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AUDIOPHILE AUDITION - web magazine for music, audio & home theater

June 16, 2004

Real Networks Movie Download Service - Cable movie channel Starz and Real Networks will offer online movie download subscriptions allowing computer users with highspeed connections to download over 100 of the latest movies for a $12.95 monthly subscription. Called Starz Ticket on Real Movies, the resolution will be not quite as good as DVDs, the movies can only be seen on the computer on which they were downloaded, and they will have an expiration date (though not just 24 hours as with some other Internet services). The model for such movie downloading services is Apple’s iTunes Music Store. Some industry observers feel that before such services become practical for the average user there will have to be dramatic increases in bandwidth, hard drive space and processor power.

Cable Boxes Not Entirely Digital - The FCC has mandated that all TV cable boxes must now use FireWire connections as of this April. However, certain models of Scientific Atlanta’s HD boxes with FireWire connectors require cable subscribers to switch to analog connections (component, S-video or ((horrors!)) composite) to receive certain analog cable channel like CNN and CSPAN. And if the user has HD recording facility those programs cannot be recorded digitally .

Dolby Announces Dolby Digital Plus - which is a new multichannel audio format - so far for broadcast only - promising the same quality 5.1 programming at half the current data rate required for DD 5.1. (That's why most HDTV programs just have stereo sound.) Current 5.1 telecast programming is at 384kB rate and Digital Plus would allow 192kB with no quality loss. However, with hi-res, hi-def DVDs the data rate could be increased to 448kB or higher to match the HD image quality of either of the new HD-DVD formats. There will be some compatibility issues. It is felt Dolby made this move in view of competing with what Microsoft Windows Media 9 is promising for both higher-def audio and video images.

DualDisc Hybrid Approved - The DVD Forum has offically approved the dual-sided DVD/Compact Disc hybrid known as DualDisc. The idea is to offer both hi-res DVD-Audio and DVD-Video content on one side of the disc and a standard audio CD on the flip side. Even AAC audio files can be included on the discs. The new format will allow playing the disc on either a DVD player or CD player and should be of prime interest to fans of music and concert videos. It will be a shot in the arm to the DVD-A camp as well as providing the music market in general a single-inventory disc that offers all the media possibilities in one package.

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