‘T2’ tempts techies with high-def DVD

Version requires powerful computer for viewing

In a DVD first, Artisan will issue a two-disc set of “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” with both high-definition and standard-resolution versions of the film.

The HD version will be about 3.5 times sharper than a standard DVD. But that much higher resolution requires a lot more horsepower to view it.

The “T2: Extreme DVD” can’t be viewed on any current set-top DVD player. Instead, it will require a pretty powerful computer, with system specifications met by only a small percentage of machines right now, including a high-res screen, a Pentium 4 processor running at 2.8 gigahertz or better and a good graphics card.

The disc, which hits stores June 3, will cost $29.98.

Tech-savvy fans also can run a cable from their computer to an HD-capable TV to watch the movie in a more comfortable setting. But the number of people with both a high-end computer and HDTV is likely an even tinier audience.

“It’s definitely for the enthusiast out there,” acknowledged Erin Cullen, product manager for Microsoft, whose digital video software is being used to encode the HD version.

Nonetheless, Artisan and Microsoft execs say it is a harbinger of DVDs to come, and it gives Artisan another marketing edge to entice fans to buy yet another version of the film, one of the most lucrative parts of the indie’s large library.

“Really what we wanted to do was provide a window into the future of where technology is going,” said Jeff Fink, Artisan Home Entertainment’s prexy of sales and marketing. “Eventually, down the road, HD DVD discs will be a prominent part of the marketplace. This provides an introductory window to what the future holds.”

The deal also covers a just-released version of “Standing in the Shadows of Motown,” though it won’t be in HD. Rather, the doc, which hit theaters last fall, will include a second, “high-resolution” version about 1.7 times sharper than a standard DVD.

Last fall, Microsoft encoded the film for digital projection on about 25 theater screens around the country. In each case, Microsoft used its Windows Media 9 Series software, which it has developed over the past three years for a number of other uses, such as online distribution of video and audio.

The Microsoft software crunches the HD version of “Terminator” into about 6.7 gigabytes of information. That’s a prodigious amount of information, about two-thirds of the capacity of one side of a double-layered DVD. But it is still small enough that Artisan could pack it and a standard version of the film, along with a number of other new features, onto just two discs.

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