @09:25AM (#5709862)
    Amen, brother.

    I would be a lot less anti-Microsoft if they actually put forth any effort at all to be compatible and/or interoperate with other OSes. I too am sick to death of the, "if you want to do this you have to run Windows" crap.

  • by unitron ( 5733 ) on Friday April 11, 2003 @09:36AM (#5709925) Homepage Journal
    The new Cringely [pbs.org] starts out talking about getting his dog analysed by a pet psychic, works its way through some stuff about Google and Tivo and then winds up talking about how MS is trying to kill off "...the new standards-based Advanced Video Codec (AVC),..." ("...sometimes called MPEG-4 part 10...") "... which was submitted in draft form to the ITU just last week,..." so as to get MS software into every next-generation DVD player. Well worth reading, but you gotta start with the part about the dog in order to get the last line.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 11, 2003 @10:25AM (#5710263)
    Fire up a packet sniffer and see for yourself.
    Media Player 9 only sends information to Microsoft to get CDDB data, and to automatically find codecs for video files that need one.

    If you are really paranoid there is a "privacy" tab in the options dialogue that allows you to disable that.
    I personally don't like WMP9, but thats because it displays weird aspect ratios for mpeg files. Not because of privacy concerns.
  • I see plenty of folks squawking about how red laser DVDs are untenable in the long run, regardless of the compression technology you use. The consensus among these naysayers seems to be: forget about trying to improve DVD, it's old and busted; wait for the new hotness of HD-DVD which will rock your socks.

    But guess what? In ten years, HD-DVD will be old hat too. Blue lasers or no, the compression algorithms defined in the standard will pale in comparison to whatever advanced video compression is available at the time. This is an unfortunate side-effect of progress -- we're so damned clever in the last 50 years that we keep shooting ourselves in the foot technologically.

    There is a sane answer: for the next generation of DVD, instead of locking ourselves into a single compression format from the beginning, why not design the standard to be extensible? The existing DVD standard already has a virtual machine instruction set for describing the interaction of menus and video segments. Why not take this idea a whole lot further and implement a domain-specific bytecode language that handles complex graphical operations, and is sufficiently powerful to code decompression algorithms?

    Since the language is specific to video decompression, vendors' DVD players could efficiently compile the bytecodes to whatever internal instruction set they use. This way, when you pop a blue-laser DVD into the drive, it will come with instructions on how to decode it. The format of the file containing the video and audio streams can be specified in the standard, but their content is left up to the DVD producer.

  • What you say shows that Microsoft wants Media Player 9 to be sneaky.

    There are ways of avoiding firewalls. If Microsoft wants sneakiness, then the software can tunnel information through an HTTP connection, once is has found that other ways are blocked.

    The biggest issue is not one thing that Microsoft is doing, but that Microsoft has shown that it intends to be adversarial towards the needs of its customers. Many people who know that Microsoft is adversarial don't realize the extent of the adversarial behavior. Here are two links:

    Lists of Microsoft Abuses:

    Overall abuses: Reasons to Avoid Microsoft [lugod.org]. (More than 200 in one year! From the Linux User's Group of Davis, California.)

    Abuses in one product: Windows XP Shows the Direction Microsoft is Going. [futurepower.net]

    For more than 20 years, I've been studying why and how companies destroy themselves. Microsoft is destroying itself, but the destruction is still hidden below the surface, so that most people with no technical education don't detect it.
  • by NanoGator ( 522640 ) on Friday April 11, 2003 @03:18PM (#5712560) Homepage Journal
    "I would be a lot less anti-Microsoft if they actually put forth any effort at all to be compatible and/or interoperate with other OSes. I too am sick to death of the, "if you want to do this you have to run Windows" crap."

    I'd be a lot less anti-Konqueror if they'd actually put forth any effort to be at all compatible and/or interoperate with other OSes. I'm sick to death of the, "if you want to do this you have to run Linux" crap.

    My website's broken with Konqueror and now I have to %@#$'ing install Linux to fix it.

"No, no, I don't mind being called the smartest man in the world. I just wish it wasn't this one." -- Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias, WATCHMEN