Tech Tuesday-DVD Players

Goodbye VHS, hello DVD. "It probably won't be too much longer before VHS is hard to find. Kind of like cassette tapes are at this point. Because the DVD has really taken over and is just a huge advancement in movie watching over VHS," said Jason May of Tyler's Best Buy.

Don't believe it? Look down the movie aisle. The availability of movies on DVD is at least 3 times greater than the selection of VHS versions. That is because consumers are now demanding a better picture and theater-quality sound.

"With the DVD you can achieve true 5.1 surround. So you can hook it into a home theater system and you get the sound from the way it was actually recorded on to that DVD," said May.

5.1, or these days 6.1 surround is another way of saying Dolby Digital. DTS is a similar audio format. What it means is you are going to get up to seven different channels of audio sent to your speakers, allowing for sounds that are occurring in your movie, but off screen.

"So if a branch breaks and it's not something that's directly happening on screen, it comes from whichever direction. It gives you a much more realistic movie experience," May said.

Of course to get that experience, you need six to seven speakers. To get the most out of the visual advantages DVD offers, you just need one good TV. The DVD format provides up to 480 lines of resolution, a big improvement over the 260 lines offered by VHS.

"You're increasing your lines of resolution so there are more lines making up that picture," May said. "So it's a smoother picture on the display on your TV."

Recently something called "progressive scan" entered the market. This is as good as it gets. If you plan on getting a digital or HDTV anytime soon, go ahead and shell out a little extra cash to get progressive scan. Which brings up an interesting point. This Christmas DVD players ranged in price from 300 dollars all the way down to 80. what's the difference?

"You're gaining a lot as far as features you can do on the remote, how much you can manipulate DVD, the film angles that kind of deal," May said. "Also how many DVDs the carousel, if it's got a carousel, how many it holds, going from a single disc to a three disc to a five disc."

The carousel comes in handy if you want to use your DVD player as a CD player as well. Other features? Some models are set up to handle music CDs you burn on your home computer. And some even play mp3s, a type of computer file compression that lets you cram more than 100 songs onto a single disc.

As for the angle change feature on the higher end models, you can probably do without. Not many movies out there really take advantage it. About the only place where VHS still has a foot-hold is recording programs off TV or your video camera. And that is changing.

It is pricey, but Panasonic now offers a home DVD recorder for about a thousand dollars. You can bet that price will be falling quickly. And for you folks who fell for Beta and laser disc and don't want to be fooled again.. Don't worry. DVD is a safe bet.

"It is definitely going to be around a long time," May said. "With the picture and sound quality that you're going to get, it would be a step back to go to anything else that's on tape."

You do not have to have a big TV and 6 speakers to start enjoying DVD. Any television can be hooked up to a DVD player. Anything over five years old may require a special attachment. Ask about it when you buy your player. But it will work.

What is the benefit of going with DVD, without all the other equipment? Well, for starters, you can begin building your movie collection using new technology. After all, it may be foolish to keep buying VHS movies, when the equipment is being phased out.