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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Tuesday, February 12, 2002

Wired In
Digital video tapes could challenge DVDs

By Mike Snider
USA Today

Movie studios recently announced their latest concept in high-tech home entertainment: videotapes.

Universal, 20th Century Fox, DreamWorks and Artisan Entertainment plan as early as summer to release movies on a new generation of VHS videos — high-definition and digitally recorded.

To a movie-loving public increasingly accustomed to high-quality DVDs and convenient video recorders that use PC-like hard drives, VHS tape may seem quaint.

But with more than 2 million digital TV sets already in homes — and not a lot to watch on them from network or cable broadcasters yet — Hollywood hopes consumers will embrace the pumped-up tapes as a way to see more movies in their finest resolution.

"It's film quality at home on your high-definition TV," said Craig Kornblau, president of Universal Studios Home Video. "There's a need for this."

D-VHS tapes promise to look twice as good as DVD on new high-definition TVs — though they're not compatible with today's VCRs. To play them, you'll need a new machine such as JVC's D-VHS model (for about $1,500), the only VCR so far that's "D-Theater'' compatible. JVC, which created the VHS format, plans to license the technology to other makers.

Though no titles have been announced, early releases are expected to be along the lines of "Die Hard" and "Terminator" movies at $30 to $40.

Another plus: Blank D-VHS tapes (about $20 each) can record up to four hours of broadcast or cable shows in full high-definition format — or up to 50 hours of regular programming.

The D-Theater system blocks copying of tapes as well as Napster-like sharing of their digital signal via the Web, an acute fear of Hollywood recently and one reason so few movies have been digitally broadcast to date.

Some observers question whether videotape has a viable future. "Tape is old-fashioned, out of style," said Bill Cruce, a contributor to Widescreen Review magazine.

Some may worry that a new format could confuse consumers and detract from DVDs' phenomenal growth. But "we don't think it will cannibalize DVD," said DreamWorks' Kelley Avery.