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Four Studios Set HD D-VHS Plans

JVC received a significant victory in adoption of its D-VHS with D-Theater HDTV videocassette format when four major Hollywood Studios announced plans to distribute prerecorded programming using the digital standard.

The four studios announcing D-Theater support are Artisan Entertainment, DREAMWORKS SKG, Twentieth Century Fox and Universal Studios.

They expect to have the first HDTV movie titles available on D-VHS later this year.

Initial titles for the HD format will include Independence Day, Die Hard and X-Men from Fox; U-571 from Universal; and Terminator 1 and 2 from Artisan. DreamWorks has not yet announced which titles it would release on D-VHS.

Currently, JVC is the only company marketing an HD-level D-VHS VCR that is able to decode content encrypted with its D-Theater encryption technique. Mitsubishi also markets an HD-level D-VHS VCR, but that unit does not have D-Theater capability. (See related story, p. 28).

D-VHS D-Theater software will be recorded in the HS mode at a 28Mbps data rate, which surpasses the ATSC DTV data rate broadcast standard of 19Mbps. Tapes are capable of storing up to 44GB, enabling studios to fit up to four hours of HDTV content on a single cassette.

Although the DVD disc format is surging and HDTV-quality DVD discs are expected in a few years, Craig Kornblau, Universal Studios Home Video president, said the formats offer “unique benefits” to consumers.

“D-VHS is in a unique class different from DVD. This meets the videophiles highest quality expectations for an in-home experience,” said Kornblau. “JVC’s D-VHS D-Theater video recorder will allow consumers to play hi-def content which clearly differentiates it from a DVD player. It is the only hi-def option.”

Despite the announcement, Bob Perry, Mitsubishi marketing VP, said his company will never include the D-Theater encryption in D-VHS VCRs. The company currently sells an HD-level D-VHS recorder that will not playback D-Theater pre-recorded tapes.

He called the system “anti-consumer,” due to the limitations it imposes on users and the confusion it introduces into the marketplace. He said Mitsubishi does not view D-VHS as a good format for pre-recorded media, adding that Mitsubishi introduced its D-VHS recorder as a time-shifting for HDTV-starved enthusiasts.