High-Def Discs and Tapes

Four of Hollywood's home-video heavies - DreamWorks, 20th Century Fox, Artisan Entertainment, and Universal Studios - have thrown their weight behind a format for distributing films in high-definition, the JVC-developed D-Theater variant of D-VHS. Studio execs indicated they'll begin releasing D-Theater tapes by the summer, starting with back-catalog action titles such as X-Men, Die Hard, and the Terminator series.

The catch is that only one D-VHS VCR model in the world so far can play those tapes, JVC's HM-DH30000U ($1,995). But since JVC, as developer of the VHS format, won a bruising format war against Sony's Betamax nearly 20 years ago, it's confident that other D-VHS manufacturers, like Mitsubishi, will soon make their machines compatible.

The star attraction for the studios is D-Theater's claimed ability to prevent unauthorized duplication of high-def content - they hope it'll be more secure than the vulnerable encryption scheme of standard DVD-Video. And since high-def DVD is still over the horizon, they also hope enough home theater fans are hungry enough for high-def now to return to tape on their terms.

"I think there is a demand for a format that shows true 1080i-format material on the high-definition TVs that are out there," commented a Fox senior VP, Peter Staddon. "We're looking at 2 million HDTV-ready households," added Steve Feldstein, also of Fox. "It's the high-end user, for the most part, who wants in on this."

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