Lights in a Box? Joel Silver

Joel Silver---Pro
Joel Silver is co-founder of the Imaging Science Foundation, a professional organization that offers retailer training in video basics and setup. Both Thomas J. Norton and J. Gordon Holt of Stereophile have taken the ISF course.

Dear Steve: The marriage of audio and video is far from being in trouble. In fact, in the next 12 months this union will blossom into a new era of high-end electronic home entertainment. That era will begin with the introduction of the Digital Video Disc format---the DVD.

We at the Imaging Science Foundation are high-end electronic imaging consultants. We're already pushing the envelope of this new format for better video with designs for a generation of high-end DVD machines. This new 120mm disc will deliver better-quality Home Theater images than laserdiscs.

The video part of this marriage looks marvelous! And we all know the state of laserdisc audio. DVD audio is what you should be focusing on. The audio side of this marriage did okay with the feeble old CD. Will the audio side produce your high-end sound with the DVD?

The ISF's roots lie in the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers and the high-end electronic imaging industry. High-end display devices have been "married" for quite some time to the data graphics industry. Companies such as Hughes/JVC, Faroudja, Runco, Vidikron, Da-Lite, and Stewart, to name just a few, have been successful in taking high-end electronic imaging from the graphics world into the video domain, where it's now suitable for multimedia presentations and, of course, Home Theater. It may seem that these companies have been phenomenally successful, but we see their progress hampered by the failure of the laserdisc to become a mainstream format, as well as by the very performance problems that you hear and see in laserdiscs.

We agree with you that HDTV is not imminent. However, high-end electronic imaging is about to be turned on its collective ear (eye). The coming of a worldwide standard for recording images in the consumer market should do as much for hardware and software sales as the VHS tape. We see DVD replacing VHS tape and laserdisc, just as the CD replaced the LP.

If indeed the high-end community is an influential one, it's there that DVD's true potential will first be seen and heard. Steve, your difficulties with NTSC are understood. DVD is not an NTSC format. In fact, basic DVD players will have to degrade the 625-line progressive-scan images on the disc so that NTSC televisions can play them back. High-end data-grade video display devices already in place in thousands of Home Theaters right now can display a high-quality signal from the DVD and not degrade it by encoding it into NTSC. High-end DVD players will be the prerequisite for this to happen. We're already working with high-end audio companies whose expertise in digital technologies should produce superb-looking and -sounding DVD machines. We know how to get spectacular images out of this format. It will be your community's influence, expertise, and dedication that will determine what the audio quality will turn out to be.

Steve, as a film projectionist, you're not going to like this, but the electronic imaging community sees 35mm film as a benchmark to be surpassed, just as your community saw vinyl. Electronic cinema will challenge the limitations of the 35mm film image. With the coming high-definition sources, light-valve and laser technologies will compete with 35mm in movie theaters.

For example, film shows only 24 frames per second, each shown twice for a 48-frames/second display. Even the DVD, a consumer format, will be able to be displayed at 96 frames/s in high-end Home Theaters. Higher rates translate into better-quality imaging. We find flicker in 35mm film quite distracting. Once you recognize it, you can't help but notice it during a film. Video at 96 pictures/second will be flicker-free. At shows such as InfoComm, the high-end electronic imaging industry has already displayed images with resolution far beyond the proposed standards for consumer HDTV. At CEDIA with the Runco LightAmp, the ISF has just displayed images measuring 340:1 contrast ratios, and better black levels than 35mm from a standard $39.95 NTSC laserdisc!

We work with Kodak. We know a bit about film. There are even new film stocks created specifically for the video market. Electronic cinema is coming. The tools that produce images are not important---great pictures on the screen are.

Film's not "the real thing": Movies are canned, not live. Recorded music is canned, not live. That doesn't mean that home entertainment isn't high-end.

A Dvd Component's Progressive-scan Signal In the Anamorphic Mode Will Bring Home Theater Into the High End. Period.
Let me explain that mouthful of a sentence: NTSC is a "composite" system. Television is a three-channel display system utilizing red, green, and blue information; the single wire going to the NTSC input on televisions is an encoded version of all three of those signals. Dolby Pro Logic is an encoding system used in audio; four channels of information are encoded in two channels of stereo. Encoding and decoding processes aren't good ideas if the best possible picture quality is your goal. DVD and DSS are "component" systems. They can send three separate signals along three wires, or off of a satellite in geosynchronous orbit. Three signals, three channels of information, three colors in a display device...sounds logical, doesn't it? This is a huge step toward better video. Every line-doubler manufacturer we work with is already capable of accepting three "component" inputs right now. Mainstream televisions cannot. Welcome to high-end video, '90s style. If you're not high-end, you don't get the picture!