Divx 6: Has The Rebel Grown Up?
The space-saving Divx video format has a long tradition at THG; in 2001, we made our first lab video with good picture quality available for download. Even back then there was only one choice for a video codec: Divx - a derivative of the MPEG-4 compression standard - which made it possible to compress two and a half minutes worth of film down to approximately 8 MB. The videos we have produced document the evolution of this highly-efficient video codec. In fact, video quality has risen so much relative to the data rate, that for the first time we are able to offer our latest video, Number 16, for download in full PAL resolution.
Until recently, the best codec has been version 5.2.1; the encoding speed of this codec alone put it head and shoulders above Microsoft's standard Windows Media WMV 9. But now Divx 6 is supposed to do the job even better. With all the rumors in circulation since the end of last year leading up to its release, we took the opportunity to analyze the 6.0 version codec and beta software tools in our lab.
Divx 6 can do a lot more than the stable, optimized 5.2.1 version. It allows multiple video and audio tracks, and the creation of subtitle tracks (XSUB) and interactive video menus. For playback, however, you need the latest Divx player, 6.0 version - Windows Media Player 10 has to take a pass here.
Divx could potentially compete with conventional DVDs, which are compressed using the much less efficient MPEG-2 format. It will still take a while before we get to that point, though.
There are lots of standalone DVD players on the market - approximately 20 million according to market research - almost all of which can play Divx versions, as long as the specifications were followed during production. Divx Networks has promised that there will soon be updates available for many DVD players, which will then be able to play back HD material with resolutions of up to 1280x720 pixels.
A number of software providers have interesting-sounding plans to offer DVD copying programs, which can be used as a simple means of converting entire DVDs using Divx for subsequent burning onto CD or DVD. Dual-layer blanks are, after all, still quite expensive. There is not yet any precise information to be had on these plans however.