DivX revolution closer than you think

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On Friday, we wrote a piece on the latest method for video compression, DivX, which reduces entire films at full-screen and near-DVD quality to 600-800Mb. Film studios have been making big noises about its capacity for piracy as have those that are using the latest technology to rip DVDs and make them available to anyone over the Internet.

Our basic conclusion was that DivX requires technical knowledge, a good computer setup (decent PC, huge hard disk and especially a very fast Internet connection) and a lot of patience. As such, it would not become a mainstream product so while the film industry should concern itself with piracy and learn lessons from it, it was not at risk of being overrun.

We received an incredible amount of feedback, so apologies to the vast majority who have not received replies, although we did read every one (even the pointlessly abusive). This piece is then a basic summary of what all those emails said.

Most emails - unsurprisingly - felt we had done DivX a disservice by essentially writing it off before it has even hit mainstream consciousness. After all, they were happily downloading the latest versions of Hollywood movies and watching them in the evening.

We would argue that while this is undoubtedly true (oh, and thank you to the person that sent the photo of all his downloaded films as evidence), our basic point that you will not find a sizeable minority of people doing so in the future still holds. It all just requires too much effort and most people simply won't be bothered.

That said, the examples we used with reference to using DivX were out of date. We said that the entire system needs to be simplified and made more idiot proof - and so it has been. Napster-like peer-to-peer programs have become popular on the back of DivX. The best pure video file sharing system is, we reckon, Edonkey2000. Download it, type in a search string and there you go - hundreds of files for download.

It works too. The problem still remains though that if the person on the other end has a slow connection it will take you a very long time to download the film. And - sorry to get paranoid for a second - there always remains the risk of being infected with an intentional virus, Trojan etc if you download files off people you know nothing about. Other popular programs are Morpheus/Kazaa and WinMX. Or HotLine or NeoModus. It goes on.

What about ripping (sorry, leeching) a DVD into DivX format? We tried this and found it a royal pain in the arse. However, one program was sold to us as as simple as getting MP3 - EasyDivX DoesIt. We tried this as well. It's certainly far easier but still requires a fair bit of effort - especially if you want decent results at the end of it. But some quite rightly pointed out that converting music to MP3 used to be a tortuous process whereas now it's easy as pie.

We also had some very interesting information about new streaming technology and other codecs in the pipeline but we'll leave them for another time.

One thing was clear and that is that the US and Canada gets far far better Internet access speeds than we do in the UK, even with the latest kit. This certainly makes DivX less painful but despite extravagant claims about how fast someone could get Planet of the Apes on their TV, we remain unswayed in our general beliefs. We also have some interesting information regarding the film industry's response to DivX, MovieFly, and we'll write about that soon.

Apart from that, many agreed with our take on things. Several said that they would continue to buy DVD because of the extras that come with it - the really great advance with digital technology. And then of course there's the fact that most people simply just like having official goods.

The most enthusiastic emails came from those that use DivX to send copies of TV programmes to friends and receive the same - many were Brits living in the US and vice versa. It's far easier and cheaper than sending a video - plus the formats are different in Europe to the US. One person in Australia especially missed UK soap Eastenders, although how he could when faced with such wonderful Aussie soaps, we can't understand.

There was plenty more but we'll keep it short and keep an eye on future movements. Expect more articles in future. And thanks for the feedback. ®

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