High-resolution video: The PC as home theatre
By Michael Thieroff Oct 1, 2006, 6:11 GMT
Hanover - There's a lot of talk about high-resolution video among technology fans. Buzzwords include Blu-Ray, HD-DVD, and HD- ready.
The new technologies aim at a sharper image that can be stored on traditional DVDs or replayed on traditional televisions. High- resolution video is also a topic for PC owners, if they have the corresponding hardware and software.
Yet those who already feel left behind can take a deep breath: 'There's not going to be so much activity in the area of high resolution film between now and 2010 that you'll miss the launch of this market,' says Nico Jurran from the Hanover-based computer magazine c't.
Two formats are currently ready to relieve the DVD of its duties: Blu-ray and HD-DVD. Jurran demurs when it comes to recommending the one or other solution.
'Just now no one can say which of the respective technologies will still be around in a couple of years,' says Jurran. If image quality is the primary concern, then Jurran gives his expert nod to HD-DVD. Yet the prettiest video quality in the world won't help if there are no films for it.
'More titles are announced for Blu-Ray,' Jurran notes.
Manufacturers have announced plans to bring hardware for these formats into stores in the coming weeks. Philips, for example, is releasing a Blu-ray drive for PCs. BenQ is taking things slower.
'The introduction of our Blu-ray burner will not come for a while,' says product manager Bernhard Schloesser. Toshiba is the leader in the HD-DVD camp. The manufacturer has outfitted two laptops in its Qosmio series with HD-DVD drives.
To view high-resolution films on a computer, more is needed that just the disk drive. There are other technological thresholds that must be cleared as well: 'For high-resolution video, you need a very potent computer,' says Nico Jurran.
To guarantee quick video depiction, minimally a Pentium 4 processor with 3 gigahertz of processing power or an Athlon 64 3000+ should be available on the motherboard. And the graphics card should itself hold at least 128 megabytes of storage.
The hurdle for watching HD films on the PC is made even higher due to concerns by Hollywood film studios: 'Anyone wanting to watch high- resolution video on their computer will definitely need a special monitor for that,' Jurran says.
This is where the HD-ready symbol plays a role. HD-ready means, among others, that the device possesses a digital input with copy protection. Yet the seal is no guarantee that the monitor provides particularly brilliant images.
This all means that merely acquiring a Blu-ray or HD-DVD drive does not make a computer ready to play back video films in high resolution. Hollywood is stipulating that the graphic card's output port must also be copy protected by HDCP.
This is the film industry's way of preventing videos from being recorded at the graphic card output point. Software maker Cyberlink offers a free analysis program (http://www.cyberlink.com) to determine the HD-readiness of Windows PCs.
HD-readiness for the software is somewhat simpler as many manufacturers are already offering updates for their playback programs. Users looking to burn data can also use software that supports HD-DVD and Blu-ray, including programs from many well-known burning software publishers.
In terms of hardware, the system requirements for burning Blu-ray discs are no different from the normal burn requirements for Nero 7, explains Stefano Miotto, technical support engineer at software maker Nero.
The recording and burning of high-resolution video material is currently for professionals only. There are already authoring tools for putting high-resolution video onto disc.
'But the programs are so expensive that they are really only implemented in the professional realm,' Jurran says. Few broadcasters are broadcasting high-resolution material anyways.© 2006 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur