The Boreham Library has been buying DVDs for several years now. It’s a more flexible and longer-lasting format than videocassettes. Of course, there are some questions that have come up.
1. Why won’t Windows Media Player play this DVD I checked out?
If you’re trying to play the DVD on a computer, you may run into a problem with Windows Media Player not being able to play certain ones. This is a limitation of Windows Media Player, and you could solve it by purchasing additional software to upgrade WMP (a “plug-in” or a “codec”). However, if you’ll check this page, you’ll find software that you can download as an alternative to WMP. It’s called Media Player Classic, and it usually can play those stubborn DVDs that WMP rejected on your computer. It’s just another way of accomplishing the same thing. Media Player Classic is free, by the way, and plays many other things beside DVDs.
2. Is the Library going to buy HD (high-definition) DVDs?
The battle between the two HD formats (HD DVD versus Blu-ray) is still going on at this time. Some DVDs are being published in both the older “Standard Definition” AND one of the high-definition formats together in the same package, but at this point, it would be a gamble to choose one or the other of the high-def formats and buy anything in that, since most of the Library’s DVDs are purchased to be around quite a while. The educational materials on DVDs in the Library are quite often much more expensive than the popular (and more widely distributed) DVDs of popular shows and movies, so it would be quite a big investment to try to obtain them in high-def, even if they become available — and very few of them are sold in high-def formats at this time.
The Library is keeping an eye on high-definition and DVD purchases, and will be waiting for the high-def industry and its customers to make their decisions. Those of us who remember the Betamax versus VHS format battle (“Betamax” — what’s that?) when videocassettes first came out tend to be very cautious about settling for one format over another until the dust settles a bit. At this point, quite a bit of educational video is not yet in the popular existing (SD: Standard Definition) DVD format, but still sells only in VHS videocassettes.
For a detailed discussion of the distance and size effects in high-def, you can read this article. It’s more relevant to the conditions in a home than in a classroom, if you’re considering buying a television, but it also implies that a fairly large screen would be necessary for all the students in a classroom to get the benefits of a high-def video, and would require high-def projectors and players (or computer DVD drives).
3. Does the Library have NTSC or PAL videos? And what does that mean, anyway?
Video formats differ between countries, for various reasons. NTSC (National Television System Committee) is the format used for videos (VHS videocassettes and DVDs) in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Japan, and a number of other countries. However, Europe and many other parts of the world decided to use PAL (Phase Alternating Line) format instead. You can’t play one format on a DVD player or DVD drive meant for another, normally. The Library only collects videos in NTSC format, the one used in the United States, since this is the only one normally sold in the U.S. The Library does not have equipment which can play PAL format videos in the Library at this time, so there are no plans to purchase anything in PAL. While the newer PAL format does seem to have some advantages as a format, and fits the European electrical power system, NTSC is the older existing standard, despite fluctuations in colors when viewing (hence the nickname “Never Twice the Same Color”). See the articles linked to the terms for more information on these formats.
The Boreham Library is still purchasing videos in Standard Definition DVDs and in VHS format videocassettes at this time, as faculty request them. Donations of appropriate videos are also accepted for the collection or the biannual book sale (which also may sell other donated materials).
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