Computer technology: That's entertainment, 2000 VIDEO CNN NewsStand's JamesHattori finds out what entertainment might look like in the year 2010 December31, 1999 Web posted at: 4:00 p.m.
EST (2100 GMT) (CNN) -- As we reach the year2000 and the next phase of the Information Age, it's easy to forget that just 10years ago, the Information Age was stuck on its launching pad. The Internet wasunknown to nearly everyone except university researchers; TV was still pattingitself on the back over cable success; films were searching for the next bigthing; music was sold at record stores. Now, television and computers arecolliding and millions of channels are on the horizon; films are bigger, clearerand cheaper to make; and music, more than any other industry, is using theInternet to market itself HDTV will soon be rolling into homes, delivering awider screen and digital picture Lucy, where are you? Television is on the brinkof major changes that may forever alter the way we live. It should all happenwith the inevitable switch from analog to digital technology. Right now, mosthomes are equipped with analog, the design of which has remained largelyunchanged since the invention of television.
The new kid on the block is HD, orhigh-definition television, with more than three times the resolution of astandard analog set. Unfortunately, you can't see HDTV's higher quality onregular TV. And for now, HDTV does come with high price tags and scarceprogramming. But there's little doubt that television signals are going digital."I think the world of television and entertainment is poised for explosion,and that explosion comes about because television becomes digital," saysAndy Lippman, associate director of Massachusetts Institute of Technology's(MIT) Media Lab. It's one of the premiere technology think tanks in the world.
"When television becomes digital, it becomes a lot more like the Internet,and that means that instead of a hundred or 500 or 1,000 channels, you have tothink of television in terms of 243 million channels and accessing channels fromall around the world." With a laser-pointer-like device, users can click onimages on a interactive TV to purchase clothing and objects used by the actorson screen That new type of TV becomes interactive, too. For instance, you shouldbe able to watch a favorite sitcom, and shop at the same time. This, throughinnovations like "hypersoap." With underwriting by the JCPenneycompany, MIT professor Michael Bove along with a team of MIT students createdthe idea. Using a clicker like a remote control, "hypersoap" viewerscan shop by highlighting any clothing or objects they see on the screen,allowing viewers of to buy the outfits worn by their favorite actors -- if notquite the shirts off their "Friends'" backs.
And shopping is just onepossibility. Interactive TV is also expected to allow viewers to gatheradditional relevant information on programs. For example, if you're watching acooking program featuring chicken, you'll be able to click one part of thescreen and get the recipe. If you're watching a newscast on a Balkan uprising,you can click the remote and learn the history of the conflict, along withlatest headlines and video.
Your favorite TV show may soon follow you... fromyour living room, to your car radio, to your office computer Save that VCR Thereare also ideas in the works that can keep us from missing TV, even without usingthe VCR. "It's always annoying when one is watching a televisionprogram," says Bove, "and the telephone rings or one has to get intothe car and go drive to work.
And it would be possible, using almost theinfrastructure we have right now, to make a television program that when I'mwatching, if I go out in the car, maybe it follows me by means of my pager andthen my car, and when I get to work, it follows me up the steps and on to thescreen of my PC. In fact, it would be very nice to be able to follow yourprogram that way." And save that VCR. It'll be like the phonograph one day.Your grandkids will laugh at it as they flip on their DVD players -- if DVDplayers aren't outdated by then.
George Lucas helped usher in the digitalprojection film with "Star Wars, Episode 1: The Phantom Menace" Bigchanges on big screen Movie makers are riding the digital wave, too. GeorgeLucas says he plans to lead the charge of high-budget filmmaking into digitalland, shooting the next "Star Wars" installment digitally on video,not film. As a way of spurring the development of digital projectors, he had amonth-long showing of a special digital version of 1999's "Star Wars,Episode I: The Phantom Menace." Along with better quality, films aregetting bigger, too.
IMAX and its grand-scale films that make the viewer feel apart of the action could foreshadow a day when moviegoers enjoy a truly virtualexperience. And filmmakers are relying more on not just digital film, but alsodigital animation to fill their screens. "Titanic" and "ThePhantom Menace" are two recent blockbusters that implemented this withtremendous results. Although Jar-Jar Binks, in all his digital green glory,wasn't the most popular character, there's talk that one day many films willinclude digital actors, presumably because they won't ask for $20 million perpicture.
"Edna McCoy's Festival" was an all-digitally produced filmthat was shown at the 1999 Austin Film Festival Low-budget filmmakers arefeeling the effects of all this technology, too. Digital tapes are much cheaperthan traditional film stock, but yield better quality and can be edited on ahome computer. It's an independent filmmaker's dream come true. At the 1999Austin Film Festival, in fact, a group of low-budget auteurs shot a short filmusing digital tapes in the span of a week on a $200 budget. Perhaps even morealluring for independent filmmakers is the idea that they'll always have a placeto screen their films, thanks to the Internet. Some say they foresee a day whenfilmmakers will simply e-mail their work to theaters with digital projectors, atleast for a time probably throwing the economy of film distribution intodisarray.
The new music Music, of course, has enjoyed the most change so far inthese digital times. MP3, the technology that allows Web surfers to downloadCD-quality music, has been written up in most major publications and has causedold-guard record companies to at once curse and embrace the technology. MP3audio will help change the way we buy and listen to music But new musicians,like young filmmakers, see the digital technology as a way to sidesteptraditional avenues to success and use the Internet to distribute their art. Thefuture of music content should be interesting to monitor, too. The last decadeof the century has seen a broad mix of styles flooding radio stations, includingearly-century jazz and swing, Latin pop, folk, rap, folk-rap, hip-hop, dance,Celtic, new world music, and that old-fashioned, guitar-driven rock 'n' roll. Itseems music artists are continually searching for new ways to communicate, soperhaps the 2000s will witness the invention of a new instrument -- like theorigination of the electric guitar in the mid-1900s -- that will sail us to newsound horizons.
'Faster and bigger' Another force that can no longer be ignoredis the electronic $6.3 million gaming industry. It keeps millions of Americans,mostly teens, entertained. Eye-popping graphics and battling heroes have pushedsales of electronic games past what's spent by moviegoers every year. "Ultima"has evolved as video game technology has been improved And what will games youplay in 10 years be like? "The interaction you will have will be much morelike interacting with real people versus what it is right now," saysRichard Garriot, who created the highly popular "Ultima" adventuregames. "You're going to see some very compelling experiences that arepresented in ways which are, you know, well beyond today's movies andtelevision.
" Or course, all this is merely educated speculation, and it'slikely that many predictions will miss their mark. But it's safe to say theInternet and its technologies should have vast effects on all that'sentertainment. "We will see a billion users of the Internet before the endof the year 2000," says Nicholas Negroponte, founder and director of MIT'sMedia Lab. "That is basically 20 percent of the planet. "And what'sreally frightening, or interesting, depending on your perspective, is that thechange from now will even be faster and bigger than we're expecting.
" NOTE----MP3's The only problem with MP3, however, is that it is a "lossy"compression scheme -- that is, one that must throw out musical data from thehigh and low ends of our hearing in order to achieve its small size. When youexpand those files to put on an audio CD, they will not sound as good as theoriginal tracks, because the information just isn't there. Enter SHN, a fileformat gaining popularity with fans of live music. SHN (or shortened) files onlyoffer about 2:1 compression (unlike the 10:1 ratio common with MP3), but SHNfiles are lossless -- in every way the same as the source files from which theywere made. Of course, with less compression, the files are also much larger -- afull shortened disc can take up about 400MB -- so they're not exactly quickdownloads. But with high-speed DSL and cable modems at home (and those blessedhigh-speed lines we've got at work), waiting several hours for a download whileyou sleep is much quicker -- and often more reliable -- than setting up andcompleting a CD trade by mail.
It's also a great way for a single source (or"seed") to get out to hundreds of people in a hurry. Often, a showwill be transferred from DAT and encoding in SHN format just days after takingplace -- perfect for us music junkies who can't wait to hear Phish's *http://www.phish.com/*latest version of "Chalkdust Torture" or "You Enjoy Myself."As any music collector knows, you can never have too much of the same thing. Thesoftware you'll need to take advantage of this great-sounding technology iscalled Shorten for Macintosh, which can expand SHN files to either AIFF or WAVformats, but only compresses WAV files.
The free download is still in an earlystage of development, but is very stable--not to mention that it's currently theonly choice for Mac users when it comes to SHN. Remember, however, that youcan't play an SHN file like you would an MP3 -- it must be expanded forlistening or recording onto a CD.