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InterVideo WinDVD 7:
Beyond DVD to the Networked Home (11/2005)
by Douglas Dixon
Do you watch DVDs on a PC? This may not be the kind of use the movie industry
was thinking about when the DVD format was created -- and certainly it's not
what the consumer electronics industry had in mind. But the DVD viewing
experience can be greatly enhanced using DVD player software on a PC, with the
ability to punch up the video and audio, speed up playback to finish the movie
during the plane ride, or slow down to examine the special effects in detail.
Plus, you can dig into the structure of the DVD to easily display alternate (or
even multiple) audio and subtitle tracks, and find extra bonus footage.
Products like InterVideo WinDVD (www.intervideo.com)
and CyberLink PowerDVD (www.gocyberlink.com)
do all this and more -- as they have expanded from DVD players to general media
players for all formats of discs and data files. Recent versions have focused on
supporting the latest media formats -- DVD-Audio, Windows Media Video High
Definition (WMV-HD), MPEG-4 -- and enhancing the video and audio playback, with
picture improvements for fast-action and widescreen display, and audio options
like virtual surround sound for speakers and headphones.
But there's more to be done, as demonstrated by the release of InterVideo
WinDVD 7 in June 2005. In particular, version 7 goes beyond desktop playback
to support the growing range of other consumer electronics and portable devices
around the home -- next-generation MPEG-4 / 3GPP video from camera phones,
digital TV content, and even media sharing by serving as a UPnP player to play
files from devices on your home network.
The most visible change with WinDVD 7 is the clean new interface. The main
window frames the video display with playback controls on the bottom, plus a
side-in subpanel with additional playback controls including DVD audio and
subtitle tracks. The full suite of enhancements then is accessed from two
floating panels, the Video Center, with display adjustments and effects plus
time stretch, and the Audio Center, with headphone / speaker / surround
technology settings and enhancement effects. Version 7 adds home theatre
surround speaker control and environmental effects such as simulating a Broadway
The top of the main window displays additional tools, including Capture
screen grab, QuickClip for grabbing short videos, and Bookmark and Playlist
management. Both the playback controls and this capture / bookmark browser also
can be undocked in order to float separately from the video playback window.
As with other DVD player software, WinDVD 7 has expanded to become something
of a universal media player, for playing a wide variety of files on hard disk,
along with all those DVD formats. It supports QuickTime, Real Media, and Windows
Media files, along with newer formats including DivX 5.2 Pro, HD Audio, and
MPEG-4 AVC / H.264 Main Profile.
This means you can play many files prepared for the new world of portable
audio and video player devices, although you will need the proper licenses to
play files protected with DRM (Digital Rights Management). WinDVD also now
supports playback of the 3GPP/3GPP2 MPEG-4 variant created by camera phones --
although different phones can create files with slightly different variants of
the standards, sometimes enough to cause playback problems.
Another new class of devices in the home is digital video and audio
recorders. WinDVD 7 now can play files typically created by these devices,
including MPEG2-TS (Transport Stream) video and MPEG AAC audio.
But beyond new enhancements and formats, WinDVD 7 also is leading the way to
the next evolution in home entertainments -- the networked digital home, in
which consumer electronics (CE) devices and computer systems can easily share
content throughout the home.
This is the vision of interoperable equipment promoted by the Digital
Living Network Alliance (DLNA, www.dlna.org),
through the magic of Universal Plug and Play technology (UPnP, www.upnp.org)
-- simple and robust connectivity not only among PCs, but also simpler
stand-alone devices. A networked radio could not only play songs stored on your
PC, but also streaming from Internet radio stations. And a networked DVD player
could play content that you have downloaded to your PC (included purchased
protected content), or even act as a server so you could go to bed and watch the
end of the movie networked to your bedroom TV.
You can see glimpses of these possibilities in early UPnP products, and in
some similar approaches for sharing from PCs over the existing IP and Microsoft
Networking protocols. For example, Microsoft Windows XP Media Center PCs can be
accessed from remote Media Center Extender devices (www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/mediacenter),
and other player devices (including the Xbox) can support Windows networking, so
you can browse and view your shared My Music, My Pictures, and My Videos files.
Other devices like the ADS Tech Media-Link entertainment receiver can
play PC files on a TV, but require a separate dedicated server application (www.adstech.com).
The advantage of UPnP is that it is a simpler protocol that can be the
universal language across these devices, for discovery and identification of new
devices, and for understanding and communicating the content that they make
You actually can start experimenting with UPnP without any such devices using
WinDVD 7, which includes UPnP player support. And to act as the server,
Microsoft has released the Windows Media Connect option for Windows XP,
so you don't need a special Media Center system, and can connect to any new UPnP
device (available as a free download, www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/devices/wmconnect).
Sharing files using Windows Media
Fire up both Windows Media Connect on your host PC and InterVideo WinDVD on
another machine. Windows Media Connect will see WinDVD as a device with which
you can share files. And WinDVD will see three types of shared files: Music,
Pictures, and Video. The music is listed in the same nice Album / Artist / Genre
categories used by Windows Media Player, and video is listed by Album (folder).
Just select and start playing your media files across the network.
WinDVD lists files shared from the
WinDVD 7 is a nice redesign of a perennially useful DVD player tool. But even
more, WinDVD 7 is a beginning step into the promise of universal
interoperability, and a great way to begin experimenting with the promise of
UPnP. As with all new technologies, there will be glitches and surprises as
different vendors implement UPnP -- for example in my testing UPnP did not
support playlists, and the Actor and Genre metadata was not available for video
files. Also, Windows server listed the audio tracks as available converted to
PCM format as well as the original WMV, but these did not play in WinDVD.
However, you still can see how this kind of interface will allow consumer
devices to share the resources of much more powerful computers throughout the
WinDVD 7 is available for U.S. $49.95, or $69.95 for the full Platinum
edition with support for high-end video and audio (including MPEG-4 AVC and
3GPP) and the UPnP media client. The InterActual Pack is available separately
for $19.95 to play enhanced DVDs on PCs. A full trial version is available as a
free download from the InterVideo website.
InterVideo - WinDVD 7
ADS Tech - Media-Link entertainment receiver
Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA)
Universal Plug and Play (UPnP)
Microsoft Windows XP Media Center
Microsoft Windows Media Connect - UPnP server