by May 1, 2000 0 comments

After the raging popularity
of MP3s and the threat it posed to the music industry, it’s now the turn
of the video industry to sit up in alarm. A new “hacker” video
encoding technology called DivX, which made its debut recently on some IRC
channels, is currently doing the rounds in the vast underbelly of the
Internet

At the outset, it must be
mentioned that though DivX shares its name with the now defunct technology
that allowed DVDs to be played in time-limited versions (and was touted to
replace video tapes one day), there is no connection between the two.

The encoding process begins
by copying a DVD movie to your hard disk by using a “hackers’
program”–DeCSS. DeCSS was originally released over the Web to enable
Linux users to play DVDs over their operating systems. The program came
under fire because it compromises the Content Scramble System of DVDs, which
was designed to protect DVDs against piracy.

After the movie’s been
copied to your hard disk using DeCSS, you can convert it to AVI format using
DivX encoding, and then distribute it over the Web. DivX uses MPEG 4 video
encoding along with MP3 audio encoding to encode a movie. This allows a high
degree of compression of both audio and video, without compromising on
quality. Most DivX movies can reach near-DVD level quality if encoded well,
at less than half the size. This brings down one barrier in pirating movies
over the Net–good quality can now be delivered in viable sizes.

Several Hollywood movie
titles and trailers are currently available for download. Since this is a
hacker-based system, the movies can’t be played over a conventional DVD/VCD
player. An add-on to Windows Media Player allows you to play DivX files.

Although DivX has the
potential to make it big just like MP3, its popularity is restricted to the
hacker community so far. One reason for this is that in spite of the highly
compressed format, the movies still take a long time to download, even up to
a whole day, thanks to low bandwidths, broken Net connections, etc.
Nevertheless, DivX is a way of distributing movies online, and may one day
pose a serious threat to the video film industry, or could open up newer
avenues for them.

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