Industry News Roundup

"Stunning artifact-free picture quality" is the sort of promotional hype that always accompanies the release of any new video product. In the case of V Inc.'s new Bravo D1, it may be more than hot air. On May 9, the Fountain Valley, CA technology company announced the D1, described as the first DVD player equipped with MPEG-4 playback capability and a digital video interface. The D1 outputs both interlaced and progressive signals, and can scale its output to 480p/720p/1080i.

The player's "1:1 pixel mapping" circuitry and DVI connection are said to offer reference-quality images on plasma displays, LCD screens, DLP-, and DILA projectors. Playback compatibility includes DVD; DVD-R/+R; CD; CD-R/RW; MPEG-4 (simple and advanced simple profile level 5); DivX 4.x; 5.x; MPEG-2 and MPEG-1 compressed video formats; and Kodak's Picture CD. Audio decoding includes Dolby® Digital and MPEG-1 Layers 1, 2 and 3 (MP3). Slow layer transitions, the bane of older DVD players, have been almost completely eliminated with the Bravo D1, whose DVD drive and processor achieve 0.5-second layer changes. Price is an astounding $199.

Toshiba has announced success in creating a 36-Gigabyte dual-layer blue laser rewritable disk. Company scientists are presenting a paper on the development at the Optical Data Storage meeting, (May 10-14, Vancouver, BC). The company's goal is to attain 40GB capacity on each side of the disc using "DVD-type" technology. Sony has achieved 23GB on a single-layer Blu-ray disk, and Matsushita has achieved a dual-layer disk with 50GB. Ordinary DVDs have a capacity of approximately 4.7GB; Blu-ray is not compatible with normal DVDs.

On May 10, New York's Independent Film Channel announced the launch of a new video-on-demand service with programming unavailable elsewhere, including previously banned features and a "wide range of taboo films and documentaries." The new service, to be called "Uncensored," will be the "perfect new product for the VOD space because its content is only appropriate for VOD," according to Kathleen Dore, IFC president. "Frankly, these works have nowhere else to go," Dore told the Hollywood Reporter. Each "Uncensored" program will include a short introduction explaining why it was banned. Twenty hours of such programming will be made available to cable providers each month, with subscription fees to be determined. A new round of programs will be offered each month, and will reappear later in the year. IFC is a subsidiary of Rainbow Media Holdings, a division of Cablevision Systems Corp.

TiVo, Inc. has announced a plan to license its technology to makers of DVD players. According to a May 8 press release, TiVo will license consumer electronics makers to build devices with TiVo Basic, "a free service that will allow users to pause live TV shows and record programs by time and date." Machines built with TiVo technology would be upgradeable later to the full TiVo service, such as recording up to 80 hours of programs, or enabling automatic recording based on user preferences. The TiVo service costs $299 for a lifetime subscription or $13 month-by-month. Toshiba will be the first company out of the starting blocks with TiVo-enabled DVD players, to arrive at retailers later this year.

Videophile visitors to New York might want to put the Millenium Hilton on their list of attractions. The newly refurbished hotel in Manhattan's financial district features 570 Zenith digital plasma display panels (PDPs) in its rooms. The hotel was closed due to damage sustained in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and was reopened on Monday May 5 following an 18-month $30-million renovation. The Zenith installation makes the Millenium one of the first hotels in the US in which every room, including public venues, is equipped with flat-panel plasma displays.