DivX 6 Format Offers Alternative to DVD

DivX on Wednesday unleashed version 6 of its digital video platform, which enables the creation and playback of highly compressed media files. The company also introduced the DivX Media Format, which standardizes DivX content using the .divx extension and adds the same interactive capabilities found in DVD.

The DivX format has been extremely popular among content creators due to its ability to compress video into files 10 times smaller than standard MPEG-2 used in DVD, without compromising quality. DivX has also recently been adopted as a supported standard in numerous hardware DVD players, further spreading the technology.

At the same time, widespread adoption of DivX has been limited by the format's lack of interactive features, such as menus and scene selection. DivX 6 aims to change all that with its DivX Media Format, adding support for multi-language subtitles and alternate audio tracks.

Content owners can also author user-controlled menus for navigating between scenes and bonus features, or configuring audio and language settings - just like on a real DVD.

"DivX 6 offers a transformative digital media experience for consumers, content providers, consumer electronics manufacturers and multimedia software companies," said Jordan Greenhall, DivX CEO. "Most importantly, users will be able to create video files with new DivX features that are interoperable with millions of DivX Certified DVD players and other devices."

Beyond its outward feature set, DivX 6 adds high-definition enhancements and 20 to 40 percent better compression over its predecessor, company officials told BetaNews. DivX has also changed how version 6 will be distributed, dropping the Free and Pro designations in favor of two "bundles."

The free DivX Play Bundle offers basic playback functionality and support for the DivX Media Format. The DivX Create Bundle is priced at $19.99 USD and includes DivX Converter to convert existing media files to DivX and the DivX Pro codec for creating new DivX files. Only Windows 2000 and XP are supported by DivX 6; Mac releases are forthcoming, but Windows 9x and Me users are out of luck.

Despite just releasing version 6, the company has also offered up an alpha release of the next DivX codec code-named "Helium." According to DivX Labs, Helium "demonstrates our latest research into processor optimization, achieving encoding times up to twice as fast as DivX 6 in the highest quality (Insane) mode when run on dual core, HT and SMP CPUs."

Existing DivX Certified DVD players will be able to play the primary video and audio track of a DivX 6 file, but an upgrade will be required to take advantage of the interactive menues and chapter points, DivX spokesperson Tom Huntington told BetaNews.

"Firmware upgrades that enable devices to support the full DivX Media Format will be available eventually from some of our partners," Huntington said, "and DivX Certified devices that natively support all the DivX Media Format features are expected to hit the market early next year, with a new logo that clearly identifies each device."

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