WinDVD pushes PC DVD boundaries

Intervideo Inc. has embraced the cutting edge of DVD and audio technologies with new versions of its video recording and DVD movie playback programs, both available this month.

The updated WinDVD Recorder, which lets you save video files or captured TV transmissions, is expected to ship in late November priced at US$119. It includes all the capabilities of the WinDVD Platinum program, which plays back the still-emerging 24-bit/96-kHz audio. For those users who don't need the advanced capabilities of the Platinum package, audio playback functions are still available in WinDVD 4, which costs $49.

Real-Time Recording

Intervideo's next-generation WinDVD Recorder is the alternative to running out of storage space when you record and time-shift TV shows using your computer--à la TiVo and ReplayTV--with the help of programs like Cyberlink's PowerVCR or Intervideo's own WinDVR.

When your hard drive ran out of room, you either erased the shows or authored them to a DVD, VCD, or SVCD--a painstaking, time-consuming process. Now, WinDVD Recorder lets you capture your favorite shows in real time directly to recordable/rewritable DVD discs, using high-quality 720-by-480 MPEG-2 compression. And since the program writes discs using the DVD-VR/+VR standards, you can play and edit them in consumer DVRs such as Philips' DVDR985.

WinDVD Recorder doesn't limit you to recording just TV shows. You can record any kind of video that a high-quality TV/video capture device such as ATI's All-In-Wonder, NVidia's PC Cinema, or ADS's USB Instant DVD can fetch into your PC. Eliminating the capture-to-hard-drive stage that all current DVD authoring packages require is a great timesaver when it comes to storing your home movies.

Ear on the Future

Audio and videophiles have complained for years that 16-bit/44.1-kHz PC/DVD/CD audio sounds cold or thin compared with analog LPs and tape. One solution for the aural connoisseur is wider and faster sampling rates like the 24-bit/96-kHz sound that Intervideo's WinDVD Platinum software DVD movie player delivers.

The company should get major kudos for embracing the future of digital audio, but the key word here is future. Hardly any of the DVD movies currently available offer 24-bit/96-kHz audio streams, and WinDVD Platinum lacks playback support for the relatively common DVD-Audio discs that do. Also, without a 24/96-capable sound card such as Terratec's EWX-24 or Creative's Audigy2, you're still stuck with 16-bit/44.1-kHz sound.

Caveats aside, with the proper sound card and speakers the sound of a 24-bit/96-kHz movie is spectacular. But superior sound is only part of the WinDVD Platinum story; Intervideo has also incorporated support for DivX, the popular MPEG-4 codec that can reduce a DVD movie to about a quarter of its original size without significant loss of quality.

The program also supports DTS surround sound and Dolby's psychoacoustic Virtual Speaker technology, which mimics a five-speaker surround system using only two speakers.

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Jon L. Jacobi

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