Coming Soon: High-Def Terminator

Computer geeks and sci-fi action thrillers go together like peanut butter and jelly. It's therefore no accident that the first-ever high definition DVD will feature Arnold Swarzenegger's monosyllabic cyborg on a disc playable on computers only.

That's the buzz on an upcoming release of Terminator 2: Judgment Day, due soon from Artisan Entertainment, Inc. The film has been previously released on VHS, laserdisc, DVD, and on D-VHS, the high-def videotape format, and has grossed more than $400 million in box-office and home video revenue, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The trick aspect of the new version is its use of Microsoft Windows Media to compress two hours of eye-popping HD visual effects and earthquaking surround sound onto one DVD. The June 3 release will be a bonus package, called "T2: Extreme DVD," with a remastered version of the standard DVD and a second disc with a high-definition DVD-ROM. The DVD-ROM disc will be playable only on PCs running Microsoft's latest version of its XP operating system, and is being hyped as offering "better picture detail than many HDTV broadcasts," according to the Times' Jon Healey. The latest theatrical installment of the Terminator series is due out this summer; the "Extreme DVD" will not only test the waters for PC-based high-def video, but will serve as a teaser for the new film.

Although Microsoft has failed in its attempts to establish itself as a media company, it does seem to have its tentacles in every technological development. The Judgement Day DVD-ROM will let Artisan Home Entertainment, as well as the entire entertainment industry, take "a look into the future of where the DVD format is going," according to company sales exec Jeffrey Fink.

Copy-protection issues and multiple playback standards are hampering studio efforts to bring out other titles as HD DVD-ROMS—in addition to an uncertain market. The DVD format is the most successful in the history of consumer electronics—but as with the compact disc, ordinary citizens haven't been clamoring for an improved version. Terminator 2, the Extreme DVD, may prove it's technically possible to squeeze a blockbuster film onto one disc, and that it has guaranteed appeal for computer-addicted video game fans, but it may not be a business plan for the mass market. Fewer than five percent of American homes are equipped to enjoy the full benefits of high-def video.