the deal with D-VHS?
By Jon Waterman
Some of you may have heard of D-VHS by now. Its a new home
entertainment format designed to play and record High Definition (HD)
content. What will this mean to everyone?
Well, for the most part, it seems like it will mean nothing. The
general public will be relatively oblivious to the existence of D-VHS.
However, those high-end consumers who love their movie quality will be
pleased with the format. Although I personally have not seen a side-by-side
demonstration between D-VHS and DVD, I have read from multiple sources
that D-VHS has superior quality in terms of video and audio. The
difference isnt as noticeable on smaller television sets, but on
larger sets it is clear.
Speaking of larger sets, anyone hoping to purchase a D-VHS deck will also
need HDTV. The HD tapes much be played on HD machinery. Because
of this, many people will be turned off. Around two million homes
have HDTV. People in those households will only need to spend around
$2000 for the D-VHS deck. I should mention that the units are in
stores now and have been for months. However, there is currently
only one type, JVC HM-DH30000U, that is compatible with D-Theater.
What is D-Theater? It is the new encryption and decryption technology
that makes this announcement worthwhile. Four major studios are
backing this format, due to the appearance of D-Theater. Those studios
are Fox, Dreamworks, Artisan and Universal. If you want to buy a
D-VHS deck, you will need a player that has D-Theater. If you dont,
you wont be able to play the D-VHS tapes the studios release.
Oh, and dont even think about dubbing them
The tapes themselves will be slow to arrive. The first titles will
be category titles that show off the audio and video capabilities of the
new format. Expect to see films such as X-Men, The Sound of Music,
Independence Day, U-571, Total Recall, Terminator 2, Galaxy Quest, Basic
Instinct, and Die Hard due somewhere around June. The movies will
cost anywhere from $30-50. These films have a whole lot of space
on them. They have the capability for several audio tracks, chapter
stops and regional coding. The studios have not decided to code
the movies yet, because D-VHS (with D-Theater) will be a North American
exclusive for now. Dont expect many features on the tapes,
because the studios dont want to bother with the expense, and they
also want to market the format on its picture and sound quality rather
than bonus features. Blank tapes, which are another selling point
for the format due to their recording capacities, sell for $20 each.
They can record up to four hours of HD content, or on lower speeds, can
record up to 50 hours of normal content.
Now that you have a basic rundown as to what D-VHS is all about, you probably
want to know how it will fit in to the grand scheme of things. Well,
its different. I doubt that many households will own a deck,
and I can virtually guarantee that D-VHS will not be the hip new thing
to have. However, if I had the money for all of that equipment,
I would buy one. The more HDTVs sold, the better. The sooner
HDTV is adopted, the sooner anamorphic widescreen becomes acceptable to
the public (but Ill save that for another editorial). It all
comes down to the simple fact that people will not want to shell out $2000
for a new deck, $1500 for a new TV and $40 dollars for each movie when
they can buy a DVD player for $200 or even $150, use their existing TV,
and get a wide selection of titles for around $20-25 each. The target
audience is video and audiophiles. They are counting on the same
people who bough laserdiscs to buy D-VHS. Id say that will
happen considering the quality that comes with the format.
However, there will be problems. D-VHS is exactly that: VHS
tape. Tapes will break. Tapes will be eaten by the machine.
Tapes will have creases causing video or audio glitches. Tapes will
have slower response times when skipping chapters. Tapes will have
DVD should not feel threatened by D-VHS. Yes, D-VHS provides superior
quality. But, the market is much smaller and specialized.
There is no plan to produce D-VHS for rental purposes. It seems
almost as if D-VHS is just prepping the consumers for HD-DVD. D-VHS
is acting as a buffer between the two DVD formats. For those of
you who dont know, HD-DVD is DVD what D-VHS is to VHS. The
quality will be greater than D-VHS and the information capabilities will
be greater than any other format as well. However, HD-DVD is not
expected to hit the market for another five to ten years.
Will D-VHS last? Perhaps. It is way too early in the game
to tell. It may turn out that D-VHS will turn the way of DIVX and
NUON (two DVD technologies that did not receive enough support and had
bad marketing strategies). I can see that happening, mostly because
of the cost. I can also see D-VHS easily finding the niche market
it needs to stay alive. Either way, dont expect to hear much
about D-VHS in the future.
Please email any questions to firstname.lastname@example.org