VUDU Ups the Ante

The online movie rental business is quickly stepping up and offering high-quality stuff. The latest move comes from VUDU, a provider of Internet-delivered entertainment to consumer's HDTVs and home theaters. VUDU has announced 1080p"'HDX" rentals. VUDU says that HDX offers twice the resolution of existing Internet HD content. The best part is that they won't cost extra. HDX rental fees will be the same as current HD rentals. HDX is VUDU's new tier of video quality for on-demand rental. VUDU manages to deliver the content in 1080p 24 using its proprietary TruFilm compression technology.

The catch, of course, is that even with awesome compression tricks, high-def content takes a while to squeeze its way through the plumbing to arrive at your house. You might have to wait 3 or 4 hours before you can start viewing. So, you'll need to order the HDX film in the afternoon before your evening viewing. VUDU has compiled a library of more than 50 films available now in the HDX format and will be offering every HD title released on VUDU in the new format. VUDU will also be encoding into HDX many of the HD movies in the existing VUDU catalog. Initially, HDX content will only be available for rental (not purchase).

The gory details . . .

HDX is a video format that enables the viewing of Internet-delivered movie content in full High Definition 1080p format and is optimized for 40-inch and larger HDTVs. HDX delivers twice the quality available from any Internet, or broadcast on-demand service, accompanied by high-resolution sound - and at a 40% higher bit-rate than standard surround sound DVD's.

TruFilm technology is at the core of the HDX's picture quality. TruFilm technology optimizes the encoding, transmission, and display of HDX movies using the following technologies:

* Psychovisual Processing - Improves picture quality by enhancing details in dark areas of the picture, virtually removing the dark area artifacts typical of Internet movies.

* Film Grain Preservation - Improves the cinematic experience by ensuring that the displayed picture remains true to the fine optical texture of the original film.

* Statistical Variable Bitrate - Ensures optimal video quality throughout the film by allocating a higher encoding budget to high detail and high motion segments of the film, while preserving the ability to stream it over the Internet.

* Color Gradient Processing - A unique technology used to tune the picture for optimal display on modern LCD and Plasma televisions.

HDX movies are available for rent at the same price as VUDU's instant HD movies. Consumers can order HDX movies online from the VUDU site with delivery times expected to take a few hours, depending on content. VUDU will continue to offer HD titles in both HDX and instant HD formats, affording consumers the choice of ordering ahead the highest available quality movie or renting HD movies that are delivered instantly to their TV. -Ken C. Pohlmann