DVD - a new technology finally comes age!

This new multi-faceted disc is a technological leap for both consumers and PC users

One of the most remarkable innovations in the audio and video industry has finally arrived - Digital Video Disc (DVD). What's so special about DVD is its versatility! Indeed, to some DVD is short for Digital Versatile Disk. It represents studio-quality video and audio for consumers as well as awesome data storage capacity for PC users in one technology.

At Toshiba, we think that DVD is in many ways a technology that has finally come of age. After much talk and speculation since the DVD consortium agreed to the standards in September 1995, products are now available for consumers and PC users. And DVD is the standard to bridge the gap between consumer electronic products and PC electronics.

DVD - what's it all about?

The idea behind DVD is simple enough and not that revolutionary - the digitalisation of video information on the appropriate distribution medium. DVD is a new media for the distribution of digital data.

A DVD disc looks like today's CD: it is a silvery platter, 12 cm in diameter, with a hole in the centre. Like a CD, data is recorded on the disc in a spiral trail of tiny pits, and the discs are read using a laser beam. Here is where the similarities essentially stop.

Comprised of two 0.6 mm thick discs bonded together, a DVD disc has a much larger capacity than a normal audio CD. It can store anywhere from 4.7 to 17 GB of data, your normal audio CD only 680 MB. DVD's larger capacity is achieved by making the pits smaller and the spiral tighter, and by recording the data in as many as four layers, two on each side of the disc.

Movies on a disk

In its simplest version, a DVD disk with a capacity of 4.7 billion bytes can hold up to 133 minutes of studio-quality video. In addition, audiophiles are well served with the equally impressive sound quality, in the form of 5.1 channel surround sound supported by MPEG 2 audio and Dolby AC3TM. Moreover, consumers can choose from up to eight different dubbed language tracks and 32 subtitled language tracks. All of this can be viewed in a choice of format: full screen, letter box or wide screen monitors, with a selection of extra features such as interactivity, parental control and multiple camera angles.

DVD Video, as the consumer product containing video has been dubbed, will ultimately provide consumers with high quality home entertainment - video and audio - on reasonably priced DVD players. Some experts even predict that DVD will be to VHS tape what audio CD was to the long-playing record. Since all DVD players can also play conventional audio CDs, the CD-player is also under threat. Consumers can ultimately make do with one machine.

DVD players - pioneers of a new era of home entertainment

At Toshiba, years of pioneering efforts in DVD technology have culminated in the market introduction of two Toshiba DVD players - the high-performance Model SD-2006 and the state-of-the-art Model SD-3006. These systems are currently available in the US and scheduled for launch in Europe during 1997.

But there is another group of high-tech aficionados, namely PC users, that is keenly awaiting the advent of DVD. For PC users, DVD-ROM, as it will be known to the PC world, promises to herald a new era of multimedia.

All that capacity - all those applications

DVD-ROM will expand the capabilities of today's PC enormously. On a purely physical level, it will allow for the storage of enormous amounts of data - whether in video or audio form. With capacities up to 17 GB - that's the equivalent of 26 normal CD-ROMs - it is only a question of time before users of interactive CD-ROMs see exciting DVD-ROMs.

Think of the advantages. 30 (NTSC) or 25 (PAL) frames per second full-screen video resolution depending on national standards, digital Surround Sound, virtual reality and high-resolution graphics with text and video support. For applications, the range of possibilities is great: exciting new games with exceptional video quality, edutainment products, software libraries, training programs, digitised photo collections and, of course, high-quality interactive encyclopaedias.

Genuine multimedia - cross-platform applications

But beyond using DVD-ROM as a more expansive mode of data storage - something that many predict will be its first, great area of application, DVD is the realisation of genuine multimedia. By genuine multimedia, we mean that PC users will finally have easy and reliable access to a variety of media, whether audio, video or PC-oriented. In a nutshell, it will be possible to use a PC for cross-platform applications.

Given DVD's standardised video and audio requirements, PCs will become multi-functional devices: part television tuner, video playback device and exciting multimedia game station. In other words, DVD-ROM will play DVD movies and videos. All that is necessary is the corresponding DVD-ROM drive and hardware to decode the MPEG-2 video and audio signals.

MMX and DVD - a multimedia marriage?

In combination with PCs equipped with Intel's latest processors featuring MMXTM technology, DVD will also provide affordable access to a new and expansive world of multimedia applications. Intel's MMXTM technology is designed to accelerate multimedia and communications applications. It includes new instructions and data types that allow applications to achieve a new level of performance. By marrying capacity with the latest processor technology, PC users can turn their PCs into multimedia entertainment devices.

Driving the future

At the moment, many companies are working on option packages consisting of DVD-ROM drives and the necessary expansion cards. In January 1997, Toshiba began selling the SD-M1002, a DVD-ROM drive that fully conforms to the DVD-ROM format. This internal drive is connected to a PC via the ATAPI interface. The dual lens pick-up can read both CD-ROMs and DVD-ROMs and delivers fast access times of 200 milliseconds and a random seek time of only 130 ms for DVD.

Since CD technology is very well established in the PC world - the industry estimates that there are over 100 million CD-ROM drives already installed - backward compatibility is a key issue. Those PC-users with a wide selection of CD-ROM titles therefore need not worry because new DVD-ROM drives will be able to play old CD-ROMs. When the DVD-ROM drive checks the inserted disc, it automatically selects the appropriate lens needed for reading CD-ROMs or DVD-ROMs.

The recordable DVD-ROM is also a topic for many PC users. There are two DVD-recordable solutions: DVD-R (one-time recordable) and DVD-RAM (re-recordable), with planned capacities of 3.9 GB and 2.6 GB respectively. However, PC users and consumers should not throw their drives and video recorders away just yet. PC drives which can record are not expected until 1999 and, like CD-ROM burners at the beginning, they may be quite expensive at first. For consumer usage it could well be 2000 before a widely affordable DVD recorder becomes available.

Convergence of two worlds

For Toshiba, DVD is helping to bring the PC closer to the consumer. It also signals an exciting change. DVD technology is the first true technological bridge between the consumer electronics sector and the PC electronic sector. It provides consumers with the same quality of digital audio and video that production studios have been enjoying for years - at an affordable price.

Finally, DVD is also the first standard specifically created with both PC users and consumers in mind. It brings exciting technologies out of the computer world and combines them with the consumer's entertainment demands. This melting of the two worlds of electronics is the true legacy of the DVD revolution. Whereas previous attempts to bridge consumer and computer worlds have required adapting an existing standard, e.g. CD-ROM or DAT tapes, with the attendant limitations, DVD is a child of equal parentage. As the child comes of age with a full range of products in 1997, Toshiba is proud of its new offspring.

What was Toshiba's Contribution to DVD?

From the original concept to this year's product launch Toshiba has been at the centre of DVD developments. Toshiba led both the original DVD alliance (known as SD Disk) and the efforts that resulted in a single, multi-industry-spanning, unified DVD. And Toshiba remains a leader of the present DVD alliance.

Proof of Toshiba's commitment lies in the fact that 80% of DVD patents are held by Toshiba, including key DVD technologies such as the bonded disc design, chips designs for sound and video decoding, as well as embedded playback control. Moreover, Toshiba's early recognition that Hollywood's film studios had to support DVD ensured that unique features that allow for parental control, multi-camera angles, and multiple story lines, were also integrated into the DVD standard.

The advanced RSPC error correction system that Toshiba developed for DVD is 6 times more robust than current CD technology. And Toshiba is a primary developer of the phase-change disc, a key technology for future re-writable DVD media.

From a manufacturing perspective, Toshiba was the first to develop a commercial real time MPEG-2 decoder. Toshiba manufactures 650nm laser diodes, critical for reading the finer data tracks of a DVD discs, and Toshiba is a key industry supplier of disc drives and IC memory buffers.

Toshiba also manufacturers DVD discs at Toshiba-EMI. And Toshiba was the first company to deliver a real-time MPEG-2 encoder to Hollywood. Most recently, Toshiba announced an alliance with Sonic Solutions to provide DVD authoring and encoding equipment to DVD authoring centres world-wide. All of these investments underline Toshiba's commitment to this revolutionary product for both consumer and computer industries. Toshiba is certain that in DVD we have a set standard for the 21st century.