These devices look like thin pizza boxes that can play DVD videos, audio CDs and MP3 music. But, look closer. They sport a new logo: “DivX-certified” or even “DivX-Ultra certified.” Here lie the seeds of a quiet revolution: You can go to the Internet and download your favourite film for free, burn it on a blank disk, then pop the disk into your DVD player and watch the film on your TV.
The greatness of the DivX file format lies in its ability to compress huge amounts of digital video data into much smaller files without any apparent loss of quality. In some cases, it can achieve 10:1 or even higher compression on the file size, thus making it possible for you to download a complete music video over broadband in the time it takes you to leisurely sip a glass of home-made fruit juice. Just point your browser to http://stage6.divx.com and download for free from over thousands of files. Classic Charlie Chaplin movies that have now entered the public domain, as well as films from other genres are available here.
A quick search for “Hindi” displays dedicated channels of India-relevant content: Hindi films, TV shows, music videos and more. Ditto for “Tamil”. Some India-relevant content may not be legally authorized for such free distribution owing to copyright issues, so proceed with caution and download authorized or public-domain content.
Likewise, a simple Web search may point you to millions of websites on DivX movies offering files for download, eerily echoing the defiance and rebellion that sparked the MP3 music revolution.
Dive into DivX
DivX truly frees your video. You can watch a DivX movie on your laptop or computer using free software for DivX players. Movies from www.stage6.divx.com can play directly in your Web browser, much like YouTube videos. Just download the free software from www.divx.com to get started. Since its inception in 1999, the core DivX software has been downloaded more than 220 million times, and this is just the beginning.
A new crop of digital cameras and mobile phones can also capture and play back digital video in DivX format. Check out www.divx.com/products for details.
In fact, more than 90 million devices in all possible categories, all certified to run DivX, are present all over the world. Apart from conventional home DVD players and home theatre systems, you can have in-car DivX players that also play DVDs and MP3. DivX players also ship as battery-operated small portable players with built-in screens.
For instance, the DMP 740 is a tiny device that retails for $599, with a built-in 7” TFT screen and a 40GB hard disk. It can record directly from VCRs, satellite TV and any other video or audio source, including memory cards. You can dock it into compatible in-car TV screens that hang from the car-roof or are embedded into headrests. Unplug the DMP and carry it home, to office or connect it to your hotel TV.
It can store about 160 hours of video or 10,000 music files in wav or MP3. It also works as a voice recorder for quick voice memos. More details at http://www.divx.com/products/hw/detail.php?p=232.
Going a step further, you can chuck away all your disks and carry your collection of movies on small portable storage devices with 40GB, 80GB or higher capacities. Some of these devices, such as the LaCie SilverScreen 80GB and the MacPower Mvisto, connect directly to TV and hi-fi home theatre systems for playback, offering a no-compromise Dolby Digital and DTS surround-sound quality. These devices connect to your desktop computer via USB 2.0 and double up as high-speed portable hard disks. The LaCie retails from $229 to $306, while the Mvisto is for $395.45. Find more details at http://www.divx.com/products/hw/browse.php?c=2.
Click to play
You can convert existing videos using a growing array of free, shareware and commercial software. More than 13 software applications are listed at www.divx.com/apps. Among free applications, DrDivX 2.0 OSS from www.labs.divx.com/DrDivX is growing in popularity. VirtualDub, available from www.virtualdub.org, and VideoLan from www.videolan.org are other popular choices. People also use DivX software to make personal backups of their DVD collections and to author custom compilations.
To ease this conversion, you can connect your TV, camcorder or VCR directly to a digital DivX recorder, such as the Plextor ConvertX PX-402U and rip straight to DivX. The PX-402U costs between $135 and $191. You can find out more about it at http://www.divx.com/products/hw/detail.php?p=1.
Interestingly, unlike VCD and DVD, which are defined by one specific video quality and resolution each, DivX encapsulates a range of resolutions. Thus, it scales from mobile phone videos to beyond DVD-quality, matching the newer HD-DVD specifications. Videos from your mobile phone, therefore, play back on DivX-certified home players, albeit at the resolution that the phone captures them.
DivX-Ultra is the newest specification of the format, which allows DivX to offer sophisticated DVD and HD-DVD features such as surround-sound and 3D animated menus. Historically, DivX has been mired in controversy because at one time, it included spyware technology.
In response to this, a format called Xvid emerged some time back as an open-source rival to DivX software. Xvid offers superior compression at an astounding 200:1 ratio and delivers better picture quality.
Most players available in India also support Xvid content as the underlying platform to both technologies is the same. However, do verify the level of support. More details can be found at www.xvid.org.
The DivX revolution is similar to a crouching tiger in the Indian subcontinent, silently entering millions of homes through consumer electronics, and broadband Internet is its hidden dragon.
Inevitably, the MP3 music shops and kiosks round the corner will soon stock inexpensive but high-quality DivX disks as well, and the film industry will try to crack down on this format. Sounds like a sequel to a Bollywood film.
For a comprehensive list of DivX players with details, pricing, and availability, please check out http://www.divx.com/products.
You can choose from several more models and brands, too innumerable to list here, if you visit your local electronics shop.
LHT250: Rs 10,490
DVP 3146x/94: Rs 3,999
DVP 5956k/96:Rs 4,999
DVP 4750/98:Rs 25,990
HT TX25:Rs 19,900
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