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Sony, MEIC back video CD format

The future of video on CD now looks assured.

An announcement in London at Philips N.V.’s CD-I Conference that Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. and Sony Corp. will support a system pioneered by the Dutch consumer electronics giant and Victor Co. of Japan (JVC) means that a new market for software is set to develop. The pact follows a similar one between JVC and Philips just last week (Daily Variety, June 30).

Still uncertain is where 3D0 Inc., maker of another multimedia player, stands on the issue. Its first machine, made by Matsushita, is expected this Christmas, but will not be equipped to play full-motion video.

The new format, to be called Video CD, is based on the “Karaoke CD” format developed by Philips and JVC for the Japanese market. In the first six months since its launch in October 1992, JVC says it achieved $ 180 million in sales for “Karaoke CD,” mainly from software.

The market potential for video on CD technology is huge. Discs are one-third cheaper to manufacture than VHS cassettes, and they’re both easier to transport and more durable. Perhaps more importantly, the discs will be “broadcast-standard neutral,” so a disc created for the U.S. market will also play in Europe.

The format’s drawback is that it currently has a maximum running time of 74 minutes per disc, idealfor music videos, but not for feature films, which must be released on multiple discs.

However, while none of the parties involved will comment officially, well placed sources indicated that eventually the system might support new types of CDs that would be able to hold twice or perhaps four times the amount of data.

Squeeze play

The Video CD system will use MPEG I compression to squeeze the 74 minutes of video onto a five-inch compact disc.

Until now, there has been no industry-wide standard on how video on CDs could be written to disc, meaning that the market was in danger of splitting into incompatible camps before it even took off.

All the significant consumer electronics players are now signed up to the format, and support from software companies looks to be building fast.

The question of whether to support this standard is getting urgent for 3DO, in which MCA has a significant stake.

Whiie the first 3DO player will also use an MPEG 1 FMV upgrade cartridge that will not be available until next year, for tehnical reasons, the control code ideally should be built into the basic machine, not the cartridge. Given that Panasonic, which is making the first machine, says it will be supplying dealers with product in mid-September, this gives the company very little time.

for music videos, but not for feature films, which must be released on multiple discs.

However, while none of the parties involved will comment officially, well placed sources indicated that eventually the system might support new types of CDs that would be able to hold twice or perhaps four times the amount of data.

Squeeze play

The Video CD system will use MPEG I compression to squeeze the 74 minutes of video onto a five-inch compact disc.

Until now, there has been no industry-wide standard on how video on CDs could be written to disc, meaning that the market was in danger of splitting into incompatible camps before it even took off.

All the significant consumer electronics players are now signed up to the format, and support from software companies looks to be building fast.

The question of whether to support this standard is getting urgent for 3DO, in which MCA has a significant stake.

Whiie the first 3DO player will also use an MPEG 1 FMV upgrade cartridge that will not be available until next year, for tehnical reasons, the control code ideally should be built into the basic machine, not the cartridge. Given that Panasonic, which is making the first machine, says it will be supplying dealers with product in mid-September, this gives the company very little time.

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