Europe's online source of news, data & analysis for professionals involved in packaged media and new delivery technologies

News in Brief - march 2004


Digital television could be in at least 50% of UK homes by the New Year, it has been predicted. BBC figures suggest multi-channel homes are rapidly rising. Sales are close to topping the 2.5 million mark, with an average 100,000 sales a week sold. Take-up of the BBC-backed Freeview digitl platform reached one million homes before any other comparable consumer technology – including PlayStation 2 and DVD.

Apple updated DVD Studio Pro to version 2.0.5. Brief notes on the release say the update "includes critical fixes for the placement of the dual layer break point on DVD-9 titles."

Launched in Japan, the PSX – an all-in-one device combining a PS2 with a DVD writer and a hard drive for TiVo like TV recording – will be in Europe before the end of the year. The European debut will be at the CEBIT show in Hannover, Germany, March 18-24. No specific release date and no details on the features the PAL version of the PSX will sport.

A New York judge has granted a temporary stay to an order to 321 Studios to stop manufacturing and selling its software. This stay does not mean that 321 can start selling their original version of XCopy and Copy Plus. There is a separate San Francisco ruling that is still in effect. The California court, unlike New York, refused to grant a temporary stay.

Despite consumer criticism, Disney is to expand its disposable DVD trials to several new locations in the US. The discs aim to replace regular rental DVDs and are manufactured by Flexplay. They come packed in a airtight packaging and once the wrap is opened, the disc's surface will slowly change, making the disc totally unreadable after 48 hours.Funai Electric has announced that it will collaborate with Mitsubishi Electric to enter the DVD recorder market. Digitec Industrial, a DVD player manufacturer co-funded by the partners in Hong Kong in 1999, will supply them with DVD recorders. Funai will launch its first DVD recorder in the US this spring. Plans call for launching products with a built-in VHS recorder and hard drive later on.

Following a recently agreed cooperation partnership with Sony Precision Technology Europe (SPTE), the DaTARIUS Group will be distributing two Sony products in Europe. These complement the DaTARIUS range of quality control equipment for the optical disc manufacturing process. The products are the DVD Eccentricity Analyzer (Sony DEC-12) and the CD/DVD Balance Analyzer (Sony DUC-10).

LG Electronics has begun shipping in volume a new DVD Karaoke Mini System, the LG LM-K5535, which offers DVD, MPEG1, MPEG-2, and MPEG-4 playback with progressive scan video output that delivers a sharp and flicker-free display. This mini system's digital audio features include MP3, CD-DA, Microsoft WMA, Dolby Digital and Prologic II, DTS, and Karaoke, integrated with a high fidelity 5.1 channel amplifier and speakers. Most popular media formats are supported including DVD-ROM, DVD-R/RW, DVD+R/RW, CD-ROM, CD-R/RW and VCD.

Sanyo is hinting that it could have a Chinese-made 50 inch LCD on sale in the US anytime soon. Reports suggest that the company also plans to market similar products in Europe and China, with product delivery expected later this year. With DVD recorder sales growing, a move by Sanyo into this market seems inevitable, with rumours that US shipments could start as early as next month. When this starts it is understood that Wal-Mart will carry the DVD devices and presumably the company's rear projection sets when they become available.Sony is expected to set up a wholly-owned subsidiary in Guangzhou, South China's by 2005.

It will be the seventh plant to run by the firm's Engineer, Manufacture and Customer Service system on the Chinese mainland and represent an investment of some $30 million, according to Sony (China) Ltd sources in Beijing. The plant will mainly be devoted to the development of digital disc players and is expected to have a projected output value of about $230 million in the 2005 fiscal year. The new plant will also handle product design and R&D for the Chinese market.

Decoders for the pan-European HDTV satellite Euro1080 - the first HDTV satellite channel in Europe - will be available in the Netherlands next month. Euro1080 is the first channel to broadcast exclusively in high definition throughout Europe, and consists of two channels: the first offers a daily loop of four-hour programming, and the second is an events channel, which aims at distributing events such as sports, music and cultural events to cinemas. The decoders are expected to cost 400 Euro and the chipcard 200 Euro. Euro1080, owned by Alfacam, has been available across Europe since January. In addition to high definition video, it offers 16/9 and multi-channel surround sound.

Sony and Toshiba are to work together to develop technologies for next-generation semiconductor chips by the end of 2005. They will share the $190 million cost for the project, using about 150 engineers to develop 45-nanometer processing and design technologies for large-scale integrated circuits. Sony has a 90-nanometer system chip in its PSX, which is both a PlayStation 2 game console and a DVD recorder.

A UK online DVD retailer SplashDVD has folded. The service offered the latest DVDs from £12.99, books and video computer games. The SplashDVD website says: “We are sorry to report that, due to financial difficulties, it has proved necessary for the Company to cease trading with effect from noon on 9 March.” A creditors' meeting is scheduled for March 24 in Jersey, base of the site’s parent company Toppers CI Limited.

The optical recording technology landscape will, once again, be transformed in 2004 with Double Layer DVD recording that will double the capacity of existing writable DVD discs, broadening the universe of video and data storage. Who's first with editing tools? Ahead Software seems to be first to market with an all-in-one DVD+R Double Layer (DL) software suite in its NeroVision Express 2 package. All applications in this enhanced version of its OEM digital media suite will fully support DVD+R DL drives, allowing 8.5GB DVD writing, authoring, backup and recoding. (Full story in Product Launches).

Avid Technology Europe has delivered 50 Avid DS Nitris systems in Europe since the product started shipping in October 2003. Companies including broadcasters, television postproduction facilities and feature film effects houses have purchased Avid DS Nitris systems for use on a wide variety of projects including HD film work, television promos, long-form dramas and DVD production.

Taiwan-based BenQ expects its LCD TV shipments to reach 80,000-90,000 units in the first quarter of 2004, about the same amount shipped last year. According to Taiwanese sources, the nation’s total production capacity will be expanded to at least 150 million DVD-R/+R discs a month by the end of this year. Producers in other countries, including Japanese Taiyo Yuden, Mitsubishi, TDK and Maxell as well as India-based Moser Baer (MBI), reportedly will also expand their production capacities this year. Global DVD-R/+R demand this year is estimated at 1.5-2 billion discs, according to several market survey companies.

Philips Electronics is to sell a television set in Britain that doubles as a mirror when the appliance is switched off. The set, to be available in the second quarter, will cost £2,500. The company is also producing an "ambient" TV system that adjusts the lighting of a room depending on whether the viewer is watching a cartoon, horror movie or romantic program. Philips is working with Universal Music on technology that enables a mobile device user scan the poster of an artist, buy a song and play it at home on his CD player – all wirelessly.

CyberLink Corp. announced PowerProducer 2 is now the world's first and only software to have passed the PC-based DVD authoring software testing conducted by the DVD Format Logo Licensing Corporation (DVD FLLC) class A verification lab. FLLC testing ensures that DVD-Video discs created with the software are 100% compatible with all DVD FLLC certified standalone DVD players, and fully compliant to the DVD Forum's DVD-Video specifications. DVD FLLC is the corporation responsible for licensing the DVD format and the DVD logo defined by DVD Forum, and is also in charge of defining the test specification for format compatibility.

London authoring house Metropolis has some high profile projects at various stages of production. Dick Carruthers has just finished filming a lie The White Stripes concert. For DVD, the performances were filmed on Super 8 and 16mm film and reflect the unique way in which the band record and perform their music. Carruthers is also currently working with Oasis creating a DVD to be released later this year. He has just finished producing the visuals for the screens for Rod Stewart's 2004 World Tour. Meantime, Tim Qualtrough has completed a video for Top 40 act, Simple Kid.

Condor CD, Duplas Avelca, MCP Sound & Media and NediaMotion BV are the latest companies to join the list of DVD disc manufacturers licensed by the dvd6C group. The licensing agency founders are Hitachi, JVC, Mitsubishi Electric, Panasonic, Time Warner and Toshiba. The group was later joined by IBM. Why are these companies licensing patents jointly? The groups says: “Joint licensing is for the benefit of the parties who want to take licenses. Unless we license jointly, the parties who want to license these patents would need to contact and negotiate with each company separately, and enter into separate agreements with each of them. By licensing jointly, we can provide a simple and efficient process for obtaining licenses to these patents.”

The US company that is selling DVD X Copy software which bypasses copyright protection mechanisms on DVDs has complied with a Californian court order to rid the software of its "ripper". Since the court ruled the software illegal seven days ago, 321 Studios of St Louis, changed DVD X Copy on its web site to a sanitised "ripper-free" version which cannot copy a copy-protected DVD. When the new sanitised version is asked to copy a protected DVD it gives a "CSS Error Message".

Ritek, the largely European-owned Taiwanese producer of optical discs, is poised to expand its production capacity of blank DVD-R/+R discs this year. The rate of expansion will hinge on market conditions, says the company.

Sony has signed agreements with several major Taiwanese producers of optical discs fixing royalty charges of 1.5%-3.5% for DVD-R/+R discs.

InterVideo says more than 75 million copies of WinDV, its software enabling playback of DVDs on a PC, have been sold worldwide since it was launched in 1999.

Taiwan’s production of optical discs and optical disc drives in the first half of this year will rise year-on-year by 37% to NT$44.8 billion and by 11% to NT$50.4 billion, respectively, according to projections released by the Taiwan-based Industrial Economics and Knowledge Center February 26. As Taiwan’s production volume of DVD-R/+R discs is increasing fast, the price will keep falling and therefore year-on-year growth in dollar sales will gradually decrease, IEK pointed out. DVD burners are the focus of this year’s business development for local drive makers, with 16x models expected to be the highest speed, IEK pointed out. In addition to DVD burners used in PCs, local makers are expected to aggressively enter the market for consumer-use DVD recorders, IEK noted.

Toy companies, hoping to compete with video and computer games, are marketing toys that interact with what children are watching on a TV monitor. For example, Serafina is a furry toy cat, named for a character in The Princess and the Pauper, that sings and wags its tail in response to what's happening on the DVD or video that stars Barbie.