MovieCD 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.
MotionPixels (MP) was a video codec designed by Christian Huygen, David Whipple, and Darrell Smith, marketed by MotionPixels, Inc., a subsidiary of SIRIUS Publishing, Inc. (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 MovieCDs remained until around the year 2000 and that some of the above-mentioned video games still have a cult-following, both producing malfunctions in modern PCs due to the outdated MotionPixels codec.
Origins & development
Specifications & system requirements
The MP codec offered a resolution of 320x236 pixels, 16bit Highcolour, and 16fps 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 from Win3.x on, audio was saved in plain WAV format. Its FOURCC code was, depending on version, MVI1 or MVI2.
For viewing MovieCDs, SIRIUS recommended a 486 processor or higher, at least 8MB of RAM, and 2x-speed CD-ROM drives (most MovieCDs had a datarate of about 280-300kB/sec). These MovieCDs had a running time of about 45min 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 artifacts (a feature that set it apart from VCDs using MPEG-1 while having a comparable resolution). 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, with spatially (not temporally) smeared colors and sharp luma.
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 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 was developed for Win3.x and Win95.
Shortly before SIRIUS went bankrupt in 2000, a beta version of the MP codec was issued for WindowsNT and Windows98, awarent.exe.
The catalogue of both TV and feature film programs available on MovieCDs mostly spawned from deals with New Line Home Video, Anchor Bay, Alliance, Trimark, Rhino, and Central Park Media, offering genres such as Action, Comedy, Japanimated anime, Computer Animation and Music Performance.
Given the dominance of the LaserDisc, VCD, DVD and Blu-Ray formats, MovieCD never gained a significant following and is a dead issue today. The assumed possibility that the discs cannot be played properly on computers installed with versions of Microsoft Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7 or other operating systems, such as Linux, FreeBSD, or Apple's Mac OS X further exemplifies this lack of viability in the current marketplace.
Compatibility & issues with modern PCs
All MovieCDs had the MVI2 codec on them ready to install, and most video games with them installed both codec and player without asking the user about it. Both is still an issue today due to the wide availability of MovieCDs 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 as of today (2007).
The codec's Win3.x and 95 version still runs more or less on Windows98, 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 Win95 and Win98 as soon as the MP codec is installed.
On WindowsNT, Windows2000, and WindowsXP, 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.
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 opened. Additionally, players might be unable to read a variety of other audio and video codecs, and a variety of other both software and hardware-related video problems might occur, such as TV-cards ceasing to function.
Running MotionPixels's uninstall routine that comes with it only uninstalls the MotionPixels Player, not the codec itself, and not even Windows Control Panel can be used to de-install the MP codec, 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.
List of Titles
(List in order of listing by Sirius Publishing's MovieCD Product Catalog.)
- Cabbage Patch Kids: The Clubhouse
- Cabbage Patch Kids: The New Kid
- Cabbage Patch Kids: The Screen Test
- The Art of Nature
- Macross Plus, Part 1
- Macross Plus, Part 2
- Macross Plus, Part 3
- Macross Plus, Part 4
- The Who: The Kids are Alright
- Patrick Stewart Narrates "The Planets"
- Ninja Scroll
- Ghost in the Shell
- The Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb
- Military Aircraft Video Report - Volume III, Number 1
- Grateful Dead: Ticket to New Year's
- Power Moves
- The Adventures of Mole
- The Adventures of Toad
- Mumfie: The Movie
- Roswell: Cover Ups & Close Encounters
- Reefer Madness
- Don Juan DeMarco
- Genocyber, Part 1: Birth of Genocyber
- Politically Incorrect: The Political Domain
- House Party
- Best of SNL: The Best of Gilda Radner
- Best of SNL: SNL Goes Commercial
- Best of SNL: The Best of Dan Aykroyd
- Best of SNL: Hosted by Eddie Murphy
- Best of SNL: The Best of John Belushi
- Best of SNL: Classic Years, Volume 1
- Best of SNL: Classic Years, Volume 2
- Best of SNL: 15th Anniversary Special
- Dominion Tank Police, Part 1
- Dominion Tank Police, Part 2
- New Dominion Tank Police, Volume 1
- New Dominion Tank Police, Volume 2
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
- Comic Relief VII
- The Player
- Cyber City Oedo 808: Data One
- Beyond the Mind's Eye
- The Mask
- First Blood
- The Grateful Dead: Dead Ahead
- Cartoon Festival
- Dumb & Dumber
- Alien Autopsy: Fact or Fiction?
- Betty Boop Cartoons
- Time Capsule World War II: Europe/Pacific
- Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday
- The Poetry Hall of Fame, Volume 1
- Comedy Capers
- The Lawnmower Man
- The Lawnmower Man 2: Jobe's War
- Leprechaun 2
- The Louvre
- Mortal Kombat
- Menace II Society
- The Mind's Eye
- Wes Craven's New Nightmare
- Computer Animation Festival, Volume 1
- Jimi Hendrix: Rainbow Bridge
- Poison Ivy
- The Rutles: All You Need is Cash
- Puppet Master
- Clones of Bruce Lee
- Pump Up the Volume
- One Step Beyond
- Trancers III: Deth Lives
- Classic Cartoons
- Dragon Fist
- Night of the Living Dead
- The Kids in the Hall
- Sex Madness
- A Nightmare on Elm Street IV: The Dream Master
- VH-1: Guitar Legends
- VH-1: Psychedelic High
- VH-1: Rock in the U.K.
- The Poetry Hall, Volume 2
- The Gate to the Mind's Eye
- Comedy Creats
- Computer Animation Festival, Volume 2
- Burns & Allen
- The Little Shop of Horrors
- Return of the Living Dead 3
- Warlock: The Armageddon
- Adult StreetSmart
- Elvis in Hollywood
- Dr. Katz, Volume 1
- Dr. Katz, Volume 2
- Monterey Pop Festival
- Jimi Plays Monterey
- Cher Extravaganza: Live at The Mirage
- The Monkees, Volume 1
- The Monkees, Volume 2
- Barry Manilow: The Greatest Hits
- Rowan Atkinson LIVE
- SIRIUS Publishing, Inc.
- Classic Home Toys - Installment #6: What in the world was the Sirius Movie CD?
- A detailed technical description of the MotionPixels codec on MultimediaWiki
- A comparison test of the MotionPixels codec next to contemporaries Cinepak and Indeo 3.2, by Bob Currier, Synthetic Aperture
- Aware NT codec for playback of movieCD AVI files on Windows XP computers.
- ^ Richard Bowers: Motion Pixels Acquires Huygen Codec, Newsbytes News Network, Sept 6, 1995
- ^ StreamCast Executive Team (see entry for Darrell Smith)
- ^ Wickstrom, Andy: MovieCD builds library and expands distribution, Reed Business Information, July 21, 1997
- ^ Doug Levy: Staring at the Screen, Arizona Daily Wildcat, September 3, 1997
- ^ http://disneyinteractivestudios.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/2480 MP driver removal
- ^ Macross Plus Area Seven - Goods - MovieCD
Video storage formats Videotape
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