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DualDisc: Music on CD plus DVD  (12/2004)

    by Douglas Dixon

Introducing DualDisc
Music Contents
Data Contents
DualDisc Marketing
References

As the consumer optical disc formats mature, products with just movies on DVD or music on CD are no longer exciting. Customers demand more, in terms of the content (additional features), and in the product and packaging (including hybrid products). Beyond movies on DVD, for the 2004 holiday season the music industry is exploring possibilities for combining multiple formats, going beyond albums on CD to music videos on DVD, or packaging a bonus DVD with the CD. The new introduction this holiday season is DualDisc, one disc in multiple formats that should be playable on all devices, and combines music with the best of DVD: surround sound, visuals, and even computer-readable data (www.dualdisc.com).

   

The good news for the industry is that music DVDs are growing in popularity. But with price pressure on CDs to stay under the $20, especially for catalog releases, combination products also raise the question of whether providing a CD plus DVD for almost the same price devalues the content. Formats like DualDisc may be more attractive for new releases where the additional content could be planned into the production.

The other development from the new DVD formats was the growth of surround sound, which is becoming standard for new releases. These new music and delivery formats also offer interesting possibilities for interim releases between major projects, such as remixes and visualizations of catalog material to continue to promote the artist (another kind of special edition).

Introducing DualDisc

The big push for the holidays, however, was the widespread release of the new DualDisc format, with a CD on one side and a DVD on the other. The result is a single disc that consumers should be able to play anywhere, and without requiring any new equipment.

The CD side is a standard music CD, typically containing a full album, and therefore plays in home and car stereos, as well as portable CD players. The DVD side is currently a single-layer DVD-5, and contains the full album in enhanced sound, in DVD-Video and even DVD-Audio format, so it delivers higher-quality surround-sound music in devices including DVD players, PCs, and game consoles.

   

In comparison to other higher-definition formats, releases on DVD-Audio require special DVD players or PC software, or default to playing the content in the included DVD-Video format. And SACD releases require new home audio equipment, or default to playing the CD layer. DualDisc provides the two ubiquitous formats: CD and DVD-Video. And it provides new legs for DVD-Audio as an additional optional format that is playable on some DVD players and in some new PC DVD player software such as InterVideo WinDVD 6.

"The CD layer [of DualDisc] gives us the backward compatibility that DVD-Audio really did not," says John Trickett, Chairman and CEO of 5.1 Entertainment Group / Silverline Records (www.5point1.net). Plus, the DVD layer adds value for the consumer. "Certainly you can see the obvious success of music on a DVD format," says Trickett. And with CD plus a bonus DVD, "consumer buying patterns have shown that this is something they want. With Dual Disc, we're actually building a product that matches the consumers buying patterns and expectations."

The test marketing of DualDisc earlier this year in Boston and Seattle was reportedly very successful, with 82% of consumers saying they were very satisfied with the product, and 90% saying they would recommend the product to a friend. "It tested very favorably, particularly in comparison to other product introductions into the market," says Trickett. "The market message that tested best was 'Now one disc has it all,' and that's the one you are going to see on an industry level as the tag line."

Music Contents

While there is no standard for the specific contents of the two sides of a DualDisc, the industry is committed to providing this ubiquitous playability, with the CD album plus a higher-quality enhanced sound version on the DVD side. Plus, the DVD can contain additional formats as well as computer-readable bonus material.

For an example, we'll look at the DualDisc release of Robert Cray's "Time Will Tell," from Sanctuary Records and Silverline. The disc ships in a standard CD-size jewel case, but with the DualDisc logo on the back cover. The back cover text clearly explains this is a CD plus DVD, prominently listing the tracks on the CD side, and then the contents of the DVD side: the entire album in 5.1 surround sound, a live performance video, artist photos, and computer-readable ROM content. The actual disc itself has no label, since both sides are in use, so you need to read the tiny writing on the hub to distinguish the two sides: gray for CD and a muted red for DVD.

   

The CD side has the 10 music tracks in standard CD Audio format, with some 49 minutes of music in 430 MB of files (in uncompressed format).

The DVD side then has the same album in several different formats, including both DVD-Video and DVD-Audio. The DVD-Video content plays by default in any DVD player, and includes the main album in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound (with a simple display of a still image slide for each song), plus a live performance video track. This material is stored in a standard VIDEO_TS folder, and requires only 724 MB.

The disc also includes the album in even higher quality surround-sound DVD-Audio format, playable on devices that support the format. This is stored in an AUDIO_TS folder, in 2.3 GB, which still leaves some 1.7 GB of space available for more video and other bonus features.

Data Contents

If you want to listen to the music on other devices such as portable players, the songs are already "pre-ripped" for you, and stored as data files on the ROM portion of the disc, in both AAC (MPEG-4 audio) and WMA (Windows Media Audio) formats. These are not plain stereo MP3 files like you could rip from the CD, they are high-quality files encoded with Dolby Headphone technology, providing a surround-sound experience when listening with headphones to a portable player. And they only require around 45 MB for each format, or a tenth of the space of the original CD audio files.

To differentiate this content from downloading music over the Internet, Silverline describes it as "uploadable files for portable music." In addition, there is no copy protection on the initial discs, either the CD or DVD sides, although Trickett expects that ultimately there will be some form of digital rights management for DualDiscs.

For convenient access, the disc includes an AutoRun DVD launcher application (a Macromedia Director application for Windows) that includes a menu to access a DVD player interface (if a DirectShow player engine is installed on the machine), to import the portable music, and to access bonus features and web links. The bonus features are not stored on the disc, but can be downloaded through the Silverline Web portal at www.dvdlauncher.com. You can register each disc (for free) to access these updated bonus features, which can include features such as artist and album information, photos, lyrics, and new release schedules.

This bonus content then can be updated over time: "You can constantly renew it," says Trickett, "so you have a disc that you can go back to again and again." These can include bonus tracks or remixes, video updates from a tour bus or backstage at a concert, or even additional material that did not make it on to the released disc.

DualDisc Marketing

"I think it's incumbent on a record label to really bring the value back to music," says Trickett. "My view is that if one is walking down the aisle at Best Buy, and on one side you've got music sitting there at somewhere between $16 and $18.98, and on the other side of the wall you've got lets say Harry Potter extended edition at roughly the same price, which not only has the movie, but it's got six hours of documentaries, games ... You see the issue: where am I going to spend my entertainment dollar? Especially when I am looking at the CD side of it and I can get it free from a friend."

Trickett's analogy for the attraction of DualDisc is that "it really has the potential to do for music what DVD-Video did for movies. Think of it as being VHS to DVD Video, from CD to DualDisc."

DualDiscs began to be available in October 2004. Each label has its own release schedule and pricing plans. Silverline is scheduled to release 50 titles in 2004. "The retailers told us very clearly they want a consistent and continuous supply of product," says Trickett.

The Silverline releases will be priced at $19.98, at the high end of the CD range, but not breaking the $20 price point. "CD prices are all over the map," says Trickett. "Every label is going to be different, but our feeling is that DualDiscs are more expensive to make, and today they are more expensive to press. Provided that we are in the same range as a CD, the consumer is getting so much more, so they are going to be willing to pay a little bit more. At the end of the day, it's really about the actual value of the product. If people feel that they are getting something they want they'll be prepared to pay for it. But it's really down to making sure that the contents of the disc is really what the customer wants."

The other labels will also be shipping DualDisc releases, beginning in October. "One of the great things about this is the fact that it's really all the major record labels working together from the marketing and development perspective," says Trickett. "It hasn't happened since the CD. It didn't happen with DVD-Audio; everyone was pretty much plowing ahead on their own. And this has been everybody working together in a unified fashion to make sure its developed properly and that the brand of DualDisc is firmly established in the consumer's mind."

References

DualDisc Consortium
    www.dualdisc.com

5.1 Entertainment Group / Silverline Records
    www.5point1.net

Silverline Web portal
    www.dvdlauncher.com