On April 13, Warner Bros. Home Video announced a program intended to introduce the DVD to a new generation of movie fans. WB will bundle DVD players and discs for video dealers to rent to their customers. "The rapid growth of DVD now makes rental a viable business opportunity for rental retailers," says Thomas Lesinski, Warner Home Video senior vice president for marketing.
Video on demand (VOD) inches ever nearer: Xing Technology and The Fantastic Corporation have announced a partnership intended to bring live and on-demand digital video streaming to high-bandwidth satellite, cable modem, and ADSL operators.
Lately, there's been a deafening buzz in the high-tech community: Developing digital networks for consumers' homes is going to be the Next Big Thing. There are some skeptics, but the clamor has caught the attention of every big computer company out there; everyone from Sun to Apple to Microsoft to IBM is getting in on the act. However, there hasn't been much noise from the consumer-electronics companies---until now.
Delays in tower construction could cause broadcasters in some big cities like New York and Chicago to miss their government-mandated May 1, 1999 deadline for initiating HDTV. The problem is this: The strength of terrestrially transmitted digital signals is dependent on the height of transmitting towers, and big-city broadcasters are having trouble finding the space to build them. "The rollout might be a little slower than anyone anticipated," said National Association of Broadcasters executive vice president Chuck Sherman at the NAB's annual convention in Las Vegas.
Digital Satellite System dish owners could soon be enjoying Dolby Digital surround sound. Next month, DSS dealers will start taking delivery on RCA's new DS5451 receiver. The new receiver will incorporate an optical Sony/Philips Digital Interface Format (S/PDIF) jack that sends a Dolby Digital signal to an appropriate surround decoder or A/V receiver.
According to Italian researchers, seizures caused by flashing video games and television shows can be minimized by using higher-frequency display rates. Such seizures affect about 10% of epilepsy sufferers between the ages of 7 and 19. In December, Pokomon, a popular Japanese television show with brightly flashing scenes, induced blackouts and epileptic seizures in more than 700 young victims, many of whom required hospitalization.
James Cromwell, Magda Szubanski. Animatronic creatures by Jim Henson's Creature Shop. Directed by Chris Noonan. Aspect ratio: 1.85:1. Dolby Surround. Two sides. 92 minutes. 1995. CLV. MCA Universal Home Video 42692. Rated G. $34.99.
TriStar Pictures and Columbia Pictures will soon be one big happy family, Sony Pictures Entertainment announced on March 31 in Culver City, CA. The two production companies, which were purchased separately by Sony in 1989, have been operated independently, except for a common marketing and distribution department. John Calley, Sony Pictures president, said it no longer made financial sense to have the two companies competing for the same projects.
In Shanghai, Titanic was available on Video Compact Disc last November, a month before it appeared in theaters in the United States. According to New York Times correspondent Seth Faison in a story dated March 28, illegally copied discs are flooding into China at the rate of half a million per day, primarily from Macau, a Portuguese colony near Hong Kong. China has no legal jurisdiction over Macau, which is not a signatory to the World Trade Organization's International Treaty on Intellectual Properties. Both the US and China signed the pact to control piracy.
Widescreen pictures and 5.1-channel audio will soon be accompanied by stenches, scents, fragrances, and aromas. Parfum Recherche SA, a Paris-based olfactory research firm, has announced a partnership with Snout & Proboscis Development Corp. of Santa Clara, California, to license its scent-encoding and -decoding technology to film studios and home-theater hardware makers worldwide. S&P's new chip division will be known as Scentronics.
Last week, Dolby Laboratories won a bidding war for a four-storey office building near its Potrero Hill headquarters in downtown San Francisco. Dolby president Bill Jasper plunked down $18.25 million in cashier's checks for the glass-block building, which had fallen into bankruptcy after it had been used as a diamond-cutting and distribution center linked to both the De Beers cartel and the Russian government.
Predicted by an industry announcement last week: Widescreen digital televisions with theater-quality pictures and sound are on track for delivery by the end of the year. They'll be backed with new high-definition broadcasts in the fall, according to Sarnoff Corporation.
Last week, Hewlett-Packard, Mitsubishi, Philips, Ricoh, Sony, and Yamaha demonstrated the read and write capabilities of a prototype DVD-ReWritable (DVD+RW) drive at CeBIT '98. This was the first public demonstration of the write capabilities of the DVD+RW format, which has sparked controversy in recordable DVD circles. Product prototypes based on the DVD+RW specification are expected to reach US markets by this fall.
On March 17, Ino Technologies of Austin, Texas announced that, for only $799, its new TVPC with DVD has "cracked the code" of the long-elusive home-convergence device. Otherwise known as the "Living Room PC," the TVPC connects directly to a regular television; unlike other so-called living-room devices, TVPC comes complete with a full-function remote keyboard, a hand-held remote, and a DVD drive.
According to the latest Consumer Electronics Manufacturers Association (CEMA) statistics, released March 16, overall video-product sales had their best showing ever for the first eight weeks of a calendar year, with sales up 7%, to 6 million units. Video products also enjoyed their best February performance ever, with overall sales up 7%, to 3.2 million units. Leading an impressive set of video-hardware sales, large-screen and projection TVs were up 8% and 14%, respectively, in the year to date for 1998.