15th Dec 2003

The Quality Of Dvd

The current format of choice for high-quality video is DVD, or Digital Video Disk. The 4.7Gb-a-side optical storage format has made it possible to store almost 150 minutes of compressed video, accompanied by high-quality, multichannel stereo audio, on each side of a standard disk.

And just as most new movies come out on DVD at the same time as they are released on VHS format, so most new PCs come with a DVD-ROM drive, as specified by the Microsoft/Intel PC99 specification.

The advantages of DVD to movie viewers are manifold, but compared with older tape formats — and even to the earlier optical disk types that have fallen by the wayside — quality is undoubtedly top of the list.

Because the information is stored in digital, rather than magnetic, format, you can watch a movie any number of times without degradation of image or sound.

And even though the information on a DVD is compressed to a factor of 10, the MPEG-2 algorithm removes only the elements that the eye is unlikely to miss. Another benefit of DVD is that the disks — half the thickness of the old CD-ROMs — can be stacked back-to-back, thereby doubling the capacity to 9.4Gb, or five hours of MPEG-2 video.

So, as long as a movie is not more than 250 minutes long, film-makers can print a widescreen version or include additional documentary features on the reverse.

A 16:9-ratio letterboxed film might look a little small on your 17in monitor, but it will be perfectly at home on a larger TV, big screen or projected on to a 1m screen.

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