HDTV DVD Finally On Horizon?

At the NAB show in Las Vegas, Sonic Solutions announced a technology partnership with Ravisent Technologies that is intended to bring high-definition DVD to content developers and consumers for the first time. Sonic says that the new format, called hDVD, expands DVD beyond standard-definition video to include any of the 18 ATSC video formats, including 1080i and 720p.

Ravisent claims its software-based high-definition MPEG encode/decode technology will provide secure generation and display of high-definition content with an Internet-enabled user interface, while Sonic's DVD Creator, DVD Fusion, and DVDit! authoring applications will be extended to support the high-resolution video streams. Sonic says that to take advantage of the higher-resolution and higher-bit-rate video material, they will extend the DVD multiplexing and formatting engine used in DVD Creator, DVD Fusion, and DVDit! to accept and author high-definition MPEG-2 video content. Sonic plans to ship hDVD-ready authoring systems in July 2000.

The companies describe the new format as an extension to DVD, claiming that "hDVD replaces standard-definition video with one or more of the high-definition MPEG-2 video formats specified by the Advanced Television Standards Committee (ATSC). With up to four times the resolution of standard DVD-Video titles, hDVD titles show off original film or video content with unprecedented realism."

Sonic's Christopher Kryzan states that "hDVD represents a major breakthrough for studios looking to begin deploying high-definition content today. Working with Ravisent, we have extended the DVD format to include the exceptional video quality of 1080i or 720p MPEG-2 HDTV content in our extensive line of authoring tools." Ravisent's Alan McCann adds that "this jointly developed technology will enable exciting new forms of entertainment for consumers. Basing hDVD on existing industry standards protects the digital investments of content producers and offers tremendous new business opportunities for programming distributors."