Consumer Electronics Show, January 7, 1999

January 7, 11am
Using a new 61" ProScan HDTV, Thomson Consumer Electronics demonstrated a high-definition DVD that uses Divx technology to decode the fully encrypted digital signal coming from a special ProScan Divx-compatible DVD player. According to Thomson's Larry Pesce, "The beauty of our high-definition process is that the HD signal is never sent unencrypted to the display device."

The Divx technology involved does not appear to be player-related; the encrypted signal is passed from the player through a proprietary VSB port on the HDTV or HDTV receiver, and decoded there after being authorized to do so by the customer's "smart card."

When asked if this was intended to be yet another "pay-per-play-period" type of product, Thomson representatives were quite clear that there are no such plans at this time. Any hi-def Divx-encoded DVDs produced are intended to address Hollywood's concerns about releasing material in a hi-def format that can be copied in the digital domain.

Thomson claims their hi-def DVD offers in excess of one million pixels, which is far less than the over two million pixels needed for the highest-quality 1920x1080i HDTV format. Most likely, it will employ the less demanding 1280x1080i format used by Thomson's DirecTV partners for their HBO hi-def transmissions. Thomson claims that, using an average bit rate of 18 Mbps, a dual-layer, single-sided disc (9 GB) can hold a 133-minute movie.

How the introduction of HD Divx technology will play out with studios like Warner Bros. and Sony (Columbia/TriStar), which have been strong anti-Divx crusaders since their first 48-hour play period, remains to be seen. What's quite likely is the introduction of yet another competing technology and a further escalation of the DVD wars.