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%% European Outlook                                     by Jesper Juul %%
%%                                      %%

Full-motion video, revisited

A few issues bag, I wrote a quick and negative article about
the FMV-module for the CD32. Here's more:

A Philips employee told me that it's true that there are a lot
of "knobs" to turn when recording a digital video CD. This to
the extent that the quality of the finished product depends a
lot on the money and work spent to perform the conversion. And
the poor quality on some of the early titles is a reflection of
that: They were rushed to the market, more or less. If you
recall, the first sound CD titles sounded quite awful - it took
some time for the engineers to learn to do it right. It seems
likely that the quality will improve.

There is apparently no quality difference between Philips' CD-I
digital video format and the VideoCD format Commodore's sub-
scribed to. Both follow the MPEG-1 whitebook. The difference is
in the way the data's been put on the disc.

Having spent a few hours in a quiet room with Ridley Scott's
"Black Rain" on CD, I'll elaborate my initial feelings about
FMV a bit: Half of the time, I think it's absolutely great. The
colors are nice and steady. The sound is _great_, wonderful
stereo. It's just that sometimes a face freezes, sometimes it
seems that the children walking up a stair jump a few frames.
The almost unmoving scenes are OK, the freezing faces I'll
learn to live with. The action scenes are OK as well, perhaps
there's too much happening for the eye to notice problems. But
freeze frames in action scenes sometimes look absolutely
horrible; some still pictures of a fast-moving Michael Douglas
are completely unrecognizable. It's like a low, low, low
quality JPEG picture, the picture is even split into little (I
think) 8 x 8 pixel (and very visible) squares. It becomes
extremely blocky, and Michael Douglas looks as much like
Godzilla in a dim room as a human.

Also, I watched Seal's "Killer" video on the current dealer-
demo CD. (Commodore continually produces new dealer CDs,
featuring demos of different games, the CD32 "Creation" ad in
both MPEG and CDXL (for the basic machine) video.) The video
looked very good, but I found that the sound had occasional
cracks. And try looking closely at the suit Seal's wearing, it
looks distinctly like Mandelbrot graphics on an Amiga, color-
cycling! I'm sure it is.

The currently avaliable video CDs are: Andrew Lloyd Webber,
Black Rain, Bon Jovi: Keep the faith, Hanna Barbera's Cartoon
Festival, Patriot Games, Star Trek VI, Top Gun.
A lot more are coming soon, including: Apocalypse Now (yes!),
Billy Ray Cyrus Live, Bryan Adams: Waking up the Neighbours,
Eric Clapton: The Cream of Clapton, The Firm, The Hunt for Red
October, Sliver, and ...... Fatal Attraction Director's Cut. I
thought Director's cut was strictly for good movies? What'll it
be? 30-minute sex scenes? Glenn Close refusing to die for 45
additional minutes? I don't get it?

But I think I'm getting to like this digital video thing.


Commodore has put some effort into promoting the Steven Spiel-
berg/Amiga-Produced series. The pilot episode was in Germany
watched by some 17 million viewers, this included the "Commo-
dore - Amiga praesentiert"-trailer. (You figure out what it
Commodore and RTL (the station showing SeaQuest) has staged an
animation-competition. Prize is 5000DM (around US$2500) and a
few hours backstage at RTL. Animations must be 10-15 seconds,
produced on Amiga, Mac, or PC, and put on VHS, SVHS, Video8, or
Hi8. Only "amateurs" can participate, whatever it means. I do
suppose they want PAL. Closing date is April 15th, 1994. The
animation is supposed to be shown just before every show, so it
seems a good idea to make it relate to SeaQuest in some way.

This is the address:

RTL Television
Tillmann Fichs
Aachener Strasse 1036
D-50858 Koeln

Expanding the CD32

P&K Computer has announced a CD32 expansion box for around the
time I write this. (March 17th.) The box brings you a 3.5 inch
floppy, serial, parallel, floppy, and RGB ports, and room for a
3.5 inch Harddrive.
No word of keyboard or additional power-supply.

Price is DM495 (around US$ 250).

This is their address:

P&K Computer
An der Kirche 1
D-38304 WolfenBuettel
Phone: (0 53 31) 6 00 66
Fax:   (0 53 31) 6 90 06


>From the 16th to the 20th of March, Europes biggest computer
fair takes place in Hannover, Germany. If you were there,
please email me so I can write a bit about it.

That's all for now. Sometime soon I'll be looking at a PowerPC,
and I'll compare a Sillicon Graphics Indigo machine to an
A4000/040. Stay netted.