By Marc Loftus
Issue: February 1, 2004


I've been hearing a bit of a buzz lately over Windows Media 9 and the opportunities it provides to filmmakers. Avid recently announced that its Xpress Pro and Media Composer Adrenaline products will soon support WMV HD, a component found within Windows Media 9 Series. The feature will allow editors working on the lower-end and mid-range Avid systems to easily output projects in a high definition format. Even if they were originally shot on a DV format, the up-rez'd results are said to look pretty impressive.

And it would help independents and lower-budget projects bypass the need for expensive transfers while still affording them the opportunity to present their work on a big screen. At the recent Sundance Film Festival in Park City, UT, for example, five "films" were screened digitally using Windows Media 9 Series as a playback environment.

Last month at the CES show in Las Vegas, more than a dozen features were released as high-definition movies on DVD. Again, the respective publishers were using the HD video capabilities of Windows Media 9's WMV HD component. Releases ranged from IMAX movies from MacGillivray Freeman Films to properties from Artisan Home Entertainment and National Geographic. The idea being, to release two-disc DVD sets that contain both the standard definition movie along with a companion DVD that offers the feature in HD with 5.1 sound. Viewers would be able to watch the HD version on a Windows XP-based PC and a suitable monitor.

Sonic Solutions has been working with Microsoft, announcing that it plans to ship a WMV HD authoring system in May. The DVD authoring system provider is also working with major film studios, providing them with the tools needed to create WMV HD titles capable of supporting resolutions up to 1080p.

Dave Stoner, CTO/senior VP of operations for ViewCast, says the manufacturer - which specializes in solutions for delivering video over the Internet and corporate networks - is a long-time Microsoft partner. While ViewCast also has solutions for Real Networks and MPEG-4 video, they realize the importance of supporting a giant like Microsoft, should their platform become the standard. He adds, "The quality of Windows Media 9 [video] happens to be very good."

Looks like satellite TV isn't the only way to watch high definition content.