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Streaming Media
DivX Comes of Age
Posted May 2, 2004 Print Version     Page 1of 1
  
 
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Take a look around at consumer electronics, personal computers, and even professional video software encoding, and it's clear that DivX is no longer the upstart it once was. By aggressively working its way into the set-top DVD market—the first DivX-compatible players in the U.S. appeared earlier this year—DivX has made itself a codec to be reckoned with, and in the process forced Microsoft and RealNetworks to step up their game in the PC-CE convergence arena.

Looking down the road, Microsoft's Windows Media 9 codec has already been provisionally approved, along with H.264 and the evergreen MPEG-2—by the DVD Forum for the HD-DVD specification for video playback devices. But for the here and now, DivX has gained a foothold with consumers, who've already downloaded in excess of 100 million copies of the Dr. DivX encoding software, according to DivXNetworks.

And the set-top players are now available to play back DivX-encoded video away from the PC, from the $300 KiSS DP-500 (the first DivX-certified player available in the U.S.) to Polaroid's $99.99 DVP-0600 and the recently announced DVOne DivX Player DX-8020 from Pixa, which sells for $79.99.

But how do users get their video into DivX format? The Dr. DivX software, which sells for $49.99 at www.divx.com and also encodes to MPEG-4, does the job, though not in real time. It's available in Windows, Mac, and Linux configurations. Also on the consumer software side, Roxio's $99 Easy Media Creator 7 added DivX support when it replaced Easy CD & DVD Creator in February, and ArcSoft announced that it would feature DivX support in the OEM version of VideoIMpression. And, as you might expect, other third-party, consumer-level conversion tools continue to appear, such as the PC-only EO Video player/converter, which sells for $34.99.

Like Windows Media 9 and RealNetworks' Real 10, DivX's biggest selling point is its compression efficiency, which can encode a standard DVD's worth of video (4.7GB) down to about 700MB without a noticeable loss of picture quality. But that means that, if you want real-time conversion, software encoders won't do the trick.

For real-time conversion, you need a hardware encoder like Plextor's $159 ConvertX PX-M402U. "Highly compressed formats like MPEG-4 and DivX just won't be able to be created in real-time in software for years to come," says Dirk Peters, director of marketing and new business development for Plextor, who adds that those formats are tailor-made for business and educational video users as well as consumers who might take to them first. "Compressing video into MPEG-4 or DivX opens up so many new uses for video in the business world," he says. "Video applications which were not feasible since they would take up too many video tapes or too much Internet bandwidth are now possible." [See Stephen F. Nathans' review of the ConvertX, http://www.emedialive.com/Articles/ReadArticle.aspx?ArticleID=8400.]

In February, V One Multimedia announced its partnership with DivX and introduced the Snazzi* DV.AVIO PC video capture card, which captures and converts to MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, Windows Media 9, and DivX, and retails for $199. At the other end of the pricing scale are the professional video encoders, more and more of which are including DivX as an option. At NAB, Canopus finally introduced its ProCoder 2.0 software and ProCoder Station turnkey hardware/software system, both of which boast DivX capability. The ProCoder 2.0 software sells for $499, while the network-ready, automated Station starts out at $14,999.

Some have referred to DivX as "the MP3 of video," but it's only recently that we've seen an MP3 player-sized playback device. The Archos Video AV320 Video Recorder doesn't record video in DivX—though it does so in MPEG-4, converting it to AVI for playback—it will playback on its 3.8-inch color LCD monitor any DivX video that you've downloaded to it from your PC. With 20GB storage, the AV320 can hold up to 60 hours of video, though the company says that the rechargeable battery life for video playback is only 3.5 hours (as opposed to 10 hours for MP3 playback).

According to DivXNetworks corporate communications manager Thomas Huntington, in an article he wrote for TechTV's Web site, the company's future plans include integrating digital rights management into the codec and actively courting video-on-demand partnerships.

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