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DVD: On a PC, the video quality is stunning
technofile  by al fasoldt

Columns and commentaries in a life-long dance with technology
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DVD: On a PC, the video quality is stunning


Technofile for Jan. 24, 1999

By Al Fasoldt

Copyright © 1999, The Syracuse Newspapers

DVD is the best thing to come along in video since the invention of color TV. The picture quality is amazing and the sound is superb.

DVD video disks are small (the same size as CDs) and easy to store. They don't cost much to make, which means they don't cost much to buy. Stores that rent videotapes are starting to rent DVDs now, too. If you consider the quality—far better picture and sound than broadcast video or videotape—it's clear that DVDs are launching a revolution in video.

So why was our TV turned off when my wife and I watched our first DVD movie last week?

Because we wanted to see DVD in all its glory. We watched the movie on our newest PC. We put the DVD disk into the drive on our new PC and clicked the "Play" button on our DVD player software. Because computer monitors are much sharper than TV screens, with a clarity no TV can match, we were guaranteed the best seat in the house.

I know what you're saying. Clarity-schmarity! Who'd want to watch a feature film on a 15-inch screen?

We feel the same way. So we watched our first DVD movie on the "big screen," my Nokia 21-inch monitor. It's my pride and joy. (We have two other 21-inch monitors, both very good, but the Nokia is in a class by itself.) All throughout the movie, we found ourselves saying things like "Wow!" and "Can you believe this?"—and we became so caught up in the technical quality of the film that we've both forgotten the name of the movie. (As I mentioned last week, all I remember is that the good guys won.)

The sound system I use on the new PC is an audiophile-quality hi-fi setup, so we were bathing in high-octane sound, too. On the Nokia monitor, which sports the same ultimate resolution as true HDTV, the best pictures were obtained when we switched to the DVD movie's standard-width display. It filled the screen from edge to edge, and even the tiniest objects in wide-angle scenes showed up clearly. The other side of the disk had a wide-screen version of the movie—a VERY wide screen version, unlike the semi-wide sizing you've probably seen in some TV broadcasts—and it filled a band across the computer monitor, with a great gap above and below.

The software program we used to play DVD movies is called PowerDVD from CyberLink. Download a 30-day demo of PowerDVD.

Before you download the DVD-player software, you need to know a couple of things:

    • DVD disks won't play in CD-ROM drives. You need a DVD drive. They don't cost much. If you get one, be sure you get the latest possible kind, a DVD-3 (or later) drive. It will play CDs (at 32X speed) and should also be able to handle CD-R and CD-RW disks.
    • You need Windows 98 to play DVDs. Windows 95 won't work. Windows 3.1 won't work. A Mac won't work. (Macs will have a fix for this soon.)
    • Software DVD players will be as common as software CD players before long, so don't worry if you try the PowerDVD player and don't like it. Microsoft will have its own free DVD player soon, and you'll be able to download it from Microsoft.


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