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By Doug Levy
Arizona Daily Wildcat
September 3, 1997

Staring at the Screen

by Doug Levy

If you're one of those people who spends way too much time staring at a computer screen, you're gonna just hate this. Earlier this year, the folks at Sirius Publishing, Inc. unleashed upon the world the "MovieCD," a product based on a technology called "Motion Pixels." What this means is that you now have the ability to watch full-length video quality movies on your personal computer.

No, this isn't that new DVD technology we've been hearing so much about lately, which is supposedly going to replace the VCR, the laser disc player and the CD player. This is something much simpler. In fact, if you have a PC, you already have everything you need to watch a MovieCD.

Sirius started their campaign with the release of their first 50 titles early this year, with the intention to release up to an additional 500 titles in the following months. Initial success looked promising, with titles selling beyond expectations in the major software retailers around the country. So far, MovieCD selections cover over a dozen categories, including Action, Comedy, Japanimation, Computer Animation and Music Performance.

Currently, the MovieCD is only available for purchase, although the company is in negotiation with rental chains to make the product more conveniently accessible to the average movie watcher. However, the makers of the MovieCD seem to have kept the necessity for purchase in mind with the selection of many of their titles. Releases like the two live concerts available from the Grateful Dead, the Who's "Quadrophenia," the Computer and Japanese Animation titles, and classic comedy performances from people like John Belushi and Eddie Murphy all seem to be the kind of product aimed at the active fan, rather than the casual viewer. The active fan, of course, is likely to want to own these things anyway. It's not hard to figure out why another of the early releases was "Alien Autopsy."

As of right now, the MovieCD is only available for the PC, but apparently, through the use of a software called "Soft Windows," it will function quite nicely on a Power Mac as well. So the only real question is why anyone would actually want to watch a movie on their computer, when they could just watch it on the TV instead.

The obvious answer is that if you don't own a VCR, or even a TV for that matter, the MovieCD can provide you with a previously inaccessible form of entertainment. Another point is that if you play the movie on your laptop computer, you create a sort of portable entertainment system, ideal for traveling and passing time. And there's the fact that you could watch one of these things at work, during breaks, or, thanks to multi-tasking, while you're working on something else.

Of course, if none of these situations apply to you, then the MovieCD might seem like a bit of a silly idea, or a novelty at best. And in a way, it is. The people at Sirius aren't trying to revolutionize the home movie industry or cause any radical change in the future of entertainment with this product. They're just taking advantage of the available technology and putting something on the market that will catch the eye of computer fanatics and video buffs, and hopefully making a little profit in the process.

One thing to watch out for, and a definite problem for people like myself, is the quality of one's computer. While the minimum system requirements to run the movies include Windows 3.1, a 486/66 processor, 8 MB RAM, and a double-speed CD-ROM drive (basically what I have on my hopelessly outdated PC), there's really no point in trying to run them on that kind of machine. At those levels and speeds, the picture playback is choppy and drags, the sound tends to skip, and the computer itself becomes virtually unresponsive to any commands during playback, including the attempted use of the built-in "virtual remote," so forget that multi-tasking idea.

If, however, you can meet the recommended requirements of Windows 95, a Pentium processor, 16 MB RAM and a quad-speed CD-ROM drive, which seems pretty standard these days, then the promised "video-quality" playback and all that other neat stuff are all yours.

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