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The Future of Digital Video

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One of the big questions in the digital video industry these days is "When will digital video overtake film?" Probably not anytime soon, but this sample chapter explores some of the up and coming technologies that will eventually help that happen.
This chapter is from the book

One of the big questions in the digital video industry these days is "When will digital video overtake film?" With George Lucas shooting the new Star Wars film, Episode 2, with a high definition digital video camera (Sony HDW-F900), it would seem that we are on the threshold. However, digital video technology still faces a lot of evolution ahead. Video resolution capability needs to get much better, and then computer processing power will need to get far faster to handle the higher data rates that go along with higher resolution video. Finally, digital projection quality needs to reach the level of film projection.

Once the technology is there, it will then take a considerable amount of time before all of this can be rolled out into your local theater. We will eventually watch movies at the theater via digital video projectors but it will not happen in the next few years.

In the meantime, digital video still is a remarkably capable technology for amateurs and professionals to both hone their filmmaking style and even make feature-length films. Consider this: The cost of a one-hour DV tape is ten dollars. The cost of one hour of 16mm film plus processing is more than $2,000; for 35mm film the cost is even higher. At these prices, DV is a better option for most amateur filmmakers.

You always have the option, if your film is good enough, to do a DV to film transfer. Spike Lee's recent film Bamboozled was shot mostly with three consumer Sony VX-1000 DV camcorders. He also shot the documentary The Original Kings of Comedy using DV camcorders.

About DVD

The most tangible high quality video distribution format appears to be recordable DVD, which is beginning to hit the market, and will eventually be as commonplace as the VHS VCR. While this won't equal 35mm projected film, it will provide a very high quality and convenient distribution format for independent filmmakers as well as families sharing their home videos.

DVD offers superior sound and video compared to the VHS format. DVD can resolve up to 525 lines of horizontal resolution while VHS resolves around 240. On the sound front, DVD allows for simple stereo sound, as well as 5.1 Digital Dolby or DTS sound (the latter two require a compatible sound system). With the right speakers DVD sound quality can rival or exceed anything you hear at your local movie theater (see Figure 3.1).

Figure 3.1 Consumer home theater packages are starting to become more common in your local electronics store. The Pioneer HTD-510DV is one example.

In addition to regular stereo sound, which will play back on anything, 5.1 Digital Dolby and 5.1 DTS sound are some of the more common DVD sound formats. To properly play back this format you need a receiver that decodes Digital Dolby or DTS signals. Also some DVD players come with onboard Digital Dolby decoders. On the hardware end you then need five regular speakers—two rear speakers, two front speakers, one center speaker (that sits in the middle between the two front speakers)—and finally a subwoofer, which can go anywhere (as low frequency sound waves are nondirectional). For a diagram of this, check out Figure 3.2.

However, you can record video with your VHS VCR, and current DVD players lack that ability. In the last few years, the only way you could create your own video that would be playable back on your DVD player was to author your own video CD (VCD).

Figure 3.2 Dolby and DTS 5.1 surround sound speaker systems include five satellite speakers and a subwoofer for more immersive sound.

VCDs have much lower image quality than DVDs and some DVD players will not even play them back. Creating VCDs requires a computer, a CD burner, special software, and a lot of time and patience. Considering the sub-VHS quality you end up with, VCD creation has understandably never become very popular. With the recent introduction of recordable DVD drives, you now have the ability to author your own high-quality DVDs. This technology should prove explosive for both the computer industry and the creative possibilities of the home user.

Eventually, set top DVD recorders will take the place of VCRs, but right now the prices are high, the models are few, and the reliability is untested (see Figure 3.3). So the first few waves of DVD recording products will mostly be for the computer.

Figure 3.3 Tomorrow's VCR, the Pioneer DVR2000 standalone DVD recorder is an example of what we might be recording our favorite TV shows on in the next few

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