Philips, Victor agree on video-to-disc standard

A standard for putting video on compact discs is coming, albeit slowly.

Last week, Philips N.V., maker of the CD-I player, and Victor Co. of Japan joined with C-Cube Microsystems, a computer chip manufacturer, to support video and audio on a number of players. Also in the agreement are Commodore International, Goldstar Co. Ltd., Samsung Co. and Paramount Home Video.

Par has cut a deal with Philips to put some 50 films on CDs for Christmas. (Daily Variety, June 3).

An agreement to make video CDs compatible with a number of players would dramatically increase the market potential for the product, say analysts. Currently, there are fewer than 100,000 CD-I players in consumers hands and JVC’s karaoke players are just starting to catch-on.

The agreement supports the Motion Picture Expert Group level 1, or MPEG 1, format that permits up to 74 minutes of video and compact disc quality audio to be compressed on a five-inch CD. The effort is being led by C-Cube which makes the most popular computer chip that compresses the video and decompresses later to appear on a video screen and is at the core of each of the agreement’s players.

“We’re intervening to bring some rhyme and reason to the platform wars on the CD,” said Alexandre Balkanski, vice president of worldwide sales and marketing for C-Cube, which is based in Santa Clara.

However, two other potential players in this market, Sony Corp. and 3D0 Co., have yet to sign on. While 3D0 uses a C-Cube chip, Sony has yet to market at machine that plays full-motion video.

“We are very interested in supporting MPEG I for video playback,” said Diane Hunt, an executive at 3D0. “That’s a standard that’s truly platform independent.”

Still, even with a standard, manufacturers recognize it may be a while before movies become common on CD players. The next generation of MPEG won’t likely be available commercially until late 1995, according to Balkanski. It will be needed to quadruple the speed of the player and double its storage to 140 minutes of video.