Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Digital Movie Formats

With movies selling for P200-P400 each (and pirated, film-transfer versions selling for as low as P50 per movie) and cheap knockoff players (many with clearly fake Sony logo) going for just P2,000-P3,000, Video CD’s (VCDs) are currently all the rage in Manila and elsewhere in Asia. Movies digitally encoded on VCD at least the genuine variety – feature better audio and video quality than older movies on VHS-format videotape. But no mistake, VCD is merely a transitional format. Translation: VCD is on the way out. Movies on VCD are even now being phased out in favor of movies on DVD (Digital Versatile Disc or Digital Video Disc). The reason are simple: DVDs use superior technology, offer better picture and sound, and have roughly 14 times the storage capacity of a VCD. A standard-length movie doesn’t even fit on one VCD, it has to be chopped up and placed on two discs. A DVD-video disc holds not only your average 90-minute feature film, it also usually contains two versions of the same movie: a panned-and-scanned (full screen) version that has been modified to fit the dimensions of your TV set, and a letterboxed (widescreen) version that preserves the screen dimensions of the original cinematic release. Aside from multiple versions of the movie, DVDs often have several different soundtracks: Dolby stereo which yields great stereo sound on standard TVs, and digital soundtracks with up to 6.1 channels of specially remixed and enhanced audio for that total home theater experience. Aside from all these, DVD-Video uses MPEG-2 video quality to MPEG-1 compression used in VCDs. It’s no wonder that serious movie fans consider DVD the ultimate format for collecting movies. DVD is taking the world by storm. Since its lunch in 1997, it has become the most successful consumer product ever, becoming an established format faster than videotape, laser disc or CD.