MovieCD

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MovieCD
The Rutles - All you need is cash MovieCD.jpg
Box, inside and outside, to MovieCD edition of The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash
Encoding NTSC, PAL
Usage Home video

MovieCD was a format for digital video storage and consumer home video playback during the mid to late-1990s, marketed by Sirius Publishing, Inc., and was rendered obsolete by the wider distribution of DVD. It used a video codec called MotionPixels, marketed by MotionPixels, Inc., a subsidiary of Sirius Publishing (founded by Smith and Richard Gnant). It was used in many third-party video games from the mid to late-1990s, and during the same time on Sirius's MovieCDs that it had been originally developed for, enjoying an international distribution in both forms.

Both MovieCDs and the MotionPixels codec remain an issue today in that medium market availability of MovieCD's remained until around the year 2000 and some of the above-mentioned video games still have a cult following, both producing malfunctions in modern PCs due to the outdated MotionPixels codec.according to whom?

Origins and development

The MotionPixels (MP) codec used on MovieCD's originated with the Huygen codec developed by Christian Huygen, David Whipple, and Darrell Smith,1 allegedly for NASA and FBI use.2

Specifications and system requirements

Unaltered still taken from MovieCD edition of The Rutles: All You Need is Cash.

The MP codec offered a resolution of 320x236 pixels, 16-bit high color, and 16 frames per second fullscreen playback at a datarate of (in theory) up to about 520kB/sec, without having to install MPEG or acquire additional hardware, on Microsoft Windows systems from Windows 3.x on. Audio was saved in plain WAV format. Its FourCC code was, depending on version, "MVI1" or "MVI2."

For viewing MovieCD's, Sirius recommended a 486 processor or higher, at least 8 MB of RAM, and 2x-speed CD-ROM drives (most MovieCDs had a data rate of about 280-300 kB/sec). These MovieCDs had a running time of about 45 minutes each, so feature films often were stored on two discs in one box, and the consumer had to switch from disc 1 to disc 2 to see the whole movie.

From today's viewpoint, it is interesting to note the MP codec showed no digital compression artifacts common today such as pixelization or block artifactscitation needed (a feature that set it apart from VCDs using MPEG-1 while having a comparable resolution).citation needed Its output was always RGB, however the viewer could choose between different settings of chroma subsampling for encoding, from RGB through YCrCb 4:2:2 all the way to 16:1:1 which ensured for low datarates at what were high resolutions at the time, while a particularly low chroma subsampling made for a distinctively analogue video look to today's eyes,citation needed with spatially (not temporally) smeared colors and sharp luma.

MVI1

MVI1 was a purely DOS-based codec, carrying its animations in an .MVI container. Apparently, the only occasion it was ever used was with Sirius's game Treasure Quest.

MVI2

MVI2 was the Windows incarnation of the MotionPixels codec, and always came with its own player, the MotionPixels Movie Player. MVI2 files used the AVI container still popular today. It saw international distribution during the mid- to late-1990s in the form of Sirius's MovieCDs and many third-party video games (such as the Caesar series by Sierra). MVI2 came in two versions:

  • aware95.exe: Aware95 was developed for Windows 3.x and Windows 95.
  • awarent.exe: Shortly before Sirius went bankrupt in 2000, a beta version of the MP codec was issued for Windows NT and Windows 98.3

MovieCD catalogue

The catalogue of both TV and feature film programs available on MovieCD's mostly spawned from deals with New Line Home Video, Anchor Bay, Alliance, Trimark, Rhino, and Central Park Media,4 offering genres such as action, comedy, anime, computer animation and music performance.5

Economic viability

Given the dominance of the VCD and DVD formats, MovieCD never gained a significant following.

Compatibility and issues with modern PCs

Compatibility

All MovieCD's had the MVI2 codec on them ready to install, and most video games with them installed both codec and player without asking the user. Both are still an issue today due to the wide availability of MovieCD's until around 2000 and the cult following some of these games still have. Both versions of the MP codec installing executable for Windows remain available on the web from third-party downloading sites for free manually as well as within codec packs.

The codec's Windows 3.x and 95 version still runs more or less on Windows 98; however the videos often crash as this version of the codec was still a pre-DirectX artifact, even though they can even be played with any other video players on Windows 95 and Windows 98 once the MP codec is installed.

On Windows NT, Windows 2000, and Windows XP, MP's NT version awarent.exe is needed. MP videos run stable on these Windows versions, and the codec can even be used to encode own videos into MotionPixels files, however serious other issues arise no matter which version of MVI2 is installed.

Issues

As soon as any version of the MotionPixels codec Windows version MVI2 is installed on any post-Win98 Windows OS, any video and audio-editing software on the same system may crash as soon as a codec-choosing dialogue for saving a file is openedcitation needed. Additionally, players might be unable to read a variety of other audio and video codecs,citation needed and a variety of other both software and hardware-related video problems might occur, such as TV-cards ceasing to function.citation needed

Running MotionPixels's uninstall routine that only removes the MotionPixels Player, not the codec itself,citation needed and not even Windows Control Panel can be used to de-install the MP codeccitation needed, so the only way to get rid of it and reclaim a working system is to manually delete any single file containing the letters MVI in the Windows registry and the \WINDOWS\SYSTEM32 directory.6citation needed

List of titles

References

  1. ^ Richard Bowers, "Motion Pixels Acquires Huygen Codec," Newsbytes News Network, Sept 6, 1995
  2. ^ StreamCast Executive Team (see entry for Darrell Smith)
  3. ^ awarent.exe
  4. ^ Wickstrom, Andy, "MovieCD builds library and expands distribution," Reed Business Information, July 21, 1997
  5. ^ Doug Levy, "Staring at the Screen," Arizona Daily Wildcat, September 3, 1997
  6. ^ http://disneyinteractivestudios.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/2480 MP driver removal
  7. ^ Macross Plus Area Seven - Goods - MovieCD

External links








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